Welcome to the 10 things recap by theScore features writer William Lou, which serves to highlight emerging trends from a Raptors perspective.
Dangerous: The Raptors completely played down to the competition but still made enough plays at the end to secure the win. It's not a great way to play, but it's also understandable - the Raptors were coming off two emotional wins over Milwaukee and Indiana and most likely looked past the Hawks.
Clutch: It's not often that a game can be won with a screen, but that's exactly how Kyle Lowry created the go-ahead bucket. Lowry set a blind - yet entirely clean - screen in transition on an unsuspecting John Collins, which knocked the sophomore to the floor for the rest of the possession. That created a five-on-four opportunity, and Lowry quickly reversed the ball to Serge Ibaka for the dunk to give the Raptors a late lead.
Defense: Kawhi Leonard also chipped in with two game-saving stops. First, he sparked the fast break on the aforementioned play by reaching across DeAndre' Bembry and picking him off on the drive. On the ensuing possession, Leonard took on Trae Young and blocked him at the rim to secure the win. He even busted out a Tiger Woods-esque muted fist pump as the final buzzer sounded.
Clever: Credit Nick Nurse for switching Leonard onto Young for the final possession. The Hawks had previously found success with Young blowing past both Lowry and Fred VanVleet, but no such space could be found around the two-time Defensive Player of the Year.
Creative: Nurse effectively deployed his infamous zone defense for an extended stretch in the third quarter. The scheme forced the Raptors to lock in and take responsibility on defense, and they caught the Hawks off guard by forcing them into careless turnovers. Atlanta eventually figured it out and started creating open looks, but that brief shot in the arm helped the Raptors finally wake up.
Chemistry: In addition to his 31 points and the two clutch stops, Leonard also recorded six assists and played a great two-man game with Pascal Siakam. Leonard found him with an ambitious outlet pass in transition, connected with Siakam on a baseline cut, and worked a post up into a drive-and-dish for an easy finish by Siakam at the dunker spot.
Hustle: Anunoby's tireless work rate stood out during a night where his teammates mostly slacked. He thrived while playing with the starting unit, was active defensively throughout, confidently drilled two threes, and triggered the game-winning sequence by quickly reversing the ball - which led to the open dunk for Ibaka. Anunoby's struggles with the bench are well-documented, but it's encouraging that he still has the same connection with the starters who he played with for most of last year.
Disappointing: It's too bad that Greg Monroe is squandering this golden opportunity to play an expanded role in Jonas Valanciunas' absence. He couldn't even stay on the floor in a favorable matchup against Dewayne Dedmon and the Hawks, which really calls into question the long-term viability of Monroe in the modern NBA.
Waste: Jeremy Lin is too good to be wasting his last prime years with a tanking team. Lin scored 20 points and recorded nine assists on 8-of-10 shooting as he meticulously picked the Raptors apart in the pick-and-roll. He should be a prime trade candidate, or at the very least, a sought-after commodity on the buyout market.
Finality: Vince Carter received a standing ovation in what could be his last return to Toronto. Carter said before the game that he could still keep going, and his numbers remain solid despite the absurd mileage on his body, but his future is far from guaranteed. Regardless, whenever Carter calls it quits, he'll have a home in Toronto - where his legendary career began.