TORONTO — OG Anunoby was having an excellent night when Nicolas Batum swung a hard elbow that caught the Raptors forward square in the face.
Anunoby went down clutching his right eye. Again.
The Raptors forward scored 16 of his 24 points in Toronto’s big third quarter on Monday, and the Raptors went on to rout the Charlotte Hornets 132-96.
But just three games since suffering an eye contusion after being swatted by Los Angeles Clippers star and former teammate Kawhi Leonard, Anunoby was forced out of the game with 53 seconds left in the third quarter, with both plays apparently happening away from the eyes of the officials.
"I wish they’d catch the guy who does it once in a while," said Raptors coach Nick Nurse. "That’s two games he’s been hit in the head and nobody sees anything."
Seven Raptors (9-4) scored in double digits while also producing a franchise-high 40 assists. Pascal Siakam had 20 points, while Norm Powell had 17, Terence Davis chipped in with 16, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 15, and Fred VanVleet and Chris Boucher finished with 11 apiece.
Marvin Williams led Charlotte (6-8) with 14 points.
Anunoby, whose right eye was red in the post-game locker-room, said he’d try wearing a protective mask or goggles at Tuesday’s practice. He wore goggles for a few minutes in a game on Oct. 22 of last season after bruising an orbital bone five days earlier against Cleveland.
"We were just joking about that at the end of the bench towards the end of the game," Hollis-Jefferson. "’Hey, dude you are going to have to wear the Bane mask (from "The Dark Knight Rises" Batman movie) pretty soon just to keep people out your eyes.’ He laughed.
"It’s definitely scary to see but it’s a part of the game."
The Hornets, who were coming off two straight wins, hung around throughout the first half Monday night but the Raptors finally shook them in the third quarter, outscoring Charlotte 32-18 in the frame. Anunoby connected on four of his five three-point attempts in the frame.
"He jump-started us there in the second half," Nurse said. "A couple of them (threes) were dribble to the left late in the clock, those were big, I think that helped us gain a lot of momentum.
"It was good to see him get a boost of confidence and play so great in the second half."
Leading 92-74 to start the fourth, Nurse emptied his bench, and when Davis drilled back-to-back three-pointers, the Raptors led 113-80. Davis contributed 16 straight points for Toronto in a span of three minutes and 41 seconds.
Rookie Dewan Hernandez played his first regular-season minutes for the Raptors. He finished with two points and four rebounds in six minutes.
Toronto, which has struggled on the glass, outrebounded Charlotte 53-37.
"Tonight we really did a good job and chased them down," Nurse said, "but it was on our board as a focus: ‘Win the rebound battle and we win the game’ was kind of what we were saying going into tonight, so they did a good job of taking that from the board to the floor."
The Raptors were back home after winning three of five games on the road, despite missing key players to injury. Nurse said pre-game there was no update on Kyle Lowry, who remains sidelined with a broken left thumb. Serge Ibaka has missed five games with an ankle injury.
Lacking in numbers, the trip was a chance for some of the bench players to shine.
"You get to see some guys that maybe you wouldn’t get to see," Nurse said. "And the second one is you’ve saved some leg power or other things for later, for guys (like Lowry) that would be burning some serious minutes and fuel right now, maybe get to rejuvenate their bodies, other parts of their bodies."
Siakam led the way with eight points, including a pair of threes, in a first quarter that saw Toronto lead by eight before taking a 26-25 advantage into the second.
Hollis-Jefferson provided a spark off the bench with 13 points in the second quarter. A Williams three-pointer gave Charlotte a brief three-point lead, but an 18-6 run put the Raptors up by nine and they took a 60-56 lead into halftime.
Monday marked the beginning of a lengthy home stretch for Toronto — seven of nine games at Scotiabank Arena. The Raptors host the Orlando Magic on Wednesday.