(Charlotte, NC) The Toronto Raptors sweep the season series against the Charlotte Hornets after a 120-100 win at Spectrum Center.
The Raptors are above .500 for the first time since early December; they are officially 40-39 on the season and 14-25 on the road. Toronto only needs one more win to finish the season at least .500 or above.
The Hornets injury report was similar to Sunday’s game against the Raptors; however, they added Mark Williams to the list. Gary Trent Jr. remained out for Toronto due to lower back spasms.
The Hornets looked rejuvenated and ready to play as they started off the first quarter on a 15-6 run. The Raptors looked sloppy and ran continuous isolations, searching for their rhythm. Toronto was one-for-nine from the field as Svi Mykhailiuk and Bryce McGowens shot well from mid-range. OG Anunoby broke the Raptors out of their funk, drawing fouls and attacking the rim. It was a competitive start as the Raptors trailed the Hornets by four after the first quarter, with the hosts shooting 61 percent from the field.
For the first two minutes of the second frame, the Hornets maintained the lead as Raptors Head Coach Nick Nurse looked for a lineup that could turn things around. The Raptors bench checked into the game early in the second quarter and had one of their best stretches of the season. Chris Boucher sparked the run as he had 14 points by the end of the frame. Although Theo Maledon and Mykhailiuk kept the Hornets in close range, the Toronto bench was engaged and caught fire from three-point range. After returning from an ankle sprain, Will Barton had his breakout game, going four-for-four from beyond the arc, all in the second quarter. The Raptors stole the ball eight times as Hornets turned the ball over 11 times. Precious Achiuwa hustled on defense and outplayed Nick Richards in the paint. They outscored Charlotte 36-20 in the quarter to lead 61-49 at the break.
Coming out of halftime, the Raptors’ starting lineup began to wake up. Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet had monster third quarters, attaining double digit points, and going on a 14-0 run.
JT Thor had the hot hand for Charlotte, taking advantage of mismatches and scoring on multiple fadeaways. Toronto looked fatigued until the bench came back to settle things down; Boucher and Barton each hit a three-point shot and VanVleet was facilitating.
Fourth quarter and Toronto maintained their lead as the Hornets couldn’t find their rhythm. The bench checked in at the halfway mark and finished the game with a comfortable pace, outscoring the Hornets bench 54-19 on their way to the dominant 120-100 win.
The Raptors won in thrilling fashion as the bench showed signs of consistency and reliability. Siakam led Toronto with 22 points, 14 rebounds, two steals, and two blocks and earned his 23rd double-double of the season. Boucher scored in double digits for the first time in five games, dropping 21 points, and three triples on six-of-eight shooting. Barton broke out from his shooting woes, scoring 20 points on six-of-nine shooting from the stripe. Concerns for Anunoby’s ankle disappeared as he looked solid in this matchup, finishing with 17 points, five assists, and two steals. VanVleet did damage in the third quarter, scoring 16 points, six assists, and four steals.
The Hornets were off to a better start than their previous matchup against the Raptors; however, they slowed down in the second half, as they committed 17 turnovers. McGowens played well, scoring 20 points, six rebounds, and three assists. Richards replaced Williams in the starting lineup and was productive, dropping 18 points, and 11 rebounds. Mykhailiuk finished with 17 points, five rebounds, and seven assists. Thor and Maledon contributed 13 points each.
With several Hornets players set to become free agents this summer, the organization has some big decisions to make and one of their objectives is to pair up LaMelo Ball with a fringe all-star that can do everything on the court. We can see players like Terry Rozier, or Kelly Oubre Jr. on the trade block this summer. The goal is to look for a package that can help the Hornets obtain depth and star power. It’s also been rumoured that Miles Bridges will return to the roster as well.
As the Raptors officially clinched a play-in spot, the objective is to possibly attain the seventh or eighth seed to avoid playing two games in the mini-tournament. With the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks being their next opponents to conclude the season, that is going to be extremely difficult. Trent Jr. has been out for seven consecutive games; The team is no doubt hopeful that he will be ready to go for Wednesday’s matchup in Boston. As the Atlanta Hawks beat the Chicago Bulls Tuesday night, they remain in the ninth seed.
The Raptors head to TD Garden as they start a two-game series against the Celtics Wednesday night.
Toronto Raptors vs. Charlotte Hornets box score click HERE.
Pascal Siakam – 22 PTS 14 REB 2 BLK
Boucher – 21 PTS 2 REB 3 3PT
Barton – 20 PTS 2 AST 6 3PT
McGowens – 20 PTS 6 REB 3 AST
Richards – 18 PTS 11 REB 1 AST
Mykhailiuk – 17 PTS 5 REB 7 AST