Yesterday’s first game of this two-game series between the Toronto Raptors and Indiana Pacers was an absolute masterclass performance by this latest iteration of our favourite team. Toronto rolled into Indiana without Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam (and Patrick McCaw, for what that’s worth), and grinded out a 107-102 victory.
With those absences and the quality of their opponent, it looked like a schedule loss for Toronto, but that all changed when OG Anunoby took charge and arguably has the best all-around game of his career. Recording 30 points, eight rebounds, five steals, and a terrific showing on defense — especially in the final moments of the game, Anunoby and the Raptors were able to seal the deal for their second win in a row and to climb up to a three-way tie with the ninth seed in the Eastern Conference.
OG Anunoby today:— StatMuse (@statmuse) January 24, 2021
He joins Kawhi Leonard as the only players with multiple 30p/5r/5s games in Raptors franchise history. pic.twitter.com/4CTs3jAiak
We’ll get to the other Raptors who were just as outstanding as Anunoby, but for now, just take a look at Anunoby’s masterful performance here:
Moving onto the second game of this mini-series, the 7-9 Raps will go at Indy again and look for their third straight win. We dont have an update yet on Lowry or Siakam, so coach Nick Nurse may have to rely on the same shorthanded lineup he had on Sunday afternoon. It worked once, so maybe Nurse will play it safe by holding Lowry and Siakam out once again in tonight’s contest.
For the Pacers, they let yesterday’s game get away from them largely because Domantas Sabonis and Malcolm Brogdon went AWOL. The two are having career years but their production from yesterday’s game didn’t even come close to matching their offensive numbers. Sabonis recorded 10 points on 1-for-10 (!) shooting from the field — though he did have 19 rebounds — and Brogdon put up 12 points on an awful 5-for-22 shooting from the field, with four turnovers, including a crucial shot-clock violation caused by Fred VanVleet with 18.7 seconds left in the game. It was really the Raptors’ stellar defense that got these two into a funk offensively, but we’ll get to that in the keys to the game below.
Toronto’s Harassic Park defense locks down Indiana for the win pic.twitter.com/fQWpv0SV3y— Rob Perez (@WorldWideWob) January 24, 2021
Before we get to the three keys to the game, let’s fill you in on the game details.
Where to Watch:
TSN, 7 p.m. ET
Toronto — Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, OG Anunoby, Stanley Johnson, Aron Baynes
Indiana — Malcolm Brogdon, Justin Holiday, Doug McDermott, Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner
Toronto — Kyle Lowry (toe – questionable), Pascal Siakam (knee – questionable), Patrick McCaw (knee – out)
Indiana — Caris LeVert (kidney – out), T.J. Warren (foot – out), JaKarr Sampson (ill – probable)
Play Through OG
It’s been less than 24 hours and Raptors fans are still raving about Anunoby’s performance. What they saw was a young star in the making who brought it on both ends of the floor — and if Toronto can get Anunoby to perform like that on a nightly basis, or even close to it, then the future in the Six just got brighter.
Now, how do the Raptors build off his performance? Simple: continue to play through him. When it came to Anunoby’s shot-making, the Raptors kept the ball moving in all three areas of the floor (from the arc, elbow and paint/post) that generated the open looks OG got. When it came to OG attacking, he looked for the weaker matchup so that he could easily get to the rim. This all translates to how the Raptors can best use him when he’s on the floor and when he does have a high usage rate, well, the Raptors simply win games.
Here is OG's season sorted by USG%— a. :( PS5 OWNER (@Swarlayzers) January 24, 2021
Notice a trend? pic.twitter.com/NVsiC3jtZi
Whether or not Lowry or Siakam play tonight, the Raptors should still look for Anunoby to play a bigger part in the offense. When healthy, it’d be interesting to see Siakam play a facilitator role (along with Lowry and VanVleet) in order to get Anunoby going because he’s too good to be just be parked in the corner and waiting for the ball to come to him. Expect Anunoby to be aggressive from the tip and to continue where he left off. This could be the start where we could see something special from the 23-year-old swingman going forward.
I’ve said all year that OG’s role should essentially be what Siakam’s was in the title season, where his buckets are almost all opportunistic. he’s starting to do that really freaking well!— Sean Woodley (@woodleysean) January 23, 2021
There isn’t a more satisfying feeling than your team locking up the opposing team’s best two players. However, that feeling could go away with a revenge game and that is certainly something Sabonis and Brogdon will look to do tonight.
6/32 combined for Brogdon and Sabonis tonight. Everybody else had a fine enough shooting/scoring night, but in atypical fasion the Pacers didn't get enough from their two best offensive guys.— Tony East (@TEastNBA) January 24, 2021
The two went for a combined 6-for-32 from the field for a total of 22 points with seven turnovers and were completely lost on defense as well. It was a perfect game plan by the Raptors as they were able to contest all their shots and push them around through their defense.
However, it would be silly to think these two talented players will have repeat performances, especially not with Nate Bjorkgren coaching the team and adjusting to what Toronto did to slow them down. Look for the former Raptors coach to draw up different sets for Sabonis tonight as every time he touched the ball yesterday, the Raps were able to close in on a successful double team, forcing him to give it up. Expect Sabonis to catch the ball deep into the paint to either throw up a shot or to set up a play because if he catches it outside of the paint, the Raptors’ double team will come at him quick.
For Brogdon, meanwhile, he just had a woeful shooting night. There aren’t many nights where he forces up his shots, as he is one of the more efficient shooters in the league, averaging 57.8 True Shooting percentage, but yesterday was one of them. Credit to Fred VanVleet on this count — we’ll have to see if he can do it all again. Expect Brogdon to take less than his 22 shots from yesterday and to be more aggressive in setting up Sabonis and the others. Oh, and if the Raptors do manage to stop those two yet again, they still have Myles Turner on their hands. He led his team with 25 points, with four 3s, and six blocks.
Total Team Effort
Outside of Anunoby’s excellent play — who stole the show — the rest of the team rallied in the second half to steal the win from Indy. VanVleet, Norman Powell, Chris Boucher, and Aron Baynes stepped up with their scoring and defense, while Stanley Johnson, Yuta Watanabe, DeAndre’ Bembry brought the energy and defense as well.
great win. reminds me of last year's team. no kyle, no pascal. OG with 30 and the free throws to clinch. Fred and Stanley with the clamps. Sabonis 1-10, Brogdon 5-22. Norm stepping up, Yuta energy, Baynes was solid, Boucher productive. go enjoy the rest of your sunday.— William Lou (@william_lou) January 24, 2021
The bright side is that the bench is starting to build off what the starters manufacture. This had been lacking since the start of the season, with only Boucher showing up as of late as a productive player from the second unit. Now, the Raptors are getting solid play from Watanabe, Bembry, Johnson and Powell (yes, even though those two started, they’re part of the bench unit when the team is healthy). The important factor here is their defensive consistency, and we could very well see that tonight if they continue their tremendous defense on Sabonis, Brogdon, Turner, and the rest of the Pacers team.
Raptors are 4-0 without Lowry and/or Siakam. That doesn't reflect those players or their value, but it does speak to how hard this team plays when they're shorthanded (we saw it last year, too). Only thing holding them back is doing that consistently when they're at full strength— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) January 24, 2021
One last note, Toronto will need to match their performance from last night and likely double it because this Pacers team will go down swinging right to the end as we saw yesterday afternoon in the final moments.
All stats in this article were provided by basketballreference.com and NBAstats.com