TORONTO, ON–Though Dwane Casey said before the game the Raptors have never spoken as a club about being a playoff team, it may be time to start.
With a 94-89 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves in Toronto on Friday, the Raptors earned their 20th win of the season. And they did it in style too, wearing their camouflage jerseys for Canadian Armed Forces night in front of a sold-out ACC.
Kyle Lowry led all scorers with 24, Amir Johnson added 19 and DeMar DeRozan scored 15 as the Raptors reached 20 wins before the midway point of the season for the first time since the 2009-10 season.
“I thought we played like an underdog tonight and we didn’t play that role against Boston,” said Casey after the game. “We’ve got to continue to play that underdog role every time we take the floor.”
Lowry’s exclamation three with the shot-clock expiring and 14.6 left in the game sealed the deal emphatically. It was his sixth three-pointer of the night on nine long-range attempts. In the last five games Lowry has shot 19-32 (59.4%) from distance and as he shot free-throws at the end of the game, fans chanted M-V-P.
“If I’m named MVP you’ll see the pigs flying up in here right now, but thank you to the fans, I appreciate it,” said Lowry post-game.
Crediting the shooting breakthrough to improved ball movement, Lowry explained, “Everyone’s just trusting each other, has confidence in each other and if you miss one you know you’re going to get another one because we see one another practicing those shots.”
“He’s grown up,” said Casey of his point guard. “Both he and DeMar I’m going to keep preaching for them to have all-star consideration.”
Though DeMar had a tough night going 5-17 from the floor for 15 points, he along with Lowry earned a ringing endorsement from Minnesota bench boss and longtime NBA head coach Rick Adelman.
“He’s a really good player,” praised Adelman, who doesn’t heap lightly. “He’s a player that has made himself from when he came into the league. Now he’s posting up, he’s taking the ball, he’s shooting well, he’s averaging 22 points a game. That’s a pretty good duo to have with him and Kyle and I give him a lot of credit because he’s gotten better every year he’s been in the league.”
Also up for all-star consideration is Toronto’s Lithuanian big man. Postgame, Valanciunas was just happy to have finished with 11 rebounds and limited Pekovic to eight.
The platoon of JV, Amir and Patterson were battered and beat but held down Minnesota’s Nikola Pekovic and Kevin Love who together average the most rebounds of any frontcourt duo in the NBA.
With just under a minute left as a JJ Barea three-point attempt struck front-iron and landed in Johnson’s lap, he collapsed, trying to hold onto it, a sign of his fatigue after providing full effort.
“I thought the guys did a good job when you’re talking about two of the best offensive rebounders in the league,” Dwane Casey said after the game. “I thought Amir Johnson did a workman’s job inside, JV battled Pekovic all night and that’s a handful, Patrick came in and Chuck Hayes gave us nine rebounds which was huge.”
Toronto did lose John Salmons who tweaked his back in the first half and did not return. Casey said it’s too soon to evaluate the veteran swingman, but his role has been essential on the team especially his tutelage of Terrence Ross.
The win was the Raptors’ tenth consecutive home win against Minnesota. It’s also their sixth straight home win overall this season. They play their next game at home as well when they host the Lakers on Sunday afternoon.