For a team like the Toronto Raptors — mired in a losing record and struggling to shoot — nothing feels better than seeing a struggling team come into your gym and provide you the opportunity to get right.
That’s exactly what happened on Tuesday, as the Raptors welcomed the Charlotte Hornets and promptly dropped a season-high 20 threes on their head. Toronto’s defense was suspect, the process wasn’t perfect, but the result was their second straight win, 132-120.
The Raptors, now 18-23 and one game back of the Bulls for the No. 10 seed, finish a two-game set against the Hornets on Thursday night. A victory would earn them their first three-game win streak of the season.
Pascal Siakam led the way for the Raps, scoring half of his team-high 28 points in a tone-setting first quarter. Siakam also had eight rebounds and seven assists in the game, part of a “sharing is caring” effort for the Raptors, who had 32 assists on their 45 made field goals.
P off to a strong start @pskills43 pic.twitter.com/H0cpUGnPjf— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 11, 2023
As a team, Toronto shot 49.5% from the field and 45.5% from three, making those aforementioned 20 threes on 44 attempts.
So, who got hot from the outside? Let’s start with OG Anunoby.
Drilling six threes on seven attempts, including back to back triples in the fourth to stretch a one-point Raptors lead to seven, Anunoby had 22 points and continued a shooting resurgence that’s been coming on since he returned from a finger injury on December 19. OG has now shot 40% or better from distance in six of his last 11 games.
Gary Trent Jr. was no slouch tonight either. A subject of trade talks all week, Trent Jr. continued to show why he’d be a valuable fit for the Raptors in the short and long-term future. Making 4-for-10 from distance, Trent Jr. had a timely three in the third quarter to stonewall a 7-0 Hornets run — part of his 24 points on the night.
Terry Rozier shot a torrid 14-for-19 for 33 points to lead the Hornets, who fall to 11-30 on the year, while LaMelo Ball had a 24 points on 22 shots, 14 assists and four rebounds.
Tuesday’s game opened at an incredible offensive pace, considering these are two of the worst teams in the NBA on that end of the floor. After the Raptors made their first two threes, the Hornets made nine of their first ten shots. After Pascal Siakam dropped ten points, the Hornets forced six turnovers and kept their field goal percentage above 65%. A back-and-forth first ended with the Raptors up one, but the game really got interesting once Toronto’s bench started trickling in.
With a huge frontcourt of Christian Koloko, Chris Boucher and Precious Achiuwa starting the second, the Raptors put a different look in front of the Hornets. Even though the lineup was anemic offensively, they held their own for six quality minutes while Toronto’s starters rested. This +4 stretch was critical, and included back to back Achiuwa threes, who is finally showing flashes of his old form.
Really solid game for @PreciousAchiuwa tonight! w /15 atm pic.twitter.com/7ZDagavsbS— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 11, 2023
After some nifty passing and scoring (and a huge dunk for emphasis) from Scottie Barnes helped maintain a Raptors lead out of halftime, the second unit once again held court. Trent Jr. and his very large friends made life chaotic for the Hornets, even as their starters returned to the floor.
Boucher and Achiuwa, who combined for 25 points in a throwback to 2021-22, were able to play good enough defense and allow more rest for the starters — who haven’t had this much time with towels on their head in a while.
O.G. Anunoby played 30 minutes— Keerthika Uthayakumar (@keerthikau) January 11, 2023
Scottie Barnes played 31 minutes
Pascal Siakam played 36 minutes
Gary Trent Jr. played 31 minutes
Fred VanVleet played 33 minutes
The Raptors have zero players with 40+ minutes in back-to-back games for the 1st time since November 30th.
After an Achiuwa drive into the paint resulted in a score, a three-pointer from Boucher made it 107-99 midway through the fourth. The Raptors attempted to spell Gary Trent Jr. with some rest after that, playing Malachi Flynn with the starters, but the move allowed the Hornets unfettered access to the rim as they cut Toronto’s lead to one.
Thankfully, OG had great timing for his back to back threes, which were followed up by two triples from Fred VanVleet — his only makes of the night, classic Freddy timing — to push Toronto’s lead into double digits.
Winning the fourth quarter by a ten-point margin, the Raptors were able to pull away to give this game its final score.