For a little while this season, the Toronto Raptors were playing beautiful basketball and coming up just short. They were coming away with so-called moral victories, but unable to close out games when things got tight.
Things have now flipped. For the second consecutive night, the Raptors have done everything in their power to lose to the inferior Charlotte Hornets, but thanks to a vintage Kyle Lowry step-back jumper with under a minute to go in the game, Toronto once again staved off a Hornets comeback to clinch a 116-113 victory on Saturday night in Amalie Arena.
It was the kind of ugly victory Raptors coach Nick Nurse has been looking for. Some nights you just don’t have it and you’ve got to find a way to win. On Saturday, it was the offence that couldn’t seem to find a rhythm against the Hornets’ zone defence.
The defensive scheme was a holdover from Thursday night’s gameplan for the Hornets. After watching the Raptors light up the scoreboard for three quarters, Charlotte decided to start defending Toronto with a zone. It worked brilliantly for the Hornets who allowed just 12 points to the Raptors in the fourth quarter.
Toronto again couldn’t quite figure out the zone, shooting just 36-for-86 from the field.
Tied with just under a minute to go in the game, the Raptors turned to Lowry to get the win. He got the switch he wanted against Gordon Hayward and nailed the jumper to put Toronto up two. The Hornets mustered one final comeback, cutting Toronto’s lead to just one with 7.5 seconds remaining, but Chris Boucher nailed his clutch free throws and the Raptors survived to clinch another one-possession victory.
Aron Baynes once again got the start for Toronto but again his starting stint didn’t last long. But after a 12-2 start for the Hornets, Nurse decided to give Boucher a shot. Again, Baynes never saw the court again, playing just over four minutes on the night.
Alex Len Out
The Toronto Raptors were without centre Alex Len who was out because of the NBA’s “health and safety protocols.” It was his second straight missed game after being listed as out for “personal reasons” on Thursday.
“I’m not really allowed to comment on those situations,” Nurse said prior to the game. “He is out as you know because of the protocols, and that’s really all the info that I can give you.”
Up Next: Dallas Mavericks
The Raptors will welcome Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis to town at 7:30 p.m. ET on Monday for their first date with the Dallas Mavericks this season.