Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan capped off their All-Star campaigns with such an emphatic stamp that they're now the front runners in Iowa.
The first three quarters of Monday's 112-100 win over the Nets were damn ugly. Toronto was sluggish defensively and noted old man Joe Johnson turned the clock back to April 2014. It's a script we've seen somewhat routinely with the Raptors this year - allowing an inferior opponent to hang on for long enough that it starts to become uncomfortable. But as the story has gone all too regularly this year, the Raptors' should-be All-Stars were too good to let it this one slip away.
Lowry boosted the absurdity even beyond his lofty standards against the Baskets. He bombed three-ball upon three-ball, shooting a Curry-esque 7-for-9 from long range and 10-for-13 overall for 31 points.
Lowry's TS% that game? 99%. Lowry's season high TS% before this game? 78.5%. Dominant.— Shoppers Thugmart (@IamHarshDave) January 19, 2016
He added 8 assists as well, and was the propeller of literally everything the Raptors did to kick off their 31-16 fourth quarter dismantling of the Hoops:
Kyle Lowry has scored or assisted on every Raptors basket in the fourth. He’s got 28 points on 12 FGA and eight assists.— Holly MacKenzie (@stackmack) January 19, 2016
That tweet from Holly MacKenzie came just after the halfway point of the fourth. Lowry took over, and had Matt Devlin in a frantic tizzy trying to fit as many #NBAVotes into broadcast as possible.
DeRozan was great too, in more of an old-school DeRozan-y way than we've typically seen this season. Sure, his whip-smart passing and persistent attacking of the rim were still prominent, but he also incorporated some of the immensely difficult jump shots that have drawn ire in the past. Tonight was a reminder that DeRozan is one of the few guys who can connect on those looks with some regularity. It's not something we should hope to see a lot more of going forward, but it was cool to see the full DeRepertoire on Monday night.
He also did this:
DeMar DeRozan goes up-and-under! https://t.co/vr85X9Qf05— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) January 19, 2016
As outstanding as Lowry and DeRozan were tonight, they weren't the only ones who helped the Raps stomp the Nylon Meshes.
The bench produced yet another strong showing, something that's becoming an encouraging trend. Terrence Ross had a trifecta of mean fast-break dunks and Patrick Patterson's season got another dose of revitalizing shock therapy. In fact, just five Raptors posted positive plus/minus numbers on the night: Lowry and the four second unit guys - that was the unit that turned the tide for Toronto at the start of the fourth quarter.
That bench we were all so concerned about once upon a time... well, this 4-0 (likely 5-0) stretch over last 2 weeks doesn't happen w/o them— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) January 19, 2016
Of course, as with most games, there was some bad for the Raptors. Jonas Valanciunas repeatedly struggled to close out on the hot shooting Brook Lopez, who rained fire from the mid-range all night.
Additionally, Luis Scola went 1-for-6, Lowry played 40 minutes against the second worst team in the Eastern Conference and the defense was in disarray for 36 minutes - but we're picking nits here. This was a solid win on the first game back after a long road-trip, the fifth straight for the team.
There was a lot to like about the Raptors first 41 games: the improved defense (quarters 1-3 tonight notwithstanding), the consistently humming offense, the slow-but-steady rounding into form of Terrence Ross, Skinny Lowry, pass-happy DeRozan, fun new additions, a slew of wins over excellent teams and a record setting win-pace among other things.
With everything that's gone right to this point, there is real reason to believe things are going to be different for this team in the back half of this year's schedule. This time last year we were in the early days of Toronto's tumble from its 2014-'15 climax. But with DeRozan and Lowry playing as well as they are and the schedule getting set to soften like Downy, there's little reason to believe the Raptors are projecting anywhere but up.
What did you think of tonight's win over the Brooklyn Inanimate Objects?