Six players scored at least 16 points for the Toronto Raptors on Thursday, led by 25 from Pascal Siakam, as a total team effort propelled them past the Oklahoma City Thunder, 128-111.
The win follows up a relatively similar 125-110 trouncing of the Nuggets at home — and is Toronto’s sixth straight victory at Scotiabank Arena — as they improve to 34-36 and move to within half a game of Atlanta and the No. 8 seed. Their home cooking has a big opportunity to continue too, with five of the next six games north of the border.
In the larger context of this up and down season, this game felt like a rarity for the Raptors. It hasn’t happened often where multiple offensive weapons get it going at once. We’ve had plenty of Siakam games, plenty of Fred VanVleet games (Tuesday being one of them). Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. have had headline performances, albeit more sparingly. Tonight, against an undersized Thunder team, all six of Toronto’s top rotation players — including Jakob Poeltl — recognized their strength advantage and exploited it.
Siakam had 14 rebounds to go with his 25 points, started off as usual with a red hot first quarter where he attacked the basket from the tip. His nine points in the frame included this gorgeous step through, and was matched by nine in the frame for VanVleet.
Take this in ⤵️ pic.twitter.com/YAebqJMBsW— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) March 16, 2023
Fred would finish 8-for-16 from the field for 19 points. OG Anunoby also had critical three-pointers for his 17 points, going 3-for-4 from distance. Scottie Barnes propelled his game too in the second half to act as the closer, scoring 19 points. Gary Trent Jr. hit four of his first five jumpers and finished 8-for-12 with 23 points. Contributions beyond the big names weren’t really needed — they were just that good tonight.
The Thunder battled through most of the game, but a 58-39 deficiency on the boards caught up with a svelte 14-for-32 night from three. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander looked as talented as ever, scoring 29 points and going 12-for-19 from the field. Jalen Williams had 15 points in support, while the Raptors held Josh Giddey to 13 points and a -19.
Toronto opened tonight’s game with a decent strategy on SGA, guarding him at the point of attack with VanVleet and putting at least one other level of coverage behind with Poeltl or Anunoby. It allowed them to get out to an early, narrow lead, as Fred scored seven of the team’s first 10 to go up 10-9.
That one-point lead would carry into the second, when Nick Nurse threw in a bit of a rotation surprise. Christian Koloko got the nod at backup centre ahead of Precious Achiuwa tonight, who was a DNP-CD after plenty of struggles in recent action. It seemed like less a referendum on Achiuwa, though, since the Thunder matchup was really a solid spot for Koloko to gain some confidence. Between the J. Williams pair and Dario Saric, Oklahoma City had nobody to compete with Koloko’s frame on the inside. The rookie had a block and a strong contest in his first minute on the floor, setting up a seven-minute uninterrupted stretch that went down as one of his best since early in the year.
Trent Jr. picked up the offense while Koloko defended hard. Scoring 11 points in the second quarter, he was able to stretch Toronto’s lead before the starters returned to the floor. Anunoby hit two critical triples late in the half and the Raps went into the locker room up 64-59.
More good basketball came after that. Toronto started the third quarter on an 8-2 run and put their lead into double digits at 72-61.
@FredVanVleet pic.twitter.com/Advb2QqqyW— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) March 17, 2023
It would only rarely get less than that the rest of the way. The star of the second half was Scottie Barnes, who must have had some sort of internal psych-up talk at some point. Not only did he start getting downhill for baskets, but Barnes could be heard by the on-court mics screaming out defensive rotations and encouraging his teammates while getting tight at the point of attack. It may have been his best defensive half of the season, and the stat sheet rewarded it — seven rebounds, six assists, a steal and a +23 mark to lead all players.
Not sure what got into Scottie in the second half, but he's been a raving manic. Guarding hard, screaming for the ball, grabbing 50/50 balls. Cool player to have!— John Gaudes (@johngaudes) March 17, 2023
In the end, it was Siakam and Trent Jr. who put the game away. Siakam got the crowd on its feet, draining a three to put the Raptors up 12 with under five minutes to go. Trent Jr. sealed the deal after, hitting another triple to extend the lead to 20. We even got garbage time (remember that?) as Joe Wieskamp and Malachi Flynn came in for three minutes at the end.
Next up, the Raptors host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday evening.