After a gruelling trip to triple overtime less than 48 hours ago, the Toronto Raptors were back tonight in Atlanta to face the Hawks. It’s their last game on the road before coming home to face the Miami Heat in Toronto tomorrow. They play four of five nights this week.
If that doesn’t make you feel tired, Nick Nurse went with the same starting lineup as Saturday, after all five of those guys logged 50+ minutes during Saturday’s game.
In terms of injuries, the Raptors had the same lineup as they had Saturday — only missing Khem Birch to injury, and a few guys to the 905 (and Dragic of course). On the Hawks side, they were missing All-Star Trae Young, but came into this game on a seven game winning streak.
Going into the game, The Raptors knew they would rely on Gary Trent Jr. heavily. He had scored 30 or more points in the three last games, and has been shooting about 50% from the field. Tonight, the ball was in his hands early as he picked up right where he left off — shooting buckets.
The Raptors were able to get ahead early into the first quarter, thanks to Trent Jr, but a few early fouls from Pascal Siakam had him on the bench longer than Nick Nurse would have hoped. The first quarter ended with the Raptors only up by one at 25-24.
The second quarter saw the Raptors start out on a run to get them ahead. Fred VanVleet, who had an off shooting night Saturday (until OT, that is), knocked down a few of his signature three’s and a few others to help widen the gap.
Unfortunately, the lead couldn’t hold to halftime — the Hawks went on a run to end the first half and were up 57-48. Tired legs from the Raptors starting to show a little bit...
At the half, Pascal Siakam led the Raptors in scoring with 11 points.
Luckily, The Raptors started the third quarter with an 8-0 run, mostly led by Gary Trent Jr — both on offence and defence. Though they were able to catch up Atlanta, they weren’t unable to really get ahead by much until the very end of the quarter, when they went on an 11-2 run.
With a couple GREAT shots by... you guessed it, Gary Trent Jr., the Raptors headed into the fourth quarter ahead by eight with a score of 80-72. GTJ outscored the entire Hawks team in the third quarter.
Gary Trent Jr. also becomes the second player in franchise history to hit 5+ three-pointers in four straight games, joining Kyle Lowry in that category.
The fourth quarter saw both teams go shot for shot — keeping the score about the same for the first half of the quarter. Fred VanVleet started getting hot from beyond the arc, helping the Raptors stay ahead.
With 5:30 left, the Hawks were able to make it a three-point game, and then a one-point game quickly. The Raptors, probably desperate to avoid another OT situation, kept shooting from beyond the arc to try and extend their lead.
The Hawks weren’t gonna end their win streak that easily, they kept the score close. With two minutes to go in the game, and the Raptors leading 98-97 (another close game!) it was yet again Gary Trent Jr who made a three (I feel repetitive, but I promise he keeps making threes!) to keep the Raptors up by four.
The Hawks closed the lead to a single point once again with 30 seconds to go, but Fred VanVleet snaked his way into the lane and found OG Anunoby in the corner, putting the Raps up four again and sealing Atlanta’s fate. Two Siakam free throws closed the 106-100 win, breaking the Hawks’ seven game winning streak.
Gary Trent Jr. finished the game with 31 points, six rebounds and nine 3PM (a career best for him). He has now scored 30+ points in the last four games.
There isn’t much time to celebrate, as the Raptors head back home to face the Heat AGAIN tomorrow night. I’m tired just thinking about it.
Catch the Toronto/Miami game tomorrow, February 1, at 7:30PM on Sportsnet.