The Raptors dominated yet another Eastern Conference minnow at the Air Canada Centre on Friday in a 99-78 rout of the Bobcats.
Here are some thoughts on the game:
- Like a lot of these big wins lately, the Raptors controlled the game from the opening tip and never looked back. After starting the game on a 10-2 run and outscoring the Bobcats by 13 in the first quarter, the Raptors opened up a 20-point lead early in the second quarter and never let Charlotte closer than 14 the rest of the way.
- It was the second straight wire to wire victory for the Raptors, who have now won 10 of 13 games by mostly dominating weak competition that they should be beating. Other than the disappointing loss to the Kings last Friday, the only other teams to beat the Raptors over the last four weeks have been the Spurs and Thunder.
- The competition hasn’t exactly been offensively gifted, but how about this…
Correction: Raptors allow less than 80 points in back-to-back wins for the first time since Jan 4-7, 2004 #RTZ
— Check The Ticker (@ChecktheTicker) January 12, 2013
Toronto has now held opponents under 100 points in 11 of their last 14 games, and dating back to the tough home loss to the Nets that started this stretch of improved play, the Raptors are holding opponents under 45 per cent from the field.
- I know I mentioned that I was hoping to see a tight rotation in the pre-game thread, but a blowout victory isn’t the time to run up your key players’ minutes, so I was fine with the fact that 11 of 12 available players got some burn (only Mickael Pietrus finished as a DNP-CD), with John Lucas III getting some run for the game’s final few minutes.
I’m conflicted with respect to the 23:05 Ed Davis logged in this game, though. On one hand, Davis has emerged as a key player for this team, especially while their frontcourt remains thin, so I can understand why Dwane Casey might be trying to keep him off the floor in blowouts. On the other hand, Ed is still a young big man that needs time to develop and I would have liked to see him get at least 30 minutes in such a breeze of a game.
- One positive that came out of Davis’ reduced minutes was an extended look at Quincy Acy, who actually logged over 18 minutes of action and first entered the game in the first quarter. Acy’s offence is still a major work in progress and he picked up four fouls in those 18 minutes, but his defence looks more than NBA-ready (his D against DeMarcus Cousins last Friday left me impressed as well) and his hustle on the glass could earn him more looks over the next little while. Quincy finished with six points, six rebounds and two blocks.
- After playing just 17 minutes against the 76ers on Wednesday, Kyle Lowry actually logged the majority of minutes at the point tonight (25:14 to Calderon’s 22:46), but it was his supportive enthusiasm on the bench that I noticed. You’ll remember that I mentioned on Wednesday that the whole “leaving early” and “not speaking to the media” thing was probably blown out of proportion that night. Well tonight, Lowry could be seen jumping up and down, hollering and waving a towel in support of Jose Calderon and whoever else was on the floor while he manned the bench. I’m sure there’s an eventual line in the sand, but for right now, Lowry seems content with his role on a rolling team.
As for his on court productivity, I’d still like to see Lowry attack the basket more. He doesn’t have to start playing hero ball or looking for his shot on every possession, and I do appreciate his efforts in trying to get his teammates going (especially Acy), but unlike Calderon, Lowry is at his best when he’s breaking defences down and putting the opposition under pressure. He hasn’t been doing enough of that lately and the Raptors will need him to once the schedule gets tougher next week.
- Calderon had the better game again, but as a tandem, he and Lowry combined for 24 points and 12 assists in the 48 minutes at the point for Toronto.
- The fundamentally sound combination of Ed Davis and Amir Johnson, meanwhile, combined for 25 points on 11-of-21 shooting to go along with 16 rebounds and three blocks, but it was their swarming defensive presence inside that really impacted this game from the onset.
- Landry Fields still can’t hit the broad side of a barn with his shot (he went 2/8 tonight), but he continues to rack up rebounds while proving to be a dynamic defender for coach Casey, as Fields can be seen guarding up to three or four positions on some nights. His second straight 11-rebound performance as the starting small forward makes it 46 rebounds over the last six games for Landry.
- It’s a shame that Terrence Ross only finished with seven points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals in 14:36 of playing time, because the rookie actually recorded all seven of those points, one rebound, one assist and one steal in his first three minutes of floor time tonight, which included this.
- I’m not going to lie, I’m taking a lot of pleasure in how pitiful the Bobcats are again. The reason being that when Charlotte got off to their “hot” start (can 7-5 really be considered hot?), I continued to write, talk and tweet about how bad this team still was, and I maintained that they would still lose 55-60 games this season despite that start. A lot of people wrote my Bobcats pessimism off as me being a “hater” or just a bitter Raptors fan, but if you actually watched any of those first 12 games, you’ll know that the ‘Cats had no business winning seven of them, and are much more in line with their 2-21 record since then than they were with their 7-5 start.
- As you may have heard, there were quite a few people booing during the final few seconds of this game because the Raptors finished stuck on 99 points – one shy of getting those disappointed fans a free slice of pizza. The majority of fans in attendance stood and applauded the effort to wind down the clock, but those that actually did boo are a disgrace to the real basketball fans in this city, and I don’t say that lightly. If you boo your home team after a 21-point victory because they fell one point short of getting you a free slice of pizza, or whatever the equivalent is in pro sports venues across North America, then you’re a disgrace to real sports fans in general.
As for what the organization can do to prevent said disgraceful fans from getting a chance to act like this in the future, I maintain that they should try changing the promotion to free pizza whenever the Raptors hold opponents under 100 points. At least that way, the passion will manifest itself in fans cheering for Raptors defence despite a big late lead (which would actually be kind of cool) as opposed to foolish fans booing their own team in victory for dribbling out the clock or for missing a meaningless end of game jumper.
Raptors Player Of the Game: Amir Johnson – 13 Pts, 6/10 FG, 1/2 FT, 8 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Stl, 2 Blk, 1 TO in 30:49
Bobcats Player Of the Game: Kemba Walker – 12 Pts, 4/10 FG, 0/1 3PT, 4/6 FT, 8 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Stl, 2 TO in 29:22
With the win tonight, the Raptors move within a half-game of Philadelphia for ninth in the East. More importantly, with the Pistons beating the Bucks, Toronto is now 4.5 games behind Milwaukee – their next opponent – for the eighth and final playoff spot. There will still be 45 games remaining on the schedule after Sunday afternoon’s matchup with the Bucks at the ACC, but it will be a solid litmus test for the Raptors, who will either be 3.5 games out or 5.5 games out by the end of that contest.
In addition, Sunday’s homestand-ending game against the Bucks will be the Raptors’ first of seven straight games against either winning teams, on the road or against the Lakers. Suffice to say, it’s as big as game no. 37 can get.