The Toronto Raptors played in a game last night — one which we should forget ever happened — against the Charlotte Hornets and dropped their first game post All-Star break. OG Anunoby missed the game with a fractured right finger, while everyone not named Scottie Barnes was mentally absent.
The good thing about losing by a large margin on the first game of a back-to-back is that there is not enough time to dwell on it. The first of three back-to-back sets in the next 8 days continues tonight against another team fighting for playoff/play-in position. Atlanta has gone 0-2 against Toronto this season with Trae Young present in the last meeting, a 125-114 victory for Toronto. Just like Charlotte last night, the Hawks look to avoid being down 0-3 in the season series. Here are the details for tonight’s game.
Where to Watch:
TSN, 7:30PM EST
Toronto – Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Khem Birch
Atlanta – Trae Young, Kevin Huerter, DeAndre Hunter, Danilo Gallinari, Clint Capela
Toronto — OG Anunoby (hand – out), Pascal Siakam (non-COVID illness – questionable), Fred VanVleet (knee – questionable)
Atlanta – DeAndre Hunter (illness – probable), John Collins (foot – out), Lou Williams (hip – out)
There was a lot to enjoy from the showings by the rookies in Cleveland last weekend. Cade Cunningham winning the Rising Stars MVP, Scottie Barnes missing four wide open floaters in the Clutch Challenge, or even Evan Mobley’s impressive shooting display in the Skills Challenge. In terms of impact on the Rookie of the Year race, it should have none. These are just meaningless games. But the national stage meant it might have been the first major look at some of the rookies for many viewers.
Barnes’ unfortunate showing seems to have put some fire in him. Last night he set a new career high with 28 points. He looked aggressive all game when Siakam, VanVleet, and Trent Jr. all had below average showings. With OG Anunoby out, Barnes will have a lot more opportunity to get some shots up, and finish out the next 24 games playing his best basketball of the season, and hopefully raise that Rookie of the Year trophy when its all said and done.
Shortly after trading Cam Reddish to the Knicks, the Hawks fired off 7-straight wins, including against some strong competition in the Bucks and Celtics and won 8 in a stretch of 10 games (both losses coming to the Raptors, sandwiched by an impressive win against the Suns). However, since then, Atlanta has failed to win more than 2 games in a row.
They are the second ranked offense in the league and the 27th ranked defense. Trae Young is incredible on one end, and terrible on the other. DeAndre Hunter is on the court, and then he’s sidelined. Danilo Gallinari has 5 points one night, then follows it with 25. Which Hawks will show up? The 2021 Eastern Conference finalist, or the fighting for 10th place team?
Down the stretch
After last night’s stinker against Charlotte, there are just 24 games remaining. Toronto is six games above .500, good for 7th in the conference, just 1.5 below 6th. They are just 3.5 games behind 3rd place currently held by the Philadelphia 76ers. If things go well for the Raptors they can realistically place any where from 4th to 6th.
However, things don’t always go well. The Raptors have now lost 3 of their last 4, all very winnable games, with two of the losses by 30 or more. Could it be the extended minutes for the first unit starting to show some ill effects? The acquisition of Thaddeus Young may help the Raptors tread water while OG Anunoby is sidelined, but there needs to be one more player. Could it be Malachi Flynn? Yuta Watanabe? Let’s see how they do down the stretch.