The Toronto Raptors are simply tearing their opponents to pieces right now. The reeling Atlanta Hawks were just the latest soft log to get hurled into the roaring wood chipper, dropping their sixth straight and the ninth out of their last ten games.
The Raptors destroyed the Hawks 128-84 on Saturday night, extending their own much more positive streak to six games. The 44-point margin of victory was the largest in franchise history.
How good have the Raptors been lately? Case in point: for the third time in four games, the Raptors closed out the game playing the rookie-laden lineup of Jakob Poeltl, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Bruno Caboclo and the “old man” sophomore Norm Powell. The rookies fared well too, providing energetic play, protecting the rim and even bringing the crowd to its feet when Poeltl decided to do his best Shawn Kemp impression.
Atlanta came out aggressively, and led 13-8 early in the first quarter, but things quickly fell apart — by the end of the quarter they trailed 32-22, and never came close to the lead again. The Raptors set the tone early, and shot just a hair under 63% in that opening frame, even though they had just a single team assist. The vaunted Hawks defense (second in the NBA in defensive rating before tonight) was non-existent for the rest of the game, as the Raptors began moving the ball all over the court, making 13 of 24 threes, and tacking on 27 more assists. Terrence Ross and Patrick Patterson led the three point charge, combining to go 7-for-9 from long range.
It’s easy to find highlights in a game like this, but the play of Lucas Nogueira and Pascal Siakam particularly stood out to me. Bebe came in much earlier than normal because Jonas Valanciunas picked up two quick fouls. He played 22:56 to JV’s 20:54 tonight, posting 11 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 steals, and was a generally disruptive force on both sides of the ball. Siakam ran the floor all night long, hammering down three thunderous transition dunks and setting a new career high with 14 points on 7 of 12 shooting. On a night when Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan were typically excellent, the play of Nogueira and Siakam helped put the game so far out of reach that the two big dogs could take the end of the game off, a luxury that Toronto needs to take advantage of whenever possible.
There isn’t much more to say, really. This was a bloodletting. The Hawks are now 10-11 and badly miss their best player in Millsap. Toronto is playing their best ball of the season, and have an important early season home game versus the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday.
What did you think of the game?