The Toronto Raptors have 3 players heading to New Orleans for All-Star weekend, though only DeMar DeRozan will actually play in the game itself. DD banished any lingering doubts about his fitness for All-Star status with a vintage performance last night against the Atlanta Hawks. While he, and the entire team, started slowly, DD found the range with his trademark mid-range jumpers. He helped Toronto escape the doldrums of having scored 4 points after more than 6 minutes of Q1. The Raps, fortunate to be playing an offensively challenged Hawks squad, nudged ahead for the first time just before intermission. Normalcy reigned in the second half, which the Raps “won” 59-39.
DeMar led all scorers with 31 points, and had considerable scoring help from the other starters, save one. Kyle Lowry posted another dandy game, scoring 16 points and adding 13 assists. While part of me wishes he wouldn’t try to rebound (I’m afraid he’ll get his nose broken, or something worse, when scampering among the flying elbows under the basket), his 6 boards were helpful indeed. Patrick Patterson enjoyed his second straight start in place of the banged-up Amir Johnson, and tossed in 14, despite going just one of 6 from 3-point land. Terrence Ross was part of the woeful 1 for 11 way the Raps began the game, but found his stroke later. TRoss was 3 of 8 from distance, ending with 13 points, and stifled Kyle Korver. Keeping the Hawks’ most dangerous shooter under wraps (Korver ended with 8 points) was critical, as he is the fulcrum on which their offense bends. Jonas Valanciunas had to be satisfied with the vicarious pleasure of watching his teammates score, because he didn’t do much of his own. While JV pulled down 14 boards, and was matched up against second-stringer Gustavo Ayon, he managed only one bucket on 9 shots. Many of those were unchallenged, and up close; we can only hope this was a one-game slump. Ayon enjoyed a fine game, scoring 18 points and pulling down 10 rebounds. Greivis Vasquez was effective in relief, scoring a dozen.
Putbacks: TRoss will be defending his slam-dunk championship this weekend, but had no dunks… JV has been invited as a Rising Star, which he is, this game aside… I called for a 103-87 Raps win in my preview; not bad.