Siakam, Anunoby shine as Raptors take down Nets

by Holly MacKenzie

When the whole squad’s together, everything is more fun. After a rare two-day break, the Toronto Raptors defeated the Brooklyn Nets 114-103 on Wednesday in Tampa. With everyone in uniform, Toronto was able to quickly bounce back from a slow start to defeat a Nets team that was without Kevin Durant (thigh) and James Harden (hamstring).

“When we play with pace good things happen,” OG Anunoby said. 

The Raptors were led by a 27-point, nine-rebound, six-assist effort from Pascal Siakam and a 25-point night from OG Anunoby while the Khem Birch/Freddie Gillespie tandem held things down inside. 

“They manned the position very well,” Nurse said. “I think Freddie had five blocked shots. It’s probably been awhile since we’ve had that happen, maybe in the Serge Ibaka days. Six blocked shots between them, 12 boards, 12 points, one turnover. Pretty solid.”

Though this was just Gillespie’s sixth and Birch’s fifth game as Raptors, respectively, Nurse said the two big men are doing the little things that have been needed from the position.

“They've done a good job of just doing little things,” Nurse said. “I think they just like that they’re doing the dirty work and playing hard and being opportunity scorers. That’s kind of what fits with those guys pretty well right now.”

Kyle Lowry praised Birch’s professionalism and Gillespie’s eagerness to learn.

“Freddie is a young puppy,” Lowry said. “He’s just out there and doing everything he can. He's starting to learn on the fly. Since he got here, since day one, he’s continued to get better, and grow and learn. Khem is figuring out the offence. He’s a pro. He’s always killed us on the offensive glass [when he was with Orlando]. I think just his knowledge of the game, those two running the floor, big bodies, they’re just helping us out a little bit more.”

While the Nets jumped out to an early double-digit lead and held a 13-point lead after the opening quarter, the Raptors trimmed the advantage to just two at the halftime break. Things flipped in Toronto’s favor in the third, where the Raptors outscored Brooklyn 36-23 in a reverse of the opening quarter that saw Toronto take an 11-point advantage into the fourth. 

“In the third quarter we made an effort to come out with energy, play with pace and get stops,” Anunoby said.

This was Anunoby’s second consecutive game topping the 20-point threshold. The fourth-year forward is averaging 14.8 points to go along with 5.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.6 steals per game this season, all career-highs.

 

“I work hard,” Anunoby said. “I come [in] every day, I try to learn more, I try to get better, try to help my teammates get better and just try to be a better player and person.”

This was just the 20th game this season that the Raptors have had OG Anunoby, Kyle Lowry, OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet on the floor together, and the first time in almost a month of NBA action.

“I think the big thing with us is we haven’t been on the floor together [in awhile] and we haven’t had the swagger that we had before,” Lowry said of the team’s slow start while also praising Anunoby for getting the team going in the third.

Unfortunately, injury woes are not totally behind the Raptors as Chris Boucher exited the game with a left knee strain. Nurse said after the game that Boucher would be evaluated further to see the severity of the strain.

With 13 games remaining on the schedule in this shortened season, the Raptors are currently a half-game out of 10th in the Eastern Conference. To make the play-in tournament, they will need to finish as one of the top 10 teams in the Eastern Conference. Though Wednesday’s game was the team’s fourth straight victory, Lowry said the team is taking things one day -- and game -- at a time. 

“Coach said something yesterday, whenever we get out there, whether it’s a practice, a game, or a shootaround, we need to see some type of excellence,” Lowry said. “We’ve got to continue to grow. Push ourselves to make sure we’re good on the defence end or offensive end, or special teams. We’ve got to continue to build, Build on something each day.

“It's only one game for us all back together,” Lowry continued. “We’ve got to continue to grow. We’ve got to continue to push ourselves.”

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