The Toronto Raptors (5-3) have a rightful gripe with the officials after they failed to see that Carmelo Anthony’s foot was blatantly out of bounds in the dying seconds of what was then just a one-point game that should have given the home team a key possession but instead led to two Lance Thomas free throws that put the New York Knicks up by three en route to a 111-109 road win. However, as the game’s leading scorer DeMar DeRozan points out, the missed call doesn’t take the Raptors off the hook for a win they should have had that they allowed to slip through their grasp.
“All night there were a lot of things we were definitely frustrated about,” DeRozan said after the game. “We still had a chance to pull it out. I missed a free throw, and even though I missed a free throw we got the ball back and missed a layup. Just a combination of things.”
One major issue from Tuesday’s loss was a distinct lack of small forward depth, brought on by the uncertain health statuses of DeMarre Carroll (foot) and Terrence Ross (thumb). Neither man has a set timetable for their respective return, leaving key defensive responsibilities to the likes of James Johnson, who offered marginal contributions but struggled to hold his own against Anthony, and Anthony Bennett, who provided some energy in 17 minutes off the bench but was probably in over his head against ‘Melo. The defensive struggles of the last two games, in particular, have really shone a light on how integral Carroll has already become to how the Raptors function.
Still, despite allowing 111 points to a club that ranked dead last in scoring league-wide last season, DeRozan’s 29 points helps the Raps keep the game close right up until the finish. But the team’s leading scorer missed a critical driving reverse lay-up with six seconds remaining that would have tied the game and a fleeting final hope borne out of a Cory Joseph three-pointer was snuffed out when Luis Scola couldn’t get his mid-court prayer to drop at the buzzer.
DeMar puts the team on his back
Okay, so Kyle Lowry certainly chipped in with 23 points, nine assists and seven rebounds and Jonas Valanciunas helped the cause with 16 points and nine boards of his own, but DeRozan carried the load for the offensively shallow Raps on Tuesday. His stat line offers a slight edge on high-scoring Knicks counterpart Anthony. The two men took the same 23 shots, but DeRozan finished with four more points (29 to 25) thanks to one more made field goal and four more made free throws on six more attempts.
The Raptors improved on their horrendous long distance shooting showing from Sunday night, albeit not by much. After going 3-17 in Miami, they shot 4-17 (23.5%) from three-point range on Tuesday against the Knicks. Even more concerning than their own trey woes on Tuesday, however, was their inability to prevent New York from enjoying major gains from beyond the arc. The Knicks shot 11-23 (47.8%) from deep, with Thomas, Langston Galloway and Jose Calderon combining to go 7-10. The 21-point discrepancy in treys, with New York making seven more threes while taking just six more shots, was pretty glaring in a two-point outcome.
On the surface, depth would seem to be an advantage that the Raps could easily lord over the lowly Knicks. But beyond Joseph’s 12 points and steady defense, Toronto has been hard-pressed to find reliable bench contributors. Patrick Patterson has had a season to forget thus far, Bismack Biyombo is a defensive maven but an offensive liability, Bennett will require some patience and the youngster quartet of Delon Wright, Norm Powell, Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira represent four roster spots occupied by players who aren’t currently being trusted to play meaningful minutes. In contrast, Thomas and Galloway were offering value in crunch time for the Knicks, whose eight-man second unit outscored their Raptor counterparts by a whopping 54-23 margin.
As a fan of ABC’s now-defunct sitcom Happy Endings, I was among the few who recognized actor Adam Pally when they showed him sitting courtside. But it made me wonder how many celebs at Madison Square Garden would have to decline before Pally got screen time at a Knicks’ home game?
In other news, Robin Lopez continued his on-going war on mascots on Tuesday night. While the Raptor was presenting Lopez with a posterized list of his “favorite Lopezes” before the game, Robin took umbrage to being left off and slammed the sign over the poor mascot’s head.
It’s amazing what signing some actual competent, capable NBA players can do for a team. The Knicks won’t likely be good this year, but they have already won three road games (they won seven all of last season) and seem to be getting production from some of their off-season additions. Lopez and former No. 2 overall pick Derrick Williams are helping ease Anthony’s scoring burden, Kyle O’Quinn is leading the team in blocks and rookie Kristaps Porzingis owns the club lead in rebounding. Kevin Seraphin and Sasha Vujacic also figure to have their moments this season, and Arron Afflalo remains set to make his Knicks debut soon, making playoffs in the weak East a distinct possibility, much to the chagrin of a Raps team that will likely wind up with their first round pick next summer.
If the Raps lose their fourth in a row tonight in Philly (7:00pm, TSN) against the still-winless Sixers, it might be time to sound the alarm.
Prediction: Raps 113, Sixers 104 (record this season: 3-4)