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Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan won’t allow the Raptors to slip into mediocrity
- Updated: January 2, 2017
With the Toronto Raptors in jeopardy of losing 3 straight games for the first time all season on Sunday night, their All-Star backcourt stepped up and produced when it truly mattered.
Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combined for 72 points, marking the first time all season that they both scored at least 30 points in a game. Behind their performances, the Raptors climbed their way back from a deficit in the Staples Center, to earn a 123-114 win over the Los Angeles Lakers, while improving their record to 23-10 to keep their place as the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference.
After suffering a pair of losses to the Golden State Warriors, and then the lowly Phoenix Suns, the Raptors looked to their leaders to get them back on track. Without one of their most important players in Patrick Patterson out due to injury, Lowry and DeRozan stepped up and proved why coach Dwane Casey had trusted them from the start.
With their win last night, the Raptors put themselves back on track to set another franchise record in wins, which would make it their sixth straight year that they’ve also improved their record. While their roster continues to gain chemistry, even with the departure of Bismack Biyombo in free agency, their backcourt duo continues to exceed expectations as they cement their place amongst the league’s elite.
.@klow7 was on one last night.
Watch him drop 41, 9 & 7 on the Lakers.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 2, 2017
Playing in Los Angeles, the Raptors were faced with a tough test in order to complete their bounce back win. The Lakers were shooting lights out, with D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young leading the way with a combined 54 points on 13-22 shooting from 3-point distance.
The Raptors were playing from behind for the majority of the 2nd and 3rd quarter, while DeRozan kept them in striking distance in front of his hometown crowd. Every time that the Lakers looked like they were going to crack the game wide open, DeRozan responded with a well-timed jumper.
His most important shot came at the end of the 3rd quarter, when he attacked the paint and drew a foul while making a jumper; helping complete a 3-point play opportunity that gave the Raptors a 78-76 lead with just over 3 minutes to play. DeRozan would continue putting up buckets, scoring another 4 points to end the frame with a slight 2-point lead over the Lakers.
The Raptors entered the 4th quarter looking like they were set for a challenge against a young and hungry Lakers team. DeRozan had scored 13 points in the 3rd quarter, but it wasn’t enough to rattle the Lakers on their own home court. With their All-Star shooting guard taking a rest to start the final frame, Lowry decided to take over and produce another famous stretch of “Lowry Time.”
Their leader stepped up once again, scoring an incredible 20 points in the 4th quarter. He put the Lakers back in their place, with the Raptors holding and growing their lead throughout the final 12 minutes of action. Lowry did all he could so the Raptors could leave with a win, finishing the night with 41 points on 12-16 FG, 9 rebounds and 7 assists.
— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) January 2, 2017
While the rest of the Eastern Conference continues to switch seeds each and every night, the Raptors join the Cavaliers as the only team that continues to keep their rightful place while playing to their potential. They still hold the league’s best offensive rating at 113.8, and it’s been because of their backcourt; who are averaging a combined 50.2 points a game.
Even though they sit in the 2nd seed in the East, the Raptors are still battling as hard as ever to be able to keep their reputation as one of toughest teams in the league. They welcomed the New Year with a win, after ending 2016 with a disappointing stretch that didn’t do them any justice.
Last year’s 56-win season, and not to forget their first trip to a Conference Finals, was just the beginning for the Raptors as they continue to improve while heading into higher expectations. They remain on track for bigger and brighter things, while Lowry and DeRozan continue to distance the Raptors from a sense of mediocrity that circled the franchise up until they became All-Stars.
All stats for this article are from NBA.com and Basketball-Reference.com
You can follow Bryan Meler on Twitter @BryanMelo97