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Raptors make it back-to-back wins with victory over Hawks

The Raptors handled business and executed late in order to set up their latest pizza party attempt.

The Toronto Raptors (21-36) went into State Farm Arena and beat the Atlanta Hawks (24-32) 123-121 on Friday night, picking up a victory on the second night of a back-to-back for just the third time this season and the first time since Nov. 29.

Immanuel Quickley led the way with a game-high 24 points (18 in the first half), seven rebounds, and five assists while tying his season-high of six made triples. He continued his strong play post-All-Star break, making it back-to-back games scoring over 20 points, while looking noticeably more aggressive in trying to score.

His threat level as a scorer also opened up his passing game as Quickley found driving lanes by attacking close-outs and spent time setting up his bigs after being hit by doubles out of pick-and-rolls.

Quickley’s best assist of the night was his final one when in the fourth quarter he pump-faked and blew by Dejounte Murray, got the attention of Deandre Hunter, and then threw a one-handed pass to Scottie Barnes for an easy slam.

Barnes was also dominant as he finished with 20 points and 10 assists. The Raptors All-Star was mismatch-hunting as much as possible, working out of the post to find easy hook shots at the basket or create offensive looks for his teammates. Players like Gradey Dick and Bruce Brown were moving with supreme confidence and their heads on a swivel because they understood that Barnes was going to find them.

The Raptors bench was also noticeably impressive as all four players off the pine scored in double figures and the second unit combined for 54 points.

Dick led the way as he scored 18 points on 8-of-13 shooting from the field. Outside of his shot returning to form, he’s gotten so good at doing other things like attacking closeouts, cutting off the ball, and just finding small ways to create advantages.

Meanwhile, Ochai Agbaji had his best game with the Raptors, scoring 14 points on 4-of-5 shooting from deep, and finishing the game a plus-13.

Despite not getting settled in Atlanta till about 3:00 am ET, Toronto started this game as strong as any fan could’ve hoped for, getting out to an early 17-4 lead. Part of their strong focus early was seemingly because they were looking to avenge a heartbreaking 126-125 loss to Atlanta on Jan. 28 that finished as a result of a Saddiq Bey putback.

The Raptors would extend that led to as many as 16 points largely on the strength of their transition play (+15 on fastbreak points) and their ability to lock up Atlanta’s Trae Young. The Hawks All-Star was held to just 11 points and seven assists on 4-of-13 shooting.

Toronto stifling the production of Young is more impressive considering he’s averaged 34.3 points against them this season. The squad sent relentless doubles his way and used strong pressure at the nail to make Young uncomfortable all night.

However, despite Atlanta’s lead guard struggling, and their head coach Quin Snyder getting ejected in bizarre fashion, the Hawks rallied thanks to their play on the glass. Atlanta grabbed 20 offensive rebounds (+9) and subsequently scored 29 second-chance points (+17).

Post-game, Dick mentioned that the squad had a “sour taste” in their mouths following their last loss to the Hawks and they wanted to execute better down the stretch in this one.

Thankfully the Raptors did exactly that.

Head coach Darko Rajakovic deserves credit for making the choice to go with Kelly Olynyk as the closing centre, to match Atlanta’s small-ball lineup, and veering away from Jakob Poeltl despite him having an impressive night with 12 points, 13 rebounds, and six assists.

Olynyk’s mobility and spacing were vital, but it was his clutch shot-making that really helped the Raptors secure a victory. He hit two tough shots – one of which I can only describe as a one-to-one imitation of Dirk Nowitzki’s patented fadeaway – scoring four of the team’s last nine points.

Despite not moving up in the standings and remaining in 12th place in the Eastern Conference the Raptors did gain ground after beating the 11th-seeded Brooklyn Nets and 10th-seeded Hawks. Toronto is now just 3.5 games back of a play-in spot, and whether you want them to pursue that path, Rajakovic has said he sees value in their young core getting “post-season” experience and they’re going to try and win.

Up next

If having to face Pascal Siakam and the Indiana Pacers on Valentine’s day wasn’t enough intrigue, how about the former Raptor now standing in the way of the team’s latest attempt at a pizza party?

This will be Toronto’s fifth attempt at winning three games in a row and they’ll have to try and find a way to do it against the same Indiana team that beat them 127-125 right before the All-Star break.

Fortunately for the Raptors, they’ll get plenty of rest heading into the matchup as tip-off from Gainbridge Fieldhouse isn’t until Monday at 7:00 pm ET.