The rap against the Raptors has been that they don't always kick an opponent when they're down.
Last night, they did precisely that.
Facing a Charlotte Bobcats team that had lost five games in a row, the Raptors exploded out of the gate and cruised to a 98-79 victory.
The win was the fourth in a row at the Air Canada Centre for Toronto, who were without their Big 3 in Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani and T.J. Ford, and improved their record to 10-8, while the very young, but very aggressive, Bobcats fell to 6-10.
The game was hard-fought, but sloppy at times, and was marked by turnovers by both clubs, 12 for Toronto and 10 for Charlotte. In the end, the Raptors had much better looks, shooting 51% from the field to 33% by Charlotte. Toronto shot 8-for-13 from beyond the arc, and played tough defence.
Without Bosh (strained right groin), Bargnani (hyper-extended left knee) and Ford (arm stinger), the Raptors needed a full team effort, and that's exactly what they got. The Toronto bench out-scored Charlotte's 48-22, out-rebounded the Bobcats 46-35 and scored a season-high 46 points in the paint.
"With our top players out, and to go out and win a game like this against that team with the talent they have ... well, they've been up and down, but there are nights when they can beat you," head coach Sam Mitchell said in praise of his club.
Power forward Kris Humphries also gave the Raptors a big lift off the bench with six rebounds and 17 points, including a dunk on the end of a spectacular three-way passing play on a fast break in the fourth. It has been a frustrating season for Humphries, who was averaging only 10.7 minutes per game heading into the Charlotte contest, but he said the uniqueness of the Raptors is that all of the bench guys remain positive and are always ready to play.
"There's a lot of teams where the guys don't care when they're not in the rotation on a nightly basis," Humphries said. "We have guys who are ready to play who haven't been playing a lot, and I think that's the key for us. We have good guys (on the bench) who still compete and want to play."
Small forward Carlos Delfino continued his impressive play off the bench, scoring 17 points. The first-year Raptor has scored in double-figures in his last five games.
Jose Calderon, filling for T.J. Ford as the starting point guard for the seventh straight game, came through again with yet another solid effort, recording nine assists, seven rebounds and 12 points, including a driving layup to put Toronto ahead 45-29 in the second quarter with Bobcats guard Raymond Felton draped all over him.
Rookie small forward Jamario Moon, who was coming off his first career double-double (16 points and 13 rebounds) on Saturday, had another strong game with six points and 12 rebounds.
Forward Jared Dudley picked up a double-double for Charlotte, with 16 points and 10 rebounds, while Gerald Wallace had 19 points and eight rebounds.
Raptors forward Joey Graham started for the first time this season and made his presence felt right away, picking up 13 points and four rebounds, including a monster dunk in the fourth quarter after grabbing an offensive rebound, to put Toronto comfortably ahead 83-65.