The little engine that could

John Lucas III should just retire right now, because this was undoubtedly the pinnacle of his career.

The New Orleans Hornets walked into the ACC last night with a similar record to the hosts, but if their last meeting was any indication, this was the Raptors’ game to lose. It did turn out that way eventually, but not without a little theatrics.

This team and drama? Go together like butter and toast.

The game started off on the right foot, with a burst of offence and some nice ball movement. Amir Johnson typically was on the receiving end of some nice dimes by Kyle Lowry. The Lowry we saw in the first quarter is the kind of player we saw to start off the season. Although he wasn’t able to maintain that torrid pace, partly due to being benched in favor of the great Lucas, it was an encouraging sign that perhaps everything is starting to normalize for him.

He’s the clear cut starter now. Rudy Gay has gotten acclimated to the team, and Lowry didn’t seem to force feed the swing man as much as he had in previous games. Kyle needs to be one of the top 3 scorers on this team every night. He’s got that kind of ability. Motivation should not be a factor as this has become his team after the trade. The annoying backup in Calderon who had Lowry constantly looking over his shoulder is gone. His best friend was acquired, perhaps with some of his prodding. Now he has to show us whether he can play at close to an All-Star level. The assists have been there, but the scoring needs be at 15+ per game.

So the Raptors held a cozy 11 point lead after one quarter. This game had the feeling of a wire-to-wire blowout, but the bench came in with one John Lucas, and horror ensued. It’s not that the Hornets’ bench closed a double-digit gap in the matter of minutes, it was the ease that they did it with. It didn’t matter that DeMar DeRozan was out there to lead the subs. It didn’t matter that the “untouchable” Terrence Ross is still nothing more than a glorified 3-pt shooter. And John Lucas, boy it’s been white-knuckle time with John Lucas running the show. Whatever transpired later on this night was a unicorn. It’s the aberration of all aberrations.

Maybe, just maybe, the tongue lashing the bench received from the rest of the team that Lucas referred to on the post-game TV interview, sparked the spark plug. If he can play more like that, which is a big if, then we might have something resembling an NBA rotation player. The step back long jumpers were fluky, that we could all live without. His quickness and dribbles that he used so aggressively to get into the lane, that was something we need to see more of. His spot-up shooting, that’s where he needs to be one of the best.

He was the story in the second half. The starters couldn’t replicate their first quarter domination, and this time when the bench were reluctantly called out on to the floor, the Third was ready.

Perhaps it wouldn’t have even mattered, as if this team has shown anything this year, it’s that it can put away lesser teams at home. Partly because the referees, who have been a real story this year, have just as less respect for the other team. The bigger reason is that this current outfit is more talented than New Orleans. That could all change if Anthony Davis could play like a first overall stud that he was hyped up to be, but right now Greivis Vasquez is the best player on this team and that’s not a compliment, as good as Vasquez has turned out to be this year.

Seeing the way Landry Fields defended a smaller quicker Eric Gordon, and the way Alan Anderson is starting to turn into another Mikes James situation, a lineup of Lowry, Fields, Gay, Johnson and Val/Gray would be intriguing (at least defensively).

Let’s end with a nice comment in the Reaction segment, about Alan Anderson, whom Raptor nation seems to have unanimously turned on. Couldn’t agree more, although it`s pretty clear not many will care to see the other side of the coin, it`s summed up nicely here.

This is by poster Ion66:

I get where AA is coming from. The guys had a long journey, lands an NBA job and his play and scoring were a big part of our “comeback” run. Now he’s got to worry about his position with the team and he’s playing like he’s auditioning for a contract, not just playing within himself. I totally understand that, and can’t say I’d not try and do the same in his shoes. I just wish he’d let the game come to him and not try and force it, because I think that’s a big part of why he’s not making those buckets, and trying to get hot and keep his job. I like what he did and has provided for us, so I’m not going to call for his head, but someone needs to sit him down and tell him to just relax and play.

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