So the Toronto Raptors have clearly had the post Rudy Gay Trade honeymoon come to a close. They seem to have come back to earth than all of the sudden DeMar DeRozan puts up 40 in a win. They lose to the Clippers and lose DeRozan and Patterson gets a broken nose. Terrence Ross despite this ties the team’s all-time record for points in the regular season with 51 points.
It seemed like Raptors might just have hit a wall with injuries mounting up. Hansbrough has an ankle with the recuperation powers of Andrea Bargnani’s calf. Landry Fields, not that he was playing, but had to have wrist surgery again. Now the best player on the team is out heading into a critical game on the road against the red hot Nets who’s only loss in 2014 came in Toronto on Drake Night.
This seemed like the point where the Raptors run of good fortune had come to a close and a good dose of reality was set to be unleashed. Kyle Lowry would be having none of that though on this night. Lowry did a little bit of everything to spearhead a very grind it out effort by the Raptors. Lowry had 31 points along with 7 assists and 5 big steals on the night, Jonas Valanciunais who had a very good game that was somewhat lost with all the injuries and Terrence Ross hoopla had another solid performance tonight. A double-double of 20 points and 13 rebound.
This was a tight battle from pretty much the opening bell tonight in Brooklyn. The Raptors hit a couple threes the first by Ross and than by Lowry to take a 6-0 lead to start the game. Ross would only have 7 point the rest of the night proving that Sunday might have been the exception and not the rule. In any case the Nets fought to take a one point lead after one 26-25. The Raptors would end up with that slim lead heading into halftime.
Patrick Patterson would try starting this game with a mask for his broken nose but would choose to abandon it during the game. As it turned out he would want his face remembered as he hit the winning shot off a steal to give the Raptors the 104-103 victory. The win extended the Raptors lead in Atlantic Division to two and half games. More importantly it earned the Raptors a 2-1 lead in the season series and assured them at least a tie and chance to win the season series when they return to Brooklyn in March.
Pretty big stuff with your best player back in Toronto and it is unclear a timetable on when he will return. Kyle Lowry like DeRozan has been building a case to be named to the East reserves which should be announced on Thursday for the All-Star game in New Orleans.
Lowry is a key figure in this group and his uncertain future is why some like me are still a little worried about the future beyond this season. Lowry is going to be a free agent and clearly has earned himself a ton of money. It is just unclear from whom it will be and if he is worth it.
No question Lowry in motivated and playing to a level we have not seen. Is this just natural progression or the awareness of it being a contract year. A photo mad the rounds on Twitter of Masai Ujiri and Lowry hugging it out after this big win. This was viewed as some sort of symbol that Lowry would not be traded. Which is likely the case? Is it a simple of him re-signing with the Raptors? That for my money is taking things a step to far. Even if the Raptors do keep him in the fold do they end up buying at too high a price as they did in the past with Jose Calderon? This might be less of a problem with the new ownership at least giving all indications they are willing to spend money to build winners.
Still Lowry is going to have lots of attractive offers and L.A Lakers might be one of those teams. In addition his hometown Sixers would also have the money to make a pitch if they desired too. The road is not a simple one beyond this season.
As for this season which has been quite remarkable no one is fool hearty enough to think the Raptors could beat the Pacers or the Heat let alone both in a seven game series. So spoiler alert don’t expect a parade this year. If you accept that as fact it is about keeping this core group together beyond this season.
Patrick Patterson is the exact opposite situation from Lowry as is Grievous Vasquez where the Raptors hold all the cards there. Lowry is the wild card to all of this. You can bet if he does somehow leave the disgruntled members of tank nation will not let people forget it anytime soon. Not to mention it plays to that old pattern of the Raptors not being able to keep their own stars. We all know that list all to well by now. If you are one of those people that can live in the moment the Raptors are keeping you very happy.
This is despite some glaring flaws of late with the amount of points they are allowing and an offensive attack that at times I question if it holds up to bright lights and tighter defensive attacks that await in the playoffs.
But on this day the Raptors kept the wolves at the door for time being. It was a gutsy effort from a team and a group that really seemed to have bonded and come together this season through the ups and downs. Tonight was one of those nights that Raptors teams of the past would have been pissed about the call they didn’t get in the final seconds and lost the game. This group is not much for excuses and is focused on getting wins no matter how they may come.