Mar 23, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (left) and Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan (right) celebrate a win over the Atlanta Hawks at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Atlanta 96-86. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto Raptors 96 - Atlanta Hawks 86: Kyle keys comeback

Mar 23, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Atlanta Hawks center Pero Antic (6) looks to pass as Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas (17) defends during the second half at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Atlanta 96-86. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports


The Toronto Raptors had forced their fans to endure 3 quarters of painful basketball, high lowlighted by dreadful shooting by players our offense relies upon. Fortunately, the Atlanta Hawks’ offense, trying to function without the long-bombing skills of the sidelined Kyle Korver, weren’t able to put a vulnerable Raps team away. That failure came back to haunt the visitors in the ultra-decisive fourth quarter, as our Kyle, Mr. Lowry to you and me, led a thrilling comeback. The Raps outscored the visitors 36-15 in Q4 to win handily.

Atlanta clearly learned a lot last week about how to defend the Raps, and put it to good use for much of the game. Pero Antic stayed away from foul trouble, which meant DeMar DeRozan’s path to the basket was frequently blocked by the Macedonian man-mountain (the Raps’ coaching staff learned something too. In Korver’s absence, Terrence Ross was able to zero in on Jeff Teague (who hurt the Raps so badly last week) and held him to 16 points). Relying on jump shooting is usually not a problem for Toronto, but it was this afternoon. Neither DeMar nor Kyle had a point in Q1, and without two 3-balls from TRoss, the game would have been history early. The Raps had more turnovers (6) than field goals (5). DeMarre Carroll emerged from obscurity to nearly match the Raps’ 16 points by himself, pouring in 14.

Q2 saw some determined play from Greivis Vasquez, who was able to make runners over rookie Dennis Schroder. The Hawks’ Paul Millsap heated up, scoring 11 points, but DeMar finally got on the board. The Raps went to intermission down by 7, but still looking badly disjointed on offense.

Toronto came out with some zip in their step after break, and quickly worked the margin to a basket. Then the offense went into deep-freeze again, as every ball seemed to roll around the rim and off. The Raps were bucketless for 5 minutes before a DeRozan jumper went down. Toronto ended the quarter down 11, and were down by 14 early in Q4 after a Schroder 3-point play. Then Nando De Colo hit his first basket as a Raptor, a corner 3, and the comeback was on. A DeMar 3-ball capped a 13-0 run, but the Raps had to scratch their way back again. Amir Johnson’s putback of a TRoss missed free throw provided the tying points. A Millsap 3-ball gave Atlanta what turned out to be their last lead. Led by Kyle and DeMar, the Raps rolled over the Hawks by a 15-2 margin in the final 3+ minutes. Perhaps the game’s key play occurred when Kyle’s last of 4 steals was the theft of an inbounds pass for an uncontested layup, this after scoring on a teardrop runner over Antic. His 3-ball with 11 seconds to play was icing on a brilliant cake.

Jonas Valanciunas missed some makeable shots in close, but made a bunch of free throws and grabbed a lot of boards. He ended with the bad-luck double-double (13 points and 13 rebounds). Amir Johnson was out of sorts, but did his best. He went down with what looked like a serious knee injury late, but stayed in the game. John Salmons appears to me to have played his way out of the rotation with another poor game.

The Raptors travel to Cleveland on Tuesday night, then Boston 24 hours later.




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