Short-Handed Raptors Beat Trae Young, Hawks; Kawhi Leonard Sits with Knee Injury

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistFebruary 8, 2019

ATLANTA, GA - FEBRUARY 7: Pascal Siakam #43 of the Toronto Raptors goes up for dunk against the Atlanta Hawks on February 7, 2019 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images)
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The Toronto Raptors continued to roll even without Kawhi Leonard, earning a 119-101 win over the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday. 

Leonard was out with a sore knee, per Eric Koreen of The Athletic, but Pascal Siakam stepped up with 33 points and 13 rebounds in the road win at State Farm Arena. Fred VanVleet had 30 points and Kyle Lowry added 13 points and 15 assists as Toronto overcame a slow start in which they trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half.

The team's third straight victory improves its record to 40-16, matching the Milwaukee Bucks for the most wins in the NBA.

Trae Young had 19 points and five assists while the Hawks fell to 18-36 on the season.

        

Raptors Can't Let Depth Become A Weakness After Trades

Although the Raptors clearly have a lot of talent on the roster, arguably their biggest strength has been their depth. There were seven players on the team averaging at least 9.7 points per game and about a dozen players were capable of helping out in some way.

Toronto traded away five players while adding only Marc Gasol.

Jonas Valanciunas, Delon Wright and CJ Miles were in the deal with the Memphis Grizzlies, via Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Greg Monroe and Malachi Richardson were traded for cash considerations.

Gasol is an upgrade over Jonas Valanciunas at center and makes the team more dangerous in the Eastern Conference playoffs. However, there are also questions about what had been the squad's biggest strength.

With Leonard sidelined and Gasol not yet in uniform, the Raptors were down to a nine-man rotation against the Hawks. This included Jordan Loyd and Patrick McCaw, who had played a combined 16 games all season coming into Thursday.

The starters did their job, but the bench combined for 19 points, seven coming in the final few minutes. The group had just seven combined points at halftime.

This comes after the benched scored 37 points in a road win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday. The difference was a major reason for the struggles against the Hawks.

While things are easier with Leonard healthy, he has already missed 15 of 56 games this season. Without added depth, the team could struggle to keep up with the other top teams in the Eastern Conference during the regular season. 

The most important thing the Raptors can do now is fill up the roster with veterans who get waived in the coming days. Wayne Ellington, Wesley Matthews, Enes Kanter and Wade Baldwin IV are among those who either have already been waived or could be soon and could help Toronto.

Filling the third point guard spot and adding wing depth behind Leonard will be especially important going forward.

        

What's Next?

The Hawks will continue their seven-game homestand with a matchup against the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday. The Raptors will have one day off before taking on the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

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