The Toronto Raptors won their seventh straight game on Sunday night, 130-110 over the Utah Jazz, in a game that was over by halftime.
Pascal Siakam rollicked for 35 points – his eighth 30-point game already in this young season – as he led a pack of eight Raptors who all scored in double digits.
Fred VanVleet had 21 points, to go with 11 assists and five rebounds against zero turnovers. Norman Powell added 15, while Terence Davis had 13, and so did Serge Ibaka in his long-awaited return from injury.
Even as a snowstorm blitzed through Ontario on Sunday, Scotiabank Arena was still lively for the game.
Marc Gasol – who had averaged 5.8 points per game in the first 18 games of the season – had an explosive first quarter. He erupted for 11 points on a trio of three-balls and a monster dunk, had a silky inside assist to Siakam, and tangled with Rudy Gobert in the paint, coming up with four rebounds.
Gasol’s scoring burst was part of the Raptors’ dominating 23-2 run in the first. Siakam also thoroughly overpowered the competition in a 19-point opening quarter, as various Utah defenders tried and failed to stop the Cameroonian. The Raps led by a whopping 37-20 when the quarter ended and set the tone for a beat-down.
The ball was zipping early on, and Toronto was compiling assists with ease and creating turnovers. The Raps’ good defence morphed into strong offence.
“Yeah, we really did want to get out there and play with some pace,” Toronto head coach Nick Nurse said. “[Utah is a] good half-court defensive team; we didn’t want to have to face Gobert at the rim.”
The good vibes kept coming as Ibaka was the first big man off Toronto’s bench late in the first, making his highly anticipated return to the court, greeted by a loud standing ovation. He had missed 10 games after suffering an ankle injury on Nov. 8 against the New Orleans Pelicans – the same game in which Kyle Lowry fractured his thumb.
Although the All-Star point guard remains out a little longer, the return of the Congolese big man was a giant step in the Raptors getting back to full strength.
The Raptors held the Jazz to a measly 17 points in the second quarter and built a mind-bending 40-point lead by halftime with a season-best 77-point half.
It was the biggest halftime lead in the NBA this season. In club history, the Raptors had never led by that much at the half, and no Jazz team ever been in such a massive halftime hole either. The halfway margin between the two teams ranked eighth all-time in league history.
Yet somehow, the resilient Jazz came out a different squad in the third quarter and hacked Toronto’s beefy 40-point lead back to 16 at one point. Mike Conley, Gasol’s old teammate with the Memphis Grizzlies before the Spaniard’s trade to Toronto, had a 13-point third quarter to lead the way. Donovan Mitchell pitched in with an 11-point surge. The Jazz outscored the Raps 49-30 in the quarter.
But it was too little too late for Utah.
Toronto remained in the lead and the outcome was never in doubt.
“I don’t want to really talk about that third quarter if that’s all right?” Nurse said with a laugh. “I’m happy that we get a 20-point win against a quality team like that.”
The Raps were able to empty the bench with five minutes left.
Ibaka played 21 minutes in his return, and shot 5-for-14, added four rebounds and three assists, with four fouls, and hit two three-pointers. Chris Boucher – who had filled the centre spot off the bench in Ibaka’s absence – played five minutes and went scoreless Sunday night, being utilized alongside Ibaka at one point.
Utah was led by 20 points from Conley, as it fell to 12-8 on the season. Jeff Green added 19, and Mitchell 16.
It was the first contest in a three-game home stand. The Raps will play host the Miami Heat on Tuesday, and the Houston Rockets on Thursday.