If you score 121 points in an NBA game, you should be able to come out victorious. Yet for the second time in the last five games, the Toronto Raptors have topped the 120-point mark and fallen short. This time, at the hands of the red-hot Atlanta Hawks who pulled out a 132-121 victory on Saturday night in Atlanta.
Prior to the Raptors’ 126-124 loss to the Sacramento Kings on January 29th, Toronto had won 40 straight regular season games when scoring 120 points. For a team that has prided themselves on their defensive intensity, an offensive explosion like that should be more than enough. This season, however, the defence has begun to sag and in the modern NBA when teams are wont to rain down 3-pointers like never before, high-scoring affairs have become a regular occurrence.
Coming into Saturday’s game the Raptors decided they wanted to pack the paint against the supersized and versatile Hawks. It wasn’t necessarily a bad decision considering Atlanta ranks 16th in the NBA in 3-point shooting. Unfortunately for Toronto, the Hawks got hot from 3-point range in a hurry and once it started it didn’t stop.
“They got comfortable and it was just too late after that,” Fred VanVleet said. “We blew switches, didn’t fire out hard enough. Some of it was a result of our game plan and the rest was on us just as far as not running out and making them challenged.”
The Hawks shot 19-for-36 from behind the arc with Kevin Huerter alone burying the Raptors for five 3s.
The Raptors did, however, make it close. Chris Boucher broke out for a career-high 29 points to go with 10 rebounds, a pair of blocks, and two 3-pointers.
“He played great. He was just relentless on the glass,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “I really like the roll element he brought to the offence tonight too. Right off the pick and roll, coming storming down the lane and finishing hard and stuff like that, so it was good.”
In the third quarter, the Raptors trimmed Atlanta’s double-digit lead to just four. They appeared to be within striking distance, but all that momentum was quickly squandered by some very questionable refereeing.
“Did you enjoy watching that third quarter? Was it a lot of fun?” Nurse asked the media during his post-game Zoom call. “Nah, it wasn’t much fun. Really, really strange.”
In one possession alone DeAndre’ Bembry got called for a very ticky-tack foul, then got rung up with a technical, all before the ball was even inbounded. Seconds later Trae Young hit an above-the-break 3-pointer and that four-point Hawks lead was suddenly nine.
“We get in the flow of the game and when it’s fouls after fouls after fouls, it’s hard to play any defense when every time you touch them it’s a foul,” Boucher said. “It definitely slowed us down.”
By the time the fourth quarter rolled around the Raptors were facing a seven-point deficit. On the second night of a back-to-back after an emotional, high-energy victory over the Brooklyn Nets, there just wasn’t enough gas in the tank for one more comeback.
“I didn’t think we had a ton of juice up the floor,” Nurse said. “We just weren’t quite getting it up the floor with the pace we wanted, even after makes.”
Up Next: Memphis Grizzlies
The Raptors will have the day off before continuing their road trip in Memphis for a reunion with Jonas Valanciunas and Canadians Dillon Brooks and Brandon Clarke.