Toronto Raptors

Five takeaways from the Toronto Raptors' dominant win over the Atlanta Hawks

Kyle Lowry (NBA Getty Images)

Without Kawhi Leonard, the Raptors were able to earn a convincing road victory over the Atlanta Hawks Wednesday night to advance to 15-4 on the season.

Toronto closes a four-game road trip with three consecutive wins, while Atlanta suffered its ninth consecutive loss.

From dominating on the interior to the stellar play from All-Star guard Kyle Lowry, here are five key takeaways from the Raptors' 124-108 victory.

Fred VanVleet (NBA Getty Images)

Finding a way to win without Kawhi

For the sixth time this season, the Toronto Raptors took the floor without superstar forward Kawhi Leonard, who sat to rest.

With the win, Toronto advanced to 5-1 in those games, with the wins coming by an average margin of 17.2 points. While the Raptors are clearly a much better team with Leonard, it is encouraging that the team has been able to find ways to win without its star player. It is extremely important moving forward, while the team still works to re-incorporate their major offseason acquisition into back-to-back situations.

Starting in place of Leonard was third-year guard Fred VanVleet, who finished the night with 11 points (on 5-for-11 shooting) and six assists in over 36 minutes of action. Down the stretch of the regular season as well as the postseason, this team will be prepared in the event that Leonard must sit due to foul trouble or a nagging injury.

Pascal Siakam (NBA Getty Images)

Points in the Paint

After a poor shooting night Tuesday in Orlando, the Raptors got their 3-point touch back Wednesday night, connecting on 11 of their 29 attempts in the win.

While the perimeter shooting was much improved, Toronto made its impact by scoring 64 of its 124 points in the paint. Led by a season-high 24 points from Jonas Valanciunas, the Raptors bigs dominated, as forward Pascal Siakam added 22 points and centre Serge Ibaka scored 19 points in a reserve role.

Attacking the basket and scoring in the paint opens things up for the offence, and gives the team more opportunity to get to the line. One night after shooting just eight free throws in a close win over the Magic, Toronto made 17 of its 23 free throw attempts Wednesday night in Atlanta.

While each game takes on an identity of its own, a consistent interior presence is crucial and oftentimes much more reliable than perimeter shooting.

Jonas Valanciunas (NBA Getty Images)

Jonas Valanciunas' dominance

In just his seventh start of the season, Jonas Valanciunas imposed his will throughout the game.

The Raptors' centre shot 75 percent from the field to finish the night with 24 points and 13 rebounds in under 27 minutes of action. Despite playing fewer minutes than last year and spending much more time as a reserve, Valanciunas' has seen little-to-no drop off in his production.

While Toronto possesses a number of weapons, its seventh-year centre could prove to be the X-factor moving forward. The versatility and preparedness of Valanciunas allows him to either punish second units or keep the pace with the other team's starting bigs.

Kyle Lowry (NBA Getty Images)

A brilliant night from Kyle Lowry

In under 32 minutes, Lowry recorded his 13th career triple-double with 21 points (on 7-for-12 shooting), 17 assists and 11 rebounds.

Lowry's 17 assists were just one shy of a career-high, leading the way for the Raptors, who assisted on 33 of their 48 made field goals. When Lowry is at his best, he is a threat to be both a playmaker and scorer, which is just what he did tonight.

As previously mentioned, this was done in Kawhi Leonard's absence, meaning Lowry's efforts were critical in the involvement of players that played larger roles than usual.

Vince Carter (NBA Getty Images)

Vince Carter's historic moment

Vince Carter, a historic figure in Toronto Raptors history, continues to add on to his legacy as a pro.

It was as much of a storybook moment one can have in a loss, as the 21-year veteran scored his 25,000th career point against the team he began his career with an emphatic dunk at the buzzer.

Whether or not this will be Carter's last season remains to be seen, but it is perfect that the Raptors are a part of yet another historic moment in his Hall-of-Fame career.

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