Raptors claw out a win in OT
By MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency
|Raptors centre Aaron Gray (front) is fouled by New Orleans Hornets centre Robin Lopez during the first half of their NBA game in New Orleans last night. (Reuters)
Kyle Lowry’s return came in a secondary role but there was nothing secondary about this performance.
Oh, there was definitely a moment there with about 30 seconds left when Lowry reverted to hero ball and threw up an ill advised three with his team protecting a two point lead and time still on the shot clock.
The attempt was blocked and the Raptors defence got a stop. The Hornets fouled with DeRozan hitting one of two.
With eight seconds left Ryan Anderson’s three-point attempt hit front rim, back rim and then dropped into the cylinder for a game-tying three.
With eight seconds to avoid overtime, the Raps got DeMar DeRozan isolated on Lance Thomas but his step-back jumper hit iron and bounced out forcing overtime.
Credit the Raptors for staying calm because in the overtime it was the Raptors that showed poise and control in taking charge of the extra frame.
Fittingly it was a Lowry make from three-point land that gave the Raps the cushion they would ride to an 104-97 win.
It certainly didn’t come easy but in a season where wins have been so tough to come by, even one over a six win Hornets team is something to celebrate.
Back from a seven game absence because of a partially torn right triceps, Lowry was, for all but that one shot late in regulation, under control, taking shots when they presented themselves and moving the ball when they didn’t.
It was everything the Raptors and head coach Dwane Casey could have hoped for.
Casey is adamant there will be no point guard controversy and the early returns tend to back him.
Calderon started, gave way to Lowry after about nine minutes who then gave Calderon a 10 minute rest.
Calderon played the majority of the third quarter — again about nine minutes — and a fresh Lowry came on and picked up right where he left off.
Both players were on the court for the remainder of regulation and both finished the overtime on the floor.
“Whatever helps us win,” Casey said when asked if he was looking to have his two point guards compete for minutes and or starting priviledges. “I’m not about competition or quarterback controversey’s. It’s about who helps us win, bottom line,” Casey said. “I know the history of the franchise, the history of the guards in this franchise. I’m not concerned about that. I’m concerned about the five, six, seven, eight or nine guys that are going to get out there and help us compete and in what positions we put them in out there on the court to help us compete. Whoever starts or whoever finishes is going to be determined by how well they play. We can’t do it any other way. We have to do it as a team.”
And that’s exactly how it played out last night. And to be perfectly clear, Casey was responding to a question about Calderon and Lowry but he could have just as easily been talking about Alan Anderson and Mickael Pietrus or either of those two and Landry Fields.
If Casey has his way, and it certainly seems like it’s working that way, the days of who you are and where you were drafted will be trumped by what you are doing on that particular evening.
Going back to Lowry, Casey made it very plain.
“We want him. We need him,” he said. “He’s a talented young man. But again, it’s about what helps us win. It’s not about Kyle. It’s not about Jose. It’s not about guys not playing. It’s about what we do as a team. Once we get over that hurdle and understand that as a team as an organization and as a group, we will continue to grow.”
Calderon wound up playing 31 minutes. Lowry got 27 but both had an impact on the win. Calderon did it primarily with his passing finishing the night with six assists. Lowry had a good night shooting the ball and a great night finding teammates finishging with 17 points and eight assists.
Both though played a back seat to DeMar Derozan who didn’t make his first basket from the field until midway through the second but wound up with a game-high 30 points including two huge drives in the final two minutes when it looked like the Hornets might be making a run.
Not to be overlooked was the early offensive surge by Ed Davis who kept the Raptors in the game when the Hornets were having their way with the guests early on.
Davis had nine of his 13 points in that first quarter as the Hornets came out flying and threatened to bury the Raptors early.
Perhaps the most telling stat of the game were the seven turnovers the Raptors committed in the game. It may have been the best performance in terms of taking care of the ball that the Raptors have had all season.