The Toronto Raptors recently put together a stretch that gave everyone some optimism for the future of this team, they had just put together their longest winning streak of the season which was 3 games and the on court product just looked much improved as well. The defense was more connected, the ball was flowing effortlessly, and Toronto just felt more like a unified unit than at any point in the season. The Atlanta Hawks came in and stomped on all of these things en route to their 114-103 victory over Toronto. The Hawks did it due to in large part the potent offensive production from the star backcourt of Trae Young and Dejounte Murray.
Right from the opening tip you knew it was going to be a rough game as in mere minutes the Atlanta Hawks jumped out to an 18 point lead. Toronto began the game extremely cold similar to the game vs Milwaukee but this time the other team didn’t match the poor shooting numbers. Early on, Dejounte and Trae both got into a groove offensively combining for 19 points in the first quarter alone. Dejounte got his through some very good pull up shooting over Fred and Pascal, Trae got a nice chunk of his at the line as he is prone to do. Early on it seemed like Pascal was going to have to do another one of his carry jobs when he recorded 8 points in the first quarter to keep the lead reasonable along with a surprise burst from Malachi Flynn in the opening period.
The second quarter is where Scottie Barnes really began to get rolling. He was a force at the rim and overpowered some defenders in the post, moved really well without the ball for easy rim attempts, and just soared through the air altogether. Precious Achiuwa exploded in the second quarter and ran off 11 points and his process as a roll man was very good. He timed his rolls effectively and he battled on the glass as well for second chance points and he also got out in transition as a reward of his own defensive effort, not to mention sinking all of his free throws. With all this happening Toronto was able to gain some ground but Atlanta still was punishing them on the defensive end. Dejounte Murray was still hitting some tough mid range looks while being smothered by Fred VanVleet which you just have to chalk up as good defense and better offense. The defense on Trae Young however, was not good at all. All night they struggled to keep Trae Young in front and this led to breakdowns all over the court and just easy looks for Atlanta. The fault can’t all be placed on the point-of-attack defenders because you are supposed to help, but the problems definitely stemmed from there. Fred at this point in the game had missed all 6 of his shots and had a staggering 0 points in this game. The lead was 12 at halftime and it was clear that Toronto still had a chance to win this game. They were just going to need way more offensive production from their top guys.
When the second half began Atlanta and Toronto were trading punches like the 6th round of a heavyweight boxing match. One team would put up a flurry then the other came roaring back. The difference though is that Toronto was working way harder for their looks than Atlanta was. Toronto just had so many breakdowns that they couldn’t afford to have and this allowed the lead to balloon to 17 going into the 4th. Scottie Barnes was really the only one producing on offense efficiently up to this point and he needed a lot of help. Things got very interesting in the fourth quarter because Toronto was able to get offensive help from the most surprising source, Chris Boucher. Boucher scored all of his 13 points in the fourth quarter along with Scottie pouring in 6 of his own in the quarter to try and spark a comeback victory like the Raptors have teased so many times lately. Sadly that lead was too much to overcome without the help from the top guys. They got it down to 7 at one point but it was too little too late.
On a night where Scottie Barnes played incredibly and the bench played outstanding all you needed was normal production from the other starters and this game was chalked up in the win column but that just wasn’t there. Uncharacteristically bad nights from Pascal and Fred along with Gary cooling off led to this unfortunate loss along with some abysmal defense.
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