The Toronto Raptors have a new big man coming to help their push for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
In the meantime, the Raptors won by playing small.
Pascal Siakam scored a career-high 33 points, Fred VanVleet added a career-best 30 and the Raptors rallied after trailing by 17 points in the first half to beat the Atlanta Hawks 119-101 on Thursday night.
Toronto, which pulled within 1 1/2 games of Eastern Conference leader Milwaukee, acquired centre Marc Gasol from Memphis before Thursday’s trade deadline for Jonas Valanciunas, C.J. Miles and Delon Wright, and a 2024 second-round draft pick. The team should learn Friday when to expect Gasol’s arrival.
“There are a lot of positives that come with a guy like Gasol and I think most of them come with being battle-tested,” said Raptors coach Nick Nurse. “He’s got a hell of a career under his belt.”
The Raptors were short-handed after trading four players in two deals. Toronto also traded centre Greg Monroe to the Nets for cash considerations.
Toronto 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.
Atlanta led 66-49 in the second quarter.
“I give them credit, man, they came out guns a blazing,” Nurse said of the Hawks.
After their big deficit, the Raptors used an 11-0 run to launch their comeback. Danny Green, who had 12 points, 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.
The Hawks scored 68 points in the first half and only 33 after halftime.
“We thought it was going to come easy for us in the second half and it didn’t,” said Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce, who added, “Finish has been a key word for us all year. … I thought we were complacent.”
Kyle Lowry had 13 points while making only 3 of 13 shots from the field. He had 13 assists.