Toronto Raptors cruise to victory in Atlanta

DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 01: Fred Vanleet
DENVER, CO - NOVEMBER 01: Fred Vanleet /

The well-rested Toronto Raptors jumped out to a big lead early against the Atlanta Hawks and never looked back, as they improved to 15-11 on the road this season.

After fading in the second half in Minnesota on Saturday, the three-day break came at a good time for the Toronto Raptors. As a result, they look energized on Wednesday night against the Atlanta Hawks and came away with an overpowering 108-93 win.

The victory would have been even more convincing, if the Raptors hadn’t taken their foot off the pedal in the final quarter. At one point, they led by 32 points.

Jonas Valanciunas rebounded from a frustrating performance against the Timberwolves. As per Sports Illustrated, Raptors coach Dwane Casey gave the big man credit for setting the tone with a high-energy display.

Valanciunas finished with 16 points and 13 boards — along with three assists and three blocks — to secure his sixth double-double in 10 games. He continues to show excellent efficiency, despite averaging the fewest minutes of his six-year NBA career.

Another player who stepped up for the Toronto Raptors, was Fred VanVleet. The 23-year-old led the team with 19 points and five dimes, while also grabbing seven rebounds and tying Valanciunas with three blocks.

Refreshingly, VanVleet preferred to concentrate on the team performance as a whole. As reported by Doug Smith of the Toronto Star, the point guard said:

"“I think we got back to our defensive fundamentals. A little bit better rhythm within our offence, passing the ball, we had it moving a little better. Guys were able to knock down shots and just play unselfish basketball.”"

Making the Raptors’ win even more impressive, was the fact it came on a night when DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry combined for only 23 points, as they shot just 31.8 percent from the floor. In fairness, the performance of the duo was likely impacted by there being no need to step up their respective games.

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Regardless, it’s always important when the Raptors are able to show they can win without relying on their two All-Stars. As a team, Toronto had 14 three-pointers, 12 blocks and 10 steals on the night.

About the only negative — if you really want to call it that — against the Hawks, was the play of the backups towards the end of the game. As reported by the Associated Press via CBC Sports, Casey said:

"“It was a letdown at the end. I was disappointed at the way that last group went in. It’s a game of habits and that’s what I just told the young guys. … You create bad habits and it shows up in weird places.”"

Overall though, despite understanding Casey’s point, Wednesday was a night to celebrate a fine rebound from the weekend’s loss in Minnesota. With the win, the Toronto Raptors improve to 32-14 on the season.

As a result, the Raptors are 1.5 games behind the Boston Celtics and five ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers, as the three teams battle for supremacy at the top of the Eastern Conference. Toronto now returns home to prepare to host the Utah Jazz on Friday night.

Next: DeRozan's All-Star selection speaks volumes

What stood out for you most on Wednesday night in Atlanta? Who impressed you for the Toronto Raptors? Did anyone play poorly in your opinion? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.