There’s really not much more that can be said about Kyle Lowry and what he means to this team. The backcourt tandem of Lowry and DeRozan have easily been the storyline of this season thus far, with consistent performances from both being the usual norm, accompanied by regular outbursts from one of them, especially when the other struggles. And last night, it was Kyle Lowry who once again stole the show in the fourth quarter, with 15 fourth quarter points. He was driving, he was dishing, he was stroking threes – doing it all for his squad that has won three in row following Monday’s disappointing loss to the Bulls. Matt Devlin’s “Lowry time” began as a casual phrase a few months ago, but has now evolved into the phrase that defines this Raptors team in most of their fourth quarter comebacks and clutch victories. #LowryTime is here.
Boston countered boasting a fourth-ranked defense, featuring the likes of Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Evan Turner, and Amir Johnson. Coach Brad Stevens has maximized the defensive output from his young squad that gets into their opposition, defends the paint well, gets into passing lanes, and disturbs even top-ranked offenses out of their rythym. For the Raptors, a fast start out of the gates allowed their offense to gain confidence in their jump shots, thereby creating space and opening driving lanes. As for Lowry, he seemed to get stronger as the game went on, finishing the final frame with 15 points on 5/7 shooting and 3 three-pointers en-route to his 8th 30+ point game of the season (32 total).
The Celtics, who just some days ago, seemed to have really carved out a top-4 spot in the Eastern Conference, have now lost 4 in a row and have slipped to 6th. The East will change everyday, so resisting the temptation to read too much into the standings will be the theme of the next 2-3 weeks. At least until the last week of the season in mid-April.
Patrick Patterson left the game at the 7 minute mark of the fourth quarter with a sore left ankle, and did not return. X-rays were negative, but Patterson will be re-assassed today as to his playing status going forward. The Raptors, who are already without a healthy JV down low, simply cannot afford any injuries to their front court.
Notables of the Night
– Solid start and Defense: A solid start was the key for the Raps in creating the separation they needed to set the tone for the game. Outscoring the Celtics by 16 in the first quarter, 30-14, the Raptors showed tenacity on defense holding the respectable Celtics offense to 44% from the field, and under 100 points. They held their opponent under 100 points for the third straight game, and have now won an unbelievable 31 straight games when holding opponents under that century mark. That’s doubly impressive for Dwane Casey’s squad in showing that not only does defense lead to victories, but it has done so in 31 games already this season, out of the 47 games thus far. And though the defense has been up and down this season, the past three games have been stellar, with opponent field goal percentages being 44%, 38% and 44%. Keep this coming.
– Luis Scola: The veteran that seems to be the usual target of criticism in our starting lineup, once again showed that starting the game seems to be his primary tangible strength. It was yet another hot first quarter for Scola, who poured it on with 17 points on 7/9 from the field in just over 10 minutes of action in the first quarter. And while Scola, who scored 18 against the Celtics in their last meeting, only played 10 minutes after that point on and didn’t score again, it was this type of contribution that if we got on a nightly basis (just one strong quarter or period of the game), it will be immensely important for the Raptors who continue to explore various options in the front-court. Already without a pure power forward to start the season, and now with Patterson potentially not 100%, the pressure continues for Dwane Casey to find consistent answers at the 4-spot.
– Norman Powell: 905’s best got the start once again last night, and didn’t disappoint. Going up against the guy I’d like to compare him to in Avery Bradley, Powell played a solid 22 minutes going 3/5 from the field for 10 points, and most notably 2/3 from 3-point land. There’s three things that gets me more and more excited every time I see this kid play – he plays defense, he’s athletic, and he seems to have legitimate NBA three-point stroke potential. In case the broadcast crew didn’t say it enough already, playing in the 905 has meant the world for Powell, who has enjoyed continous playing time and development opportunities that have helped him find his groove earlier in the NBA. Granted the Raps are more deep at point guard, but it’s somewhat crazy to imagine Powell being this far down the road as a second-round draft selection, as compared to Delon Wright taken in the first round, who has yet to touch an NBA court with meaningful stretches of minutes. That’s not a knock on Delon (he’s shown great potential in the 905); it’s just a testament to how hard Powell has worked to get to this point.
– Rotation: Dwane Casey played 12 different players in last night’s game – from the starters all the way down to Jason Thompson and Bebe, Bruno and Delon Wright. Part of it was due to JV and Patterson’s injury, but it was encouraging to see minutes being distributed throughout the roster (albeit some in garbage time) on the second half of a back-to-back. In spite of last night’s grind-out OT victory in Indiana, the Raps looked fresh and outpaced the Celtics for most of the night. That’s pretty impressive considering it’s this time of year and the effort with which that Pacers game last night was won.
The Raps wrap-up at home against the Orlando Magic on Sunday before heading out on a three-game road trip beginning Wednesday in Boston, followed by games in Houston and New Orleans on Friday and Saturday. The Magic have lost 2 in a row and are coming off of a disappointing loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers last night, in which they were completely outplayed in the fourth quarter. Orlando will likely remain without the services of Nikola Vucevic and Elfrid Payton; but a young, hungry squad sometimes spells disaster for the Raptors. Tip time on Sunday is 4:30 pm.