(Charlotte, NC) Fred VanVleet and the Toronto Raptors get back in the winning column and finally win on the road as they blow out the Charlotte Hornets 128-108 at Spectrum Center.
The Raptors are back at the .500 mark as they get to 39-39 on the season and 13-25 on the road. With the Atlanta Hawks playing against the Dallas Mavericks later today, Toronto will wait to see if they remain the eighth seed after tonight.
The Hornets injury report is quite long as LaMelo Ball, Cody Martin, Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward, PJ Washington, Kelly Oubre, and Dennis Smith Jr were all listed as out. For the Raptors, Gary Trent Jr. and Will Barton remain out as they prepare for the matchup against the Celtics.
The Raptors started off the first quarter with a comfortable pace, as Jakob Poeltl got off to a hot start with eight points. Toronto went on several runs and maintained a 10-point lead for the entirety of the frame. VanVleet dished out multiple assists early on for the Raptors. The Hornets kept pushing through behind former-Raptors forward Svi Mykhailiuk. The Raptors lead by 10 after the first quarter.
Mykhailiuk continued rolling beyond the stripe, scoring four threes, and outplaying the Raptors on the perimeter. James Bouknight and Kai Jones were energy boosters and broke down Toronto’s bench on both ends. The Raps had a response to every Hornets run as they scored 42 points in the paint and led 67-52 after two. Pascal Siakam had 14 and VanVleet already secured a double-double with 10 points, and 13 assists.
Pascal Siakam took over the third, outplaying JT Thor and Jones by consistently driving to the rim. Bouknight’s back-to-back triples ignited the Hornets as they cut the deficit to single digits. Both teams had a consistent flow, however Toronto still led by 12 as VanVleet inched closer to the franchise assist record. The Raptors began to lose their composure to start the fourth quarter, but VanVleet was able to settle the team down, setting the franchise record for most assists in a game with 20. Toronto controlled the game from the start and didn’t look back, earning their 39th win of the season.
Once again, the Raptors starting five all scored in double digits. VanVleet shined in this matchup, outplaying Theo Maledon on his way to 20 points, 20 assists, five rebounds, and three steals. Siakam took advantage of the shorthanded Hornets and scored 36 points, seven rebounds, and seven assists. Before going down with an ankle injury, OG Anunoby was efficient with 23 points, seven rebounds, and five triples. Poeltl was productive in the paint, producing 16 points, nine rebounds, and four blocks. Scottie Barnes dropped 12 points on 50% shooting.
The narrative of ex-Raptors playing well against their former team continues as Toronto could not stop Mykhailiuk. He finished with 26 points, five triples, and five assists. Bouknight has been in and out of the rotation all year but played well this afternoon, amassing 21 points and five three-point shots off the bench. Mark Williams has solidified his role as the starting Centre on his way to a double-double with 15 points, and 12 rebounds.
The Hornets have a solid young core. Although they sit 14th in the Eastern Conference and are playing with half their roster out due to injuries, a new rotation has stepped up to the plate. Recently, the Hornets have beaten top teams including the Dallas Mavericks twice, the New Orleans Pelicans, and New York Knicks. Former Duke Blue Devil Williams has become the Centre the Hornets have been looking for, being aggressive inside the paint and spreading the floor for shooters. The resurgence of Bouknight has been fascinating to watch; with minutes given, he has proven that he can be an offensive weapon off the bench. JT Thor and Jones have been great complimentary scorers behind Ball and Rozier. The Hornets are in the sweepstakes for projected top pick Victor Wembanyama; no matter how the structure of the team looks next season, the Hornets might be ready to shock the world.
VanVleet celebrated a historic afternoon as he passed Damon Stoudamire, Jose Calderon, and Kyle Lowry to set a franchise record for most assists in a game with 20. With four games left in the season, these types of performances ignite the team as a whole. Playing team basketball and contributing on all ends of the floor is crucial as the schedule tightens up.
After the Raptors take on the Hornets once more, they head to Boston then back home to face the Milwaukee Bucks. On paper this seems difficult, however with all hands-on deck, this squad shows resilience.
The Raptors look to sweep the season series when they take on the Hornets again at Spectrum Center on Tuesday night.
Toronto Raptors vs. Charlotte Hornets box score click HERE.
Fred VanVleet – 20 PTS 20 AST (Franchise Record) 5 REB
Pascal Siakam – 36 PTS 7 REB 7 AST
OG Anunoby – 23 PTS 7 REB 9/13 FG
Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk – 26 PTS 4 REB 5 AST
James Bouknight – 21 PTS 2 REB 5 3PT
Mark Williams – 15 PTS 12 REB