How hungry is Serge Ibaka? Serge Ibaka can’t miss. He had other issues tonight, namely the issue involving him fouling out. But after he went 8-for-8 for 17 points, and added five rebounds, I am unsure whether I should doubt Serge Ibaka ever again. And I’m starting to wonder the same about the Raptors in general, too.
What began as an uneven affair with the Utah Jazz did not end that way. The opening of this game was the peak form of sloppy basketball—highlighted or, rather, lowlighted with turnovers and foul trouble. It didn’t matter for this Kawhi-less Raptors team, somehow. Because on the 2nd night of a back-to-back on the road at one of the worst-named stadiums in professional basketball, they climbed their way back, they hung around, and then they just took over. The Raptors went into Utah and took home a big 124-111 win.
By the end of the first quarter, there were seven Raptors turnovers and six Raptors fouls compared to two and one for the Jazz, respectively, and the minds of Raptors fans likely shifted a little bit towards the words ‘schedule loss.’
In such an ugly quarter, it would seem that the highlight count would be low. It was not. Because somehow the Raptors were in it. They crawled their way back from deficits nearing double digits to end the quarter down one. This probably should’ve been a good sign for the things to come.
The turnover problem carried early into the 2nd frame. The Jazz briefly created some separation on the back of this, negating their 3-point struggles by finding easy lay-ins and dunks in transition. With just under 10 minutes in the frame, Norman Powell got caught on a Rudy Gobert screen and left the game with what was called a “left shoulder sprain” (Note: My computer wants to switch Gobert to Goobers every time and it has added several minutes to my writing of this article.)
The Jazz grew several decent leads throughout the second quarter, only to see the Raptors crawl back in it. With four minutes left in the half, Siakam sunk the first Raptors free throw attempt—how about that refereeing, eh?—of the evening to tie the game at 48. Speaking of Siakam, his spin moves and high-off-the-glass bank shots are extremely, extremely fun to watch; he finished with 16 points and 7 rebounds on 7-11 shooting.
Pascal Siakam is very good at basketball pic.twitter.com/0JKfTq8HNT— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) November 6, 2018
That aforementioned foul trouble also led to some unique lineups. With Ibaka earning a third foul early in the 2nd, Greg Monroe saw his first meaningful action of the year. Monroe was on the floor for a 26-10 run to end the second, adding a couple of push shots of his own in there. It was that immense run that saw the Raptors take control and flip the ugly switch off; the Raptors led 65-54 at the half. Things looked rosy at this point.
The third quarter saw the Raps’ great play continue. OG Anunoby’s defense sparked a steal and an and-one opportunity to stretch the lead to 18; Jonas Valanciunas hit two free throws to make it 20. The uneven start had turned into a big game for the Raptors; their effort paid off.
And now I get to talk about Kyle Lowry, MVP. When Kawhi sits, he gets to shine more. I’m surprised I’ve taken this long to mention how great and how well-rounded Kyle’s game has been thus far. He’s just so good. Lowry finished with 17 points and 11 assists—his ninth straight game with double-digit assists. Have I said he’s good? Kyle Lowry is good.
In-rhythm pic.twitter.com/Ca8yik6YG2— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) November 6, 2018
After three, the score was 94-72. The Raptors’ defense had turned it on, and the offense had already found its groove. Somehow, what started poorly was not going to end that way. Basically, how basketball works is it’s a make-or-miss league (Doug). By the end of the night, the Raptors had made a lot of their shots and walked away with a 124-111 win.
Threes were the real highlight: The Raptors had made 13 on 33 attempts and the Jazz were merely 8-for-31 in comparison.
Yeah, also shoutout to Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby. Both were not good in last night’s big win over the Lakers: Both were awesome tonight finding their grooves. This is me forcing a mention of them into this recap.
The Raptors are good. This was an example of that. Just look at the way a schedule loss became a massive road win. That rarely happens to teams that are not good.
The Raptors, who move to 10-1, which is a good record, will have yet another opportunity to be good when they wrap up their road trip in Sacramento on Wednesday.