The Toronto Raptors continued their pursuit of the top seed in the Eastern Conference, while DeMar DeRozan surpassed a legend. Here are five takeaways from the team’s 93-89 win over the New York Knicks on Sunday.
Despite only two trips to the line DeMar DeRozan stayed aggressive and managed to get his points Sunday night. DeRozan was 3-for-3 from the free-throw line, a place where he’s accustom to getting double-digit attempts. His floor game made up for the lack of calls, as he shot 12-of-17 for 27 points to go with four assists and three rebounds in 34 minutes.
Second Best Scorer
DeRozan became the Raptors’ second all-time leading scorer, surpassing one of his childhood idols, Vince Carter. DeRozan’s 23.6 points per game this year is second in the East only to LeBron James. While the entire country is worried over Jose Bautista’s impending free agency, they shouldn’t forget one of the best basketball players in the world is plying his trade in Canada and can also leave this summer.
Following Lowry’s Lead
Kyle Lowry’s woes from the free-throw line may have continued — he split a pair on his only trip to the line — but his touch from deep is showing no ill effects from his nagging elbow injury. Lowry hit four threes on seven attempts and his points beyond the arc accounted for the bulk of his scoring, as he finished with 15 points, seven assists, two steals and most importantly no turnovers in 32 minutes. His best decision with the ball was lobbing a pass up high while inbounding from underneath the basket with 0.9 seconds left on the shot clock that Jonas Valanciunas caught, kept high and finished. That basket put Toronto up for good late in the fourth.
DeMarre Carroll Watch
DeMarre Carroll increased his workload from 14 minutes in his return against Atlanta to 17 versus New York. Carroll shot just 1-of-4 from the floor for five points but did grab five defensive rebounds. More importantly, Carroll got defensive work against wing scorer Carmelo Anthony. This dry run against the Knicks all-star will be good practice if the seedings hold and the Raptors face Indiana and the league’s 10th-highest scorer in Paul George.
East Up For Grabs?
First place is not out of the question for Toronto. They now sit two games behind the Cavs with two games to play. Cleveland still has tough games to play against the third-place Atlanta Hawks and Detroit Pistons, who are tied with Indiana for the last two playoff spots. Indiana has the tiebreaker over Detroit so in the event of a tie Toronto will be playing the Pacers. The Raptors play the lottery-bound Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets to end the year. Considering Cleveland’s opponents are motivated to improve their seeding and Toronto’s opponents might be motivated to improve their draft stock, it isn’t out of the realm of the possibility the Cavaliers lose out and the Raptors win out. In the event of a tie atop the East, Toronto holds the tiebreaker.
Super Stat: The Raptors not only improved on their franchise-best record of 54 wins but also secured a franchise-best 23rd road win.