The Raptors dropped a 106-98 decision to the the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night but they don’t have a lot of time to worry about the loss as they are right back at it on Wednesday with a visit to Charlotte.
Kyle Lowry made a surprise return to active duty in the loss, playing just under 30 minutes while recording 13 points, seven assists and seven rebounds.
Here are some points to consider ahead of tonight’s matchup with the Bobcats.
Lowry needs to shake off the rust
While the Raptors point guard recorded some decent numbers when he returned to action against Philly, he was still not the same player we saw before the foot injury which is no real surprise.
He will still need to find his rhythm when shooting the basketball as he was just nine of 14 from the field and missed five of his eight free-throw attempts.
Rightfully so, Raptors coach Dwane Casey was not concerned about Lowry’s shooting woes.
“I know he’s not going to miss five free throws, I do know that,” Casey told the Toronto Star after the game. “His first time back, I thought he gave us everything he had, he competed . . . but that’s his first game back and we knew conditioning would be a factor.”
Getting the line-up straight
Early in the season, Casey continues to have problems finding the perfect mix to put on the floor at times.
Without Alan Anderson and Landry Fields available, he was caught between a rock and a hard place when the Sixers went to a small lineup in the fourth quarter which saw undersized power forward Thaddeous Young move to the centre spot, surrounded by a quartet of wing players.
Casey left rookie Jonas Valanciunas on the bench for the fourth quarter, unwilling to risk playing the rookie in a tough matchup.
“He could have come in (for Amir Johnson), but I thought we needed some shooting on the floor with those smaller guys,” Casey told the Toronto Sun.
“We had Andrea at the five, which we sometimes do. I don’t think that had anything to do (with the end result). I think JV did an excellent job in the first half when they went big. I felt like Andrea was a better fit to go against Dorrell Wright or Thaddeus Young.”
Valanciunas had 11 points and 11 rebounds in 25 minutes.
“I don’t think strategy in those situations hurt us. It was second shots, boxing out, executing, 50-50 balls, making plays, making free throws at certain times was our killer.”
A new era in Charlotte
A year ago, the Bobcats were the NBA’s worst franchise but they have gotten off to a quick start with a 5-4 record.
A couple of new bodies helps, and as sportsnet.ca’s Paul Jones’s points out, new coach Dunlap has reinvigorated the team.
Like the Raptors, the Bobcats have a couple of injuries at the moment as team captain is working his way back from a sprained left foot and Tyrus Thomas will miss a couple of months with a torn muscle in his lower left leg.
Bobcats get defensive
Over the first four games of the season, the Bobcats allowed opponents to score an average of 110 points while shooting 50 per cent from the field. In the four games that followed those numbers fell to 89 points on 37 per cent shooting.
Not surprisinglyb the Bobcats evened up their record.
The key difference was Dunlap’s decision to veer away from a matchup zone and stick to more traditional man-to-man defence.
“We were kind of confused at times,” point guard Ramon Sessions told the Charlotte Observer. “He would call that and some would go back in man and some would go back in zone. We were on different pages. We’ve played a lot of man lately and that’s been good.”
Of course, the Bobcats’ early-season schedule may have been a factor in all of this as well.
They have only played two teams this season that were playoff teams a year ago in Indiana and Dallas (twice). While they are 2-1 in those games, both of those teams have struggled early.