In a contest that inexplicably remained undecided until the final buzzer, the Toronto Raptors kept the 50-win dream alive with a 101-99 win over the Orlando Magic Friday night. From start to finish, the game was played with all of the ugliness and slop you would expect from an almost-meaningless April contest between a non-playoff team and the Raptors in their current form.
Orlando has 25 wins. They're supposed to be sloppy. But the Raptors' performance on the whole against a team ranked 25th in both Offensive and Defensive Efficiency didn't exactly illicit visions of playoff glory.
Patrick Patterson continued his three-month-long downward spiral towards the mean with a 1-6 night from beyond the arc, dipping to 31 percent from distance since the new year. Terrence Ross will be joining Amir Johnson's Bad Ankles Support Group after leaving the game prematurely. And although Lou Williams drained the game winning corner-three off of a feed from DeMar DeRozan, the overall play from the trio of Williams, Greivis Vasquez and the returning Kyle Lowry wasn't fantastic.
The triumvirate combined to go 12-36 from the field and 4-14 from three. Lowry also played some horrendous defense on Oladipo on the three-pointer that put the Magic ahead 99-98 with 13 seconds to go; he left far too much space in anticipation of a drive, allowing the budding Magic star to drain the triple with ample time and space.
But though it looked grotesque at times, the Raptors won, and there were some promising signs that, if they can be continued, should bode well for the Raptors in their first-round playoff clash.
First, despite having an off shooting night - on and off the court - Jonas Valanciunas was excellent on the glass, teaming up with spot-starter Tyler Hansbrough to haul in 10 of the Raptors' 17 offensive rebounds on the night. The Wizards sit third in the league in Defensive Rebounding Percentage. Should that playoff match-up come to fruition, a string of rebounding performances like tonight's would go a long way for the Raptors.
But the most important development of the night was the reappearance of Angry Kyle Lowry. As mentioned above, he wasn't exactly playing at his early-season level in his first game back from a back ailment. However, for a stretch of a couple minutes in the fourth quarter, Lowry demonstrated the style of play that has endeared himself to Raptors fans so greatly. After a gutsy three-point play, Lowry darted a brilliant entry pass into Chuck Hayes on the next offensive possession. Mix in some tough rebounds and a technical foul earned after a dust up with Evan Fournier, and he looked, at least for a few moments, like the mean and competitive Lowry of old.
If in the final week of the season, Lowry can shake off some rust and find a rhythm, he along with the scorching DeMar DeRozan (another 29 points on 10-21 shooting tonight) might finally give the Raptors something that has been elusive for most of, if not all of this season: a pair of guards playing up to their All-Star capabilities at the same time.
What are your thoughts on tonight's narrow win?