The Toronto Raptors entered tonight’s game with three players in the top 10 minutes played per game in the NBA this season, so one would assume that the All-Star break would do wonders for this team in desperate need of some rest. This game marked the start of an important stretch for the team as this short three-game road trip is filled with teams that are all within a few games of each other in the standings.
However, things could not have gone worse to open up the second half of the season —closing out the season series against the Charlotte Hornets. Maybe the saddening news of losing OG Anunoby for an extended period due to a fractured right ring finger was to blame for the lackluster and low energy performance by the Raptors but if there was one word to describe this game from the start it would be “embarrassing.” From the start of the game, it appeared that the Raptors didn't get the memo that the All-Star break had ended.
From the tip, the Hornets seemed to capitalize off of the Raptors’ sloppy play. With two turnovers to start the game by Fred VanVleet and multiple missed shots early, the Hornets jumped out to an early 9-2 lead — forcing an early timeout by Nick Nurse with 8:06 left to play in the first. But that was only the beginning of a rare but truly ugly performance from the Raps as they would never lead once in this game.
Raptors through 12 minutes: 8 field goals, 8 turnovers.— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) February 26, 2022
So, yeah, still some vacation rust to shake off. Charlotte leads 28-19 after 1Q.
The Hornets continued to exert their will on a team that looked lost on both sides of the court. While the Raptors continued to rack up turnovers (finishing the quarter with a season-high of eight in a quarter) while not cracking 10 points until five minutes left. For a team that was 1-9 in their last ten games, the Hornets looked completely unstoppable.
Entering the 2nd quarter down 28-19 things got even worse as the Hornets opened up once again pouncing on the Raptors’ lackadaisical play. The lead was cut to 28-22 with a pull-up three by Fred VanVleet to open the quarter however, that was the closest this game got. The Hornets’ in response swiftly began their offensive onslaught featuring lobs and back-to-back threes for P.J Washington and raining threes from LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, and Kelly Oubre Jr., which surely riled up the home crowd in Charlotte.
At the half, the score stood at 70-47 and it was clear that there that the Raptors were severely missing the contribution from OG on both sides of the court but most noticeably on defense. The Hornets were shooting a scorching hot 40% from three going 9-for-22 and getting everything they wanted against the Raptors, as Terry Rozier and LaMelo ball carved the Raptors up in transition. The only bright side of the first half was Scottie Barnes' short four-point run showing off his floater game which had abandoned him in the All-Star Skills Competition.
The game was practically out of reach with 24 minutes left to play in regulation and the Raptors came out of the half once again appearing like they had no interest in winning this game. The team missed four straight shots to open the quarter including a fastbreak layup by Siakam which would have been automatic on any other night. Everything that could have gone wrong for the team went wrong, they could not stop anything that the Hornets were doing on offense. It got so bad that even Miles Plumlee was showing off his handle on our defense.
That dunk was also part of a 19 point run that declared this game over with 6:18 left in the third quarter as the lead stretched to 41 points for the Hornets. Nurse would go on to pull VanVleet, Siakam, and Gary Trent Jr with three minutes to go in the quarter, which could be seen as a positive because they obviously did not show up to play tonight and it allowed us to watch Scottie Barnes reach a career-high 28 points! The Hornets would end the 3rd quarter outscoring the raptors 37-14 and the fourth quarter was all garbage time before reaching the final score of 125-93.
This was definitely one of the most ugliest losses of the season as the Raptors were just outhustled on both sides of the court. The Hornets got everything they wanted on offense hitting 15-of-40 from three and shooting 55% from the field while having three players ( LaMelo, Rozier, and Harrell) score twenty points and record 34 assists as a team. While every Raptor outside of Scottie struggled to produce on that end with the leading scorer besides Scottie being Gary Trent Jr., with 12 points on 5-for-12 shooting. The Hornets also dominated the defensive glass with 39 defensive rebounds to the Raptors’ 26 while capitalizing off the sloppy protection of the ball scoring 18 points off 16 turnovers.
There's no rest for the weary either as the Raptors go on to face the Atlanta Hawks on the road tomorrow night. Hopefully, the team comes ready to win as the race to climb up the Eastern Conference standings is uber-competitive, and the loss of OG Anunoby as we have seen tonight may have huge implications on both sides of the court.