Every Loss isn’t created equal
Quite simply, this performance was bad. Still, there’s no need to panic, especially considering the Raptors were without their second leading scorer. The Raptors have the third best record in the NBA since January 1 at 19-6. That mark is only behind the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs who have each lost just three times in that span. The Cleveland Cavaliers are behind Toronto with a 20-8 record in that timeframe.
When you go back even further the Raptors are 28-12 since Dec. 1. Sunday night was a one off, don’t let that distract you from the fact Toronto is currently one of the hottest teams in the NBA and that trend isn’t especially new and has no reason not to continue.
After winning the last 10 games at home the Raptors have the next seven in the friendly confines of the ACC.
Loss without Lowry
It hurts to essentially punt a game but sitting down Lowry was the right decision for both the short and long term. With a win in Detroit, Toronto would have moved within just one game back of first-place Cleveland after the Cavs rested LeBron James and lost to the Washington Wizards earlier in the day.
The fact the Raptors own the tiebreaker with the team they are chasing, winning the season series 2-1, made the prospect even more hard to swallow. Yet, without a healthy and energized Lowry home court in the first round, never mind the Eastern Conference final, won’t mean much.
Lowry is currently third in the league playing 37 minutes per game. He’s only behind Jimmy Butler (who is currently hurt) and James Harden. Lowry played all 57 games this year coming into tonight. Last year Lowry played 34.5 minutes a night, which was good for 20th in the league.
It was around this time last year that Lowry’s body began to break down carrying a multitude of injuries into the playoffs. Dwane Casey is looking to rectify that issue taking preventative measures by managing Lowry down the stretch. Don’t be surprised if he does the same with DeMar Derozan in the future as his 36.1 minutes per game is tied for eighth most in the league.
Best supporting actor
Delon Wright showed a glimpse of who the Raptors brass believe he can become playing extended minutes for the first time when the game was in the balance this season.
Wright learned this morning that Lowry was going to be rested and he’d be a part of Casey’s nine-man rotation against Detroit. Expecting to come in and play in the second quarter, Wright was pressed in to duty even earlier than that. Three fouls for Cory Joseph in his first eight minutes of action meant Wright had to carry the load in the first half.
Wright had 13 points and six assists in 31 minutes but, more importantly, he did a good job as the first line of defence guarding Reggie Jackson in the pick-and-roll. Wright proved that if the load on Lowry and Joseph needs to be lightened moving forward he is a viable option to pick up the slack.
Best original score
Another positive was Terrence Ross and his 27 points. What was especially encouraging was the points came in varied ways. Ross has been mixing it up of late not just shooting three-pointers.
At the beginning of the season the only time you would see Ross score in the paint was in transition. Now he’s made the adjustment in mentality and has been much more aggressive coming off screens and pin downs looking to get into the paint and create for himself and others.
Tonight was no exception, shooting 10-for-19 from the field and 4-for-7 from deep in 25 minutes.
Lucas Nogueira is best known for his defence and rebounding, yet part of the developmental player’s true value is on offence. Bebe is a beautiful screener offensively. He anticipates well, makes himself big and understands angles and timing.
Although it was in garbage time, Nogueira was a team high plus-13 in just six minutes of action. He did that with his only real stat being one rebound. The big Brazilian helps the offensive flow even though he isn’t a weapon to score from anywhere than directly around the basket yet.