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Five Thoughts on Last Night: Raptors 123, Pistons 94

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The Toronto Raptors blitzed the Detroit Pistons in the second half, and the starters got an early rest. We’ve got five thoughts on the 123-94 win.

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

With the Toronto Raptors coming off a tough Friday night loss, and the Detroit Pistons playing on a road back-to-back and third game in four days, you could have predicted a Toronto blowout. That’s what you got as the Raptors took care of business 123-94.

A Predictable “Rested Serge” Game

Serge Ibaka had a strong start to the game, prompting me to write “good Serge back?” in my notes as the first half wound down. He hit a couple threes, a nice runner, even led a break for a few dribbles. And why shouldn’t he have a good one? He had the weekend off, after a full 10 days off, and he looked good on Friday.

So, naturally he proceeded to brick his next two triples, and the Raptors let the Pistons close the half on a 5-0 run.

Thankfully he came back strong in the second half, opening with two free throws and a three, adding a short J a couple plays later and stealing an entry pass on the next play.

Ibaka finished with 19 on 7-of-14 and 3-of-8 from 3-point range—solid, if not great—but he did add 9 rebounds and 2 steals in his 24 minutes. He’s now averaging 16 points on 60% shooting (35% from 3) and 8 rebounds over his past five; if he can give the Raptors that consistency in the playoffs, that’s one less concern Raptors fans will have.

I’ve Learned to Appreciate Blowouts

As we went into the half I lamented (to myself; my wife has long since learned to ignore my Raptors ravings) that I missed the Raptors of that pre-All Star stretch where they were blowing teams away and you knew the outcome by halftime.

They were coming; they just made us wait till the third quarter before they reappeared.

Kyle Lowry and Ibaka led the charge with a combined 17 points in the third, and with DeMar DeRozan finding his teammates at the right time, an energized defense and a spirited effort on the boards, the Raptors jumped on the Pistons with a 22-6 run; what was a 6-point halftime lead grew to 22 in six minutes.

Even OG Anunoby got in on the action, converting an alley-app layup from Lowry and an and-1 on a dish from DeRozan.

Then the bench came in to close it out and give the starters an early rest.

Sure, early blowouts can be boring. But as Raptors fans we’ve been through enough angsty games over the years. (Witness: the 3-point win against Miami before the break and the OT loss to Milwaukee on Friday.) I’ll take a few more blowouts, please! Each one probably adds another week to my life expectancy.

Ornery Kyle is my Favourite Kyle

OK, Ornery Kyle Lowry is pretty much the only Kyle Lowry. But it feels like it’s been a while since we had a good old fashioned “Kyle is pissed at something and he’s throwing the team on his back while he buries the opponent” run. I thought we might have one in the second quarter, when Lowry thought he was fouled and proceeded to air his grievance with official J.T. Orr, resulting in a technical foul. And on the next play he drained a triple. “Ornery Kyle is in play!” I thought.

Unfortunately he didn’t get another shot in the half. But he came back just as fired up in the third, draining two threes and taking two charges as the Raptors pulled away.

It was maybe a 60% Ornery Kyle game, but still fun to watch. He finished with 20 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists and went 6-of-8 from downtown.

(Also—was I the only one laughing out loud at Ibaka practically sprinting halfway across the floor to wrap up Lowry and prevent a second tech? That killed me.)

The Pascal Siakam Experience is a Treat

Every time Pascal Siakam touches the ball is like a shot of adrenalin. Heck, just watching him without the ball is a trip; he’s never not moving, always looking for angles and watching the ball or his man like a hawk.

He’s flat-out exciting, and fun to watch.

He made an almost immediate impact tonight, rimming out a smooth turnaround in the line, blocking Ish Smith on the other end, and a couple plays later finishing a runout off a nice lead pass from C.J. Miles with a tough layup and an and-1 (that capped off a 9-0 bench run). And his passing! It’s not flashy, but he’s finding Poeltl in the lane with quick dishes and seeing shooters in the corners when the defense comes to him. He had 6 assists to go with his 11 points.

And hey, the rest of the Bench Mob is pretty good too; they didn’t have their best night on Friday, but returned to form last night. Everyone contributed; you had Jakob Poeltl playing solid D, and cleaning things up on the glass including a two-handed putback slam and an absolute posterization of Andre Drummond (he also stole a ball with his face, as Matt Devlin pointed out); Delon Wright doing Delon Wright things (Eurostepping all over guys, dropping a beauty over-the-shoulder dime to Poeltl for a dunk); Fred VanVleet having a tough shooting night but getting in Blake Griffin’s mug defending his teammates after a minor scuffle. Even Lucas Nogueira had a garbage time three!

How can you not love all of these guys?

Also: How about Malcolm Miller getting minutes in the fourth with the bench unit, while Stan Van Gundy still had his starters out there? That’s a ballsy move, Dwane.

Credit Where it’s Due Department

I’ve repeatedly slagged the Raptors for their end-of-quarter execution, but they ran a good play tonight at the end of the first quarter so I’ll give them credit. It was decidedly simple: Poeltl came out to set a high screen for DeRozan, as DeRozan drove Siakam set a secondary screen at the elbow, and DeMar was free for a layup.

It worked so well they ran it again at the end of the third quarter! And it worked again.

Like I said, simple, and yeah, it’s “iso-ball”; no one except DeRozan touched the ball. But! With multiple screeners, the defense has to react, not just sit and wait for DeRozan to come to them. And, the shot is at the rim (not a fadeaway J), with Siakam rolling and getting into rebounding position.

Is it gonna work on a good defensive team, that can switch all screens? Nah, probably not. But hey. It’s something.

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Wednesday night looks like another potential laugher, as the Raptors travel to Orlando to take on the Magic. Even though Orlando is better off tanking, it’s never a good idea to take an opponent lightly, so let’s hope tonight’s energy carries over on to the road.