We’re officially in the last week of the NBA regular season and the Toronto Raptors have a packed schedule to end their run before potentially (most likely?) heading into the NBA Play-in Tournament. After winning in Charlotte on Sunday, and Fred VanVleet’s historic 20 and 20 game, they were back playing the Hornets again tonight. They will now head to Boston for a pair of games, before ending the regular season at home against the Milwaukee Bucks on Sunday.
While the game started off rocky for Toronto, it ended up being an excellent, full-team effort in the end. The kind of game that makes you appreciate the way the Raptors adjusted at the trade deadline with Jakob Poeltl without having to give away an asset like O.G. Anunoby. Poeltl’s length and presence allows guys like Chris Boucher to come off the bench and make an impact.
Speaking of the bench, the Raptors’ dominance all game allowed the starters to rest ahead of the Boston game tomorrow. The only starter to play more than 30 minutes was Pascal Siakam.
The Raptors are currently fighting for their spot in the Play-In Tournament, and this game was essential in that journey. Given that their last three games are against the two best teams in the NBA, winning anything you can prior to that would ensure an easier time in their post-season journey. Plus, a win tonight would put them above .500 for the first time since December — so that was sure a motivator.
As they were on Sunday, the Charlotte Hornets entered this game with a stacked injury list. Missing their entire regular starting lineup and then some, the players kicking things off for Charlotte are mostly young guys, and this team seems to be in the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes.
Yet, the Raptors still had a slow start to this game tonight. They were down nearly 10 halfway through the first quarter before kicking things off and bridging the gap in score a little as the quarter wound down. This came from an excellent quarter for shooting from the young Hornets team — they shot 61.1% compared to the Raptors 37.5% from the field.
The Raptors were only down four at the end of the first quarter despite this, 29-25.
The tides turned for the Raptors in the second quarter thanks to some sharp shooting from bench players like Boucher and Barton. They made five three-pointers in the first ten minutes of the quarter to take the lead. They were also able to improve their field goal percentage to 41.2% by halftime. The Hornets on the other hand, decreased to 46.2% from the field in the span on the quarter.
The Raptors led at the half, 61-49. Chris Boucher had a great half, scoring two three pointers and shooting 4-5 from the field and 4-5 from the free throw line. He ended the half leading all scorers with 14 points. Will Barton had 12, making FOUR three pointers while Pascal Siakam had 13. Fred VanVleet may have not scored any points in the first half, but he had six assists.
He changed that stat in the third, scoring SIXTEEN (16!!) points in on quarter. Three from beyond the arc, 4-9 from the field and 5-6 from the free throw line. Talk about taking over from Fred there. They went on a 14-0 run to end the third quarter up 94-75.
It was a great scenario to empty the bench in the fourth, given that the team plays tomorrow night in Boston. It helps that Boston is ALSO going to be on the second night of a back to back, playing tonight in Philadelphia. This allowed Will Barton to continue having himself a night, shooting 6-9 from three.
With his 20-point outburst tonight, Will Barton has passed Goran Dragic on the Toronto Raptors' all-time scoring list. pic.twitter.com/JL1ddd69YT— Chris Walder (@WalderSports) April 5, 2023
The Raptors win the game 120-100 — more notably, this is the first time the team has been above .500 since December.
Now, they’ll fly to Boston to face the Celtics. The Raptor have three games left before the regular season, and it’s still too close to call where exactly the Raptors will sit at the end of this weekend.
Tomorrow night’s game will tip off at 7:30 pm and broadcast on TSN.