“There’s no moral victories. I’m proud of the way we fought, but we’ve had too many of these games where we’ve shot ourselves in the foot or not made our own breaks,” said head coach Dwane Casey, praising the heart of his squad, while recognizing that that is not enough.
Casey was not pleased with the refereeing, but chose his words carefully.
“We had different looks, had opportunities to score down the stretch. It’s one of those situations where the whistle … I’ve got to look at the tape and see what happened,” he said.
Charlotte improved to 5-0 in games decided by four points or less, while Toronto, already the league’s worst team in the last five minutes of games decided by five or less coming in, couldn’t get a call and couldn’t hit a shot.
Charlotte blocked a Jose Calderon shot, a Kyle Lowry attempt and a Andrea Bargnani shot in that crazy final sequence – with the referees missing an obvious call on the final Bargnani chance – and DeMar DeRozan missed a couple in close before that amidst all kinds of Charlotte pressure.
Lowry, strong throughout with 21 points, eight assists and three blocks, threw up a bad shot just before Sessions’ heroics.
Sessions had termed the game “One we should win,” earlier in the week.
“It’s very frustrating, we’re working so hard. We’ve got to get better, we’ve got to learn from this,” Lowry said.
“Our 3-9 record doesn’t show how good of a team we are. We’re better than 3-9 and we’ve got to keep working.”
Bargnani had his best offensive performance of the year, scoring 25 points on 9-of-17 shooting. DeRozan added 14, while Jonas Valanciunas had an excellent 16-point, 10-rebound double-double.
Kemba Walker led Charlotte with 19, while Sessions added 14, but shot just 5-for-19.
The teams were tied at the half and Charlotte led by one after three.
Charlotte won for the sixth time this season after winning just 7-of-66 last year.
The poor reffing was an intriguing subplot, but had Charlotte been able to hit its three-point attempts the game never even would have been close. The Bobcats hit a woeful 15.8% (3-for-19) from deep and shot 41.9% overall compared to Toronto’s 46.3%.
Bargnani, stunned when a foul was not called on the decisive play, had turned in a good performance, getting the team going early with an eight-point first quarter and provided better defence than had previously been the case.
With a tired Jose Calderon struggling, Charlotte’s bench soundly outplayed Toronto’s, outscoring the visiting unit 38-21. On the bright side for the Raptors, rookie Terrence Ross saw more action and led the bench with 11 points. He still has much to learn defensively, but was able to provide a spark with a pair of dunks and a three-pointer.
Meanwhile, Valanciunas turned in another double-double in one of his best outings yet and got a chance to play the fourth quarter, before fouling out on another highly debatable call.
DeRozan had a frustrating evening, not shooting his first free throw until 1:52 remained on the clock, but had two chances late to win it.
BIG V IMPROVING
Casey is pleased with the progress of his rookie starter.
“He’s seeing things better reading situations better,” Casey said of Valanciunas before the game.
“He’s crashing the boards, does a great job of moving and going and fighting for rebounds. That was his biggest thing early, getting tangled up and not pursuing balls. He’s doing a much better job of that. You can see the kid is growin.”
Charlotte flat-out stunk last season and rookie Walker did not look very good either.
But things are different this season.
“They’re much improved. Playing like a unified team. They’re just playing so hard,” Casey said.
“(Walker’s) done a heck of a job playing within himself, creating, and that’s one reason he gives them a chance to win games.”