The Toronto Raptors’ hot start and a furious finish were too much for the visiting Atlanta Hawks, as the Raps shifted gears in crunch time to hand the Hawks a 125-114 beating. The Raptors’ win was their second against the Hawks in four nights, but the excuses from their first meeting no longer applied to this game.
Trae Young missed the initial meeting between these two teams, and he dropped a nifty 22 points and 13 assists. He tried to set the tone early, scoring and assisting on most of their first-quarter points when he was on the floor. The Raptors executed their game plan chasing Young off the perimeter. He finished the game 0-4 behind the arc, snapping a 30-game streak of at least one three-pointer per game.
Speaking of setting the tone, Pascal Siakam told Young to “hold my beer” and showed Young how to set the tone. He carved the Hawks up for 21 first-quarter points, finishing with 33 points and nine rebounds. All-Star Fred VanVleet kept the Hawks at bay in-between quarters, scoring and assisting on 23 of their 37 third-quarter points. VanVleet finished with 26 points and 11 dimes, including five three-pointers. Speaking of “third quarter,” the Raptors had another winning third-quarter, pushing their streak to nine. OG Anunoby had a quiet offensive game but was crucial for locking up Young down the stretch.
The Raptors failed to sustain a big early lead. The transition lineup involving Precious Achiuwa, Dalano Banton, and Chris Boucher allowed the Hawks to go on several runs to get back in the game. DeAndre Hunter and John Collins led the Hawks with 23 points apiece. Collins must be the happiest person with Young back, as he rediscovered his offense by catching passes off lobs and rolls after dropping an egg during their first meeting. Bogdan Bogdanovic added 18 points off the bench.
The win pushes the Raptors’ winning streak to five. With the Brooklyn Nets on their way to losing their game against Utah Jazz, we could be waking up tomorrow only half-a-game behind from the sixth seed in the East.
Pascal Siakam had a 21-point first quarter ♨️ pic.twitter.com/NqHhntmKWy— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) February 5, 2022
Trae Young made his presence felt early, scoring and assisting on the Hawks’ first eight baskets, jumping ahead on the scoreboard. Young’s playmaking caused a lot of stress on the Raptors’ defense, but Siakam’s hot start propelled them to a 23-5 run, putting them ahead, 29-19. Nurse smelled blood early, threw the defensive playbook at the Hawks, and built an early 18-point lead. However, the Hawks went on a 9-2 run to close the quarter trailing the Raptors 39-28.
The Hawks zone defense pestered the Raptors’ long bois lineup, while Bogdan Bogdanovich and DeAndre Hunter combined to outscore the Raptors 11-2 to start the second frame, cutting the lead to 41-39. The Raptors’ defense started to pick up, while Trent Jr and Barnes’ great individual playmaking restored some order for the Raptors offensively, pushing the lead back to 47-42. Siakam came back just right on time and went coast-to-coast for an “annddd-oneeee,” and Trent Jr.’s trifecta made it an instant 10-0 run.
I guess you have to credit the Hawks’ defense a bit. Still, the Raptors racked up several sloppy possessions, with Anunoby losing his balance a few times, Birch not ready to catch a pass twice, and Achiuwa dribbling the ball for an entire possession into nothingness. That bad stretch allowed the Hawks to put together a 15-7 run to close the quarter chasing the Raptors, 60-59.
The pace picked up early in the third quarter, but neither team failed to capitalize. Both teams wanted to push the ball, and tired legs started to creep up. Anunoby and Trent Jr hit back-to-back trifectas and this dime from Siakam to VanVleet, who was at the dunker’s spot, pushed the Raptors’ lead to eight. The offense picked up in the last three minutes of the quarter, including VanVleet’s two perimeter bombs, as they closed the third frame up, 96-86.
What a “Precious Achiuwa experience” to start the final period.
The first play saw Achiuwa confidently swish a corner three, great. Then he went coast-to-coast, leading a fastbreak that ended with him erratically passing the ball to Barnes, who was ready for the rebound. Achiuwa would follow that up with another corner three, this time, to the opposite side.
Barnes’ free throws pushed the Raptors’ lead to 110-94, but The Hawks’ got hot from behind the arc, dropping four straight trifectas en route to a 14-5 run with less than five minutes to go. Young’s middy pushed the Hawks within 115-112, making the Raptors sweat. What happened next is very on-brand for this core: The Raptors swarmed the defensive boards leading to a Barnes cherry-pick. Anunoby flashed a defensive masterclass from thereon, blocking Young’s deep three-pointer. All-Star VanVleet showed off a crafty drive and kick to Trent Jr for a corner three. The Hawks pressed the Raptors, but Barnes got to the nail and busted the zone, finding Anunoby for a reverse slam! Anunoby locked up once Young again, this time blocking his reverse layup, and Anunoby returned the favour to Barnes with a DHO gifting Barnes with a top-of-the-key trifecta, and basically called “game.”
Next up: The Raptors get the next two days off, so it’s two-a-day practice for the next two days before they hit the road for three games, starting in Charlotte to face the Hornets.