Terence Davis recorded new career highs, scoring 23 points and collecting 11 rebounds, in his first NBA start to help lead the Toronto Raptors to a wild 112-110 overtime victory over the Charlotte Hornets at the Spectrum Center on Wednesday night.
The win was a needed boost for a Raptors club that’s been devastated by injury lately (with Fred VanVleet the latest in Toronto’s lengthy list of walking wounded) and was coming off a heart-breaking loss to the Portland Trail Blazers the night before that saw them trail for a total of 17 seconds.
Wednesday’s victory now improves the Raptors to 6-5 since Norman Powell, Pascal Siakam and Marc Gasol were shelved because of injury — and with only one game over the next six days, there’s optimism that Toronto could start getting healthier with all the time off.
Here are a few takeaways from what felt like as important an early-January victory as you’re ever going to find:
Davis meets Nurse’s challenge
After Toronto’s defeat against Portland on Tuesday, Raptors coach Nick Nurse called out Davis’ performance from that evening and his previous two.
“He’s not playing very well, it was probably five [minutes] too many,” Nurse said when asked about Davis’ eight minutes of action on Tuesday.
Nurse had a point as Davis had only scored 12 points on 4-of-13 shooting over his past three contests coming into Wednesday night, including his particularly putrid zero-point effort Tuesday.
As such, there were questions coming into Wednesday regarding what Nurse might do with Davis and how the undrafted rookie might respond.
The answers: Nurse gave Davis his first start in place of the injured VanVleet; and a career night followed for Davis, who scored 13 in the first quarter and got the Raptors uncorked in overtime, scoring their first six points – back-to-back triples, no less – and collecting a pair of key defensive rebounds in the period.
After the game, Sportsnet’s Eric Smith caught up with Davis and asked him about Nurse’s comments from the night before and the way he responded to them.
“Obviously, my play was terrible the last few games,” Davis said. “I take that as a challenge. What he said there, I loved it. All of my coaches throughout my career have been like that, straightforward, no sugar-coating. And that’s the way you want when you’re a player. And the great thing about it is in this league you have games after games. So we had another game the next day which was a blessing in my eyes.
“So I just wanted to come out and show Nick Nurse and the Raptors I can play a little bit.”
Added Nurse, speaking to reporters after Wednesday’s game, about Davis: “He was really good. And he knows that this isn’t easy to figure out who to play with all of these guys out constantly … With me, as you’ve seen a few times already this year, I’m gonna rattle your cage if you deserve to have it rattled, but I’m gonna put my arm around you the next day and get on with it because I believe in the kid. It was only in his best interests and the team’s best interests to do that and we did it.”
Ibaka redeems himself
Serge Ibaka matched Davis’ 23 points and 11 rebounds and finished the game off for the Raptors, hitting a pair of clutch free throws to give Toronto a two-point lead with 5.1 seconds left in overtime.
But he was also the man most responsible for the game going to the extra period to begin with.
With 17 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Kyle Lowry made a diving drive to the hoop and finished with a lay-up to put Toronto ahead, 100-99. Afterward, Charlotte took a timeout and in the ensuing inbounds play Ibaka committed a very inopportune foul before the ball was passed in, which resulted in a single free throw for Terry Rozier, who tied the game up.
After the free throw, the Hornets were granted possession and Devonte’ Graham shot a floater that came up just short of giving the Hornets a buzzer-beating win in regulation.
Ibaka scored six points in overtime, including the game-clinching free throws. A redeeming moment after an unsightly gaffe by the veteran.
Other Raptors pick up for Lowry’s off night
Maybe just chalk this one up to the fact that Lowry, the league leader in minutes played this season, played over 42 minutes on the second night of a back-to-back after logging just over 38 minutes the night before. And he isn’t exactly a spring chicken, at 33 years of age.
Whatever the case is, Lowry wasn’t the player we’ve grown used to seeing since the Raptors got hit by the injury bug again.
Coming into Wednesday’s contest, Lowry was trending toward becoming an all-star for a sixth-straight season, averaging 24.1 points and 7.9 assists per game over the 10 games the Raptors have been without Siakam, Powell and Gasol.
On Wednesday, Lowry had another strong game dropping dimes with nine, but scored just 15 points on 4-of-13 shooting and didn’t look like himself as he bricked out a pair of free throws in overtime.
Thankfully for the Raptors, however, Lowry’s heroics weren’t needed as they got contributions up and down the lineup from the aforementioned Davis and Ibaka, as well as OG Anunoby (19 points) and Patrick McCaw (13 points, career-best 11 assists). McCaw’s growth as a point guard continues to be evident.
There’s still a lot of wrinkles that need to be ironed out offensively for McCaw. But seeing him find so much success as a play-maker is a very encouraging sign for the Raptors, who continue to try to keep their heads above water as every new injury has threatened to drown them.