Raptors Report: Week 4
With the city of Toronto buzzing from the Argonauts making the Grey Cup and the Blue Jays completing a massive trade, the Raptors looked to keep up the momentum when they invaded the City of Brotherly Love to take on the 76ers. Kyle Lowry returned to the lineup after missing the past 6 games with a foot injury. Lowry would play limited minutes and came off the bench to relieve Jose Calderon, who had been playing exceptionally well going into Philly. The Raptors started out on fire, shooting well and playing with high energy on the defensive end, leading to numerous run out opportunities and easy baskets. 76ers coach Doug Collins burned an early timeout and his team settled down. The Raps still led 29-22 after one quarter. The second period was back and forth, but towards the end of the stanza, Philadelphia seized control and went on a run to knot the score at 51 heading into the locker room. Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas and DeMar DeRozan were all big contributors in the third quarter as Toronto restored their seven-point lead entering the fourth. As has been the case in so many games this season, the Raptors were not able to close out the game and turn in a good performance in the last 12 minutes of the contest as they fell 106-98. DeRozan poured in a game high 24 points, but it was not enough. Jonas Valanciunas had a big game with 11 points and 11 rebounds, but curiously did not see any action in the fourth quarter.
Following their late game collapse in Philadelphia, the Raptors travelled to Charlotte, North Carolina the very next night for a date with the much improved Charlotte Bobcats. Led by dynamic point guard Kemba Walker and lottery pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the young team, who won all of seven games one season ago, have already put five in the win column. This game was neck and neck from start to finish with both teams exchanging runs. With two young teams squaring off, the pace was relatively slow and the game was choppy. The referees seemed to put the whistles away and just let the teams play. At halftime, the score was knotted up at 51. This one would come down to the final few minutes. With just under 30 seconds to play, Bobcats guard Ramon Sessions hit a jump shot to put his team ahead by one. The Raptors ended up getting the final possession and got several looks at the basket, but in the end, they would come up short on the road. Bargnani took the buzzer beating shot attempt but missed as he was seemingly hit as he shot, but no foul was called. The next day, the NBA admitted that the officials missed the call, which would have given Bargnani two free throws, but nothing could be done about the outcome. The final score was 98-97. Andrea Bargnani topped his squad with 25 points, but only managed to grab 2 rebounds in defeat.
The Detroit Pistons are one of the few teams ranked below the Raptors in the standings, so going into The Palace of Auburn Hills was what I consider a must-win game early on in the season. As was expected between two lower tier squads, the game was neck and neck from the get-go. At halftime, it was 47-43 in favour of the hometown Pistons. The Raptors held the lead in the fourth quarter with the clock ticking down, but sophomore point guard Brandon Knight ran through the lane for a layup with just over seven seconds remaining. Kyle Lowry misfired on the game-winner and the lowly Detroit Pistons defeated the Toronto Raptors 91-90. Andrea Bargnani had an enormous game with 34 points, but no one else could really muster anything on the offensive side of the ball.
The Raps closed out a miserable week at home against the mighty San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs have been the model NBA franchise over the past decade, being consistent contenders year in and year out. Everything on paper pointed to a lopsided Spurs win, but the Raptors hung in with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and company and forced overtime. With less than one second to play in the extra period, DeMar DeRozan converted on a layup attempt to send the game to a second overtime session. In this five-minute frame, the Spurs showed why they are a contending team, pulling away from the youthful Raps. San Antonio was victorious with a score of 111-106. DeRozan and young center Jonas Valanciunas were the top performers, netting 29 and 22 points respectively in defeat.
After going winless, the Raptors aim to get back on track next week as they play the Houston Rockets and the Memphis Grizzlies on the road. At the ACC on Friday night, they host the Phoenix Suns.