After the Raptors lost to the Nuggets on Monday, they needed to bounce back in a big way against a top team in their conference, the red-hot Philadelphia 76ers, who came in to this game having won eight of their last ten. The Raptors pulled away late, eventually winning 113-102 after beating Philly by 10 in the fourth quarter.
Here are my takeaways from that game:
1. Valanciunas is an Important Piece of the Raptors' Depth
The Raptors were in trouble heading in to the final quarter, leading by just a single point with Jimmy Butler hot offensively.
The bench unit, who have been struggling as of late, were on the floor, with JV in at center. He absolutely took over. Once the starters for both teams came back out, Nick Nurse made the good decision to keep JV out there.
He dominated in the paint to the tune of 26 points and 8 rebounds against MVP-candidate center Joel Embiid. He did that in 18 minutes of play.
Last night's performance was a reminder to a lot of people who forgot about just how good JV can be.
2. Kawhi is Still a Superstar
Kawhi scored 36 and grabbed 9 boards against one of the best perimeter defenders in the league in Jimmy Butler. On the other end of the floor, he locked up Ben Simmons, forcing the young point guard in to turnover after turnover, and limiting him to just eight points in 34 minutes.
3. Jimmy Butler is a Difference-Maker for Philadeplhia
Before the Sixers picked up Jimmy Butler, they were hovering around .500 and struggling to win games against below .500 opponents.
After the loss to the Raptors, they sit at 17-9, good for third in the conference behind Toronto and Boston.
Against the Raptors Jimmy scored 38 points in 38 minutes and was good for a double-double with 10 boards as well. On the defensive end, he obviously struggled to lock up Kawhi entirely, but no one can really lock up Kawhi. Jimmy was at least able to make the majority of Kawhi's points difficult ones, with a hand in his face on every one of Kawhi's jumpers.
The Raptors have Brooklyn on Friday, who have struggled since they lost Caris LeVert, and the Sixers play the Pistons on the same day.