10 things from Raptors-Jazz

Welcome to the 10 things recap by theScore features writer William Lou, which serves to highlight emerging trends from a Raptors perspective.

  1. Positive: The Raptors bounced back from abysmal showings against Orlando and Chicago by scoring 122 points and shooting 55 percent from the field against the fearsome Jazz defense. Utah hung close thanks to some hot shooting from Jae Crowder, but the Raptors were in the driver's seat from start to finish.

  2. Unstoppable: Kawhi Leonard scored a career-high 45 points in just 35 minutes and he didn't even hit a single three. Utah stubbornly checked him one-on-one for most of the night and dared him to hit mid-range shots, but that played right into his hand. And when the Jazz did come up higher to contest the jumper, Leonard just drove it down their throats. He exploded for 19 points on 7-of-7 shooting in the third and returned in the fourth to close out the win and surpass his previous career highs of 41 in the regular season and 43 in the playoffs.

  3. Smart: The Jazz finally waved the white flag and started trapping Leonard in the last five minutes of the fourth. Leonard calmly kept his dribble alive against the double-teams and consistently triggered 4-on-3 sequences. Granted, the rest of the Raptors failed to capitalize over that stretch because Serge Ibaka flubbed some makeable shots, but the process is good.

  4. Vital: Pascal Siakam achieved his career high with 28 points on 9-of-15 shooting thanks in large part to his improved 3-point stroke. Siakam confidently connected on three triples - a wing three and one from each corner pocket - in the third quarter. Siakam's footwork and shot preparation is a lot cleaner as compared to his first two seasons, and the release point on his shot is much more consistent.

  5. Crafty: Norman Powell continues to impress since returning from injury. Powell used to recklessly barrel into defenders on his drives to the basket, but he showed great skill and patience tonight. He froze Derrick Favors with an inside-out dribble before finishing the layup, used a hop step a few plays later to rise over Favors, and faked Rudy Gobert out of his shoes in the second half with the Rajon Rondo fake.

  6. Role: Powell has already assumed C.J. Miles's spot in the rotation, but he could even start eating into Fred VanVleet and Delon Wright's minutes if he keeps this up. He looks to have finally embraced his role as the secondary playmaker off the bench, and he was the first guard off the bench for Nick Nurse tonight.

  7. Mentality: Wright should be able to retain his minutes so long as he continues to attack the rim with the same enthusiasm as he did in the fourth quarter. Wright repeatedly slithered his way to the basket to help prop up the bench unit at the start of the fourth, and Nurse allowed him to finish the game with the starters as a reward. Wright is always a threat to get to the rim, but he's too shy and inconsistent.

  8. Chemistry: VanVleet was quiet for most of the night and mostly deferred to Leonard and Siakam. He has tremendous chemistry with the latter, as VanVleet found Siakam with two pocket passes through traffic that he can never seem to pull off with any other big man. It must be all those overtime hours logged in Los Angeles during the offseason.

  9. Redemption: Greg Monroe was too soft in the paint in the first half and allowed Utah to feast off drives and putbacks. He was much more steady in the second half as he came up with a pair of verticality challenges without fouling. Monroe has the size and bulk to hold his own down low, but like Wright, he can be too passive at times.

  10. Lookahead: Toronto badly needed this result heading into a must-watch contest in San Antonio on Thursday. A bitter and hostile crowd awaits Leonard, and the Spurs have been red-hot of late with 10 wins over their last 13 games.

10 things from Raptors-Jazz
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