Well, that was weird.
The only thing to expect this season seems to be the unexpected. Every time the Toronto Raptors look ready to pack things in for the season something totally unexpected happens. After losing three straight, they'll play a back-to-back against the reigning NBA champion Los Angeles Lakers without Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr., and Chris Boucher, and, of course, Toronto will find a way to pull of the 121-114 upset on Sunday night in L.A.
Weird. Very, very weird.
While the Lakers certainly didn't look themselves even with LeBron James and Anthony Davis in the lineup, Toronto still got some really impressive play from its two remaining stars.
It was a vintage Kyle Lowry performance from Toronto's 35-year-old guard that raised the question, why exactly wouldn't the Lakers move Talen Horton-Tucker for Lowry at the trade deadline? The Raptors' lead guard appears to be exactly what Los Angeles needs and he certainly would have helped boost the Lakers while James and Davis battled injuries. Lowry still has the cunning instincts to orchestrate a beautiful 2-for-1 to end the half while maintaining the kind of elite-level skills to hit pull-up 3-pointers one after another against the Lakers' guards.
"He was incredible tonight, just controlling the game and playing one position," Pascal Siakam said "Obviously when he's rolling and we’re making shots and all that it makes it easier for us too."
Lowry finished the night with season-high 37 points and 11 assists and was only outdone by Siakam who had maybe his best game of the season.
It wasn't just Siakam's season-high 39 points that were impressive, it was the way he got those buckets. Knowing how tough the Lakers' interior defence is with Andre Drummond, Davis, and James roaming the paint, Siakam decided to play a more perimeter game. He nailed four shots from behind the arc and had that 5 to 9-foot jump shot working for him.
"I don’t think you want to continue on much further than where [Anthony Davis is]," Nick Nurse said of Siakam's shooting. "He was turning and there was some open space and you don’t challenge those guys. The best thing to do is hit it quick, get rid of it quickly and get it up in the air and put some soft touch on it."
While most of Siakam's shooting numbers have fallen this year, that close-range jump shot has been a bright spot for the Raptors' forward. It's not the most efficient shot, per se, but one Toronto needs him to be able to hit at a reasonable clip.
Last season, that shot wasn't there for Siakam. He shot just 36.7% on those 5 to 9 footers and made just 51 one of them, per NBA Stats.
This year, he came into Sunday night having made 63 shots in that range while shooting 39.4% on those shots, per NBA Stats.
"I'm a downhill type of player. Like I go downhill and I feel like I'm fast enough and I can make plays at the rim, but when you play against 7-footers out there it's not easy," Siakam said. "I don't think I'm getting that many calls anyway, so it's either you throw the ball up there and hope for a foul or you try to take a shot that you feel like sometimes you don't get touched. So I think those shots are the shots that I have to work on and get better at because it's not easy getting fouled every day and just falling on the floor every possession."
Stars aside, Toronto actually got some production from its bench for the first time in ages. DeAndre' Bembry and Freddie Gillespie both reached double figures and helped the Raptors hold their own for significant bench stretches throughout the night.
Up Next: Los Angeles Clippers
After taking on James and company on Sunday, the Raptors will see a pair of old friends in Kawhi Leonard and Serge Ibaka on Tuesday night when they take on the L.A. Clippers.