After a loss to Portland, the Raptors – individually and collectively – responded to adversity to win in Charlotte on Wednesday (8).
It’s the story we’ve been telling all year. When times get tough for the Toronto Raptors, there’s always been a response.
That said, if you wanted to doubt the Raptors’ resilience, the last week would have been the perfect chance to do so. Down three starters in Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and Marc Gasol, along with their best bench scoring option in Norman Powell, this Toronto team on face value lacks the firepower to win an NBA game. Right?
We saw that against Portland on Tuesday (7), when Damian Lillard and Carmelo Anthony were able to put down the necessary buckets while the Raptors – mostly playing guys who are 99 in jumping and 75 in everything else – couldn’t score at all.
We even saw it at times on Wednesday (8). The Raptors had a ten-point lead on the Hornets in the third quarter, but watched as the offence fell off a cliff – missing 18 of 19 shots from the end of the third quarter to past the midway point in the fourth.
Then, a timeout, and the Raptors responded. OG Anunoby made a critical three, Serge Ibaka had a pair of baskets, and Kyle Lowry did what he’s done all season – show up at a big moment. That was a 9-1 run and, eventually, they’d use that energy boost to come away with a narrow win against the Charlotte Hornets, 112-110 in overtime.
Collectively, the Raptors showed resolve, but Terence Davis II did so on an individual level. Davis was benched for all but eight minutes against Portland and got called out after the game by Nick Nurse for miscues on both ends of the floor. Consider the message received – Davis poured in 13 points in the first quarter and back-to-back threes in overtime to earn a career-high 23 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, one steal and mark a +20.
Davis’ scoring was so necessary given how starved the Raptors were for shooting. Anytime the starters weren’t on the floor, Toronto’s production on offence went off a cliff. Chris Boucher was a -13, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was a -16, and Matt Thomas was a -15 in the ballgame – that’s not an indictment of how they played on the whole, but shows just how critical Davis was to holding up the offence.
It was also an excellent showing for Serge Ibaka. You can argue he was the reason this game went to overtime in the first place – on Charlotte’s last possession, he grabbed the jersey of P.J. Washington before the ball had been inbounded, giving the Hornets a free throw to tie it and another chance to win it. Still, his line doesn’t lie: 23 points, 11 rebounds, two assists, and two blocks. Ibaka was part of the run to wake the Raptors up at the end of the fourth and a key part of overtime, scoring six of Toronto’s 12 points in extra time and burying the game-winning free throws with 5.1 seconds left.
The rest of the Raptors’ starters got into double digits in scoring as well. Lowry had 15 and nine assists, Anunoby had 19 on 8-of-13 shooting, and McCaw had 13 on 6-of-10 shooting. The three-time champ even had a little resilient moment of his own. One night after his bounce pass ended in a brutal turnover late in the game, he rolled this one through traffic to put Toronto up in OT.
Looking beyond the Raptors, this game was surprisingly entertaining from the get-go. It had its harried moments, but the Hornets were able foils for Toronto – much more energetic and fun to watch than the Blazers Tuesday (7) night. (Part of this is the awesome audio setup in Charlotte, with all the crosstalk and squeaks coming through loud and clear on the broadcast.)
Miles Bridges couldn’t miss a three in the first half, as he put in 6-for-9 overall and scored 26 points. Terry Rozier, on the other hand, was nowhere to be seen early on but made several back-breaking shots late to get to 27 points. Efficiency for their stars ended up being Charlotte’s downfall in this one – Rozier and Devonte’ Graham combined to shot 12-for-39 from the field and 8-for-23 from three.
In the end, the Raptors get to feel good heading into three days of rest. Their next game is in Toronto against the Spurs on Sunday (12) afternoon, after which they get another two days before a road outing against OKC.
Hopefully, it’s the last time we have to see the Raptors this shorthanded. There was a lot of good in this game, but you can still see the cracks when Lowry doesn’t have a supporting cast member performing above their mean. A restful timeframe should help, especially feeling as good as they should after this win.