Welp. The Toronto Raptors laid an egg in a decisive third quarter tonight, as Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks picked them apart, leading an eventual 127-100 Hawks win. For Toronto, this is their second consecutive game getting obliterated by 25 or more, something that feels like a first during the “We The North” era.
Toronto looked like they were in control of the game for a while, as they looked significantly better than last night to start the game. There were early signs of cracks on their defense, but their offense was clicking, with Pascal Siakam picking apart the Hawks’ defense, and Fred VanVleet catching fire with 20 points in the first half. But the “cracks” on Raptors’ defense got bigger and bigger, and coach Nick Nurse and his team could not stop the bleeding, and the Hawks used a decisive third quarter to put the game away.
Trae Young had a masterclass tonight, dropping 41 points and 11 assists, and perhaps all of them were lobs as he kept the Raptors defense guessing the whole night. Bogdan Bogdanovic and Kevin Huerter finished with 14 points apiece, while Clint Capela and Onyeka Okongwu probably combined for 10 successful dunks via Young’s lobs.
Tired legs were felt among the Raptors’ core players, as Fred VanVleet only managed four points in the second half, en route to 24 points and nine assists. Pascal Siakam added 14 points, 10 rebounds, and five assists but was a non-factor for most of the second half. Meanwhile, Gary Trent Jr. and Scottie Barnes combined for 15 points on 15 shots. Precious Achiuwa was the lone bright spot for tonight’s game, finishing with 21 points and nine rebounds, including this dunk:
Toronto looked good early, with Pascal Siakam toying over Clint Capela to start the game. The Raptors posted an early 7-2 run but was quickly wiped out by the Hawks’ 12-0 run, as Trae Young effectively countered the Raptors’ defensive game plan to run him off the line. Young continued to make the Raptors pay, but VanVleet started to catch fire, leading a 23-10 Raptors run to give them a 30-22 lead. However, the Raptors’ defensive mistakes cost them a chance to get some separation, and the quarter — a high-scoring affair — ended with the Raptors up 37-32.
Siakam continued to exploit his mismatch to start the second quarter, this time creating back-to-back three-pointers from Thaddeus Young and Gary Trent Jr, respectively. That sequence was part of an 8-1 run to start the second quarter, building a 12-point Raps lead, but things went downhill from here. Bogdan Bogdanovic exploited Precious Achiuwa on consecutive possessions, while Young picked the Raptors’ defense apart to mount their comeback. The Hawks tightened up their defense, packing up the paint and shutting the Raptors’ offense down for five minutes, as the Hawks outscored them 18-3 to take a 55-48 lead. VanVleet and Trent Jr tried to keep the Raptors close late in the second quarter, but it feels like they were playing 2 vs 5, and the first half ended with the Hawks up, 68-55.
Trae Young picked up where he left off to start the second half by getting to the paint for a teardrop. It looked like VanVleet was going to will this team back early in this period, but it was the Hawks who stepped on the gas, outscoring the Raptors 26-7 in the third frame to build a whopping 92-65 lead. Boy, did things get out of control fast? The Raptors’ defense looked terrible against Trae Young, as he was just throwing lobs left and right. Nurse must have missed Lowry on games like this, as he went with a seldom-used small back-court look with Flynn and VanVleet to close the quarter.
With a 30 point deficit to start the final frame, most coaches would waive the white towel and call it a night, emptying their bench early. Well, Nick Nurse is not one of those coaches. Instead, or as expected, the Raptors opened up with ball pressure, and a quick 10-3 run forced Hawks head coach Nate McMillan to call a timeout and put Trae Young back in the game. The Raptors cut the lead to 21 several times as Flynn showed some signs of life, but they just didn’t have the juice to make this even a fake comeback.
The Raptors clearly missed OG Anunoby tonight, and they looked tired for a team that just got back from a break. However, they are also going through some growing pains, and the integration of Thaddeus Young is obviously going to be rocky until he learns the defensive schemes. This patented Raptors defense only works if the team is playing like they’re connected on a string, but they can easily look like what we’ve seen tonight if someone in there is causing missed, late, or wrong rotations heavily exposing their defense.
Thad Young has shown positive things on the offensive end, and he’ll get more and more comfortable as he gets familiarized with the system and his teammates. Khem Birch hasn’t looked the same since returning, so perhaps Nurse should look into starting Thad Young so that he can play with defenders that can cover his “noobness” to the system.
It’s also time to get Flynn consistent backup point guard minutes to rebuild his confidence. He shot 2-for-10 tonight, but there’s value in how he was able to put pressure on the opposing team’s defense. His perimeter shot will come back. We’ve seen how he looked last season to write off his perimeter shooting right away. Flynn is, after all, one of the only few Raptors that can generate his own shot.
Up Next: The Toronto Raptors travel to Brooklyn for a home-and-home back-to-back series starting this Monday.