The Toronto Raptors are suddenly streaking.
What started out almost as a mistake as the Raptors' bench strung together three straight wins, Toronto turned into four straight victories and now appears to actually be in serious play-in contention after knocking off the Brooklyn Nets 114-103 in Tampa.
Now, this wasn't the normal superstar Nets team. They were without both Kevin Durand and James Harden and playing on a back-to-back, so take things with a grain of salt. The Raptors were favoured coming into the game, but even so, Toronto looked much better with its regulars back in the lineup.
"I think the big thing with us," Kyle Lowry said. "We haven't been on the floor together we haven't had, I would say, the swagger that we've had before right and you know I think tonight our pace was unbelievable."
More specifically, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam had their way with the Nets. The 23-year-old Anunoby took control of the game on both ends of the court and locked down Brooklyn's Kyrie Irving for brief stretches. After an impressive first quarter, Anunoby looked unstoppable in the third. He spurred the Raptors on an 8-2 run to start the quarter and then set up a Fred VanVleet 3-pointer to put Toronto up 18 with a fingertip block of Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot.
"As a team we made an effort to come out with energy and play with pace, get stops and run out, and I think we did a good job of doing that," Anunoby said. "The ball moved around, and we hit shots. We got in transition and finished at the rim. I think when we play with pace, good things happen."
Most of Anunoby's scoring was done in his typical catch-and-shoot 3-point fashion while mixing in some off-the-dribble moves as well, scoring 11 of his 25 points in the third quarter alone.
"We did a really good job of putting pressure down the middle of the paint either with a drive or with a hard roll from the centres," Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. "That causes them to collapse in from the corners and OG was just pretty much parking out there and again, it was kinda safety valve. Layup wasn’t there, roll wasn’t there, fire it to him and he’s got a pretty good catch and shoot, pretty quick release game."
For Siakam, it was his usual inside the paint and post-up moves that the Nets couldn't stop. He finished the night with team-high 27 points, a team-high nine rebounds, and flashed some nifty playmaking down the stretch.
While Siakam, Anunoby, Lowry, and VanVleet looked like their normal selves, those bench players who had looked so good of late were nowhere to be found. Nobody outside of the starters scored more than five points and Gary Trent Jr. shot 2-for-9 from the floor in his first game with the second unit.
"Well I think it's gonna take a little getting used to and I'm not sure it'll happen all the time," Nurse said of Trent. "But I think he's been kind of been given a green light, he's been a primary score kinda with guys out. Still tried to kind of keep him in that role off the bench and you know him, that could have, wouldn't surprise me if the next one's 8-for-9."
Boucher Exits in Fourth
Early in the fourth quarter things got even worse for Toronto's bench as Chris Boucher injured his left knee trying to grab a rebound. He appeared to be stepped on and fell awkwardly to the ground clutching his left leg. He tried hobbling off the court before Raptors personnel helped him to the locker room.
He will undergo an MRI test, Nurse said.
Up Next: New York Knicks
The Raptors will have another two-day break before returning to the court on Saturday to take on the New York Knicks.