The Toronto Raptors can’t stand prosperity. Just as in their last Cleveland trip, when they raced out to a healthy lead only to lose, the Raps could not sustain their early success. The Charlotte Bobcats refused to go away, even when the Raps led by nine several times in the first quarter. The ‘Cats shot the lights out in the second quarter, and took a lead which they were never to surrender, save for a few seconds in the third. In the fourth, the Raps clawed back to trail by a point, and had the ball with 2:52 to play. However, the turnover plague, which has damaged Toronto so badly since Jose Calderon’s departure, struck again. Kyle Lowry’s fifth TO of the game led to a pair of Ben Gordon free throws, and the Raps were never as close again.
The ‘Cats owe a big thanks to their second unit for this win. Charlotte’s bench players drained all eight of their team’s 3-balls, which was three more than the entire Raps roster could muster. Byron Mullens, a non-factor last week in the Raps’ home victory, scored 25 points, including 3 of 4 from long distance. Jannero Pargo, the quintessential NBA journeyman, also was 3 for 4.
Jonas Valanciunas seems to have finally earned the trust of coach Dwane Casey. He was strong all game, including the fourth quarter, and scored 18 points. JV hit all 6 of his free throws, which sends a message that hacking him isn’t a winning tactic. Hitting from the foul line wasn’t a problem last night; the Raps were perfect on 26 tries. However, 18 assists against 16 turnovers is ghastly. By contrast, the ‘Cats, who are no one’s idea of an efficient team, had a 21-12 ratio.
Amir Johnson was forced to sit earlier than desired because of foul trouble, and ended with a disappointing 8 points, though he did manage 10 rebounds and four blocked shots. DeMar DeRozan needed only 12 shots to score 19 points, but seemed to disappear (or his point guard wouldn’t pass to him) in crunch time. This pattern needs to change.
The Raps got help last night from Atlanta, who defeated Milwaukee, but fumbled the chance to bring a little pressure to bear. We’re now in garbage time for the season, which continues this weekend with a home-and-home against the New York Knicks.
Brian Boake is a co-editor for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.