TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors‘ eighth win in a row was all thanks to their bench.
All-star guard Kyle Lowry had 21 points to lead the Raptors to a 112-94 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday night but it was Toronto’s reserves that did the heavy lifting. Terrence Ross had 18 points, Patrick Patterson and Bismack Biyombo 10 apiece while Cory Joseph added 12 off the bench.
"We did a good job," said Joseph, who also had three assists and two steals in 22:40 of play time. "We did a good job of coming in with a lot of energy, picking up the pace and running up the score."
As strong as their offensive play was, the secondary unit was also solid defensively. Ross was plus-25, Patterson plus-31, Biyombo plus-24 and Joseph plus-33. Their sound defensive play turned the game around for the Raptors who came out slow in the first quarter, trailing 34-27 after the first 12 minutes of play.
"We gave up 34 in the first quarter and I thought it was going to be a long night," said Toronto head coach Dwane Casey, who emphasized the depth from the bench would be crucial deeper into the season. "The second unit came in and changed the game, started getting into bodies and getting into players, being physical.
"I thought that changed the mentality."
DeMar DeRozan, who hopes to join Lowry at the all-star game, scored 18 points for the Raptors (29-15). Lowry added six assists, while Jonas Valanciunas had 20 points and eight rebounds despite early foul trouble.
It is Toronto's longest winning streak since Casey started coaching the team in 2011 and the franchise's longest run of victories since a nine-game stretch in 2002.
"It's good, but we've got to understand that we're doing this for the long run," said DeRozan of the streak. "Find the rhythm and understand how to play, how to win games, how to sustain leads, how to fight when we need to fight. Those types of things.
"The record is great but we've got to understand how to do this consistently, especially when everything matters."
Chris Paul led the Clippers (28-16) with 23 points and 11 assists. J.J. Redick had 17 points, while DeAndre Jordan had 15 points and pulled down 13 rebounds.
"Bench did the job for us tonight," said Lowry. "Their first unit played really well against us and our first unit. Our bench did the job and got it done for us tonight."
Lowry was voted by fans to be one of the Eastern Conference's starters for the All-Star Game in Toronto on Feb. 14. DeRozan can still be selected as an all-star. The NBA's 30 head coaches will select the reserves for the all-star game in a vote that will be revealed on Thursday.
Biyombo brought the crowd to its feet and tied the game 34-34 with an emphatic put-back dunk 1:43 into the second. It punctuated a 7-0 Raptors run to open the quarter.
Patterson drained a 23-foot three-pointer to cap a 17-1 run by Toronto's reserves and give the Raptors a 44-35 lead with 7:45 left in the second. L.A. called a 20-second timeout to regroup after Patterson's field goal.
"They started making shots and they got easy layups," said Clippers guard Jamal Crawford. "The turnovers didn't help, and once you get layups and stuff you get confidence as a group.
"This is the NBA and so once a team gets turned on sometimes it's tough to turn them off."
With 1:02 left in the half, boos rained down from the sell-out crowd of 19,800 fans at Air Canada Centre when Valanciunas was called for his third personal foul of the night. Replays on the big screen showed that the whistle had come after Clippers forward Luc Mbah A Moute bumped into Jordan. The Raptors led 62-49 after two quarters.
DeRozan closed out the third quarter with a 24-foot three-pointer to give Toronto an 83-71 lead. Clippers forward Wesley Johnson clanked a three-point attempt off the rim and into Biyombo's hands in the dying seconds of the period.
That was as close as Los Angeles would get, with Toronto pouring it on in the fourth quarter. Lowry added another six points in the frame as the Clippers and Raptors both put their reserves out on the floor with Toronto hovering around a 20-point lead.