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Five thoughts on last night: Raptors 130, Hawks 114

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The Raptors finally built a lead, and kept it! But last night was Kyle Lowry’s night.

Five thoughts recap: Toronto Raptors 130, Atlanta Hawks 114, Fred VanVleet Photo by Anatoliy Cherkasov/NurPhoto via Getty Images

It was a night of tributes in Toronto. First, it was a moving video tribute and moment of silence for the late Kobe Bryant. Then, it was a highlight-filled 25th anniversary tribute to Vince Carter. And finally, it was a late timeout congratulatory tribute to Kyle Lowry, who passed Jose Calderon for top spot on the franchise assist leaderboard.

There was a game too! But let’s start with the tributes.

I’m in For All the Vince Tributes

I continue to roll my eyes at the whitewashing of Vince’ Carter’s departure from the Raptors. (It was bad! We shouldn’t look past it!) But that doesn’t mean I don’t love me some Vince Carter highlights. And the Raptors, as they’ve done all year long, did it right with this dunk-filled tribute video in the first half:

Meanwhile, this image definitely had me feeling some things:

And how about Vince hitting that first, Kobe-like fadeaway? And 10 points in the first half, including that rainbow three in OG Anunoby’s eye? I appreciate it! 43 years old!

BTW, I’m with Doug Smith — if the Hawks don’t start Vince and play him 36 minutes when the Hawks are next here in April, they need to fold the franchise.

Dishes and Dimes

Apologies for borrowing the name of this new podcast (which you should absolutely be listening to!) but I couldn’t think of a better way to sum up Kyle Lowry’s night. He was nine assists short of tying the franchise assist record coming in, and as the game went on, you could see he wanted it — to get it at home — and his teammates clearly wanted to get it for him.

And that, ultimately, is the best part of this record. Not that the record itself isn’t awesome, because it is, but to see how much joy everyone on the bench got from it... it was just so great to see.

I would imagine, after the events of the past three days, they needed a release like that.

Keep it Safe

The Raptors have demonstrated a disconcerting inability to hold leads against bad teams lately — including against the Hawks, just last week — so it was encouraging to see them maintain a double-digit edge for the entire second half last night.

Part of that, obviously, had to do with the defense on Trae Young. Young, who had 42 points and 15 assists last week, was held to 18 and 13 last night; it was clear Nick Nurse and the players didn’t want to see a repeat performance. The Raptors were more aggressive in sending extra bodies Young’s way; although Fred VanVleet once again drew the bulk of the defensive assignment on Young, four other Raptors guarded Young for three or more possessions, and the team did a better job closing down lanes when he did beat his man on the perimeter. Nurse also mixed in a light sprinkling of zone and I think I even saw a little box-and-one, too.

Early Gasol

I continue to enjoy Marc Gasol’s role in the offense these days — a role that sees him scoring more than we’ve seen in the past. After a blown lay-up early, Gasol hit four straight shots — including two three pointers, and this (somewhat hilarious) dunk:

I’ll admit, though, I was a little shocked to see John Collins so dominant on the other end last night. I actually wondered if all the scoring was taking too much out of Marc, and he didn’t have the energy to defend! But then we saw Marc leave with a hamstring issue and of course I wonder if that wasn’t preventing him from being his usual excellent defensive self — especially against a quick, athletic guy like Collins.

Hopefully it’s nothing too serious — but I also wouldn’t be opposed to Gasol sitting out Thursday’s game in Cleveland, in order to stay fresh for Friday’s game against Andre Drummond.

Things I’ve Never Seen Before Dept.: Too Few Guys?

The Raptors picked up a technical foul in the third quarter last night after Marc Gasol left the floor, because Serge Ibaka had yet to check in they only had four players in play.

As I’ve said many times, the best part of watching so many NBA games is that sometimes you see things you’ve never seen. Well, I don’t think I’ve ever seen that call before!

I’m still not sure who was at fault here. Ibaka, for not getting on the floor? The scorekeepers, for not sounding the buzzer? The refs, for allowing play to start?

Regardless, I always appreciate seeing something new! (Of course, if the Raptors had lost this game by one point, this section would have been very different...!)

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The Raptors continue the fluffy schedule against Cleveland and Detroit on Thursday and Friday. The fact that they held that lead last night is encouraging; sometimes bad habits creep in during a light stretch in the schedule, so it’s good to see the Raptors correcting them — it gives me confidence they’ll continue this win streak into the weekend.