The Raptors are 12–7 and, despite some third-quarter struggles, appear to be cruising to a 3rd straight 50+ win season. This despite Delon Wright being out for a month, and Norm Powell and CJ Miles both missing time recently. Powell and Miles are playing tonight. Norm had a hip injury, and CJ’s wife had a baby girl.
The transition to a more free-flowing, 3-pointer heavy offense is going well, and the young guys are making progress. DeMar DeRozan won Eastern Conference Player of the Week in mid-November, and Kyle Lowry has found his rhythm after some early-season struggles.
The Charlotte Hornets’ best player, Raptor-killer Kemba Walker, is out with an injury. Hopefully that means rookie Malik Monk gets some extra touches. The Hornets are 8-11, and like every team that Dwight Howard has been on since Orlando, have looked miserable. Howard, a 31-year-old man, was recently fined for making a sexually obscene gesture towards a fan in Cleveland. Grow up, Dwight.
The Raps are 6–1 at home. This should be an easy win.
End of Q1: Raps 32, Hornets 25
DeRozan leads all scorers with 10 points, JV outplayed Dwight and faked him out of his shoes, and the Raps generally had it rolling until the Hornets closed the quarter strong. Ibaka had a couple of nice blocks. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist still looks like a bust. Drake and Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman are here.
The Hornets hung tough early behind 10 points from Frank the Tank Kaminsky and a couple of 3's from Monk. Monk gave up quite a bit on the defensive end though. Lowry checked in and engineered a Raptors run to push the lead back to double digits. Dwight elbowed both JV and Ibaka on the same post-up and that somehow got JV his 3rd foul. Howard threw down a monster dunk on the next play. Poeltl has 3 fouls as well, so Bebe closed the half. His only memorable contribution was missing a wide open layup in transition. Lowry closed the half with a 28 -foot 3, and leads all scorers with 19 points. He has been amazing. If only he could do this in the playoffs.
Remember those 3rd quarter issues I mentioned? The Hornets start the half with a 19–2 run. Howard comes out strong, including a dunk over Poeltl and Ibaka. The refs are letting them play a little now, and Lowry & DeRozan respond to give the Raps an 82–73 lead.
End of Q3: Raps 93, Hornets 85
They escaped the 3rd with a decent lead. MKG is up to 12 points. OK, maybe he’s not a total bust.
Bebe and Monk trade 3-pointers. The Raps’ all-bench unit holds its own, and the Hornets’ fight looks like it’s fading. Lowry checks in and extinguishes any thoughts of a comeback.
Lowry had a season-high 36 points, DeRozan added 30. Hornets coach Steve Clifford looked pissed off that they stayed in til the final buzzer, even after he emptied his bench.
The Pacers are here on Friday. The Raptors lost in Indiana last week after blowing a double digit halftime lead, and will be looking for revenge.