The Toronto Raptors fought some third quarter demons and rolled past the Hornets for their sixth straight win in a 116-101 victory on Monday night.
The win continues the Raptors surge up the Eastern Conference ladder, moving them to 29-23 on the season and 13-11 on the road.
Things started out perfectly for the Raptors as their offence was in a complete flow-state, led primarily by all-star snub Pascal Siakam. They held a 35-21 lead after the first, and carried that momentum into the second; leading by 15 at the half. Terry Rozier provided a big spark for the Hornets in the third, who looked to be back on the front foot after cutting the Raptor lead down to 3. From there though they caught a cold from deep range, while Toronto put their foot back on the gas in the fourth. A 36-point outburst from the Raptors in the final quarter was enough to secure the road victory and make it six straight, escaping Charlotte with the 15-point win.
The Raptors finished with four players scoring 20+ points for a record fourth time this season, and Siakam was at the forefront. Siakam scored 24 points with 11 rebounds and 8 assists for the near triple-double, continuing his great form that could potentially see him named as an All-Star injury replacement. Gary Trent Jr. was excellent yet again, matching Siakam’s 24 on 50% from the field. OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet scored 20 each, with Anunoby finishing one rebound shy of a double-double. Barnes rounded out the starting lineup with a comfortable 15 points and 8 rebounds in what will surely go down as an overlooked contribution amongst the other big stat lines. The bench was an issue yet again with only 4 players receiving more than a minute, and only 13 points being scored. Luckily the starting unit was enough, as it has been for the past few weeks.
Miles Bridges led the way for the Hornets in the loss, scoring 25 points with 6 rebounds and 5 assists. Rozier came alive in the third and finished with 20, while recently named All-Star replacement LaMelo Ball had 15 points and 9 assists on an unimpressive 5/19 from the field. PJ Washington and Kelly Oubre Jr. were major contributors off the bench scoring 15 and 17 respectively, with Washington finishing just 1 rebound shy of a double-double. Gordon Hayward suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter, hurting the Hornets momentum before they could even get going.
Perhaps the biggest stat line of the night was the Hornets shooting 22.5% from three, but the Raptors did a lot of things well with the biggest being a 51-38 advantage in the rebound department.
The trade deadline is coming up this Thursday, and despite the recent hot form, the Raptors are in desperate need of help off the bench. They have the worst statistical bench in the league and are giving their starters the most minutes, a sure-fire sign of burn-out come later in the season. If the Raptors can make the right additions, the goals for this group would have to progress past just making the play-in tournament.
The Eastern Conference is a mess right now with 8 teams within 5 games of first, and the Raptors are climbing their way up the pack. The Raptors are currently in 6th and are still 2.5 games behind the 5th place Sixers, but are now ahead of the 11th place Wizards by 5.5, giving them some security when it comes to making the postseason.
Toronto will have a great chance to make it 7-straight when they face the Thunder in Oklahoma City on Wednesday, while the Hornets will be in tough with a date with the Chicago Bulls on the same night.
Siakam – 24 PTS 11 REB 8 AST
Trent Jr. – 24 PTS 3 REB 2 AST
Anunoby – 20 PTS 9 REB 2 AST
Bridges – 25 PTS 6 REB 5 AST
Rozier – 20 PTS 5 REB 6 AST
Ball – 15 PTS 4 REB 9 AST