For the first time since February 24, the Toronto Raptors had all their core starters sharing the floor. Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet played their second game since sitting out due to health and safety protocols, while OG Anunoby returned to the starting lineup. Toronto has dropped 6 straight since losing 3 key players in the month of March.
On Friday they faced Donovan Mitchell and the #1 seed Utah Jazz. The Raptors have a history of playing up (or down) to the level of their opponent, and it was no different against the Jazz. In a game that saw multiple lead changes, it came down to the final shot, with Denver escaping with the 115-112 win.
Mitchell led all players with 31 points on 40% shooting and Joe Ingles was hot off the bench with 19 points on 5 made 3s. In the win, the Jazz are the first team to reach 30 wins in the season.
While the boxscore highlights the Utah win and teams record/standings, one glaring stat that’s hard to overlook are FTAs. It was a game riddled with calls; most going against Toronto. Mitchell earned almost 50% of his points at the line. This season, he has averaged 5.6 free throw attempts but was at the line 16 times on Friday, 2 more than Toronto’s total attempts. The Raptors shot 14 free throws compared to 41 for the Jazz. After the game, Nick Nurse was questioned about the huge free throw disparity. “That’s a lot of calls” he told reporters of a Jazz team that has averaged 22.2 free throw attempts per game all season. Kyle Lowry echoed the sentiment, simply saying this isn’t the first time it’s happened.
Despite the loss, Toronto looked more like themselves than they have all month. While Utah has averaged 88 shots per game this year, they were held to 74 shot attempts on the night. The defensive effort was there. OG Anunoby grabbed 4 steals and 1 block to go with 15 points in his return.
Pascal Siakam led the Raptors with 27 points and 9 assists. Fred VanVleet and Norman Powell both had 17 points and combined for 11 rebounds, with Kyle Lowry adding 14 on 5 of 9 shooting. Chris Boucher added 16 off the bench. Alongside Powell, he has been one of the most consistent players, averaging 21 points in the last 7 games. With all 5 starters back, and scoring in double digits, it was a welcome sight.
The team will look to continue building with the return of their core as they travel to Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse on Sunday to face the 15-26 Cleveland Cavaliers. Tipoff is 7pm EASTERN.