It was a nice finish to what’ll ultimately be seen as an underwhelming 1-2 road trip, but almost felt like a must-win given how this team has developed a knack for spirited efforts after losses. Friday’s Indiana game was an outlier in that sense, so it was good to see them fight tonight.
The Raptors were led by 17 points from Norman Powell, and got 16 from Jonas Valanciunas, 15 and 13 rebounds from Kyle Lowry, 14 from Jakob Poeltl, and 13 from Pascal Siakam.
It was once again the bench that paced Toronto. The start was slow, as it’s been all season — Lowry and DeMar DeRozan seemed dead set on getting their frontcourt pair touches and looks.
Atlanta shaded away from Serge Ibaka in pick-and-roll coverage, allowing him open looks. As he’s wanton to do, he took them — six shots in six minutes — for mixed results. The Raptors also ran a bit more post action for Jonas Valanciunas than the “culture change” offense usually calls for — this might be because Jonas looked hella frustrated after last night’s minutes slash. Valanciunas responded with six points early, but three turnovers as the quarter went along. It was a mixed bag for a group that can’t get out of its own way fast enough for the bench to take over.
And get out of the way they did to start the second. Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl came in like a freight train, quickening the pace and revving the ball movement. VanVleet made two sweet dimes to Poeltl for easy layups, and Siakam was everywhere again as the Raptors extended their lead to double-digits.
Bench Mob— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) November 26, 2017
Steals: 5 pic.twitter.com/r6deeFzb31
Casey trusted that core three for nearly the entire second frame, and along with some rain from Lowry, they responded sensationally. Siakam was a +31 at halftime, VanVleet and Poeltl were both +29, and the Raptors’ 39-14 second gave them a 67-39 lead going into the break.
From there, we basically got extended garbage time. The Raptors used the third to continue the ego rehabilitation effort for Valanciunas, who responded for a 7-of-9 line, adding eight rebounds and two assists to his 16 points.
The back end of the bench got into the action, as Lorenzo Brown scored his first bucket for the Raptors (just one, though, let’s not get too crazy). Alfonzo McKinnie got some minutes. Powell got to continue testing his role as a bench creator, looking good with 17 points on 13 shots (3-for-6 from three) with two rebounds, three steals, and an assist.
It was just good vibes all around against an Atlanta team that... just isn’t good. On a back-to-back, it was clear from about 15 minutes in that the Raptors’ depth was going to be the decisive factor. Atlanta is running out guys from their bench I had legitimately never heard of until tonight, and just didn’t get enough from their leaders. Dennis Schroder topped the team with 14 points on 11 shots.
The 12-7 Raptors now get some time to relax. Their next three games take place over a period of 13 days, and they’ll have three full days off before a Wednesday tilt with Charlotte at the Air Canada Centre.
That would’ve been a lot of time to let an 0-3 road trip fester in your mind. All the better that they took care of business tonight.