I see the cliché hazard lights coming on, but when a basketball team wins a holiday game by sharing the basketball, you have to 'go there' with your lede:
In the spirit of the holidays, the Raptors shared the basketball with one another, as 31 assists on 42 made field goals powered them to a 111-90 win over the Milwaukee Bucks. The sharing was key to explosive first and fourth quarters, where they outscored the Bucks 47-28.
While it might seem like a copout to suggest that everyone had an impact on this win, that was indeed the case. The Raptors leaders did what they do. DeMar DeRozan continued an impressive run of efficient games, shooting 7-for-14 for a game-high 22 points and eight assists. Kyle Lowry had 16 points and nine assists, attacking and creating primarily in the middle two frames when the Raptors struggled with Milwaukee's size.
Lowry and DeRozan aside, though, the key moment came with both of them on the bench. After that stifling Bucks defense cooled the Raptors in the third quarter, Dwane Casey started the fourth with a "bench" unit made of Cory Joseph, Terrence Ross, DeMarre Carroll (his first game back from injury and on a minutes cap), Patrick Patterson, and Luis Scola.
The lineup proceeded to outscore the Bucks 20-9 in the first six minutes of the fourth, spreading the Bucks bench in dynamic ways. Carroll had a big steal, layup, and three combination to start the quarter. Scola-Ross pick and rolls ended successfully; Scola finishing +31 with 17 points and 11 rebounds and the enigmatic-turned-excellent Ross turning in 21 points on 8-for-13 shooting. Patterson made runners when the Bucks closed aggressively. It was a rare game for the Raptors bench when anything they tried worked, and the team was able to ride that into a blowout finish.
While Carroll's return was welcome -- he had seven points in 18 minutes -- Bismack Biyombo continued to progress in the continued absence of Jonas Valanciunas. We may see Jonas against Chicago in two days time, but how can we live without our starting centre Bi-smacking shots like this one?
Biyombo had his fourth double-double secured just halfway through the second quarter, as he'd finish with 14 points, 12 rebounds and four finger wags.
Beyond individual numbers, it was a welcome sight to see the Raptors passing the ball, even over-passing in some situations. While the team hasn't built success on assists this year -- that's mostly come at the price of working Lowry and DeRozan for All-Star calibre performances -- it'll be key for the Raptors to transition into a more balanced attack if they're going to continue winning come March and April.
For now, they're 19-12 and, at least briefly, second in the Eastern Conference. After a weird run of games last week, following a win like this with a solid effort Monday against the problematic Chicago Bulls will be key.
Any thoughts on this one?