Raptors romp over Trail Blazers
TORONTO—It was only 23 days ago that the Toronto Raptors hit what the team called the low point in its season—a humiliating 18-point loss to the Portland Trail Blazers that ended a winless road trip and prompted the suggestion that jobs were in jeopardy.
The Raptors turned the tables on the Blazers last night in a dazzling display of just how far the squad has come.
“Two star players [Andrea Bargnani and Kyle Lowry] getting hurt. Everybody looking at each other crossways. The whole organization. Everybody talking about firings. That was a crossroads for us,” Raptors’ coach Dwane Casey said of Toronto’s Dec. 10 loss in Portland.
“Our guys looked in the mirror, we all did, and decided, ‘Hey, we can’t continue this way.’
“We started playing the game the right way, started sharing the basketball, starting more focus on the defensive end,” Casey added.
Last night’s game also was the opener of a six-game homestand for the Raptors (12-20), a team that was hammered by a particularly unkind early-season schedule.
DeMar DeRozan added 24 points for Toronto while Ed Davis had 19, Amir Johnson added 17, and point guards Jose Calderon and Lowry finished with 13 and nine assists, respectively.
And zero points between them.
“I don’t know what kind of record that is, but not too many times you’re going to win with your two point guards getting zero points,” Casey admitted.
“We were just making the easy plays,” Calderon added.
“Today it was all the guys making those plays, and I’m cool with that.”
Ross drained six three-pointers on nine attempts, including the buzzer-beater that brought the crowd to its feet and saw him fall over backwards as he watched the ball fall through the hoop.
Ross—the Raptors’ No. 8 pick in last year’s NBA draft—has been big during this strong stretch for Toronto, playing with a level of confidence that seems to go up whenever he steps on the floor.
He said the confidence to get more involved in the offence has come from his teammates.
“When I hesitate, I come back to the bench and they’re all mad, they’re all like, ‘Shoot,’” Ross said.
“It’s just something they tell me to do to get my confidence up.”
Damian Lillard had 18 to top the Blazers (16-15), who were coming off a 105-100 victory at New York the previous night.
The Raptors played with the same energy and unselfishness that saw them through such a strong December and never trailed, leading by as much as 18 points in the first half before taking a 78-61 lead into the fourth quarter.
Toronto didn’t let up in the fourth, and back-to-back threes by John Lucas and Ross gave the Raptors a 25-point lead with 1:06 to go.
Elsewhere in the NBA, Utah dumped Minnesota 106-84, Sacramento beat Cleveland 97-94, Indiana downed Washington 89-81, Chicago nipped Orlando 96-94, Memphis bounced Boston 93-83, Miami topped Dallas 119-109 (OT), and Houston upended New Orleans 104-92.
Brooklyn beat Oklahoma City 110-93, San Antonio topped Milwaukee 117-110, Phoenix downed Philadelphia 95-89, and Golden State dumped the L.A. Clippers 115-94.