Gary Trent Jr, clutch execution help Raptors snap Hawks winning streak

All of these recent clutch minutes are going to pay off.

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Another character win for the Raptors, snapping the Hawks seven game win streak. Toronto and Atlanta will see each other again on Friday and hopefully Trae Young (shoulder) can play in that game so we can see how the Raps deal with him in the pick and roll.

I’m picking up this recap in the second half. If you didn’t watch the game, you can skip everything beforehand for the most part.

1. Headband Gary (again)

I’m only being half serious here, but I mentioned Gary’s hot stretch coinciding with his new hair style/head band look in the Heat recap.  He’s now done so the last five games, with four 30-point games to show for it. That’s half his 30-point games in his career! It’s the first time a Raptor has scored 30-plus in four straight since Kawhi Leonard in 2019. DeMar DeRozan holds the Raptor record with five consecutive.

The Raptors were coming off a poor end to the second quarter with the Hawks threatening to go up double digits. Gary had eight points off 3-11 shooting and used looks from Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet to absolutely ignite.

Gary made five of his career-high nine threes in the third quarter alone. He outscored the Hawks by himself 17-15. Remember that six game stretch in the middle of January where it looked like Fred and Pascal had to be nearly Kobe and Shaq to give the Raptors a chance because secondary scoring was lacking? This is a prime example. Fred’s shots, although extremely timely, aren’t falling consistently right now (sub 50% FG last 10 games). You can count on OG Anunoby to give you 15-20 points on a regular basis. However when you have that microwave in Gary, the Raptors offence goes to another level.

He also held his own against Bogdan Bogdanovic, who was doing his best to help Atlanta steal one late. He absolutely hounded him, forcing a tough miss with under three minutes left in a two point game. Trent did follow that up with a defensive error, flying in with OG to help on a John Collins post up when he was already being doubled by Fred and Scottie Barnes. That left Bogdanovic open from three to cut the Raptors lead to one.

But when you’re shooting like Trent was on this night, you can just trade treys.

Siakam after the game wrapped up Jr’s game pretty easily.

Back to the headband thing that I’ve been pushing. Adam Laskaris from The Daily Hive read my mind and asked Trent about that postgame.

“Regarding my hair, it is clean, but I’m going out there to win,” Trent replied.

He was also asked about his offseason work, speeding up his shot.

“Coming into this summer, they talked to me about getting my jumper. It’s good, but getting it to great. Getting a quicker release. Just repetition, believing in Nurse and the coaching staff, what they’re telling me.” Trent said.

2. Defensive Masterclass

The Raptors third quarter defence especially was just as key as Trent going off, and everybody was involved. Toronto forced seven turnovers in the quarter, including numerous deflections.

Scottie (3 blocks) and Pascal (2) changed numerous shots at the rim. Toronto outscored Atlanta by 17 in the third, making it the sixth straight game they have won that quarter. The Raps are +57 during that stretch, which averages out to nearly 10 per game. That’s massive kudos to halftime adjustments.

“The coaches did a great job. They showed about six clips of things we kind of do normally that we weren’t getting done. Just really little small things that make a big difference in a chain reaction situation. We started getting those done, in fact we got them all done pretty much in the second half. We did add a few things, started to blitz a little more on their hot players and created some turnovers. We went to more switching, played a lot of coverage tonight and then went to some switching as well, but mostly it was foundational things that we just needed to shore up,” Nurse explained.

3. Pascal’s Two Way game continues

That rest was well deserved. He’s never played better on the defensive end in my opinion, and he made extremely timely plays any time the Hawks were trying to gain momentum. Pascal doesn’t give the whistle other all-stars do for some bizarre reason, but he was excellent at finishing in the paint through very solid defence this game.

Siakam wrapped up a spectacular January with 25 points, six boards, four assists, two steals and two blocks.

How’s these numbers for the month? 22.6 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 6.4 apg 2.0 spg, 0.8 bpg. 47.7 percent from the field, 41.5 from three. Ok, the 74 percent from the line is below his career average of 77 if you REALLY want to nitpick. However Pascal has iced the last couple of games from the line.

He also averaged 40.4 MINUTES in January folks.

That’s quite the company.

4. “I don’t shoot trying to miss.”

Before we get to what Anunoby did late, I thought these are two of the most fluid moves he’s had all season setting up his midrange jumper. The hesitation fake to send Clint Capela flying out of position was art.

Ok now to clutch time, an all-too familiar scenario lately, which is a good thing. The Raptors found themselves hanging onto a one point lead three times in the final five minutes and made a three every time. I already showed Trent’s earlier. OG was massive in the corners, benefitting from two of VanVleet’s 11 assists. He put the Raptors up four in a 93-92 game with just under five minutes left. Danilo Gallinari got caught ball watching in no mans land.

Then on the biggest play of the game, DeAndre Hunter cheated inside to help on the Fred-Onyeka Okongwu mismatch. That turned out to be a big mistake.

That wrapped up a very solid two-way 15 point performance from OG.

What’s Next?

Miami again. I don’t think anybody can survive three overtimes again. The Heat are also playing a back to back.

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