Fred VanVleet and the Toronto Raptors have not always had the easiest going of things in the 2023 NBA season. A year that was supposed to see them improve on the 48 wins they complied during the previous campaign has instead turned into them trying everything possible to sneak into the play-in tournament.
Even with all of the disappointment and Nick Nurse-created uncertainty surrounding this team, it is nice to see the back in the postseason picture, even if on the periphery. While some fans may have wanted to tank, it’s hard to begrudge a team like Toronto for trying to win games consistently with the resources that they have.
The Raptors had their chance to solidify themselves as a play-in participant if they were able to take care of business against a Charlotte Hornets team that has been playing much better basketball on the defensive end of late. Luckily for Toronto, VanVleet and the rest of the offense kicked into high gear.
The Raptors withstood some hot Charlotte shooting and pulled off a nice 128-108 victory. VanVleet led the charge, scoring 20 points and setting a new Raptors franchise record with 20 assists in one game. With this result, the Raptors are just a Nets win away from clinching a play-in tournament spot.
Fred VanVleet breaks Toronto Raptors record for assists in win vs. Hornets
This result wasn’t just VanVleet taking control of the game. Pascal Siakam was up to his usual tricks with 36 points on 16-24 shooting, OG Anunoby managed to chip in a very tidy 23 points, and the dynamic duo off the bench in Chris Boucher and Precious Achiuwa put forth some solid efforts.
It still remains to be seen which seed Toronto will end up with in the play-in as they keep jostling back and forth for control of the No. 8 seed with the similarly mediocre Atlanta Hawks. No. 9 would guarantee them a home playoff game against (likely) the Chicago Bulls, while No. 8 would allow them to lose the first contest and remain alive.
Toronto has four more games left to put themselves in the best possible position. They will take on Charlotte one more time before a grueling road doubleheader against the mighty Celtics before ending the season at home against the Bucks. It’s not easy, but the Raptors should be up for the challenge.
While this is clearly not where Toronto wanted to be at the start of the season, and the odds of this team pulling off a ridiculous upset aren’t exactly in their favor, the Raptors now have the assurance that they will get a crack at the postseason in an attempt to make it for the fourth time in Nurse’s tenure as coach.