The Toronto Raptors won their fourth game in a row with a comeback win over the Atlanta Hawks on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Here are some quick thoughts from the game...
1. The little things matter
This was one of Toronto's earlier games of the season (2:30 p.m. ET). Not only that, it was the third game in four nights for the Raptors, two of which came on the road.
Before the game, Raptors head coach Nick Nurse talked about how tricky these games can be, pointing specifically to the need of playing with pace and not settling for jump shots.
"For me, you've got to be really careful in these games that 1) you don't play with enough pace - you want to get your transition game going - and 2) you try to jump-shoot your way to a win," Nurse said. "When you're doing that, you're probably settling a little bit.
"We gotta make sure we get our share of free throws, get to the front of the rim a little bit, get in the paint enough. If we do those kind of things, the rest of it usually falls into place."
The Raptors outscored the Hawks in the paint and in transition in the first half - by eight points and nine points, respectively - but they still entered the break with a deficit due to some dismal shooting that saw them go 4-for-24 (16.7 percent) from 3-point range.
Toronto's poor shooting continued for most of the second half, the biggest difference being that Norman Powell turned into a flamethrower - more on him in a bit. But in the end, the Raptors outscored the Hawks in transition while getting to the free throw line more, sort of like what Nurse wanted.
It wasn't pretty, but it ended up being just enough.
2. A note on O.G. Anunoby's driving
Anunoby has been doing a lot more of this this season:
That's just mean, @OAnunoby pic.twitter.com/FcGVawjNGq- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 20, 2020
According to NBA.com, Anunoby came into Monday's game averaging 3.9 drives per game, the fifth-most on the team behind Fred VanVleet (16.0), Kyle Lowry (10.7), Pascal Siakam (9.8) and Norman Powell (5.1). It's not a ton compared to what other players in the league are doing, but that figure is way up for Anunoby from 2.3 in 2019-20 and 1.9 in 2017-18.
Anunoby didn't have a great game against the Hawks - he scored only four points and committed two turnovers - but it's a good example of the growth he's shown as a scorer this season.
3. Kyle Lowry is a charge-drawing machine
What James Harden is to the step back, Lowry is to the drawn charge.
Despite missing 11 games, Lowry has taken more charges (19) than 8 different NBA teams so far this season (76ers, Blazers, Hawks, Pacers, Knicks, Jazz, Kings, Grizzlies).- Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) January 20, 2020
OK, not quite - Montrezl Harrell leads the league in charges drawn so far this season and Ersan Ilyasova has led the league in charges drawn in two of the last three seasons - but still, that's quite the stat.
4. Maybe Trae Young should start in the All-Star Game after all
Young had 15 points and 10 assists in this one ... at the half.
He snaked his way around Toronto's defence.
Toughhhh ❄️ pic.twitter.com/TyvTcWC5Fr- Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) January 20, 2020
He punished the Raptors when they collapsed on his drives.
You love to see it. pic.twitter.com/9KDoA2yzkl- Atlanta Hawks (@ATLHawks) January 20, 2020
He even nutmegged VanVleet before the half was over with a beautiful crossover.
Oh? pic.twitter.com/m9MZd5okNe- FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) January 20, 2020
According to the Hawks, it was the first time in Young's career that he's had a double-double in a single half.
Young continued to pile it on in the third quarter, to the point that the Raptors decided to play box-and-one on him, with the likes of Anunoby, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Patrick McCaw serving as his primary defender. It ... didn't do much. Young went on to finish with 42 points and 15 assists.
Trae's little brother was fired up after the four-point play 👌❄️#TrueToAtlanta pic.twitter.com/dgveUuBhyZ- NBA TV (@NBATV) January 20, 2020
Young has now scored 20 points and dished out 10 assists in 13 games this season. That leads all players in the Eastern Conference.
5. Congrats are in order for Vince Carter
With 4:32 to play in the third quarter, Carter hit a 3-pointer to give him 25,613 points in his NBA career, tying him with Alex English for 19th all-time on the NBA's scoring list.
With this three-point shot, @mrvincecarter15 moved into a tie for 19th place on the @NBA's all-time scoring list, tying Alex English. pic.twitter.com/AlBcKct6U5- FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) January 20, 2020
Carter will have an opportunity to move past English on Wednesday, when the Hawks take on the LA Clippers.
6. Norman Powell keeps it rolling
Powell did it again.
He had as many fouls as points in the first half, but Powell took over in both the third and fourth quarter to help the Raptors regain the lead and then secure the win.
In the third quarter, Powell was responsible for eight of the team's 29 points. He then caught fire in the fourth quarter with 17 points, 12 of which came from the 3-point line.
He saved his best for last, hitting a pull-up 3-pointer over Carter with 5:58 to play to put the Raptors ahead by 16 points.
We Understand The Grind pic.twitter.com/OSF3Fy77B9- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 20, 2020
Powell has now scored 20 or more points in five straight games, extending the longest streak of his career.
He's been incredible since returning from injury.
8. Steady Freddy saves the day
Led by Powell, it was the second unit that got the Raptors back in the game, but it was VanVleet who closed it.
Following Powell's run, the Raptors led 112-91 with 4:30 to play in the fourth quarter. The game seemed to be all but over with until the Hawks went on a 26-8 run to make things interesting down the stretch.
Altanta cut Toronto's lead to as little as three points with 1:23 to play. Fortunately for the Raptors, VanVleet provided a steady hand, hitting a step back jumper to make it a two possession game, followed by six free throws to ice it.
VanVleet finished with 20 points on 11-for-14 shooting from the free throw line.
8. Today is the last day to vote for All-Star starters
It seems like a good reminder considering there were three potential All-Stars in this one in Lowry, Siakam and Young. Here's the link to vote.
9. What's next?
The Raptors are back in action on Wednesday when they return to Toronto to take on the 76ers.
It's unknown if Joel Embiid will play. On Jan. 10, it was reported that the 76ers would be without the two-time All-Star for at least one-to-two weeks after he underwent surgery on a torn ligament in his left hand. Wednesday's game will mark 12 days since that report.
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