It appears things are getting back to normal for the Toronto Raptors. DeMar DeRozan got to the free throw line 13 times and scored 24 points on 7-15 shooting. Freshly minted 2015 All-Star Kyle Lowry had 19 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists. The Raptors bench turned an 11 point Pacers lead into a 9 point Raptors advantage in just 4 minutes early in the second quarter to crush Indiana’s hopes of defeating the Atlantic Division leaders. When things are going right, that’s pretty much how this season has gone for Toronto.
The Pacers made several runs to close the gap over the rest of the game, but in the end they could never fully recover from that 4 minute stretch in the second quarter and ended up losing to the visitors 104-91.
Indiana Head Coach Frank Vogel has come to rely on his bench as a bright spot in an otherwise rough season. The Pacers have 16 wins, 31 losses and are getting outscored on average by just 2.4 points. They can still play defense, but only average scoring 94.9 points per game and 40.5 of those points come from the bench. Vogel’s bench is usually helping to keep his team in games and has a +2.1 points differential, but they couldn’t get it done versus Toronto. The Raptors bench outscored them 42-25 on this night. Only George Hill managed much offense off the bench with 13 points in just his third game back from injury.
Toronto’s own high-scoring bench (39.7 point average) leads the league with a +3.6 points differential and in this game they were an impressive +9.4 as they erased yet another deficit created by a slow start. Lou Williams pumped in his typical 14 points and Patrick Patterson had it going offensively with 13 points. Terrence Ross bounced-back after three subpar games to score 11 points on 5-10 shooting and grabbed 6 boards. However, the Raptors bench has been getting their work done with defense lately.
Since Head Coach Dwane Casey sent Ross to the bench, inserted Vasquez into the starting lineup and tightened his rotation – largely at the expense of James Johnson, the Raptors are 4 wins and 1 loss and have held teams to 92 points or less 4 times.
Having a deep and productive bench is going to be particularly important for the Raptors this week as this was just the first of four games in five nights. Toronto plays Sacramento at home on Wednesday, heads to Brooklyn on Friday and then plays a big game against the Wizards in Washington on Saturday.
This was DeMar DeRozan’s eighth game back since returning from a groin injury and his second game in a row getting to the free throw line 10 or more times. He is starting to return to his old All-Star worthy form. This stretch of games will be a major test of his health, strength and endurance after missing a month and a half of the season.
The win over the Pacers marks the first time in Toronto Raptors history that they have won 30 games prior to the All-Star break.
photo credit Paul Saini Fylmm.com
The Raptors bench averages 39.7 points and has an NBA best +3.5 points differential on the season. The Wizards (34.9 points, -1.9), Hawks (31 points, +0.6), Bulls (30.6 points, +0.9) and Cavaliers (23.8 points, -0.6) get a lot less production from their second unit and the Wizards and Cavs start losing ground without their starters. (The Spurs bench is +2.2 points.)