The Eastern Conference first place Toronto Raptors took to the court for everyone’s favourite Sunday 1:00 p.m. start. It was also the start of the Malachi Richardson-era — as the Raptors lone trade deadline acquisition got a chance to play a whole four minutes and 42 seconds in his first game with his new team.
Richardson’s presence in the game should suggest how things went for Toronto. The Raptors continued to stay hot on Sunday, with a convincing 123-103 victory over the Charlotte Hornets. In the process, Toronto extended their win streak to five, while the Hornets have now dropped four straight.
Raptor-land, however, will be patiently waiting to hear how serious OG Anunoby’s sprained ankle is. The rookie played just over 11 minutes on Sunday, but was ruled out for the second-half of the game. He left the game with a plus-minus at zero, and it wasn’t until the third quarter the Raptors began to pull away from the Hornets.
C.J. Miles came off the bench, hitting 6-of-9 three-point attempts for 24 points. If Anunoby’s injury is serious, Miles will see an increase in minutes and a strong shooting performance like Sunday will be much needed for the Raptors moving forward.
Unlike the past week, it wasn’t the Bench Mob for the Raptors that led the way, as the team had double-digit scoring from their four starters that stayed healthy. DeMar DeRozan was 10-of-19 from the field, scoring 25 points and racking up eight assists. Jonas Valanciunas was also strong, falling one rebound shy of a double-double, scoring 21 points on the afternoon.
It wasn’t a blowout right away, as the Hornets stayed close for the first-half. (They even opened the game 10-0, before a Raptors timeout got things going the other way.) The Hornets held onto their star point guard Kemba Walker at the deadline — someone who was in the rumour mill all Thursday and had his name attached to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The Hornets just didn’t have an answer for the Raptors sharpshooting, which finished the game at 56.3% and had 18 threes. It’s the second time in three games the Raptors have shot 50+ percent from the field and the third time this month.
There was a battle of big men throughout the game, as Valanciunas and Dwight Howard were factors throughout the game. Howard finished with 17 points and 13 rebounds. However, Valanciunas got the edge with his ability to take Howard out of the paint with his long-range shooting — a perfect two-for-two from three in this one.
Kyle Lowry was held to 12 points, but had seven assists. Walker was the point guard of the game with his team-leading 23 points and nine assists. But Lowry (along with the other starters) got the last laugh: they didn’t need to play a single second of the fourth quarter once again.
Some other observations from this one:
- Nicolas Batum was a non-factor for the Hornets, going 0-for-10 from the field and wasn’t getting anything done defensively for the Hornets. Like most of the Hornets roster, Batum was a minus in this game.
- Although the Raptors bench didn’t look too sharp on the offensive end, they continued to be a force on defense. With their ability to stop the Hornets bench, the Raptors continued to pull away in the second half. The Raptors bench outscored the Hornets 55-46 — as every player who played for the Raptors scored.
- Congrats to coach Dwane Casey on his 300th win with the Raptors. What’s left to say about the man, other than calling him the best coach in franchise history? (And perhaps... the NBA’s Coach of the Year?)