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Hawks succumb to Raptors despite career-best night from Prince

A monster line for TP in Toronto.

NBA: Atlanta Hawks at Toronto Raptors Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

The Atlanta Hawks’ two game winning patch was snapped at the hands of the Toronto Raptors, 111-98, at the Air Canada Centre, the Raptors’ 11th straight win at home.

DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors with 25 points and five assists while Delon Wright and Jonas Valenciunas both added 13 points apiece (throw in 11 rebounds for JV too).

For the Hawks, they were led by Taurean Prince’s career-high 30 points and 10 rebounds (we’ll touch on this soon) while Marco Belinelli and Dennis Schröder both added 14 points.

The better team...

Heading into this game with a 9-25 record — on the bounce of two straight wins — the Hawks knew that things were not going to be easy heading into the home of the 23-10 Toronto Raptors: one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

And that’s exactly how the Raptors played like: one of the best teams in the East.

They took an 11-point lead to begin the second quarter, after pulling away somewhat at the end of the first quarter, and they didn’t really look back. The Hawks threatened to come back in the early stages of the second quarter (cutting the lead to six points) but the Raptors pulled away and took control heading into the second half.

Once there, they built the lead up to 22 points, but the Hawks — to their credit — kept at it in the fourth quarter and reduced to the gap to nine points as the Raptors failed to bury the Hawks when they probably should’ve. But it was all a little much for the Hawks in the end.

It was mostly a gradual affair for the Raptors, but if there was one specific run that really did the Hawks in in this game it was the one near the end of the first half.

A 10-2 Raptors run undid a lot of the good work the Hawks did in the second quarter, when they made a run of their own, and it pushed the Raptors lead up to 18 points (though the Hawks would trim it to 15 by the half).

“That’s what happens when great teams put together a run,” said Taurean Prince postgame. “We just got to do a better job slowing down a run or give them a run of ours. But we weren’t able to do that on a consistent basis tonight.”

This run put the Hawks in that danger zone, blowout zone, and a quick 8-3 run in the first two minutes of the third quarter put the Raptors up by 20 points, and the Hawks were always chasing from there.

There were a couple of offensive rebounds and tip-ins the Raptors had in the later stages of the fourth quarter (taking advantage of the Hawks going small by inserting Lucas Nogueira) that, maybe, would’ve made this game more interesting had they not gone in but realistically this wouldn’t have changed a whole lot...

Despite being down by 22 points in the second half, Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer was impressed with his team’s competitiveness as they tried to claw their way back into the game.

“For a lot of the second half I liked the way we competed, I like the way we played,” said Bud postgame. “(We) got it (the deficit) to ten . . . I think the competitiveness and effort in the second half was good . . . teams like this will make us better.”

You have to give the Hawks a lot of credit for what they did in the fourth quarter.

They could’ve mailed it in — with tonight’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers in mind — and call it quits but the team kept with it and made things semi-interesting when they brought the lead down to nine points.

This team just doesn’t quit.

Taurean Prince’s career-night

This wasn’t the greatest night for some of the Hawks’ better scorers.

Dennis Schröder struggled (6-of-20 from the field), Ersan Ilyasova (six points) and Kent Bazemore (eight points) also struggled to score (though, all of those players did bring something different and did other things well).

In their scoring struggles, it was Prince who stood head-and-shoulders above the rest of the Hawks: a career-high 30 points on 12-of-16 shooting from the field and 5-of-6 from behind the arc:

I think the encouraging thing here with Prince is how a lot of his looks (especially from the outside) came in the flow of the game. Sometimes the sophomore forward tries to force things on offense but a lot of these looks came naturally to him.

He looked aggressive on drives and was successful getting to/scoring at the rim:

Prince has surpassed many people’s expectations when it comes to his offense this season. He has had his up and down some games, but for the most part he’s been a pretty consistent producer for the Hawks, and has often been an X-factor in games.

For coach Bud, the growth has happened right in front of his eyes.

“Taurean got better tonight,” said Bud postgame of Prince. “He’s a young player that’s growing with each night. A night like tonight, there’s a lot of positives, a lot of things to learn from. We’re pleased with the way he’s playing. I think the ten boards was huge. We look forward to him and all of your guys and everybody growing and getting better.”

For Prince, it was all about being in the right place to be effective.

“Just being in the open spots ... make sure I’m in the right position to score the ball or play defense, turn defense into offense,” said Prince of his 30-10 performance. “Just doing the little things that make a big difference.”

The little things do add up, but there sure wasn’t anything little about Prince’s performance last night.

Controversy at the end

Not really a controversy but it was interesting nevertheless...

Just when you thought the game was all said and done at the end, a certain play has caused some... commotion, shall we say: OG Anunoby’s dunk.

Here it is: he gets the steal, races to the other end (with the shot clock off, meaning the Raptors could just dribble out the clock and end the game) and dunks it:

What seemed to irk Bud was that OG didn’t need to do that: the shot clock was off, the game was over and all he had to do was let time expire.

This is a generally unwritten rule in the NBA, that you don’t add insult to injury, as such, when the game is over like that.

At the buzzer, Bud appears to say something to Anunoby, and Raptors coach Dwane Casey does not like that at all and gets into a heated discussion about it from a distance:

Think you have a fair idea what Casey is saying here...

He had more to say postgame to the press, these quotes were a bit more usable...

"I love coaches but one thing I don't want you to do is say something to my players," said Casey postgame. "I understand the situation, we weren't trying to run the score up. They were trying to score and we were trying to play defense . . . there was no intent.

"Bud's a good man, good coach but I'm going to stick up for my players every time."

Everything Casey says here you can understand: he’s just sticking up for his player, his rookie.

Here’s the thing about the play itself: I personally thought it was fine.

It’s not like the Hawks were dribbling out the clock and waiting to eat the violation when Anunoby stole it (Caron Butler style which was, funnily enough, against the Raptors) and dunked it home: the Hawks were still playing. And as long as you’re still playing, so should your opponent, and that’s what Anunoby did. He kept playing.

It’s like Casey said: they weren’t trying to run the score up, it just happened. It all happened in the flow of the game and it all happened quickly and instinctively.

It’s always a divisive topic whenever this comes up.

I get that it’s an unwritten rule not to score when you probably don’t need to and the game is done, I just personally think in this instance it wasn’t deliberately showboating and just a rookie doing his thing in the flow of a game.

Contrasting benches

NBA benches often have the ability to swing games (the Hawks’ last game against the Wizards proved that for sure) and this game was no different.

Unfortunately for the Hawks, this bench battle went in favor of the Raptors, and quite convincingly.

Not so much in terms of points scored — the Raptors edged it by nine points, 43-34 — but in terms of plus/minus and general on-court play (the eye-test, basically).

The Hawks’ bench combined for a plus/minus rating of minus+45 while the Raptors’ bench combined for plus-50. Marco Belinelli was up and down, Malcolm Delaney struggled...

I guess it’s a matter of comparison: the Hawks’ bench wasn’t awful, it wasn’t even that bad. It was just more so that they weren’t great in comparison to the Raptors’ bench.

The Raptors’ bench helped propel the Raptors into taking the initial lead and helped build an 11 point lead at the beginning of the second quarter.

In general, just looked great on the floor. They just looked so comfortable with each other and imposed themselves on this game so much more than the Hawks’ bench did.

When they came into the game, they changed it.

More specifically, the four-man lineup of Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright, Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam was the second unit lineup (the fifth man was interchangeable between Norman Powell and DeMar DeRozan, who also played very well with that four-man lineup as the fifth man) that got things done. In over 16 minutes of court-time that four-man lineup registered a plus/minus of plus-16.

Personally, whenever I have watched that Raptors bench play in my own spare time, that second unit has been really impressive to watch — they’re very good.

Toronto’s block party

On a night without Serge Ibaka (suspended by the Raptors for one game after he and a Raptors staffer got into an altercation in OKC), the Raptors recorded a season-high 15 blocks against the Hawks, with Jakob Poeltl leading the way with three of them.

The thing about Toronto is that they have athletic players and long players, and sometimes both — they just made things very difficult for the Hawks, part of the reason why the Hawks only shot 45% at the rim in this game.


Give the Raptors credit, they played good defense and put themselves in good positions to come up with these blocks — doesn’t happen by luck.

A wedgie!

Hey, a wedgie!

TP drives to the lane, gets contested by Poeltl and boom:

If I’m not mistaken, this is the first Hawks wedgie this season? They don’t come often but they’re always appreciated...

The Hawks (9-26) are back in action on Saturday at Philips Arena, where they’ll take on the Portland Trail Blazers.

Should be fun. Stay tuned.