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Toronto Raptors

Takeaways from the Toronto Raptors close loss to the Charlotte Hornets

The Toronto Raptors came up just short against the Charlotte Hornets again.

Jeremy Lamb knocked down another game-winning shot, converting a go-ahead 3-pointer with three seconds remaining to keep his team's season alive.

Lamb had 22 points on the night. He and Frank Kaminsky (22 points, 13 rebounds) gave Kemba Walker (29 points) the help he needed to give the Hornets the much-needed win.

Kawhi Leonard's 29 points led Toronto while Serge Ibaka chipped in 20 points off the bench and Kyle Lowry notched a double-double of 16 points and 11 assists.

Here are your takeaways from tonight's thriller...

Ball movement

The Raptors went on a run at the end of the second quarter to give them a 65-57 lead heading into halftime.

On the court at the time were Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Kawhi Leonard, Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol. With each of them being playmakers who are more than capable of spacing the floor out to the 3-point line, it led to a couple of possessions like this, where there multiple drives and kicks set up a wide open shot:

More than anything, it's those types of plays that speak to the value Gasol brings offensively. Even though he isn't shooting as many 3-pointers with the Raptors as he was with the Memphis Grizzlies, teams still respect him because he's a proven threat from that distance.

That opens up the paint for others to drive; Lowry, VanVleet and Siakam in this case.

Gasol didn't even do much on the play - he in-bounded the ball and made a simple pass to Leonard - but it's those little things that contribute to the Raptors scoring 11.5 more points per 100 possessions with him on the court since he was acquired.

Another double-double for Serge Ibaka

Serge Ibaka is ending the regular season on a high.

On Friday, he scored 20 points and pulled down 12 rebounds in his 21 minutes off the bench. Ibaka was at his best in the fourth quarter, when he recorded 12 of his points and five of his rebounds.

Ibaka now has four double-doubles in his last five games, three of which have been 20-10s. He's also scored double figures in each of his last eight games.

The Raptors are going to need a lot more of that from Ibaka in the postseason. As good of a shooter and passer as Gasol is, he's not as aggressive of a scorer as Ibaka. When both of them are at their best, it gives the Raptors 48 minutes of quality centre play, with each of them excelling in different ways.

Kawhi Leonard in postseason form

Kawhi Leonard sure looks like he's ready for the playoffs to begin.

The three-time All-Star had 17 points in the first half alone, doing so on an efficient 7-for-9 shooting from the field.

Of those seven baskets, none was more more impressive than this drive against Miles Bridges:

Leonard then scored six points in the fourth quarter, including a big bucket down the stretch that put the Raptors ahead with only a few seconds remaining.

He finished the game with 29 points in only 33 minutes of action. He also grabbed six rebounds and dished out four assists.

Unfortunately for Leonard, it wasn't the Raptors who got the last laugh.

Jeremy Lamb ... again

For whatever reason, Jeremy Lamb has a thing for hitting big shots against the Raptors.

Two weeks ago, it was his game-winning halfcourt shot that kept the heartbeat of the Hornets' season alive.

Tonight, Lamb stepped up again with his team's season on the line. Trailing by one with under 10 seconds to go, Walker attacked the hoop and collapsed the Raptors entire defence. He kicked out to a wide open Lamb on the perimeter, and Lamb came up clutch again.

"Man, Kemba made a great pass, and everybody said if I get it, shoot it," Lamb said after the game. "I just tried to shoot it with confidence. That was a little bit of an easier shot than last time and I am just happy it went it."

Lamb played well all night, scoring 22 points on 9-for-16 shooting from the field, converting two of his five 3-point attempts. He also had five rebounds, four assists and three steals while going a team-best plus-16.

With the win, the Hornets are now two games out of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

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