DeMar DeRozan was surrounded by Portland Trail Blazers. With less than 6 seconds to play, the Toronto Raptors were down a point, and needed DD to somehow find space to take a final shot. Sadly, DeMar dribbled the ball off his foot, and into the opponents’ grasp. Kyle Lowry’s desperation foul set up the game’s final points. The Raps had dug themselves into a deep hole with a dismal first half. Despite an admirable comeback in which they actually took a one-point lead, Toronto ultimately ran out of time.
Without DeMar’s brilliant contributions, this game would have been a Portland blowout. Down by 17 points at halftime, and without a 3-point basket after 8 attempts, the Raps looked every bit a travel-weary, heavy-legged mess. Though they were getting to the foul line, the free throws weren’t falling, a problem which seems to bedevil Toronto in close games. Portland was getting buckets almost at will from their big guns, Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge.
The Raps rediscovered their offense after the intermission. DeMar had 16 of his game-high 36 points in Q3, while dishing 4 of his 12 assists. DD’s passing was critical in Q4, as he consistently found open mates once the ‘Blazers starting keying on him. The Raps wiped out a 16-point ‘Blazers lead with 8:23 to play, and nosed ahead on a pair of DeRozan free throws with 25 seconds remaining. Lillard restored Portland’s advantage with a floater off glass, and DD couldn’t shake the defenders before the buzzer.
Jonas Valanciunas, though badly outrebounded by Aldridge, did score 18. Terrence Ross’s homecoming was not memorable; 8 points (and zero for 4 from distance). John Salmons also had a forgettable game, without a point in over 22 minutes. Greivis Vasquez become ill prior to game-time, and didn’t dress, so Kyle Lowry was without a serious backup (sorry, Julyan Stone). Kyle played almost the entire game, and scored 23 points, and added 8 assists. Amir Johnson, who definitely struggles in the second game of back to backs, could muster but a single basket.
I was disappointed that coach Dwane Casey couldn’t find some other player to attempt the final shot. Everyone in the building knew DeMar was going to get the ball – why not might try crossing up the defense and give it to Patrick Patterson (who had 13 points and 9 boards off the bench) or Lowry?
Let’s hope the precious day off Toronto is enjoying will provide some rest, and a chance to come out fresh and strong against an improving Utah Jazz team on Monday night.