Five plays: Raptors fall to Hawks despite late game heroics from Malachi Flynn

Here are five plays that define the Raptors' loss.

The Toronto Raptors fell short of a comeback to the shorthanded Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night, losing 108-103.

The following are five plays (with clips!) the define the Raptors’ loss. Some are good. Some are bad.

This is a different format for the game recap for me, so please let me know in the comments if you like it and/or if you have any comments.

1. Maleeeeeechi (Mal-ee-kee)

This is my preferred nickname for Raptors rookie point guard Malachi Flynn. It’s what I usually yell when he is having a good game or doing a nice thing on the court, and it is certainly what I yelled during his solo 12-point run late in the fourth quarter on Tuesday, when Flynn scored four three-pointers in a row for the Raptors to bring them with in 2 points of the Hawks.

It wasn’t a perfect night for Flynn, who shot 8-18 from the field and had trouble balancing his own offence with finding his teammates, but it was a Tracy McGrady-like hot-streak that almost made a fake comeback a real one for the Raptors.

2. And here comes the bad

Gary Trent Jr. had one of his worst games as a Raptor, shooting 0-7 from three and 3-15 from the floor.

It was proof that while Trent is already a good player with plenty of upside at 22-years-old, he still has significant holes in his game. Those holes are exacerbated when his shot is not falling. He was unable to get to the rim or the free-throw line, and his diet of mid-range shots and step-backs are not efficient looks to begin with, so when it’s bad, it’s really bad.

But worst of all was this misstep on defence, where Trent attempts to go for a steal late in the Hawk’s shot-clock but ends up missing the ball and conceding a wide-open three that opened up a 14-point lead for the Hawks.

Given the shot clock, Trent probably should have just contested Brandon Goodwin’s shot or, because he was the weakside help and had two shooters to defend, he should have stunted between Goodwin and Solomun Hill, forcing Goodwin to make a tough decision with the ball. Instead, he gave up an open three that turned out to be the TSN (Raptors Republic) turning point.

3. It gets worse

Speaking of mistakes, what is this?

Chris Boucher did not have the best night, getting bullied by Clint Capela in the paint and on the boards to the point where he only saw 24 minutes of action. I was surprised Nick Nurse didn’t stick to Khem Birch to close out the game, as Birch had his best game as a Raptor, and his size and strength made life much tougher for Capela.

Still, this is an unacceptable shot from Boucher given the circumstances. He never even looks at his teammates when the ball finds his hands with 14 seconds on the shot-clock, and he dribbles into a step-back three that comes a foot short of the rim. Watch Pascal Siakam’s reaction. Exactly.

4. Speaking of Siakam…

… He had a great game, shooting 13-19 from the field with 6 rebounds, 7 assists, and 2 blocks (and 5 turnovers, but that will happen when you’re playing with two brand new bigs).

Siakam was doing everything you want from him (except hitting threes, which, yikes. I was optimistic it would come along as the season progressed, but he is going to have to look into that this offseason). Unfortunately, with the game on the line, Siakam was unable to finish through (a lot of) contact.

It’s been the story of the season, with Siakam getting close but not finishing. Still, I credit Nurse for sticking with him and giving him all these late-game reps. They will pay off one day.

5. Khem Birch hit a three!

We knew Khem Birch had a mid-range jumper, which he also showed off in this game, but hitting a three was a very nice sight from the perspective of Raptors’ fans and presumably Birch himself. It’s possible that Birch had this in him for a while and was just not encouraged to shoot in Orlando, and it’s nice that Nurse and the Raptors encourage bigs to shoot from three even if they don’t have a history of hitting from deep.

Look at Chris Boucher, who is admittedly struggling badly from three as of late, as an example of a guy who has still dramatically improved his three-point shot under Nurse, given the green light. He is still shooting 38.6 percent this season despite this underwhelming stretch. That improvement might never happen for Birch, but given the possibility that he was discouraged from shooting in Orlando and now has a green light, I’m excited to see that part of his game grow over the length of the season (and maybe for longer).


In case you missed it, watch The Rap Up, our live post-game show after every buzzer where we dissected these plays and more. Follow me on Twitter.


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