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    Much needed Win

    The Toronto Raptors were back “home” at Amalie Arena for the first night of their 5-game home stand. The team faced Terry Rozier and the Charlotte Hornets. It was all Raptors in the first 3 quarters. But like deja-vu, Toronto’s struggles to close out the game continued. Despite the Hornet’s 8-0 run to start the 4th, Toronto held on to the 111-108 win.

    The Raptors started the final quarter with a 13 point lead and all the momentum. But like other 4th quarter lapses this season, Toronto failed to put the hammer down and put away the game. With their first bucket coming at the 7:15 mark, the Hornets were back in it.

    Led by Terry Rozier Charlotte cut the lead to 3. But that was as close as they would get. Rozier put up 22 points and 5 assists, while P.J. Washington had 20 points and 11 rebounds. They shot 43% from beyond the arc and hit some big three’s in the final 12 minutes. The Hornets dominated in the paint with 50 points, outscoring Toronto +14.

    Kyle Lowry had a quiet 16 points on 60% shooting. He also had 12 assists and became 1 of 3 players to record 4,000 assists with their current team. He also had 6 rebounds and 2 steals in the win. Stanley Johnson was a nice spark off the bench. In 20 minutes he made 2 from deep and hustled on the defensive end coming up with 1 steal and 1 block.

    It was an impressive first half for the Raptors; 21 assists on 24 made field goals and 13 for 25 from deep. The 3rd was no different. Charlotte made a run, but Toronto responded. They outscored the Hornets in all 3 quarters in what looked to be a strong finish for the club. 4 of their 5 starters scored double digits. Despite scoring 12 points in the 4th, the team showed their resilience and made stops when it mattered.

    Chris Boucher led all players with 25 points in 29 minutes off the bench. Boucher has emerged as a force offensively for Toronto. A few tough early shooting nights aside, he has been lights out on both ends. Boucher is yet another example of the success of Toronto’s player development program. It’s a program that has yielded success for players like Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet; they all came up through Toronto’s G-League affiliate (Raptors 905). During their time with the team, Siakam and VanVleet were 2016-2017 Champions and Boucher was named the 2018 MVP and Defensive Player of the year, all culminating in a 2019 NBA Championship.

    It’s not surprising that another Raptor is having a breakout season. With more minutes and a full understanding of his role, Boucher has stepped up. When asked about his success this season he emphasized just staying ready. It doesn’t matter if he’s starting or coming off the bench because, “at the end of the day my role is still the same… I feel good with the position I’m in”, he said post-game. As his minutes increase, so do this numbers and that is a great bonus for Toronto.

    Next up… It’s a rematch for the Raptors and Hornets on Saturday Night. Tipoff is 7:30p at Amalie Arena.

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