The Toronto Raptors didn't make it look easy but a win's a win.
Edging the Charlotte Hornets 116-113, the Raptors have won consecutive games for the first time this season. Behind a strong showing from the second unit led by Norman Powell and Chris Boucher and some clutch late-game heroics from Kyle Lowry, Toronto was able to hold off another late push from Terry Rozier and the Hornets.
For more from the victory, we have you covered with some thoughts below.
1. Kyle Lowry the closer
It wasn't the most memorable game from the Raptors floor general but when it matter most, who else would you expect to step up?
Holding a slim one-point lead with just over a minute remaining, Lowry got to the free throw line and converted both attempts to extend the lead to three. When Terry Rozier responded with a 3-ball to tie the game with under a minute to go, Lowry buried the clutch midrange pull-up that eventually sealed the victory.
VINTAGE KYLE LOWRY pic.twitter.com/weFKaPpgfL- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 17, 2021
Lowry would finish with 19 points, six rebounds and six assists while going 3-for-7 (42.9%) from long range in the win.
2. Gordon Hayward's return to the lineup
Hayward has been awesome in his first season in Charlotte, averaging 22.0 points, 5.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game heading into this contest. The Hornets were without their star forward in their first meeting against the Raptors this week because of a hip injury but Hayward made his return to the floor in this one and it was felt instantly by Toronto.
It didn't take long for the one-time All-Star to heat up, going for 21 points on 6-for-8 shooting from the field in the first half.
It's one of those hot nights for @Gordonhayward 🔥#AllFly | @HornetsOnFSSE pic.twitter.com/klmCoBb658- Charlotte Hornets (@hornets) January 17, 2021
He'd cool off a bit in the second half, only scoring four points, but would finish the game with a strong line of 25 points, five rebounds, three assists and one steal while shooting 7-for-13 from the field and a perfect 10-for-10 from the free throw line.
3. Chris Boucher's boost off the bench
Boucher has been the Raptors' saviour this season and that's not hyperbole. The Canadian big man has enjoyed a breakout season thus far, constantly bringing energy off the bench for Toronto. This contest against the Hornets was no different as Boucher provided a near-double-double of 20 points and nine rebounds despite playing with foul trouble.
Head coach Nick Nurse elected to keep Aron Baynes as the starting centre to begin the game, but for the fourth time in the last five games, he went to Boucher to start the second half because of his high level of play in the first two quarters. As TSN's Josh Lewenberg pointed out, Baynes' four first-half minutes versus Boucher's 15 first-half minutes gives you the only verification you need for Nurse's decision.
Boucher starts the 2nd half for the 4th time in the last 5 games.- Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) January 17, 2021
Raptors with Baynes in the 1st half: -10 in 4 minutes.
Raptors with Boucher: +17 in 15 minutes.
While Boucher's spark for the second unit is crucial, at what point does Nurse start him as a reward for how well he's played this year?
3. Norman Powell finds a rhythm
Powell has had quite the up and down season through the first chunk of games but it's no secret that when he's on, the Raptors are a better team. In this one, Powell's offence kept Toronto in the game, pouring in a season-high 24 points off the bench.
Team-high 16 for Norm pic.twitter.com/ACGFjNVu4p- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 17, 2021
Powell knocked down six 3-pointers, going 6-for-9 from deep. Without his offensive contributions the Raptors would've been in trouble, but can Powell stay in this rhythm and continue to produce consistently?
4. A quiet night from Pascal Siakam
Siakam had fully bounced back from his slump that carried into this season but it was an off-night for the All-Star forward. Shooting 4-for-14 (28.6%) from the field and 0-for-5 from beyond the arc for just nine points, Siakam didn't apply much pressure to the Hornets' defence. Even when he was struggling earlier this season, Siakam typically still found a way to make an impact in other areas but in this one, he only had five rebounds and four assists.
Siakam had strung together a quality stretch of games prior to this and the Raptors still got the win, but look for the star forward to bounce back in the team's next outing.
5. Terry Rozier tries to shoot the Hornets back in it
Rozier was a steadying presence for Charlotte throughout the entire game but in the fourth quarter in particular, he came up with a few big shots to keep his team in the game. He knocked down a 3-pointer with just over a minute left to bring the Hornets within one point and after a pair of free throws from Lowry, Rozier knocked down another 3-pointer to tie the game.
He had a look at the buzzer to try and send the game into overtime but the shot came up short as the Hornets picked up a second-straight loss to the Raptors.
It was still a high-quality showing from Rozier, who went for 24 points, nine rebounds, two assists and one steal while knocking down six 3-pointers.
6. The perimeter versus in the paint
The Raptors were willing to live and die by the 3. The Hornets were constantly getting to the rack.
Toronto made 21 3-pointers to Charlotte's 15, outscoring the Hornets by 18 from beyond the arc. Charlotte had 40 points in the paint to the Raptors' 20, outscoring Toronto by 20 inside.
The Raptors' hot 3-point shooting made the difference in this contest, shooting an efficient 42.9% from long range. While "it's a make or miss league," Toronto was extremely reliant on the 3-ball tonight, something that could be a cause for concern of where other offence will come from in games where perimeter shots aren't falling.
7. A bit of flash from OG Anunoby
Anunoby is typically a reserved personality and his game resembles that, doing a lot of the gritty things that helps hold this Raptors team together. Every once in a while, he'll remind us just how athletic he is, and he did just that with this effortless reverse dunk following a steal.
SHOWTIME OG pic.twitter.com/B67qNQUEsB- Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 17, 2021
It was an all-around strong showing from Anunoby who finished with 18 points, five rebounds and four steals.
8. What's next?
The Raptors have one day off before a tough test, hosting MVP candidate Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks on Monday. The Hornets have a few days off before they're supposed to host the Washington Wizards on Wednesday, although the Wizards have had their last few games postponed due to health and safety protocol.
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