Like a really mediocre superhero, some teams just have a nemesis that they cannot overcome. For the Toronto Raptors that nemesis is the Charlotte Bobcats. Coming into Charlotte they had lost their last 6 games in a row to the Bobcats at home. This was clearly not a pleasant place to play for the Raptors.
The Toronto Raptors’ offensive woes carried over from the 4th quarter of yesterday’s game in which they lost to the Lakers. The Raptors were only able to put up 11 points on 25% shooting in the 1st quarter, while giving up 26 points to the Bobcats.
This was a start they ultimately could not overcome. In the process, they fell just short of setting a new record for the franchise’s largest comeback in history (25) as the Bobcats held off a furious 4th quarter comeback to win 100-95.
Al Jefferson started his dominance in the paint early on against Jonas Valanciunas, notching a double-double in the 1st half. The Raptors’ big men were no match for the 6’10” veteran, who finished with the stat line of the game: 22 pts, 19 rebs, 7 asts, 2 blks.
The lone bright spot in an otherwise absolutely horrid 1st half for the Raptors, was Demar Derozan. He scored 16 points on 14 shots and kept it from getting completely out of hand.
Their offensive struggles reared its ugly head again in the 3rd, when the Toronto Raptors went a full 5 minutes in-between made field goals.
The Bobcats used this stretch to pull away and extend their lead to 30 points. But thanks to the play of the bench, dubbed the ‘Toronto Kings”, and rare playing time for 3-point specialist Steve Novak, Toronto was able to close the huge deficit to 18 by the end of the quarter.
There was no shortage of dramatics in the 4th quarter. It was like Toronto Raptors broadcaster Matt Devlin had said, the Raptors alarm clock had finally went off in the 4th on this early afternoon game on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The level of play that the bench provided at the end of the 3rd must have sparked something for the Raptors.
With the lineup of Lowry-Vasquez-Derozan-Patterson-Hayes, they fought and clawed all the way back to make it a 1-point game with 26 seconds left.
Coach Dwane Casey praised the performances of Chuck Hayes and Greivis Vasquez, in sparking the 4th quarter comeback saying, “Chuck Hayes, I thought was one, he came in a did a good job on Jefferson in the 2nd half defensively. Held him off his block physically. I thought Vasquez came in pushed the pace, got the ball moving, got the pick & roll going.”
Greivis Vasquez was arguably the Raptors player of the game. When the rest of the team was sluggish, he came off the bench and delivered for the Raptors to the tune of 15 pts, 7 rebs, 9 asts, and 3 3-pointers.
Down 3, with 16 seconds on the clock and coming out of a timeout, Derozan received an in-bounds pass, slipped and fumbled the ball. He was able to find an open Vasquez for 3 from the right side of the arc, but he came up just short on the game tying shot.
It was a valiant effort coming back from down 30 to a make it a 1 point game, nothing short of a thrill for those watching. Ultimately though, the slow start was what did the Raptors in, as the Bobcats made their free throws to hold on for their 3rd victory over Toronto this season.
With a chance to tie the game at the free throw line with 30 seconds left, Kyle Lowry missed his opportunity to complete a 3-point play. He was visibly distraught at the end of the game, tossing his sneakers aside and walking back to the locker room with a towel over his head.
Lowry commented after the game on what made the difference between the first 3 quarters and the 4th: “Effort, that’s it. That simple. Effort.”— he followed up later saying, “We lost two games on just effort. We gotta find a way to bounce back and find that effort and energy.”
The Bobcats were without their star point guard, Kemba Walker, who announced yesterday he had suffered a sprained left ankle and would be out 10-14 days. Ramon Sessions filled in admirably, scoring 23 points, along with 2 rebounds and 2 assists, on 6/10 from the field.
The Raptors got away from what made them so successful in the past few weeks, the passing and ball distribution that made them a dynamic offence was missing. They assisted on only 19 of their 39 field goals and they managed to get to the line for a paltry 10 attempts.
Coach Dwane Casey summed up the latest stretch—including this game—in a few short sentences, saying “Right now we have a bunch of guys that are giving into fatigue and nicked up. It’s a long season, but again you tell a lot about who you are in this situation. Today was a good tech game, the 4th quarter we turned it around. But again it’s about what we did in the first two quarters that were disappointing.”
The Toronto Raptors have a day off before hosting the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday night. The loss brings them to 20-20 on the season, and they fall to the 4th seed in the East with the Atlanta Hawks defeating the Miami Heat.