We’re only 10 games into the season but this game may be the one that epitomizes the 2023-24 Toronto Raptors.
A cliche saying yes, but last night was truly a tale of two halves. The Raptors found a way to win despite only making four threes (4-21) the entire game. 2023 basketball be damned.
What initially went wrong? That answer begins well before the game started. O.G. Anunoby reportedly cut his finger doing household chores on Sunday and missed his first contest of the season as a result. The first half defence suffered without him. Washington shot over 60 percent from both the field and behind the arc thanks to a litany of easy looks, especially from Kyle Kuzma who had 34 points.
Things may have been even worse offensively, considering Washington ranks bottom five in defensive rating. Daniel Gafford was deterring shots at the rim. Dennis Schroder (1-12 FG) had his worst game of season. Jalen McDaniels five minute stint didn’t work, as it led to unorthodox dribble handoff sequences with Precious Achiuwa. Precious had a tough three possession stretch dropping a lob and fumbling passes. The Wizards lead ballooned to 23 early in the third quarter.
Darko Rajakovic talked about the first half struggles.
What went right?
Rajakovic credited Siakam after the game for lifting up his teammates and keeping poised at a time where offence through anyone else was hard to come by.
Siakam did everything to help Toronto close the lead to 10 at the end of the third quarter. He scored 22 points in the quarter alone, willing the Raptors with tough finishes and a couple of assists in transition. Just like the Dallas game, all of Siakam’s baskets were in the paint.
Despite this stretch from Pascal, the Raptors found themselves down 107-95 with 5:47 remaining in the fourth.
Can I get an encore?
Washington was playing a back-to-back, fresh off giving up a 15-2 run in the final four minutes to lose in Brooklyn on Sunday.
The sequel was brutal, starting with Kuzma wanting a review of an out of bounds call mid play. The Raptors quickly inbounded and cut the lead to single digits.
From there, this is how Washington scored zero points for the final six minutes of the game. The Raptors closed out the game on a 16-0 run.
Rajakovic’s closing lineup was Schroder, Malachi Flynn (a rare guard pairing), Scottie Barnes, Siakam and Chris Boucher. Flynn’s perimeter defence at the point of attack was critical to stifling the Wizards attack. Boucher added three blocks. Barnes struggled at times by his standards but cut the deficit to two and still stuffed the stat sheet (19 pts, 9 reb, 5 stl, 4 ast).
Flynn stayed in front of Deni Avdija, forcing a pass that Scottie stole. Siakam then found Boucher in transition to tie the game at 107.
This next possession had to feel great for Pascal. Jordan Poole was switched onto him, resulting in Siakam creating space in the paint for a fade that he takes everyday. A classic Spicy P shot to give Toronto the lead.
Washington’s possession down two ended with Kuzma stepping out of bounds.
Siakam finished with a season-high 39 points on 15-23 shooting. When asked about Pascal’s performance, Boucher compared it to the Kyle Lowry led 30 point comeback against the Mavs in December 2019. It remains the largest comeback win in franchise history, and Boucher had the winning basket in that game. Pascal spoke afterwards about his mindset while helping the Raptors erase a 23 point deficit, their fourth largest come from behind win.
- Otto Porter Jr. started in Anunoby’s place. He had five points in 14 minutes.
- Jakob Poeltl helped keep the Raptors afloat when they were struggling in the first half. He finished with 13 points, six boards and five assists but didn’t play in the fourth quarter.
- Gradey Dick had half of the Raptors threes, making back to back treys in the first quarter but it’s the little things that continue to stand out. He kept possessions alive with three offensive rebounds, including one that ended up in an Achiuwa layup to cut the deficit to 10.
- Boucher received the player of the game chain. Pascal was as happy as anyone. No need for a deep dive.
Up Next: Milwaukee on Wednesday as this four game homestand continues. The Raptors defeated the Bucks 130-111 two weeks ago behind a season-best 35 assists.