Raptors 87, Hornets 84 (OT) | Box Score
It was the Rawle Alkins Game.
It seems as if each year at Las Vegas Summer League, some Toronto Raptor has a big breakout. That hasn’t been the case uniformly across the tournament this year, with several names instead having big quarters or big moments. Alkins had one himself in the second half of the team’s opener. On Saturday, though, Alkins turned in the best individual performance of any Raptor in the tournament so far outside of maybe OG Anunoby, scoring five points in a two-minute overtime and 25 overall to lead the Raptors to an 87-84 victory over the Charlotte Hornets, sending them through to the next round.
The luster for this one was taken off a little before tip-off with the news that Anunoby would sit for rest, an entirely reasonable decision that bumped Alfonzo McKinnie back into the starting lineup and gave the team a longer look at some of the wings on the roster. It was Alkins who impressed first, scoring off of an offensive rebound, and Malachi Richardson pulled up for a three over a screen to help stop an early Charlotte run. Toronto did a nice job getting into the ball and staying aggressive to force turnovers, but their inability to finish possessions – losing a shooter after gambling, allowing an offensive rebound, fouling in transition – gave the Hornets too many windows to open up a lead.
Luckily, the scoreboard got unplugged and the score was erased. After a lengthy delay, the score was tragically restored and the Raptors found themselves once again playing from behind early. Richardson and Alkins continued to carry the spark, with the former coming up with a nice steal and the latter dumping off to Shevon Thompson for an easy bucket (he’d have another great post feed later that didn’t get converted) and then finishing a tough one himself in close, helping Toronto hang around. They took some time to get over the hump, staying at a possession or two’s length due to some fouling issues – Chris Boucher was guilty of the crime of the wonderful crime of trying to swat everything, even on the perimeter – as the benches began filtering in. Miles Bridges then tried to end the tournament with a wild, out-of-control self-alley-oop, and while he missed, another second chance for Charlotte neutralized a Giddy Potts shooting spark and kept the Hornets ahead four after a quarter.
The Raptors were able to break through and take their first lead early in the second, opening on a 9-0 run thanks to a balanced attack that included two Jordan Loyd drives, Boucher feeding Alkins for a three, and Richardson getting to the line. Bridges then hit the floor in pain in a worrisome moment that affirmed why Anunoby was sitting, and the Raptors continued rolling along without their Summer League star. A lot of the success was driven by extra effort on defense and in transition, helping make up for some pretty shaky finishing in close and occasionally curious shot selection. The teams swapped the lead back and forth late in the frame, and Bridges’ eventual return (thankfully) saw him throw down a big dunk to help Charlotte keep things tied up at 37 heading into the break.
Charlotte brought a nice energy to start the third, matching Toronto’s on the defensive end. They weren’t able to match Toronto’s shooting, though, and another Alkins three pushed the Raptors to 50 percent from outside and kept them even in a fast-paced start to the half. Bridges got a chance to show off his hops once again by finishing off a lob pass from former Raptors 905 point guard (and Loyd’s high school teammate) Shannon Scott, and some turnover issues kept the Raptors from getting any sort of momentum to pull ahead. The lead continued changing hands throughout the quarter, and consecutive threes from Potts and Alkins opened the floor up for Potts to fullback-dive his way to the rim. Boucher followed with a nice play at each end of the floor, and the Raptors found themselves up four heading into the fourth.
Were it not for Bridges, the Raptors probably could have pulled away more than they managed to, even as he got offensive fouls for, like, jumping too high, I think. Dwayne Bacon picked Bridges up with some smooth offensive plays, too – he was likely even better, just less flashy – and Charlotte kept hanging around within striking distance. Boucher had a really up-and-down stretch flashing a lot of his intrigue and the factors that currently limit him, and a missed put-back attempt highlighted an imprecise few minutes for the Raptors as a whole that cost them their control over the end-game scenario.
Coming out of a break with under five minutes to go, Bacon stuck another mid-range jumper, edging Charlotte ahead. He’d then draw a foul on a mid-range pull-up, and a turnover the other way helped Charlotte complete an 8-0 run, and suddenly that same back-and-forth was the Raptors trying to get back to even once again. Alkins checked back in and provided a spark once more, and around some continued turnover issues and Bacon clogging Toronto’s defensive arteries, the Raptors tied things up with under a minute to go after a Boucher offensive rebound set up an Alkins drive. Toronto wound up with the ball and 5.9 seconds left coming out of a timeout, giving the world a first look at a clutch Nick Nurse out-of-timeout call. The Raptors inbounded into the backcourt to quickly bait Charlotte’s foul to give, and the real play came with 4.0 on the clock. Nurse curiously had McKinnie inbound into the backcourt to Teague, who failed to get off a running three, forcing overtime.
The two-minute Summer League overtime format is merciful, and so after Bridges and Alkins traded scores, an Alkins pull-up three with 31 seconds left felt like a potential dagger. Charlotte drew a quick foul to cut the lead to one but couldn’t keep Boucher off the glass for free throws, and a last-ditch triple to force a second overtime missed long, sending Toronto to the quarter-finals.
“Yeah, man. I didn’t want to go home,” a drenched and panting Alkins said on the broadcast. “It’s not over yet. We were 0-3, but now it’s playoff basketball.”
The Raptors will now play Cleveland on Sunday at 6 ET with a berth in the semi-finals on the line. For how bad they looked in the first three games, this has been quite a two-game turnaround, and whatever happens from here, the Raptors deserve a ton of credit for continuing to fight and eventually finding their ways to a high-energy defensive formula that appears to be working for them. And hey, no LeBron on these playoff Cavs.
- Yes, we’re copping my Raptors 905/Team Canada recap format here with half-gamer, half-notes. I figure it lends itself better to games like these where people might not be as concerned about the game-flow as the actual player performances.
- As always, yes, all Summer League caveats apply. The context of the tournament needs to be recognized. That doesn’t mean information can’t be pulled from it – positive signs are allowed to breed optimism, and negatives can help inform the rest of a player’s offseason. Take it for what it is, and enjoy.
- RAPTORS NOTES: Rawle Alkins continued to show why the Raptors moved so swiftly to bring him in after the draft, scoring 25 points on 18 possessions, hitting five threes – a supposed weakness in his profile still – and providing his trademark on-ball defense…Malachi Richardson continued a strong tournament, too, scoring 14 points and providing active hands in passing lanes…Shevon Thompson didn’t play late but had 12 points and seven rebounds in 17 minutes…Giddy Potts had two more threes and 10 points in total…Chris Boucher shot 1-of-5 and had some defensive lapses but also scored seven points with eight rebounds and three blocks in 24 minutes.
- Alfonzo McKinnie had a rough outing, shooting 1-of-9 with five fouls and two turnovers…Codi Miller-McIntyre shot poorly again, posting a zero-point game that undersold his contribution with five rebounds and five assists.
- INJURIES: OG Anunoby sat this one out for rest. There’s nothing to see here; it would be a fifth game in nine days for him, and sitting him accomplishes the dual goal of avoiding a Delon Wright redux and getting an extended look at some of the wings on the bubble. Most teams do this with key players by the second week of Summer League every year…Jordan Loyd left at halftime with back spasms. He missed the Vegas opener with the same issue and has been plagued by them through an otherwise impressive camp…Fuquan Edwin missed a fifth consecutive game with a left knee injury…Malcolm Miller is done for Summer League with a dislocated shoulder.
- IN ATTENDANCE: I don’t know, I’m back in Toronto now.
- HORNETS NOTES: Dwayne Bacon needed 32 possessions to get there but his 28 points were still impressive…Miles Bridges shot 5-of-20 despite the highlights he produced…Joe Chealey had 14-9-4 in a support role.
- UP NEXT: The Raptors now take on Cleveland in the quarterfinals at 6 ET on Sunday.