The Toronto Raptors, having played the toughest schedule in the Eastern Conference to date, have enjoyed the visits of some sub-.500 teams recently. After pasting Detroit and Brooklyn, the challenge against the Milwaukee Bucks, the NBA’s worst team, was to stay in the moment, and show no mercy. While the first half of the game showed a disturbingly compassionate side of the Raps, the second half, in particular Q4, saw the home team step on the visitors’ throat.
Kyle Lowry led a well-balanced Raps attack with 23 points, including 4 of 5 from beyond the arc. His backcourt mate, DeMar DeRozan added 19, several on monster jams. At centre, Jonas Valanciunas toted up another of his increasingly common double-doubles, with 17 points and 10 boards. While Terrence Ross struggled offensively, he rode the coattails of his mates to end up plus-30 for the game. I like seeing TRoss’ other numbers, like steals (3) and rebounds (5), edge up. However, he got caught several times committing silly fouls, a habit he needs to break, now.
The second unit once again got the better of their opponents. Patrick Patterson, despite missing a couple of virtual lay-ups, had 18 points, while stone-faced swingman John Salmons chipped in 10, with 5 assists. Greivis Vasquez was solid, save for an annoying penchant to attempt casual passes, which led to 4 turnovers.
For the Bucks, Ersan Ilyasova, a power forward who can defend and shoot, was a game-high 29-point scorer. John Henson, a long and skinny centre, had 4 blocked shots. Those two could be stars, but not with a backcourt as weak as Milwaukee’s.
The critical matter to digest about this game was how the Raptors took control late, at one point stretching the lead to 31. The Raps have proven they can trade punches with, and even defeat, the league’s elite. For our team to continue its impressive rise, they must win games against the NBA’s also-rans and tankers. This portion of the schedule is a golden opportunity to do just that, as none of the Raps’ last 3 opponents or next 4 have a winning record.
Watch the players’ minutes during this next week. I suspect coach Dwane Casey will have his prize battleships, like Lowry and DeRozan, on the bench a lot. The last thing we need is injuries to those guys.
The Raptors are in Boston on Wednesday night.
Brian Boake is Senior 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.
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