Lowry returns, Raptors fall in Philly
By RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency
|Raptors' Jonas Valanciunas (right) is fouled by Sixers' Kwame Brown on Tuesday night in Philadelphia. Despite the return of Kyle Lowry, the Raptors dropped a 106-98 decision. (REUTERS)
PHILADELPHIA - Kyle Lowry played the role of rusty saviour in his surprise return to the Raptors lineup on Tuesday and was none-too-pleased afterwards.
Lowry missed five of eight free throw attempts and the Raptors (3-8) shot just 69% from the line, blowing a fourth-quarter lead in a 106-98 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers (7-4).
"Personally I was not happy with the way I played. A lot of the things (that contributed to the loss), I just put on myself tonight," Lowry said.
The Raptors led by seven after three quarters, but Philadelphia went small — as it had in a win at the ACC earlier this season — and Toronto again could not match up.
Jrue Holiday absolutely carved the visitors, constantly breaking down the defence and finding open teammates for corner three attempts.
Lowry is not yet healthy enough to cover fleet point guards, so Jose Calderon was saddled with the chore and had little help behind him.
"They pretty much had four shooters out there. They spread us out, they put us in situations where we had to help the big and help the smalls and they made some good tough shots," Lowry said
Holiday scored 19 points and added 12 assists, while Nick Young added 23 points, and Jason Richardson had 23.
DeMar DeRozan led the Raptors with 24, Andrea Bargnani had 22 and Calderon 13 points and 12 assists.
After going hard in a couple of practices and workouts, Lowry returned unexpectedly a couple of days ahead of schedule from an ankle injury and played 29 minutes, even though his time was supposed to be limited.
"We'll see how much he plays," Raptors head coach Dwane Casey had said before the game.
Lowry scored 13 points and added seven rebounds and seven assists.
Lowry was averaging 18.3 points, 3.0 steals and 6.3 assists per game when he went down on Nov. 6 in Oklahoma City after 17 minutes (and before that game, he was averaging about 24, points, 7 assists and 7 rebounds).
The team went 2-5 in his absence.
Jonas Valanciunas was excellent, with 11 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks in 25 minutes of action, but Casey, not yet comfortable using him in the clutch and believing he could not match up with the small Sixers lineup, opted to sit him down the stretch.
"He could have come in (for Amir Johnson), but I thought we needed some shooting in the floor with those smaller guys," Casey said.
"We had Andrea at the five, which we sometimes do. I don't think that had anything to do "¦ I think JV did an excellent job in the first half when they went big "¦ I felt like Andrea was a better fit to go against Dorrell Wright or Thaddeus Young."
Casey made it clear what he thought went wrong.
"I don't think strategy in those situations hurt us, it was second shots, boxing out, executing, 50-50 balls, finishing plays, making free throws at certain time.
"We lose Thaddeus Young in transition (he blocked Bargnani and scored an easy bucket the other way), there's no way. We're jogging back in home run trot," the exasperated coach said.
The Raptors have had all kinds of trouble closing tight games.
"We've got to get stops. That's the bottom line," DeRozan said.
"We're a step slow on everything "¦ We've got to anticipate the next pass and understand who the next person is, whether it's a three-point shooter or a driver."
The Sixers nailed nine threes, but missed 16, many of them wide-open looks.
On the positive side, Toronto moved the ball extremely well, assisting on 28-of-37 makes, including 17-of-18 in the first half.
But defensively, there simply were too many lapses.
Calderon, like most NBA point guards, can't guard other points one-on-one and Bargnani is extremely poor historically when charged with being the last man back defensively. Add poor rotations by the rest of the players — "transition defence, closing out (to) touch (at the three-point line, all those little things are basketball plays that you have to make in crunch time," according to Casey — and the late collapses will continue.
Oh, yeah. The Raptors play for the fourth time in five nights on Wednesday in Charlotte and Bobcats guard Ramon Sessions has already termed the game one the Bobcats "should get."