So THIS is how it feels to have a healthy roster.
Pascal Siakam recorded a double-double in his return to the lineup as the Toronto Raptors notched their second home victory of the season over the Cleveland Cavaliers, winning 100-88 in front of a raucous (and relieved) Scotiabank Arena crowd.
Siakam didn’t show any signs of rust after missing the previous 10 games with a right adductor strain. He finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 assists, roasting Dean Wade at every opportunity.
O.G. Anunoby continued his incredible defensive season by shutting down Donovan Mitchell. The three-time All-Star, who’s well on his way to a fourth appearance this season, was held to season-lows in field goal attempts (11) and points (8), while also having a season-worst -21. This performance also snapped Mitchell’s streak of 121 consecutive games scoring in double-figures. To top off Anunoby’s brilliant performance, he also led the team with 20 points.
Siakam wasn’t the only Raptor returning from injury. Scottie Barnes returned to renew his rivalry with Evan Mobley. Surprisingly, Nick Nurse had Barnes AND Gary Trent Jr. (insert big eyes emoji) start on the bench. Juancho Hernangomez and Thaddeus Young, who also started in Toronto’s last game against Dallas, remained in the starting lineup. Dalano Banton and Justin Champagnie were also removed from the injury report, although only Banton got to play during garbage time.
With Mitchell essentially shut out and Jarrett Allen not in the lineup due to injury, Cleveland was led by their other two stars, Darius Garland and Evan Mobley. Garland finished with 18 points, 10 assists, and 3 steals, while Mobley tallied 18 points and collected 15 rebounds. Garland missed most of the previous meeting in Toronto when Trent Jr. accidentally poked him in the eye.
In a case of role reversal, Cleveland ended the first quarter with a 6-0 advantage in offensive rebounds and scored 9 second-chance points to Toronto’s zero. That’s normally not a good sign for Toronto, but they were obviously energized by the return of Siakam. Six different Raptors scored in the opening frame. There were barely six healthy bodies a week ago in Atlanta!
If the first quarter was about showcasing Siakam and the lack of rust he accumulated, the second quarter was about his teammates showing how they’ve grown in his absence.
(Siakam walking in)— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) November 29, 2022
OG: I levelled up while you were gone
Juancho: I levelled up while you were gone
Siakam: I levelled up while I was gone
Fred VanVleet had driving layups against Garland AND Mobley. Hernangomez stepped into a pull-up 3. Nurse had mentioned pre-game that he’d like to see Hernangomez be more decisive when he gets the ball and not to be afraid to shoot. Suffice it to say, the message got through (if only for one play).
The second half was about building on the progress made in the second quarter. Siakam continuously torched Dean Wade. The Raptors found themselves in the bonus less than four minutes into the third quarter.
Early in the fourth quarter, Mitchell hit a technical free throw. Before that, he’d gone almost three full quarters without scoring!
Another benefit to Siakam’s return was a balanced floor on offense and better shot opportunities for the Raptors. Before Siakam’s injury, Toronto was 6th in the NBA in 3-point shooting at 38.6%. In his absence, the Raptors were dead-last and shot 28.2%. Just as garbage time hit and let’s-play-this-thing-out threes started launching, the Raptors were a tidy 50% (10-for-20) from three — well past their season-high of 43.8%.
Yes, it’s only one game, and, yes, the Cavaliers were hobbled, but Nick Nurse spoke pre-game about how he knows his team is capable of playing with the best in the league. With challenging road games in New Orleans and Brooklyn up next, it’s reassuring to see his team back up his words!