The offensively challenged Charlotte Bobcats faced the Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday and put up over 100 points in a back and forth 104-102 overtime victory for the visitors.
It was only the third game for Head Coach Dwane Casey’s new roster since the Rudy Gay trade, but in some ways it defines the Raptors and their season. The Raptors are talented enough to play with the rest of the mediocre to bad teams in the Eastern Conference playoff race, but are putting the emphasis on developing their young players.
“We are still in the building process,” said Casey before the game. “It is about Terrence Ross, growing him, getting him better. DeMar DeRozan is still a work-in-progress. Jonas Valanciunas is still a work-in-progress. We are still building – still in the improvement process of getting these guys better until further notice.”
As is common with the Raptors, Toronto started off with a play into the post for Jonas Valanciunas and the Raptors young center showed something new by passing out and re-posting deeper. On the pass back, he easily scored over Al Jefferson with a short hook. Valanciunas also putback an offensive board 2 plays later, but points were hard to come by in the first quarter as both teams shot under 32 percent from the field and the Bobcats took an 18-15 lead on a late Kemba Walker three-pointer. Bobcats turning the ball over 5 times to the Raptors 4.
In the second quarter, the Raptors bench came alive as John Salmons scored 8 points on 2 three-pointers and then DeRozan started hitting shots to add 11 points to a 32 point Raptors quarter. Toronto hit 12 of 18 shots while Charlotte added 7 more turnovers to their total and shot 8-18 from the field in a listless effort. New Raptor Greivis Vasquez had a big second quarter with 5 points and 3 assists off the bench.
Toronto started the second half with a 10 point lead that ballooned to 16 points before things started falling apart. Anthony Tolliver subs in for the Bobcats and scores 7 quick points. Walker goes off with back-to-back three-pointers, an and-1 drive and a jump shot to close the gap to 65-64. The quarter ends in a 70-all tie and the offensively challenged Bobcats have responded with 33 points.
In the quarter, Jefferson scored 10 points for the visitors to go with Walker’s 11 and Tolliver’s 7. Ross scored all of his 5 points for Toronto in the third quarter, DeRozan added 9 and Vasquez scored 4.
A wild fourth quarter saw the lead change several times and Kyle Lowry hit the game tying three-pointer with 12 seconds left. DeRozan stole the ball from Walker as time expired to send the game into overtime.
The Raptors had every opportunity to win this game in overtime, but they shot just 3-11 over the final 5 minutes and although DeRozan denied it, he looked completely gassed at the end, shooting 1-4.
The Bobcats had their own chance to win this game from the free throw line, but both Gerald Henderson and Walker went 0-2 with less than 20 seconds left to setup Walker’s heroics with just 1 second left on the clock. After DeRozan tied the game from the line, Josh McRoberts in-bounded the ball to Walker who hit the game winning jump shot.
“I set a back screen for Gerald (Henderson),” Walker said. (“I was open,” interjected Henderson.) Then Big Al (Jefferson) set a screen for me. So it was kind of pick the picker. I guess there was a little confusion on the defensive end and I just found myself pretty open. Josh (McRoberts) made a great pass to me and I had a second so I could turn around and set my feet and get a good shot up.”
Walker finished the game scoring 29 points on 10-18 shooting. Big Al Jefferson set a season high with 24 points, he also had 11 rebounds to record the double-double. The usual Raptors killer, Henderson, had a quiet 11 points. The Bobcats turned the ball over 20 times.
DeRozan led all scorers with 30 points on 11-26 shooting and 8-10 from the free throw line. Lowry had 17 points and 6 assists. Vasquez had 9 points and 8 assists, but shot just 4-15 from the field. The Raptors out rebounded the Bobcats 50-40 and the hard working Amir Johnson recorded a 10 point 13 rebound double-double.
The Raptors will get another chance at the Bobcats when they visit Charlotte on January 20th. Fans can get a free ticket to the game with the donation of a six-pack of socks to the Cody Zeller Sock Drive.
Toronto starts a 4 game road trip against Dallas on Friday.
Charlotte plays in Detroit on Friday.