Raptors fade down the stretch yet again
By RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency
|Raptors' Ed Davis (right) gets a shot off as 76ers' Spencer Hawes closes on Friday night in Philadelphia. Davis poured in 18 points, but the visitors let a big lead melt away, losing in OT. (REUTERS)
Toronto’s lack of a killer instinct is becoming a major problem.
Less than a week after blowing an early 20-point lead and eventually losing, Toronto surrendered a 17-point halftime bulge over Philadelphia and allowed the Sixers to force overtime and eventually prevail when the game seemed over.
Toronto somehow lost a four-point lead with 8.8 seconds remaining in regulation. How, you ask? That other recurring problem, an inability to inbound the ball properly in the clutch led to a turnover as Alan Anderson bobbled the ball out of bounds while being physically defended (and, probably fouled).
The amped-up Sixers controlled the extra time and came away with a 108-101 victory that dropped the Raptors to 14-26.
It should never have been that close, but these Raptors sure seem to make things interesting — either way really, the club also tends to fight back from huge deficits.
“Those are things we’ve got to do,” Casey said.
“I thought we had our best group in to come meet the ball but when you’re in big-time situations, you’ve got to work and do whatever you can, scratch, claw, to get open. Again it’s on all of us, I’m included in the bunch, our backs are against the wall again and we have to scratch and claw our way out … We played well enough to win, except down the stretch, in those situations you’ve got to close games.”
Kyle Lowry played a quarter-and-a-half straight from midway through the third and looked gassed throughout the fourth against the excellent Jrue Holiday, who scored 33 points and added 14 assists.
Struggling Philadelphia, once a playoff lock, but lately a bit of a disaster, looked terrible early. The home side couldn’t hit a shot and the Raptors were scorching from deep at the other end — rookie Terrence Ross nailed three straight triples in one sequence.
But turnovers hurt the Raptors and as much as the team outworked Philly in the first half in cracking 60 points for the first time on the road this season through two, was how much the Sixers turned the tables in a 29-13 third quarter that cut the deficit to one.
“We played into their pressure. Turnovers led to points for them and the crowd got behind them and they kept fighting,” said DeMar DeRozan, who was quiet and said you could put the loss on his lack of aggressiveness, though it was a lot more than just his fault.
“We had that game. We had it at halftime. Third quarter they came out and threw a couple of haymakers and hit us,” Lowry said.
“We put ourselves in that bad position we shouldn’t have been in.
“We’ve got to figure out how to play the full 48 (minutes) like we play in stretches.”
What makes the non-call against Anderson more tough to swallow (DeRozan and Anderson believed it was a foul) for the visitors was the fact that, for the second time this season, the NBA had admitted that its officials blew a call that could have led to a Raptors win.
The NBA admitted Johnson was indeed in the act of shooting late in Wednesday’s overtime loss to Chicago, and should have been sent to the free throw line. The league previously admitted Andrea Bargnani (remember him?) should have been sent to the line in the dying seconds of a loss in Charlotte.
Knowing the NBA would come calling for a large handout if he said anything controversial, Casey chose a tactful route.
“It doesn’t change our record, our record is still what it is. It shows they system is in place and there is accountability for everybody,” Casey said, adding he didn’t know if there would be repercussions as far as the offending referees were concerned.
Johnson was slightly less politically correct.
“I was definitely in the act of shooting, I guess it was a tough call,” Johnson said.
“We’re desperate and they take two from us man, but what can you do but just keep playing … It’s tough being a ref. They miss some calls, like I got away with the double dribble call … Hopefully we can just blow out some teams so we don’t have to worry about those last couple of seconds.”
It looked like that might happen on Friday, until Philadelphia turned the tide.
RIDE THE HOT HAND
Don’t expect Casey to reinsert Lowry as a starter anytime soon. Casey said beforehand he likes the way both point guards are controlling the groups they mostly play with at this point and reiterated it afterwards.
“For our team it isn’t who is better. For the first group, Jose fits because he helps certain players in that first group that need help to get to certain positions on the floor and with the second group, Kyle is the guy … it’s who is going that night. If Jose is going I’ve gone with him. If Kyle’s going I’ve gone with him. Who is having the better game, who is helping us win basketball games is who I’ve gone with because both of them are really quality point guards,” Casey said.