The Toronto Raptors and Atlanta Hawks both came into this game on four game losing streaks, having lost seven of their last eight games. It was really a battle of which team could avoid sliding into dreaded five game losing streak waters, and the first of two back to back matchups between the teams. Add in the fact that these two franchises are in talks to be potential trade partners as we approach the upcoming NBA Trade Deadline, and it was bound to be interesting.
Despite many questions about whether or not Darko Rajaković would change his starting lineup, he went with the same usual lineup of Dennis Schroder, Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, O.G. Anunoby, and Jakob Poeltl. Atlanta went with Wesley Matthews, Saddiq Bey, Clint Capela, DeJounte Murray, and Trae Young.
For a game between two pretty similar teams standing wise, it makes sense that the game started out pretty evenly. The Raptors were unfortunately racking up some turnovers and fouls — including O.G. Anunoby getting two fouls in the first quarter. No surprise that when he sat on the bench for the rest of the quarter, the Hawks suddenly surpassed the Raptors for the lead. With a pretty looking buzzer beater to end the quarter from Trae Young, the Hawks were up 39-31.
Darko is gonna be out of timeouts by halftime— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) December 14, 2023
The second quarter saw the Raptors make more of the same mistakes, including getting more turnovers and lacking perimeter defence. The Hawks were able to get up ten points and the Raptors were just not able to catch up despite winning the field goal percentage battle for the first half of the quarter.
It took until the three minute mark for a pair of Anunoby field goals to get the Raptors back within striking distance. Siakam was also on fire in the first half, reaching the 20 point mark with many minutes still to play.
It was much closer at half , with Atlanta leading 66-64.
The Raptors opened up the second half with a hot shooting stretch to get them ahead by seven points, but the Hawks were right on their tails. Particularly Trae Young, already up to nearly 30 points short into the quarter.
great teamwork and energy from the starters to begin the third— William Lou (@william_lou) December 14, 2023
Toronto really turned the heat up in the third quarter. Gary Trent Jr was sinking shots, both Siakam and Barnes were over 20 with a good chunk of time left. They went 100% from three point range in the third quarter and made more threes than they have in some recent WHOLE GAMES.
Raptors were up 103-95 going into the fourth.
They've made more threes in the 3rd quarter than they did in 2 of their last 4 games. https://t.co/Z8gwjHmbYk— Keerthika Uthayakumar (@keerthikau) December 14, 2023
A few messy fumbles in the fourth quarter along with the small break awarded to Anunoby cause the Hawks to come back within a few possessions.
Of course, it’s Anunoby who STORMS to the basket to boost the Raptors. LOOK at this dunk?! He is one step into the paint here and it’s magnificent.
THEN immediately follow that Scottie Barnes makes the most WILD and acrobatic finish in the game:
It’s Scottie and Anunoby who bring the Raptors up eight over the Hawks. Siakam, Barnes and Anunoby all shot over 20 points in this game to push the Raptors over the edge, and Poeltl and Schroder rounded out the starters by each being in double digit scoring as well.
The Raptors were able to keep this lead thanks to a 30-piece game from Siakam and Scottie Barnes’ usual fourth quarter energy boost.
The Toronto Raptors win 135-126 over the Atlanta Hawks.
Pascal Siakam turns it UP
Maybe it was because he was playing against a team that has been on the top of the trade rumours list when it comes to his future, but Siakam was HOOPING tonight. He scored 33 points, seven assists and seven rebounds and shot 5-6 from three and 12-19 from the field.
He had 20 before the first half even ended and was really the only big offensive spark from the Raptors in the first half. He is the centre of all the Toronto Raptors trade rumours, and it’s just so hard to think of a version of this team, without Siakam, that isn’t in an active state of tank/development.
The Raptors late game run was truly aided by the fact that they started to play defence. Trae Young, after scoring 20 points in the first half, was held to nine points in the third quarter and six points in the fourth.
Btw all of this, this entire 2nd half run is because THEY FINALLY STARTED PLAYING DEFENSE.— Esfandiar Baraheni (@JustEsBaraheni) December 14, 2023
When this team locks in on that end -- they make sense (sort of)
Obviously Anunoby was a huge factor in this as always. His stat line of 22 points, five rebounds, three assists, and one steal helped the Raptors on both ends of the floor.
Tonight was a good night for the bench, and especially from Gary Trent Jr. who scored 12 points. Coach Rajakovic mentioned after the game that he knows Trent Jr is a phenomenal shooter and trusts him completely.
Precious Achiuwa added seven of his own, and Malachi Flynn had eight assists despite not scoring any points.
While this definitely isn’t as much as the bench SHOULD be contributing (more Flynnsanity please), it’s games like these the Raptors usually end up winning. When the starters AND the bench contribute to offence, Toronto has a pretty decent chance to take the W, and tonight it went that way.
Deja Vu! The Raptors will play the Atlanta Hawks again on Friday night here in Toronto.