Siakam the star, as the Raptors were buoyant after the Trade Deadline
Pascal Siakam scored a career-high 33 points. Fred VanVleet added a career-best 30 as the Toronto Raptors rallied, after trailing by 17 points in the first half to beat the Atlanta Hawks 119-101 on Thursday night.
The Raptors were short-handed after trading four players in two deals before the deadline. They used only nine players and relied heavily on Siakam, who also had 13 rebounds, and VanVleet with All-Star Kawhi Leonard resting.
Rookie Trae Young and Taurean Price each had 19 points for Atlanta.
Toronto began the night two games behind Eastern Conference leader Milwaukee, and had acquired centre Marc Gasol from Memphis before Thursday’s trade deadline for Jonas Valanciunas, C.J. Miles and Deion Wright.
The Raptors also traded centre Greg Monroe to the Nets for cash considerations.
Atlanta led 66-49 in the second quarter before the Raptors used an 11-0 run to launch their comeback. Danny Green sank three free throws to cap the run.
Toronto kept the momentum in the third quarter and led 88-85 entering the final period. The Raptors opened the fourth quarter with a 13-3 run to extend the lead in their third straight win.
Kyle Lowry had 13 points while making only 3 of 13 shots from the field. He had 13 assists.
The Hawks are expected to release two players acquired in separate deals, Shelvin Mack and Jabari Bird. The Hawks traded Tyler Dorsey to Memphis for Mack and acquired Bird and cash from the Celtics. Bird hasn’t played this season after being charged with assault.
Siakam wound up playing 41 minutes of the 48-minute game. Lowry, who has been dealing with a bad back off-and-on since late December, turned in 36 hard minutes before the lead got to a point that Nurse was able to get both he and Siakam out of the game for the final three.
“I wasn’t warring with myself very much at all tonight,” Nurse admitted of the minutes piling up for his short-handed roster. “I was just trying to get that W. The game is here in front of you and it’s a game to win. Not until there were about three minutes to go did I say: ‘What am I doing here? Get these guys out!
“There was a lineup that was grooving and Pascal was part of it. He ran a long stretch there. And Freddy was part of it, he ran a long stretch there, so we let ’em roll.”
VanVleet, another guy dealing with some off-and-on back trouble for much of the year, also put in a big effort playing 37 minutes.
Nurse seemed to think he looked like a guy getting back to health. VanVleet was only too happy to play along with that narrative.
“No, not even close, but let’s run with that story,” VanVleet said of his perceived health. “Maybe we speak it into existence and it will help some things out. Honestly, it was just guys finding me and one of those games. Usually, I just take what the defence gives me except for the last three minutes of the game when I was hunting for that 30. Teammates were finding me and I was able to get some to fall.”
Next up for the Raptors is the New York Knicks on Saturday evening.