That was a huge turning point for the Toronto Raptors and their charmed season. The Raptors were down by 14 points to the Atlanta Hawks in the 4th quarter. With their sloppy and lackadaisical offense, a loss looked inevitable. That would’ve meant dropping a half game behind the Chicago Bulls for third in the east. It also would’ve cut their division lead over the Brooklyn Nets to just one game.
The Raptors were able to turn it around though in what may be a defining game in this inspiring season. They used a combination of lockdown defense, great rebounding and Kyle Lowry to close out the game on a 36-12 run to win 96-86. The win improves Toronto’s record to 39-30 after a devastating loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday. This game was symbolic of the resilience and scrappiness that has helped put the Raptors into a great position in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. They came back from a large deficit, and kept their season on the right path.
This grade is based almost entirely on that fourth quarter. During the first three quarters, the Raptors looked hung-over from that Kevin Durant dagger on Friday. They settled for a lot of perimeter shots. They were very sloppy offensively, just like the last time they played the Hawks. DeMarre Carroll had four steals in the first quarter. The offense often looked stagnant as players dribbled the ball as the shot clock wound down, forcing the offense into those aforementioned difficult shots. Then, as soon as the Hawks hit that three to go up 14, it’s like a switch was finally turned on. Lowry scored 13 of his 25 points in the fourth, including the last seven points to ice the game. DeMar DeRozan was awful early in the game but finished the game with eleven points in the fourth. The Raptors became very aggressive, attacking the paint and the glass. They were able to turn on the switch at just the right time to come out with a huge victory.
The Raptor’s half-court defense was very solid for the most part. The Hawks were able to get some points in transition off of turnovers, but they were kept in check for the most part. Paul Millsap was locked down in the second half, only managing four points after putting up 13 in the first half. Terrence Ross (who did this today) was very active with his hands at the beginning of the game. But the defense in that fourth quarter was absolutely swarming, holding the Hawks to 15 in the entire frame. Toronto’s stingy defense allowed them to hang in the game and steal one they frankly didn’t deserve to win.
Jonas Valanciunas was huge on the glass. He led all players with 13 rebounds to go with his 13 points. The Raptors out-rebounded the Hawks 45-38, including 12-8 on the offensive glass. Those 12 offensive rebounds were huge. The second chances they provided allowed the Raptors to continue to chip away at the Hawks lead, and helped to steal momentum from the visiting team.
Game Ball: Kyle Lowry
This game doesn’t just define the Raptor’s season. It also defines Lowry’s season. He led his team from a big deficit and he was the most passionate player on the court. He finished the game with 25 points and four assists, including 9-17 shooting. DeRozan may be the team’s all-star, but Lowry is the team’s lifeblood.