In a season filled with inconsistency, a demoralizing loss to the same team they defeated two nights prior seemed fitting for this Toronto Raptors team.
The Hawks recovered from Wednesday’s loss with a 125-104 win over the Raptors. Trae Young led the way with 38 points, 11 assists, and 5 rebounds while draining 7 threes. The Hawks also got double-doubles from Clint Capela (18 points, 15 rebounds), Onyeka Okongwu (14 points, 11 rebounds), and Saddiq Bey (10 points, 10 rebounds).
Jakob Poeltl chimed in after the game when discussing the 16-3 advantage in offensive rebounds for the Hawks, “You can tell it was a point of emphasis.”
Raptors were outrebounded 55-32 tonight, their worst rebound differential in a game since January 4th vs MIL.— Keerthika Uthayakumar (@keerthikau) December 16, 2023
They're 1-9 when they get outrebounded this season.
Poeltl shot a perfect 7-for-7 from the field as he finished with 15 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 steals. The Raptors were led by Scottie Barnes who had 23 points, 8 assists, 2 blocks, and 1 steal. Pascal Siakam could not duplicate his 34-point effort from Wednesday as he finished with only 15 points on 5-for-11 shooting.
In making his 402nd career start, Siakam surpassed Vince Carter for 5th on the all-time Raptors list for games started. What an incredible journey from energy player off the bench to championship-clinching basket maker to one of the greatest to ever wear the uniform. Unfortunately for Spicy P, he was unable to match the 24 first-half points he mustered in the previous matchup, instead being held to 5 points.
Darko mentioned pre-game that double-header games are interesting because, not only do they feel like mini playoff series, they offer a chance to try out different things. Rajakovic stayed true to his word and toyed with interesting lineups. Schroder played alongside Barnes or Siakam with the bench units. Trent Jr., Flynn, and Schroder all shared the floor at one point. In an effort troll all the naysayers in the GTJ-should-start camp, Darko Rajakovic’s first substitute was.....Malachi Flynn.
Darko surprisingly brings Malachi into the game as his first substitute. Flynn repays that trust by collecting 3 fouls in 7 minutes.— Jay Rosales (@Rosalesaurus) December 16, 2023
With two teams so evenly matched — both in terms of how disappointing their seasons have gone so far and how poorly they look on defense at times — it was little surprise to see both teams shoot 50% from the field, hit 3-of-8 from three, and 1-of-2 from the free throw line. The only difference was the 3 extra offensive rebounds Atlanta collected that led to 6 extra points, as the Hawks led 30-24 after the first quarter.
The Raptors kept up their efficient pace in the second quarter, raising its field goal percentage to 54%. The Hawks responded by giving Toronto a tast of its old medicine: winning the possession battle. Atlanta generated 11 more field goal attempts than the Raptors and grabbing 4 more offensive rebounds.
Bogdanovic came alive in the 2nd quarter, where he played all but 18 seconds, by scoring 13 of his 15 first-half points and constantly exploiting his height advantage over Malachi Flynn. An interesting problem created by Darko since OG Anunoby was tasked with guarding Dejounte Murray while Dennis Schroder’s minutes were tied to Trae Young.
The flip side to those defensive assignments is that Young was not able to replicate the 20 points, 10 assists performance he put together in Wednesday’s game.
At the end of two quarters, 8 Raptors had scored at least 4 points, with Jakob Poeltl leading the team with 12 points (and 5 rebounds) on a perfect 6-for-6 shooting. For the Hawks, Murray (11 points) and Capela (10 points) joined Bogdanovic as double-digit first-half scorers for Atlanta as they took a 59-49 lead into the break.
After collecting his 4th foul, Schroder gave way to Flynn. In the first Hawks possession, Young drove right at Flynn and scored a layup. Heading down the other way, Flynn tried driving by Young, only to have the ball poked from behind and leading to a Hawks fastbreak.
If the 2nd quarter was all about Bogdanovic carrying the Hawks, the 3rd quarter was Young’s turn to carry Atlanta. The All-Star guard scored 16 points and kept the Raptors defense on its collective heels. At one point, Young drove the lane, got blocked, but grabbed his own rebound while surrounded by four Raptors and still layed in for a back-breaking bucket.
The Scottie + bench lineup tried to make a run to start the 4th quarter as they cut the lead down to 6 on a couple of occasions, only to be followed by a Hawks bucket on the other end.
By the time Anunoby re-entered the game (and Siakam still sitting), the lead ballooned to 105-90. Onyeka Okongwu had an and-one opportunity that force Darko to call a timeout with 7:06 remaining. The mood in Scotiabank Arena was....not great.
Not long after, Siakam — who only had 8 field goal attempts at that point — finally checked back into the game. It was much too late as Atlanta’s lead grew to 20+.
After the game, Darko spoke about the team’s lack of communication leading to defensive lapses. In addition to the offensive glass discrepancy, the Hawks dominated second-chance points 24-3. This was the same point last season when the wheels fell off and the Raptors spiraled into mediocrity. A new coaching staff and a budding superstar making “the leap” seemed like a good recipe to move out of the mid-tier. Instead, in a doubleheader against another struggling East foe, the Raptors came out as the less hungrier team. With last year’s Fred VanVleet situation still fresh in everyone’s minds, the pressure for the front office to do.....anything......continues to mount, especially now that trade season has unofficially begun!
The Raptors continue their 4-game homestand with a date on Monday with the Charlotte Hornets.