TAMPA, Fla. — Chris Boucher had 25 points and 10 rebounds off the bench and the Toronto Raptors held on to beat the Charlotte Hornets 111-108.
Fred VanVleet had 17 points, while Kyle Lowry added 16 for the Raptors (3-8), who nearly gave away another game over the dying minutes. Pascal Siakam chipped in with 15 points, while OG Anunoby had 13, and Norman Powell finished with 11.
Terry Rozier had 22 points to top the Hornets (6-7), who were on a second night of a back-to-back, having lost 104-93 to Dallas on Wednesday.
Toronto had an 18-point lead late in the third quarter, and was up 99-86 to start the fourth, but the Raptors, whose strength used to be strong finishes, have been fizzling down the stretch this season.
The Raptors went scoreless for nearly five minutes to start the fourth, allowing the Hornets to pull within five points. The Raptors' hustle on the offensive glass made up for their poor shooting, and Boucher's rebound and tip-in with 4:03 gave Toronto an eight-point cushion.
Rozier's basket had Charlotte within three, but Lowry found Boucher under the hoop for an easy dunk and a five-point lead heading into the final minute. After LaMelo Ball's big dunk sliced the difference to just three, the Hornets regained possession with 9.8 seconds to play, but Rozier's wide open three-pointer missed the mark, sealing the victory for Toronto.
The Raptors were back at their temporary home base in Tampa after going 1-3 on a western road trip, losing their two previous games to Golden State and Portland by just one point in each.
If there was a theme to the losses, coach Nick Nurse said his team needed to be better protecting leads.
"I don't know if there's a point in the game where we could rev it up a gear when we've got a nice lead. When we've got a 10- or 12-point lead, can our shot selection improve? Can we get a little stingier and string up even more consecutive stops that got us that lead in the first place?"
The Raptors offence was solid off the start. They shot 60 per cent from the field and 57 per cent from distance in the first quarter, and Boucher's sidestep three-pointer with 0.3 left in the frame gave Toronto a 35-34 edge to end the quarter.
Toronto buckled down on the defensive end in the second, and when rookie Malachi Flynn pitched a long pass to Boucher for an easy basket midway through the quarter the Raptors went up by 15. VanVleet's three-pointer with 2.3 seconds left sent the Raptors into the halftime break with a 71-62 advantage.
Stanley Johnson's three late in the third had the Raptors up 97-79, their biggest lead of the game.
Centre Aron Baynes played for the first time since sitting three straight games, as Nurse continues to tinker with that position, but the big man had just two points in seven minutes, and Boucher started the second half in his place.
The Raptors' other centre Alex Len missed the game due to personal reasons.
The game was played in front of no fans at Amalie Arena. The Raptors had been one of the few teams in the league permitting a limited number of fans, but amid rising COVID-19 case numbers in western Florida, Vinik Sports Group which owns the Tampa Bay Lightning, announced that no fans would be allowed at NHL or NBA games at Amalie for at least the next few weeks.
The Raptors play the Hornets again on Saturday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 14, 2021.
The Canadian Press