CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Pascal Siakam scored 36 points, Fred VanVleet added 20 points and a career-high 20 assists and the Toronto Raptors beat the undermanned Charlotte Hornets 128-108 on Sunday to inch closer to securing a spot in the NBA play-in tournament.
O.G. Anunoby added 23 points for the Raptors, who will clinch a spot if the Brooklyn Nets beat the Utah Jazz later Sunday.
Svi Mykhailiuk scored a career-high 26 points and Mark Williams added 15 points and 12 rebounds for the injury-riddled Hornets, who played without all five of the team’s anticipated starters this season. James Bouknight added 21 points and Theo Maledon had 14 assists.
The Raptors outscored the Hornets 90-44 in the paint in the opener of a two-game series. The teams meet again Tuesday night in Charlotte.
The Raptors (39-39) entered Sunday tied with the Atlanta Hawks for eighth place in the Eastern Conference and looking to move up in the standings to secure a better chance of advancing out of the play-in tournament. The team finishing eighth needs just one victory; the team finishing ninth would need two to reach the postseason as the No. 8 seed.
The Raptors dominated from the start.
VanVleet made his impact felt early, scoring 11 points and assisting on six other baskets in the first quarter as Toronto built a 35-25 lead.
The Hornets (26-53) had nine turnovers in the first half leading to 18 Raptors points, the highlight coming when Scottie Barnes came up with a steal and provided an alley-oop lob to a cutting Precious Achiuwa for a fast-break dunk.
Charlotte cut Toronto’s 18-point lead to 10 midway through the fourth after JT Thor knocked down a corner 3 but Siakam helped the Raptors push the lead safely back to 16 with eight points down the stretch.
Raptors: Turned 18 Charlotte turnovers into 28 points. … Bench was outscored 40-21.
Hornets: Were missing a number of key players including all three point guards in LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier and Dennis Smith Jr., along with Gordon Hayward, P.J. Washington and Cody Martin. … Bouknight now has 11 3-pointers in the last two games.
Steve Reed, The Associated Press