For the second time in 3 days, The Toronto Raptors battled the Charlotte Hornets at Amalie Arena. It was a game of runs with both teams going on scoring stretches to swing the momentum. With under one minute left, Kyle Lowry made a step back two to give Toronto the lead. In Charlotte’s final 2 possessions, solid defence secured the Raptors first back-to-back win, 116-113.
Toronto’s bench was the difference, outscoring Charlotte 55-23. Norman Powell led the way with his best performance of the season: 24 points on 50% shooting in 28 minutes. He went 6 for 6 from the line. Chris Boucher had 20 with Stanley Johnson adding 6 points and grabbing 4 rebounds in 13 minutes of work.
It was an efficient night for OG Anunoby, who went 7 for 13 with 18 points and 4 steals. Kyle Lowry added 19 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists.
Despite shooting a higher percentage (44%), Charlotte was outscored +18 from beyond the arc. Gordan Hayward led all players with 25 points, 5 rebounds and was perfect from the line (10 for 10). Terry Rozier put up 24 points and 9 rebounds.
Similar to their last meeting, the game was decided with the final possessions. With a 1 point lead and 3 seconds left to play, Chris Boucher stepped up to the line and made 2 clutch free throws. His effort in the final 12 minutes helped Toronto win; he scored 8 of his 20 points in the 4th, along with 4 rebounds and 1 block. He is second to Nikola Jokic in player efficiency with a 29.2 rating. If these numbers continue, the 28 year-old is making quite the case for Most Improved Player and/or 6th Man of the Year.
The Raptors are now 4-8 and slowly starting their climb in the Eastern Conference. With their last 4 games coming down to the final seconds, Toronto has shown glimpses of what can be and continue to show their resilience. Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet had been vocal during their losses. “Right now we have no swag to us … teams are looking at us and saying let’s eat … that’s not a good position at all”, Lowry told reporters earlier this year. VanVleet echoed these sentiments when he told the media, “..the part we need to be embarrassed about and disappointed about is just the fight and the belief”. It has been a tough start, but the guys are starting to find their way.
They are 3-2 at “home” and with 3 more games before they hit the road, the Raptors have an opportunity to claw their way back up the standings, and closer to .500.
Next up… Toronto faces Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks. Tipoff is Monday at 7:30pm EASTERN.