Toronto Raptors Show They Can Beat Big Boys
Well, as Sid Seixero of Sportsnet says best, naysayers can “shut up for a sec.”
On a blizzard of a day, the Toronto Raptors defended their home court like a real team should. In a showdown of first place teams, the Raptors beat the Memphis Grizzlies, who sat in first place in the dominant Western Conference, 96-92.
Oddly enough, a noteworthy footnote is that this was a matchup of Canadian expansion teams, Toronto and Vancouver – with Vancouver of course relocating to Memphis. Both of these Canadian-rooted expansion teams being in first-place? That’s pretty cool.
“The Raptors’ team slogan ‘We the North’ has been fittingly transformed to ‘We the Fourth’.”
On the long-time coming Vince Carter tribute night, the Raptors, whose team slogan “We the North” has been fittingly transformed to “We the Fourth”, as again, the Raptors lit up the fourth quarter. They outscored Memphis 27-17 Wednesday night. They’ve shown they can score when they need it.
The victory was in spite of several shortcomings – or, I think more properly should be called overcoming such shortcomings – where the Raptors were overmatched by the visiting Grizz. Rebounds, points in the paint, and getting to the free throw line were areas completely dominated by Memphis. While the naysayers may point to these areas and say the Raptors got lucky, the Raps rallied and still managed to pull out a quality win.
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50-35 was the number of rebounds by each team in favour of Memphis (15-7 in offensive rebounds). That usually results in a sure loss for the team in the negative – especially by such disparity – but the Raptors fought back and hit many key shots down the stretch. The biggest clutch threat was Terrence Ross, who led all scorers tonight with 14 points in the fourth quarter when he magically went off, improving drastically from scoring two points, zero points, and zero points in the previous three-quarters (Ross and Carter showed embrace after Ross urged fans to forgive Vince before the game and Carter had his moment of tribute at the end of the first quarter. Perhaps this was a high-flier passing-the-torch moment…).
The Raptors showed they are a force, when some doubted that assumption after they got pasted by the Bulls last Thursday (including a defunct quarter of 35-14). Some said they can’t play the big boys and they eventually get soft against a hard team, but Memphis is a hard team – possibly harder than Chicago – who are still in first place after the loss. Memphis is a no-nonsense, defense first team starring two bruising big men in Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph (right).
May 4, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Brooklyn Nets center-forwardAndray Blatche
(0) goes up to make a basket against Toronto Raptors center-forwardChuck Hayes
(44) in game seven of the first round of the 2014 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre. Brooklyn defeated Toronto 104-103. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
These two got theirs, but in crunch time, Dwane Casey called on Chuck Hayes, a reserve big man who is used sparingly. Hayes (pictured right) went in for the largely ineffective Jonas Valanciunas who struggled to D up to Memphis’ big men. The Raps entered the fourth down six, but Hayes appeared just the spark plug they needed on D as he held Gasol off– at the least making him try extremely difficult shots.
With 4:34 let and the Grizzlies up 5, Ross’s magic lit up another three. In the last few minutes, the Raptors main guy, Kyle Lowry, the leader, took over as he does. Lowry, a one-time Grizzly, could have wanted to show Memphis they chose wrong when they decided to let him go in favour of Mike Conley, the Ohio State product. He drove on Conley, and at full-speed, englished his left-handed hook shot to hit and stick at the rim before bouncing home to tie the game back up at 90.
Lowry (featured image at top) wasn’t finished there. In fact, his final act was just getting started. He made another tough lay-up to break the tie… then his counterpart, Conley, got egged into an offensive foul, a Lowry staple. With eight seconds left, Lowry stepped past Conley to the left, stepped back and hit the fall-away jumper from the left elbow, another Lowry staple.
Oct 17, 2014; Wichita, KS, USA; Toronto Raptors guard Lou Williams (23) brings the ball up court against the Oklahoma City Thunder during the third quarter at Intrust Bank Arena. Toronto won 109-90. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
Naysayers of the Raptors will also point to Memphis’ unavailable bench, after Courtney Lee, Tony Allen, Kosta Koufos, and two others were ruled inactive after battling a bug. But the big two and point guard Mike Conley were playing in what appeared to be whole health, and this trio makes up Memphis’ core. While the Grizz had some injuries, the Raptors’ James Johnson also missed the contest.
DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors with 21 points, but another HUGE spark was Louis Williams off the bench. Williams (pictured right) had 13 points off the bench and and was an astounding +11 point differential (Patrick Patterson was +10). Williams made a few acrobatic shots that appeared to have no business going in when he let them go. Raptors’ fans are beginning to expect atleast one circus shot to fall from Sweet Lou a game.
The first-place Raptors host the Milwaukee Bucks on the last game of their record homestand. It’s kind of a “look-ahead” spot as the game following has the Raps heading to Cleveland to visit LeBron James and the Cavs. The Raps better be tuned in because don’t look now, but Milwaukee is having a decent year at 7-5.