With a chance to make a statement with a second straight home win over Atlanta, the Toronto Raptors instead laid an egg on Friday night.
Coming off a rare offensive clinic, Toronto cooled from three, was awful from the free throw line and not particularly sharp defensively. It all added up to a 125-104 blowout loss.
Trae Young went off for 38 points and 11 assists, Bogdan Bogdanovic added 20 off the bench and Clint Capela had 18 points and 15 rebounds as the Hawks clobbered Toronto by 23 rebounds.
Scottie Barnes led the Raptors with 23, Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl added 15 each.
Toronto’s season-long issues at the free throw line (only Denver has been worse) surfaced again, with the Raptors missing half of 20 attempts through three quarters, wasting 55% shooting from the field to that point. They ended up at just 56% from the stripe and got crushed by the Hawks despite taking 19 more free throws.
Toronto had just snapped a four-game losing streak Wednesday against Atlanta. The Hawks came in on a five-game skid to drop to 10th in the East, one spot below the Raptors, but that flip-flopped again.
Toronto head coach Darko Rajakovic had said beforehand he liked two-game sets, because they’re like “mini-playoff series” with both sides making adjustments. “It’s very good for a team that you have a chance to play again against an opponent, to go back to watch that film and see areas where you can get better at, what opponent is thinking and see how the next game develops, how you can learn from that,” Rajakovic said.
Atlanta must have learned more from the film. The team went bigger to start after Toronto had looked far bulkier and longer in the first game and ended up turning things around on the glass. Plus the Hawks counted on some regression from a team that usually has been one of the NBA’s worst from beyond the arc. The Raptors had caught fire on Wednesday, hitting 18 three-pointers on 53% shooting, but looked much more like themselves on Friday, hitting on 32.3%.
It’s not like Rajakovic hadn’t seen a better Hawks effort coming though. “In our line of business, it’s always, the result is the reaction when you lose and I am asking my team to react after winning,” he said.
Yet again the Raptors got outplayed to start a game and found themselves behind, this time 30-24. By halftime it was a 10-point deficit. Unlike on Wednesday, when Toronto had overwhelmed the Hawks in a dominant third quarter to take control of the game, this third quarter was more even, with the Raptors gaining only a point on the visitors.
In a bit of a twist, the Raptors, one of the league’s best at rallying and finishing games, fell apart after closing within six points in the fourth frame. The Hawks hit a flurry of three-pointers and surged ahead by 18 points, quieting a small, listless crowd. With ticket prices up, wins down, and trade rumours swirling it could be a long winter for the Raptors.
The team gets a break with woeful Charlotte in town on Monday, before defending champion Denver, with the best player in the league Nikola Jokic and Canadian star Jamal Murray visiting Wednesday.