The Raptors took on the Indiana Pacers in a Sunday night matchup at the Scotiabank Arena, winning by a comfortable margin - a final score of 121-105.
This was a significant matchup between two of the East's current powerhouses, with the Raptors on top of the conference after the win and the Pacers sitting at third, just a half game up from the Sixers after the loss.
Here are my takeaways from the game:
1. The Raptors' Depth Was a Huge Factor
The depth of the Raptors was a big part of what made last year's team so good. This year, with Jakob Poeltl in San Antonio and Pascal Siakam in the starting lineup, the bench is not quite as solid.
Throw in CJ Miles' season-long shooting slump and the relative ineffectiveness of Malachi Richardson and Lorenzo Brown, and you've got an exponentially less deep team.
Against Indiana it was a different story.
Without Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors saw eight guys with 19 minutes or more and eight guys in double-digit point totals.
Not only were the minutes balanced, but the offensive production was completely balanced; seven guys between 10 and 18 points.
In fact, the biggest scoring contributor on the night was Norman Powell, who, as of late, has been playing as well as the Raptors expected him to when they signed him to a 4 year, 42- million-dollar contract extension.
Norm put up 23 points in 32 minutes of playing time.
2. The Raptors Really Missed Kyle Lowry - Now They Just Need JV Back
Kyle Lowry sat a whole bunch of games in December and early January. The Raptors missed him dearly, going just 6-5 in his absence.
In his first game back, Lowry put up 12 points and 8 assists in 32 minutes. However, those numbers don't tell the whole story. He has an ability to get everyone on the court involved that backups Delon Wright and Fred VanVleet lack.
It should not come as a surprise that Lowry's return coincided with a big win over a contender in the same conference.
Once Jonas Valanciunas comes back from a dislocated thumb injury suffered against Golden State in mid-December, the Raptors will be at full health, which is a scary, scary sight for the rest of the NBA.
That return should come soon, with Valanciunas being projected to return roughly a month after the injury occurred.
Although, to be fair, Greg Monroe (11 points and 9 boards against the Pacers) has been performing well in JV's absence, the Lithuanian center's pick-and-roll ability, soft touch at the rim, and newfound rim-protection will be a big boost to that bench unit.
3. Indiana's Vets Are Big Part of Success
The younger guys on Indiana's roster (Myles Turner, Victor Oladipo, and Domantas Sabonis) are known as their more key players. The Pacers would not be where they are without contributions from their veterans.
Point guard Darren Collison, (11 points, 5 assists) power forward Thad Young (14 points, 9 boards) backup center Kyle O'Quinn, (9 points, 7 boards) and small forward Bojan Bogdanovic (21 points, 9 boards) were key in the Pacers keeping the score close for much of the game.
The Raptors and Pacers both play again on Tuesday night, with the Raptors seeing the Hawks in Toronto, and the Pacers seeing the Cavs in Cleveland.