For those of you that are unfamiliar with the term "immigrant mentality," it basically means constantly assuming the worst. Having been a Raptors fan since their inaugural season, my immigrant mentality in terms of expectations has been further solidified by the team's performance over the years, something that wasn't helped by getting swept by the Wizards last year. All of that said: this team, this year's Toronto Raptors are making me a believer.
In a clash marketed as a battle between two of the Eastern Conference's top teams, the Toronto Raptors put in a dominant performance winning 105-91. The team never played from behind, and although Boston managed to keep the game within a few possessions for most of the game getting as close as five to enter the final frame, Kyle Lowry made sure that the Raptors would emerge victorious.
The first quarter can only be described as the Luis Scola Show, as our favourite Argentinian put on an absolute offensive clinic. From his patented step throughs and up-and-unders, to multiple makes from beyond the arc, Scola scored 17 of the Raptors first 28 points. Funnily enough, after single-handedly outscoring the Boston Celtics in the first quarter, Scola failed to score again for the rest of the game.
The rest of the half featured the Toronto basketball that we've become accustomed to seeing this season. With the exception of a short stretch around the five minute mark that included a string of turnovers, the Raptors exhibited good ball movement, and successfully quelled any mini-run that Boston put together. Oh, the second quarter also gave us this gem from Lowry. The push in transition, the slightest of hesitations, cross-over and beautiful finish high off of the glass? Sorry Steph Curry, you're not the only one who can produce magic with a basketball.
The third quarter was basically a see-saw battle, as the Celtics would get within two possessions, only for the Raptors to stretch the lead to low double digits. Unfortunately, the frame ended with momentum on the Celtics' side, as Boston used their tenacious perimeter defense, and a 33 point quarter to cut the lead to five.
All you have to know about the fourth quarter is that it was Lowry time. Kyle not only stretched the lead, but turned the game into a blowout. In the 14-2 run that Toronto used to effectively run away with this game, Lowry was responsible for 11 points, including back-to-back threes. Lowry finished the quarter with 15 points, and the game with a stat line of 32 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds on 9-14 shooting, including a superb 5-8 from distance. I know that Raptors fans have been clamouring about this for the better part of this season, but Lowry belongs in the conversation of top three point guards in the game today. His efficiency and consistency this season has reached a point where when he shoots, I'm surprised if he misses.
With this win, the Raptors go to 47-21 on the season, and end a brutal stretch of four games in five nights with a big win.
- Isaiah Thomas is absolutely lethal when coming downhill. The fact that he's able to make the other athletes that he shares the court with look slow is telling. Also, I don't think I fully appreciated just how good his body control and upper body strength was until this season. Watch him when he drives: he'll drive, hang and absorb contact, before completing a tough finish, or contorting at the last second for a dump off pass.
- Post players that are just starting to play this wonderful sport that we love so much need to watch Bismack Biyombo rebound. The man legitimately fights for position on every rebound, and doesn't take plays off. His effort is contagious.
- "From Stirling, Ontario!" Where does Matt come up with the cities he wants to shout out? Also, eh. I get the whole "plug Canadian cities" thing, but sentences like "he shot that from Hamilton!" just sound awkward to me.
- When the shot clock is winding down, I really don't feel comfortable seeing Cory Joseph with the ball. Although he's played in big games, and has been a welcome addition to this team, he just isn't the fluid, strong ball handler that Lowry, and even DeRozan are. This really showed against aggressive defenders like Avery Bradley, and Marcus Smart, and is something to be wary about heading into playoff time.
Thoughts on the game? I hope you're all as excited about this team as I am.