How many times have we been on the other side of the equation in close games like these? Heartbreaking losses are seemingly embedded into the fabric of the Toronto Raptors. In a huge Atlantic Division matchup, the Raptors showed remarkable resilience to go toe to toe with the Brooklyn Nets and eke out the W.
The loss of DeMar DeRozan and subsequent explosion by Terrence Ross had many of us wondering how the dynamic of the Raptors would change going forward. There was certainly reason to believe the Raptors could remain competitive without DD; and as we saw today, the key player on this team is not DeRozan, but Kyle Lowry.
Lowry and Ross got the Raptors off to a flying start offensively, pitching in 17 points between them and also contributing solidly on the defensive end. The Nets kept it tight, with Andray Blatche and Deron Williams effective off the bench as they took a 26-25 lead after the first quarter. The Raptors bench did an admirable job in holding the fort in the 2nd quarter. Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez were particularly provided some timely scoring to bail out the Raptors when Lowry got into foul trouble. The Nets, however, were still torching the Raptors defense. Pierce, Blatche and Deron Williams scored an efficient 10, 12 and 9 points. Lowry hit an ridiculous 3/4 court three pointer to give the Raptors a 57-56 lead at halftime.
The third quarter saw Jonas Valanciunas do some fine work down low, as he contribute 10 points in 3 rebounds in the frame. The Raptors were doing a fine job distributing the scoring load. Five different players were in double figures at this point. Defense remained an issue and the Nets led 82-81 going into the final frame. The back and forth battle continued in the fourth quarter. Paul Pierce hit some BIG 3 pointers to give the the Nets a one-point lead with under a minute left. Kyle Lowry was victimized by a dubious offensive foul call that threatened to add this game to the growing list of heartbreaking Raptors' losses. And then something funny happened. After exchanging 2 free throws for a layup, Deron Williams' inbound pass was intercepted by Patrick Patterson, who subsequently hit the game-winning jumper with 6 seconds left. Big, character-building win for the Raptors.
- Kyle Lowry: The Raptors' true All Star. What more can you say about him? On a day where we heard trade rumours resurface, Lowry showed his value to this team's playoff aspirations. He was assertive, showed great defensive intensity, and showed some true leadership qualities in helping the Raptors eke this one out. 32 points, 7 assists, 5 rebounds, 5 steals. Massive.
- Jonas Valanciunas: It's been a rough couple of weeks for JV. He needed this one for his confidence badly. He showed a nice array of post moves when he got deep post position, and did a good job of cleaning up on the glass (offensive and defensive). 20 points, 13 rebounds.
- The Bench: Namely, Patrick Patterson and Greivis Vasquez. Vasquez gave some valuable relief minutes at the guard position in DD's absence. Patterson hit the huge bucket to win the game, and continues to be more effective than Amir Johnson at the 4.
- Steve Novak: Maybe it's just one of those games, but YOU'RE ON THIS TEAM FOR ONE REASON. 0-5 shooting in 22 minutes and horrid defence to boot.
- Team Defence: Not a great performance after that Clippers game defensive debacle. Paul Pierce turned back the clock 10 years for his 33 points. Brooklyn hit 11 3 pointers at a 46% clip. Andray Blatche once again torched the Raptors for 18 points off the bench.