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Post-Game

Raptors shoot down Hawks – Close in on number one spot

JV and Threes.

It’s a recipe that sounds nice on the surface, and on Wednesday night the Raptors had all the ingredients. Thanks to some much needed rest after a tough loss in Minnesota, Toronto used some clutch three point shooting thanks to space provided by their red-hot big man. Jonas Valanciunas was the spark from the jump for the Raps with 16 points and 13 rebounds in just 24 minutes. His 16 points led all Toronto starters on the night as the Raptors’ newly minted all-star back court struggled, making just 7 of 22 shots. JV also recorded three blocks to move past Vince Carter on the franchise all-time block list…and JV Hive must be licking their chops at another huge performance from the oft-maligned big man.

This game was never really in doubt which is refreshing considering this group has the tendency to play up or down to their competition level. The Hawks had no answer for the Raptors inside and couldn’t keep up with the Raptors’ ball movement as the Dinos hummed the rock around the perimeter to the tune of 14 threes on 36 attempts. Fred VanVleet was by far the second-best Raptors on the night, recording a team-high 19 points in just 18 minutes to go along with 7 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and 3 blocks! Are you kidding me FVV? After the game VanVleet talked about using his “snub” from the Rising Stars challenge as motivation…and it clearly worked.

VanVleet was all over the court tonight as evidenced by his ridiculously stuffed stat line and he continues to improve with each passing game. Despite some other strong efforts from the bench Dwane Casey was still concerned with the teams’ finish to the contest. Call it tough love but the Raptors bench boss and (likely) coach of the Eastern All-Stars still found a way to call out his team despite the dominating win:

” “It was a letdown at the end,” Casey said. “I was disappointed at the way that last group went in. It’s a game of habits and that’s what I just told the young guys. … You create bad habits and it shows up in weird places.”

That’s a tough message from your coach, especially considering the effort Lowry and DeRozan gave tonight, but maybe a necessary one. With the Raptors just one game back of the Celtics (at the time of this writing) and the Cavs turning into a dumpster fire it’s important to expect a little more this season, and Casey seems to be doing just that. This isn’t a team that will be satisfied with a deep playoff run…let alone a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. The tools and circumstances are in place for an even deeper run than that and reminding your young guys of what you’re gunning for is a step in the right direction.

Extras:

Serge Ibaka looked like the player the Raps want every single night. Just look at these two plays:

Early bird gets the…Hawk? Raptors set the tone early in this one and need to start opening up more games like this:

Did anyone else see the slow-mow of Casey’s lips flapping during a cut to break on TV? It was mesmerizing.

Next Up: Toronto @ Utah Friday 7:30 ET.

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