No Lowry, free-throw struggles come back to bite Raptors

Isaiah Thomas finished with 23 points, Evan Turner added 17 and the Boston Celtics defeated the Toronto Raptors 91-79 on Wednesday night.

The Toronto Raptors clinched a playoff spot Wednesday night despite losing 91-79 to the Boston Celtics. Here are six takeaways from the game:

Charity Stripe

A troubling sign for the Raptors is their struggles from the free-throw line of late. Toronto hit just two of its nine attempts from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter and missed nine on the game after missing 16 against Orlando. This after Toronto has been among the top free-throw shooting teams all year. For all the talk about Jonas Valanciunas and Luis Scola not playing in the fourth quarter, one thing you should consider is how good they are at the line for big men. Scola shoots 74 per cent from the line both this season and for his career; Valanciunas is shooting 76 per cent this year and 77 per cent for his career.

Minus-100 Win Streak Broken

The Raptors’ streak of 33 straight wins when they hold opponents under 100 points came to an end. It was the third best streak ever as Golden State went 40-0 when holding opponents under 100 and the Big Three in Miami won 35 straight when holding opponents under the century mark in 2012-13.

No KL, No ‘O’

The streak ended primarily because they struggled to score without Kyle Lowry and Patrick Patterson. Lowry sat with a sore right elbow and Patterson also was rested. With Delon Wright, James Johnson, and Norman Powell on the court for long stretches the Raptors didn’t have much spacing in the half-court. The Raptors shot just 34 per cent from the floor and 55 per cent from the free-throw line. The Raptors are now 0-2 when they rest Lowry this season.

Unlikely Point Guard Heroes

Lowry has been the best point guard in the East this year but Isaiah Thomas isn’t far behind. Thomas has 11 straight games with 20 or more points after scoring 23 against the Raptors to go with four assists, two rebounds and two steals in 35 minutes. Imagine two years ago if someone told you the best two point guards in the East would be Lowry and Thomas and the Raptors and Celtics would have home court in the first round of the playoffs. Nobody would believe it. They are both testaments to playing above the labels they were given due to internal improvement and incredibly hard play.

Playoff Bound

With Chicago’s loss to the woeful Knicks the Raptors clinched a playoff spot for the third straight year after going five years outside of the post-season. The only other time the Raptors made the playoffs in three straight years was from 2000-2002. With the loss and a Cavaliers win Toronto dropped 2.5 games behind Cleveland, so first place is looking more and more unlikely.

Scola Shooting Threes

Many focus on the shortcomings in Scola’s game, but let’s remember he was brought in as a depth player who likely was going to come off the bench when he was signed. Let’s not forget what he has brought. Scola, who hit 3-of-5 three pointers Wednesday, has worked diligently at improving his range to fit in the Raptors’ new offensive philosophy and extend his career. The added spacing Scola provides allows DeMar DeRozan and Lowry space to drive and Valanciunas space to maneuver down low. Look at his rapid improvement in takes and makes of three pointers this year — Scola should be applauded for stepping out of his comfort zone for the betterment of the team.

2012-13: 3 /16
2013-14: 1 /7
2014-15: 5/20
2015-16: 55/139

ICYMI: Backcourt friends turn to foes in Ford commercial

It is no secret Lowry and DeRozan are close on and off the court. The two pranksters got competitive and showed their respective love of laughter in a commercial spot that gives viewers a window into their relationship.

Super Stat: With DeRozan’s 29 points on Wednesday he now has scored over 20 points 21 times this season.

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