You could sense a second-half outburst was on the way for the Raptors as their 132-96 win over the Hornets approached half time. For the opening 24 on Monday against the Hornets, Toronto coasted, doing just enough to eek out a four-point lead. Defensive attention was notably sparse early on — a stark deviation from the maniacal desperation with which they approached every second of last week’s road trip. Dialing it back was understandable, really. Bouncing off the walls 48 minutes at a time isn’t exactly sustainable over 82.
But even as the Raptors nonchalantly settled back into the friendly confines of home, it was plain to see the disparity between the defending champs and the team that might be furthest away from a ring in the league. Guarded by what felt like a whole team of Christian Woods, Pascal Siakam rediscovered the efficiency stolen by Maxi Kleber and pals on Saturday. Even though the Raptors connected on just 5-of-21 threes in the half, the looks were almost exclusively clean. Nothing Charlotte spat out on defense to open the game suggested it had solved the Raptors’ flowing attack.
The third quarter brought with it a busted dam. Flashing skills that are apparently just things he has in his bag now, OG Anunoby ripped through four triples in the frame, three of them of the off-the-bounce, checking-the-stove persuasion. By the time he was forced to exit thanks to another uncalled blow to the eye (he was fine after this one), OG sat on a career-high 24 points on a positively moist 10-of-13 from the floor.
“He jump-started us there in the second half. I don’t know how many he made, four for sure, four threes and a couple of them were dribble to the left late in the clock., those were big, I think that helped us gain a lot of momentum,” Nurse raved.
“It was good to see. I didn’t think he played that great in Dallas off the little time off, I think he was medium in the first half even tonight so it was good to see him get a boost of confidence and play so great in the second half.”
Anunoby clinched his points milestone with a cutting dunk served up by a bitchin’ Marc Gasol bounce pass from the elbow — the ninth assist of the night for Big Spain, who may have had his most delicious effort of the season. Considering the things Gasol does that are fun and not fun to watch at this stage of his career, five points with eight boards and nine dimes is the aesthetically ideal Gasol box score.
It’s established canon at this point that Gasol’s penchant for slinging it is contagious within this team. Gasol’s nine assists led the way, yes, but Toronto also finished the night with guys on eight (Fred VanVleet), seven (Terence Davis — a career high), six (Norman Powell — a career high) and five (Siakam) respectively, too. Of Toronto’s 50 made buckets on the night, a franchise-record 40 were assisted.
“Even though there were some long possessions early in the game I thought we kept staying with things and ended up getting good shots, even late in the shot clock,” said Nurse after the game, impressed by the team’s ball movement.
“Threes started going in like crazy in the second half, that always helps your assist numbers. “That’s awesome to see. So many guys with such big numbers and it was start to finish, really.”
As much as motion and sharing in the half court opened the game up for Toronto, it was its freaking deadly defense-to-offense transition game that made the second half sing.
Toronto didn’t have to deploy the star-focused, hyper-aggressive defense it used during its western travels. It couldn’t, really, because all of Charlotte’s players are bad. But after chilling through that opening half, they ratcheted things up for the requisite four-to-six minutes needed to blow it open, resulting in sequences like this one over which our blog dad Mike Prada drooled.
You won't find many better sequences of basketball this season.— Mike Prada. I have spoken (@MikePradaSBN) November 19, 2019
-Marc's board and immediate outlet
-Fred's pitch ahead
-And I don't know how Pascal saw Norm
This is :chefkiss: defined pic.twitter.com/Kzqmdtw3iW
I can't get over how the camera person had to pan backwards and then down to get Norm into the frame after that pass.— Mike Prada. I have spoken (@MikePradaSBN) November 19, 2019
The most authoritative dunk of Siakam’s career also happened tonight.
Following the 32-18 third quarter and a 23-7 start to the fourth orchestrated by Point Siakam and four bench hands, the Raptors led 115-81, ushering in six-plus minutes of some of the sweetest-smelling garbage time you’ll ever come across.
Terence Davis joined the career-high fun with 16 points, all in the fourth, on a perfect 5-of-5 clip from the floor. Remember when the Raptors got him off another team’s summer league roster?
Dewan Hernandez and Oshae Brissett each saw their first NBA action, with the former picking up points number one and two for his career. A collection of late-seconds and undrafted dudes outpaced outpaced the Hornets B-squad to finish things out, all the while former number-two pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist saw is only floor time of the evening.
Toronto’s back on track with the Magic up next on Wednesday, with one of the most complete offensive games in team history now in the books. And they still get to add Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka back to the lineup. It’s a good team, man. It’s basically the anti-Hornets.