TORONTO (Rahnuma): Toronto Raptors bounced back from their worst loss of the season with a 95-89 victory over Chicago Bulls on Sunday evening at Scotiabank Arena.
After losing to Orlando by 29 points two days ago, Toronto got a game-high 27 points and nine rebounds from former Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard. Forward Pascal Siakam also added 20 points and 12 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season.
Raptors head coach Nick Nurse was pleased with his team’s effort against a young Bulls team.
“They came out and really guarded us well and set the tone with the pace and defence early,” said Nurse following the game. “It was an uphill fist fight the whole way but we found a way to make a few plays.”
After starting the season with a franchise-best 10-1 record and a point-differential of 9.4 points per game, Nurse’s squad has struggled over the last 14 games with a 7-7 record while outscoring opponents by just 0.5 points per game.
A large part of the struggles is injuries to key players that have forced the team to field 13 different starting lineups, compared to 12 used all of last season. Missing against the Bulls were All-Star guard Kyle Lowry and center Jonas Valanciunas, two of the team’s longest tenured players.
“We miss both those guys without a doubt. They have been here the longest of anybody and this is their team,” said Nurse. “Their investment into this organization has been the greatest and we miss a little bit of that.”
Valanciunas has missed eight games with a dislocated thumb while Lowry has sat out for seven of the past eight games with back and thigh injuries. Toronto is 4-3 without Lowry, compared to 23-8 when he is in the lineup.
All the injuries have given third-year forward Pascal Siakam an opportunity to play a bigger role this season. In 37 games, the Cameroon-native has scored in double-figures 31 times, compared to 24 times in 81 games last season. He has also scored 20 or more points nine times, a feat he only managed to achieve one last year.
Siakam believes that trust is the missing ingredient to the team’s record woes.
“Trusting each other out there and moving the ball, just playing our brand of basketball like we usually do,” said Siakam. “Not having Kyle control the pace, we have to continue to do our best to continue to play together.”
On a positive note, Toronto finished with a 35-10 record at home since New Year’s Day 2018, matching the franchise-record for most regular-season home wins in one calendar year.
Next up for Raptors is Tuesday evening when they kick-off 2019 against Rudy Gobert and the Utah Jazz.