Agbaji helps injured Raptors edge Hornets 111-106; Poeltl was injured in the match

If the Toronto Raptors are going to make it to the NBA play-in tournament without star Scottie Barnes, they’ll have to rely on themselves and each other.

Ochai Agbaji started in place of Barnes and scored 13 points with a career-high nine rebounds as Toronto beat the Charlotte Hornets 111-106 on Sunday. The victory comes two days after Barnes broke his hand in a 120-105 loss to the Golden State Warriors.

“I think the best thing you can do is not put pressure on yourself,” Agbaji said of starting in Barnes’ absence. “It’s easier said than done, obviously, but just trusting (coach Darko Rajakovic).

“Trust him, whatever you do, he fully supports you. You’re building his trust, but you just go out there and play hard and if you’re doing that and you make mistakes going 100 miles an hour, he should be good with that.”

Agbaji has averaged 5.5 points, 1.5 rebounds and 0.9 assists in 13.9 minutes per game since being traded along with center Kelly Olnyk from Kamloops, BC, to Toronto from the Utah Jazz on Feb. 8. He played 32:39 in his first start as a starter. a raptor

“I never take advantage of any opportunity I get, whether it’s five minutes, 30 minutes, whatever, just being in that position, I think that’s where I want to be and making the most of it is what I’m trying to do,” Agbaji said.

Immanuel Quickley had a double-double with 22 points, 11 assists and seven rebounds as Toronto (23-38) ended a two-game skid to win a half-game over the 10th-place Atlanta Hawks for the final spot in the East in the play-in.

The idle Hawks are 3 1/2 games ahead of the Raptors.

“The mindset has to be to come in every day and give everything you have with great effort and great attention to detail,” Quickley said. “Everyone talks about the outcome of the plan, but I think if you put everything you have into it every day, I think that’s the most important part.

“We have to go out and compete as well, but just going out there and whether it’s a practice, a game film session, just being present in that moment and trying to get better in that moment is a big part of winning.”

RJ Barrett of Mississauga, Ont., had 23 points and nine rebounds, while Gary Trent Jr. added 17 points for Toronto.

The short-handed Raptors were dealt another blow when starting center Jakob Poeltl left the game late in the first half with a dislocated left pinky finger. Guard Bruce Brown also missed the game due to inflammation in his right knee.

Rajakovic told Quickley and Barrett before the game that they didn’t need to take any more shots with Barnes out.

“You two are great players,” he said. “You’ll make your shots in the game, just let them come naturally and make sure we have good ball movement.”

Miles Bridges came alive in the third quarter to finish with 20 points as Charlotte (15-46) lost its fourth straight. Brandon Miller and Grant Williams each had a double-double, with Miller scoring 26 and pulling down 10 rebounds and Williams scoring 18 points with 13 rebounds.

Although Poeltl’s departure just before halftime allowed Bridges to drive to the basket (he scored 16 of his points in the third quarter alone), the Raptors were not slowed down. Trent scored 11 points and Barrett added seven points in the fourth as Toronto built an 82-75 lead.

Williams scored eight straight points in the final four minutes of the game to bring the Hornets within two points. Davis Bertans then hit a three-pointer to make the score 103-102 Charlotte.

Quickley made two free throws with 57 seconds left to regain the lead.

With the 19,512 fans at Scotiabank Arena chanting “DE-FENCE!” Barrett got a defensive rebound and Quickley was fouled after dribbling the ball across half court. Quickley made the next two free throws to make the score 106-103 Toronto with 24.6 left.

On Charlotte’s next possession, Bertans made a three-point attempt from the rim and Quickley got the rebound, immediately drawing a foul. Again, he made both free throws.

Williams was fouled when the Hornets were trying to break in and made his only free throw. Miller drove to the net for an uncontested layup when Charlotte finally came down the field and Trent was fouled in Toronto possession. He made one of his two free throws and then stole the ball for an easy layup that marked the final score of the game.

Until next time

The Raptors host the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday.

Charlotte hosts the Orlando Magic on Tuesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 3, 2024.

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