The Atlanta Hawks suffered a defeat against the Toronto Raptors with a final score of 135-128 in the first of two matchups on Wednesday night. The two teams are set to face off again in Toronto on Friday.
Both teams entered last night’s contest on a four-game losing streak, but it was the Hawks who extended their slump to five games. Trae Young, De’Andre Hunter, and AJ Griffin were listed on the injury report. While Trae Young played, Hunter and Griffin were sidelined.
The Hawks faced a challenging start, accumulating misses and initially falling into a 15-8 deficit. Between the seven and six-minute marks, Quin Snyder made an unusual rotation choice for the first quarter. Bogdan Bogdanovic and Onyeka Okongwu entered the game for the Hawks. Capela and Okongwu had not played together in the first quarter before. The lineup featured Trae Young, Dejounte Murray, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Onyeka Okongwu, and Clint Capela. The Raptors, being a large and long team, posed a matchup challenge, especially without Jalen Johnson and De’Andre Hunter. This likely explains the early entrance of the Capela and Okongwu lineup, with Okongwu subsequently playing extended minutes.
quin giving an homage to nick nurse in toronto right now with the 8-man rotation and okongwu in line to close the half playing almost 19 straight minutes— Brad Rowland (@BTRowland) December 14, 2023
The Capela and Okongwu lineup saw success early. Okongwu, coming into this game just 5-for-25 from beyond the arc, knocked down his first of three triples in the first quarter.
Following the 15-8 start, the Hawks proceeded to outscore the Raptors 31-16, establishing an eight-point lead after the first quarter. Trae Young contributed significantly with nine points and seven assists in the opening quarter alone. He was hitting deep shots, delivering impressive passes, and visibly enjoying the game.
To begin the second quarter, Trae Young scored a quick eight points, including two more bombs from borderline logo range.
The Hawks established a commanding 12-point lead with about nine minutes remaining in the second quarter, but it didn’t hold. The game gradually tightened as the quarter concluded, with the Raptors consistently hitting three-point shots. Despite ranking last in the league in three-point percentage and averaging just 11.2 makes per game before this matchup, the Raptors made a significant impact, cashing in five three-pointers in the second quarter alone and accumulating eight made three-pointers by halftime. In contrast, the Hawks managed to make two three-pointers in just five attempts and were outscored by six in the quarter.
While the Raptors haven’t been known for their shooting prowess, the Hawks’ lack of size may have contributed to their success. Without Hunter and Johnson, the Hawks found themselves with a relatively small 1-3 lineup led by Saddiq Bey. A rotation of Young, Bogdanovic, Mathews, and Murray falls into the smaller category when guarding players like Scottie Barnes, OG Anunoby, and Pascal Siakam.
Siakam briefly gave the Raptors a lead late in the second with a three-pointer, but Dejounte Murray’s response ensured the Hawks entered the locker room with the lead.
The game took a turn in the third quarter as the Raptors caught fire from behind the arc, and the Hawks had no answer. The Raptors shot an impressive 9-for-12 from three in the quarter, while the Hawks managed to make just three three-point field goals. While some may attribute this to an unlucky night, it’s worth noting that defensive contests were not strong at times.
Facing one of the worst three-point shooting teams in the league, there appeared to be little emphasis on preventing threes from being attempted. However, this has become a recurring theme. Opponents are shooting 38.3 percent from beyond the arc against the Hawks, ranking them fourth worst in the league in this category. Similarly, the Raptors allow 38.2 percent three-point shooting from their opponents. However, it’s challenging to sustain competitiveness in any quarter where your opponent makes nine three-point field goals, as the Hawks were outscored by ten in the third. Gary Trent Jr., averaging 1.9 made three-pointers per game, notably cashed in three in this quarter alone.
Adding to the mix, Onyeka Okongwu contributed with another corner three, underscoring the importance of this element for the success of the Okongwu and Capela lineup.
The Hawks were able to get six more shots than the Raptors in the third, but a few of those came on one possession from Clint Capela. And, along with that, the Raptors weren’t missing their shots.
Capela, who was 5-for-6 from the field in the first half, struggled in this quarter, shooting just 1-for-5. Trae Young contributed nine points, four assists, and three turnovers, while Okongwu added seven to the Hawks’ 29-point quarter. As the quarter concluded, the score stood at 103-95, with the Raptors in the lead.
Unfortunately for the Hawks, Trae Young went cold at a crucial moment. From the end of the third quarter to the beginning of the fourth, he endured seven consecutive misses from the field, finishing the final quarter with just a 1-for-6 performance on his field goals. However, reminiscent of the Nuggets game, Bogdanovic stepped up, giving the Hawks a chance. Despite an eight-point deficit, he stole a pass, hit a three, stole the ball again, and followed it up with another three.
After narrowing the gap to two, the Raptors seized control of the game with a 14-4 run, establishing a 123-111 lead with just a few minutes remaining. Dejounte Murray managed to hit a couple of three-pointers within the two-minute mark, reducing the lead to six and five at different times. However, the Hawks struggled to force enough defensive mistakes. Despite attempting to foul Jacob Poeltl, a 49 percent free-throw shooter on the season, he made five of his six free-throw attempts in the quarter.
This game was undoubtedly one that fans hoped the Hawks would win, yet once again, they found themselves in a position to secure the victory before ultimately falling short. Following the game, Quin Snyder addressed his team’s ongoing improvement and credited the Raptors for their success from three-point range.
The Raptors concluded the game shooting 18-of-34 from three, boasting a 52.9 percent success rate. Trae Young wrapped up the game with an impressive 35 points and 17 assists but also accumulated five turnovers. Bogdanovic and Murray contributed 20 points each, while Bey, Okongwu, and Capela all reached double figures. Okongwu, in particular, had a standout performance with 13 points, eight rebounds, and two blocks. Notably, he benefited from playing alongside Capela and managed to avoid any fouls throughout the night. Snyder commended Okongwu for his agile footwork and ability to stay out of foul trouble. For the Raptors, Siakam, Barnes, and Anunoby combined for a total of 82 points.
The Hawks will have another opportunity to face the Raptors on Friday.