Kyle Lowry’s return to being Kyle Lowry continued, but the Basketball Gods decided that we still haven’t seen enough heartbreaking losses at home, as the Raptors fell in a two-point overtime thriller in front of 18,674.
Here are some thoughts on the game:
- I mentioned Lowry’s return to doing Lowry things above. Well after his fourth quarter explosion last night in Brooklyn, Kyle faced similar deficits when he checked in for Jose Calderon tonight, as Jose and the starters dug various holes in this one, but the big one was a 19-point hole in the third quarter. Lowry checked back in with 5:35 remaining in the third and didn’t sit down the rest of the way as he, along with players like Alan Anderson and Quincy Acy, led the Toronto comeback that ended in crushing fashion in overtime. When it was all said and done, Klow finished with 26 points on only 15 field goal attempts (11 free throw attempts) to go along with seven assists, five rebounds, two steals and zero turnovers.
Kyle Lowry is back, and it’s only a matter of time before he eventually reclaims his starting spot. That’s not a shot at Calderon, who had a bad game tonight, but it is necessary for the franchise to eventually move forward (For more on that, Zach Lowe wrote an in depth piece for Grantland on Wednesday).
- The overall effort from the Raptors on the second night of a back-to-back against two tough teams was admirable, but they also made some bad decisions down the stretch. There was the play with 25 seconds remaining in regulation where Carlos Boozer was defending without a shoe, and instead of attacking him, the Raptors called a timeout. There was the couple of times in overtime that Kyle Lowry seemed to pass up a chance to get into the lane to give the ball to Amir Johnson, who was covered by defensive stalwart Joakim Noah. There was the bad defensive decision by DeMar DeRozan towards the end of overtime to pressure Marco Belinelli and eventually take a needless foul.
On top of all that, there was a big missed free throw here and there down the stretch from Lowry, Amir Johnson and Alan Anderson, who combined to shoot 12-of-19 from the stripe.
- I’m fully aware that complaining about officiating in a close game is the stuff of homers, but come on, that was some shoddy, shoddy reffing (and I’ve also mocked poor officiating that benefits the Raptors this season). There were plenty of horrible calls on both sides tonight, but the two that stand out were the final two calls/non-calls of the game. First, Luol Deng scored the winning basket on what looked like a clear offensive foul (Deng pushed off on Landry Fields directly in front of a ref), and then on the next play, Amir Johnson looked to be fouled in the act, which would have put Amir at the line with a chance to tie, but the foul was called on the floor and the Raptors were forced to put up a potential game-tying shot out of an in-bounds with one second remaining.
Again, there was more to this loss than just poor officiating, but said officiating also certainly played a part, and we’ve been able to say that about too many close losses this season.
- The Raptors’ bench was huge tonight, as the second unit outscored Chicago’s bench 66-18 and actually outscored Toronto’s starters 66-39, thanks in large part to Lowry’s 26 and Alan Anderson’s 27 points on 10-of-18 shooting. Unfortunately for the Raptors, Anderson fouled out in overtime.
- One of those bench players that really stepped up for the Raptors was Quincy Acy, who seems to be developing some nice chemistry with Lowry. Acy finished with his best game as a pro so far, posting eight points on 4-of-4 shooting to go with six rebounds, a steal and a block in just 14:50 of playing time. Acy also drew four charges on the night, which factored into the Raptors’ second half comeback and into getting Carlos Boozer into foul trouble.
- I was critical of DeMar DeRozan in Tuesday’s loss to Brooklyn, and he wasn’t much better tonight. After hitting six of his first seven shots – which were mostly long twos – DeRozan went 1-of-7 the rest of the way and rarely attacked the rim en route to a so-so performance of 18 points in 40 minutes. DeMar also only grabbed three rebounds and added one measly assist while turning the ball over a couple of times and finishing as -12 on the night. Players are going to struggle through slumps, but the Raptors need DeRozan to fight through it and come up at least a little bigger in games like this.
- The usually reliable combination of Ed Davis and Amir Johnson didn’t have memorable nights either, as the pair combined for an ugly 16 points on 7-of-21 shooting to go with nine fouls and five turnovers (four of those turnovers belonged to Amir). Johnson did grab the offensive rebound that led to his game-tying free throw at the end of regulation though…he also missed what would have been the game-winner.
- Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls deserve a ton of praise for their strong first half of the season. Sure, they’ve lost some weird home games to inferior teams and have blown their fair share of second half leads, but at the end of the day, how many teams could start the season 22-15 without their franchise player? I wouldn’t be surprised if when it’s all said and done, Chicago wins close to 50 games this season and Thibodeau is in the hunt for another Coach Of the Year award. In fact, if you ask me, the Bulls have as good a chance as anyone to finish second in the East, and if they can get Derrick Rose back to full health before the playoffs start, they are the only team that has a fighting chance to stop the Heat’s reign atop the Conference.
Raptors Player Of the Game: Kyle Lowry – 26 Pts, 8/15 FG, 2/4 3PT, 8/11 FT, 5 Reb, 7 Ast, 2 Stl in 34:29
Bulls Player of the Game: Carlos Boozer – 36 Pts, 16/24 FG, 0/1 3PT, 4/4 FT, 12 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 TO in 40:33 (Boozer has actually had a pretty good season so far while everyone complains about his game, including me.)
With the loss, the Raptors drop their third straight for the first time in over a month and fall 11 games under .500. In other words, we’ve officially reached that point where no one should be looking at the standings or talking about playoff races anymore until, like before, the Raptors actually get themselves back into some kind of race.
Because right now, they’re not in one.