Toronto Raptors: Three takeaways from last gasp win vs Trail Blazers

Toronto Raptors - Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors put the sword into the Portland Trail Blazers, courtesy of a Kawhi Leonard game-winner. What did we take away from the game, though?

The Toronto Raptors were back in action on Friday night, fresh off of the news that Pau Gasol, brother of Marc Gasol, would be signing with the Milwaukee Bucks following his buyout from the San Antonio Spurs.

The Portland Trail Blazers were the visitors, and just like the Toronto Raptors, were coming in off the back of a win against the Boston Celtics and were now tied with the Oklahoma City Thunder at 38-23. The Raptors, on the final game of the six-game homestead, were 45-17.

A nice give-and-go between Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol was the Raptors best moment in the opening minutes. That was quickly followed up with a nice pick-and-roll action from the same two players, the Raptors now led by one.

Pascal Siakam demonstrated his ever-improving three-point shooting with another corner three, courtesy of a kick-out from Kawhi Leonard whose passing has also improved. A high-scoring first quarter was on the cards for both teams.

Jeremy Lin provided six points early on off of the bench, driving to the rim for two lay-ups and working a jump shot from a pick-and-roll with Serge Ibaka.

The Raptors struggled to sustain the energy they brought early on in the game, and the Trail Blazers pulled themselves back into the game, courtesy of a 10-2 run, led by CJ McCollum.

Marc Gasol checked back into the game and was immediately involved with another pick-and-roll with Kyle Lowry, a combination that has really been working so far. The more time they spend on the court, the better the connection will get.

Next up to flex their muscles was Kawhi Leonard, who hit a fadeaway two, plus the foul, on Rodney Hood. Both teams were trading blows and trying to get a foothold in the game, a three from Leonard made sure the Raptors would have a slight advantage.

Al-Farouq Aminu and Maurice Harkless had a nice moment which resulted in a Harkless dunk and the Blazers had cut the lead down to one, though Pascal Siakam hit right back with a drive to the rim and lay-up.

What makes Portland so dangerous is their backcourt duo of CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard, it was the former who was causing the Raptors problems in the first half with 17 points.

The Raptors were finding some steam towards the end of the half though and were really pushing the ball in transition, Norman Powell with a timely dunk after a pass from Kyle Lowry.

The first half ended in style, with Marc Gasol beating the buzzer with a nice side-step lay-up, the Raptors led 61-54 at the half.

The Trail Blazers were looking hungry at the start of the second half, Lillard hit a nice jump shot off of a flare screen and McCollum followed up with another three-pointer. Danny Green shortly responded with one of his own, his first three of the game.

It was threes all around for both teams, with Leonard and McCollum both adding to their tallies. Leonard was now at 21 points while McCollum had a game-high 26 points.

The Raptors built up their lead to ten points on a Kyle Lowry three on a handoff from Gasol, his fifth assist of the game. The Raptors had definitely been the better of the two teams, but the Blazers kept making their shots to keep the game within distance.

Gasol had assist number six shortly after number five and, you guessed it, it was another handoff to Kyle Lowry for another three. The Raptors were shooting 45-percent from three at this point and trying to push the game out of sight. But the Trail Blazers were also hot from three, and as long as their backcourt were in sync they stood a chance.

The Blazers pegged their way back to a four-point deficit in the fourth quarter, the bench unit with Kyle Lowry was struggling and Serge Ibaka was in a slump, shooting 0-5 from the field. His sole two points came from the free throw line. Even with Kyle Lowry creating for him, Serge just couldn’t put the ball in the basket.

Marc Gasol checked back in and came up with a big defensive play, poking the ball loose from McCollum and coming up with the steal. Gasol then took it old-school with a great play in the post, bouncing off Zach Collins and banking the ball in off the backboard.

After a fairly quiet game, Damian Lillard checked his watch: it was Dame time. Lillard hitting a three-pointer to tie the game off a Jusef Nurkic screen. Nurkic had been limited to minimal minutes in the game, the punishment for getting himself into foul trouble.

Nurkic followed up with two free throws to give the Blazers a two-point lead, heading into the final few minutes. Kawhi Leonard responded with a beautiful drive to the rim and an and-one lay-up while falling away from the basket.

Lillard and Danny Green traded three-pointers as the Raptors were able to tie the game at 113, a big shot from Green, who has come up clutch several times this season.

After Kyle Lowry gave the Raptors the lead with a beautiful floater, the team responded with a big defensive stop with 25 seconds left.

A phantom foul from Kyle Lowry gave Lillard three free-throws to tie the game.

The game came down to the final play, Kawhi Leonard dribbling the ball up the court, driving to the right baseline and hitting a jumper that bobbled around the rim. It was money. Raptors win.

Exhausting, but man, is it good to have Kawhi Leonard.

Here are our three takeaways from the game, presented by oxygen. Because I need to catch my breath.

1. Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol > everything you’ve ever loved

The more we are seeing of Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol on the court, the more you begin to love everything about the pairing. The two are both exceptional playmakers and also great shooters, it’s a recipe for success.

We saw Lowry and Gasol share the court for 32 minutes against the Portland Trail Blazers and post an offensive rating of 140.8 and a +29.3 net rating. Combining for 16 assists and 38 points, they dominated the pick-and-roll game and forced Jusef Nurkic into some early foul trouble and out of the game.

Lowry scored multiple times off of handoffs from Gasol, and returned the favor, feeding the ball to the rolling big man for numerous finishes at the rim. Lowry works best when he has a hard screen set for him. He works even better when that screen setter is Marc Gasol.

2. Kawhi Leonard’s passing is really improving

Heading into the season, Kawhi Leonard was an okay passer. It wasn’t his best attribute by far and had averaged 2.4 assists per game in his first seven games in San Antonio.

This season, Leonard’s playmaking ability has really blossomed, especially in the last month or two. Leonard is averaging four assists per game in 2019. His passing out of the post is a valuable commodity and it just looks like he is seeing the court a lot clearer, a great sign moving forward for the Raptors.

Leonard had five assists against the Trail Blazers, the pick of the bunch a nice bounce pass to a rolling Marc Gasol. Maybe this Gasol guy isn’t so bad?

3. His scoring is still the main event, though

Yeah, Kawhi’s passing is great. But how about his scoring?

Leonard had a game-high 38 points on a ridiculous 14 made field goals, including the game-winning basket. When you need a bucket, give that man the ball. Leonard can take on copious amounts of content and still get a clean shot away.

There’s no spot on the court that doesn’t work for him, whether it’s from midrange, the three-point line or driving to the rim, Kawhi has molded himself into one of the best scorers in the game.

In the clip above (per, Leonard blows by Harkless on his way to the rim and gets the contact from him, falling away and hitting the toughest of lay-ups. A big moment in the game, as Leonard tied the game at 107 and hit the resulting free throw to put the Raptors up by one.

He can do it all, at any moment. Luckily for the Raptors, he can also do it in the biggest moment of the game.

Don’t change Kawhi and please don’t leave.

dark. Next. Pau Gasol wouldn't have worked out in Toronto

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