The Atlanta Hawks came into Canada riding the high of beating the NBA’s best squad in the Phoenix Suns just 24 hours previous. With Trae Young leading the way in a 21 three-pointer barrage, the Hawks won their eighth game in nine tries. But on Friday night, the three-point disparity would go against Atlanta’s favor, however, as the Hawks fell to the Toronto Raptors 125-114.
The offense picked up where it left off, hitting seven of their first 10 shots. This would build an eight point lead for the Hawks early in the first quarter. But after surrendering most of this cushion, the Raptors would lead the entire rest of the way despite some late scares.
Pascal Siakam carried the bulk of the offensive load for Toronto in the first period. His 21 first quarter points nearly matched Atlanta’s total of 28 by itself.
This is a subtle little exchange below. The feigned screen by Siakam combined with OG Anunoby taking his man, De’Andre Hunter, towards the baseline and into Capela’s recovery path gives Siakam just enough space to bury a triple.
Siakam would hit all three of his attempts from long range en route to a 31 point outburst on just 16 shots from the field. The Raptors attacked the Hawks in transition early on, with Siakam again leading the charge. Below, Lou Williams is fooled with a pump fake and blow by, and Onyeka Okongwu loses his footing after stepping on Chris Boucher’s shoe during the dig attempt.
A 31-5 Raptors run in the first quarter nearly doomed Atlanta, but facing an 18-point deficit, the Hawks would rapidly pull themselves back into the contest. Young notched a 22 point, 13 assist contest for the Hawks that included this niftily whipped dime in a lot of traffic.
Hunter also had himself a nice game, with 23 points, four rebounds, two assists, and the normal workmanlike shift on defense. Hunter is able to break up the half court entry pass here and take the rock 94 feet for the hoop plus the harm.
This one is a called play for the third year forward. Kevin Huerter’s down screen on Boucher forces a defensive switch, but John Collins’ side dribble-handoff eliminates the help from arriving to affect Hunter’s three.
Atlanta used waves of scoring to bring a 16-point fourth quarter hole down to just one possession in the span of five game minutes, including a 12-0 run in the middle of the period, punctuated by this alley oop connection between Young and Collins, two of Collins’ 23 point total for the day.
After whittling the lead down to three points with just over two minutes to go, the Hawks just couldn’t find the final breakthrough. There were only two turnovers late in the contest, but one was a particular crucial one. After forcing a turnover, Atlanta looked like Collins had an open dunk in transition only for the Bogdan Bogdanovic pass to be taken away by the long arms of rookie Scottie Barnes.
“We talked about this team,” said head coach Nate McMillan. “They speed you up with their pressure and their trapping and changing defenses. We had a couple of turnovers late that hurt us. They do a good job of making you defend their movement, their isolations. We were able to get ourselves back into the game. But sometimes one play can change the game and I thought we had a big turnover, I think it was [Bogdan Bogdanovic] had a big turnover late in that game. I think it was a one or two possession game at that point.”
Although the Raptors wouldn’t score following this, allowing these kinds offensive boards seemed to have a deflating effect on the team.
“Turnovers right there at the end,” said Collins breaking down the loss. “[Toronto] really beat us up on the offensive boards. Created themselves some second chance opportunities. And they were knocking down shots from beyond the arc tonight. Can’t give teams extra opportunities and that’s what they had in the closing minutes and that will definitely help a team win.”
“I think turnovers definitely hurt us,” concurred Hunter. “They made some tough shots at the end as well. Had some open looks as well. I thought overall we played pretty hard tonight. Just a little fatigued, that’s all.”
Finally, the Raptors did plenty of shot making to seal the game. Collins can’t finish near the bucket on one end, and Barnes gets early post up position on Young that a Collins chase down block attempt can’t save.
Fred VanVleet took over late for Toronto, including this dish to Gary Trent Jr. off the screen-and-roll penetration to draw Huerter.
The Raptors did some nice touch passing here with Atlanta extending its defense to try to trap near half court, and this finish all but sealed the outcome.
Toronto went 10-for-15 (66.7%) from the field in the fourth quarter, including a 10-2 scoring run at the end to ice the game. A game after nailing 20-of-40 (50%) attempted threes, the Hawks went just 9-for-29 (31%) from deep. Despite the home team playing their fourth game in five days, the toll from the win on Thursday and cross continental travel for Atlanta may have contributed to late game fatigue.
“I thought our guys gave an effort but our guys definitely had heavy legs,” said McMillan. “They had heavy legs as well. But I thought it affected our shooting. We were trying to pressure and get a little closer and just weren’t able to do that. They were able to score early with isolations and late they were knocking down their threes. I think VanVleet came off a couple of pick-and-rolls where we needed to be a little closer and he was able to knock down some shots to stretch that lead for them.”
“Back-to-backs are tough,” remarked Collins about possible heavy legs. “I think this is the first time we’ve ever had a back-to-back like this. Home game then away to Toronto but [it’s] part of the job.”
Hunter wasn’t too down about the outcome and was even enthused about the level of play on Friday nights, saying, “just keep playing the same way. Like I said, just a little fatigued back-to-back. So we get our legs back and we’ll be ready for Dallas.”
The loss drops Atlanta back down to 25-27 and clinging to a play-in spot at the moment. The Hawks head to Dallas to take on the Mavericks on Sunday, who are in the top-5 in the Western Conference for what is sure to be a hard fought tilt.