Five thoughts on Game 20: Raptors 126, Hornets 113

Charlotte Hornets at Toronto Raptors, Nov 29

A few thoughts on the Toronto Raptors giving away another third quarter, but hanging on to beat the shorthanded Hornets:

The Raptors’ third quarter problems persist…

Dwayne Casey sounded pretty livid after the game, with good reason. The Raptors gave away another third quarter with sloppy play: poor shots, unforced turnovers, poor transition defense, poor perimeter defense, poor rebounding position… I mean, it was embarrassing. And once again the bench had to come in and settle things down. I mean, there’s a small part of me that’s glad the fourth was interesting—blowout fourth quarters are boring—but I’d rather see a close game throughout, rather than watch the team choke away a big lead.

… as does their habit of playing down to shorthanded opponents

Once again a Raptors opponent was missing their best player and once again the Raptors struggled to take advantage. Kemba Walker is fully capable of going on a 19-2 run all by himself (like his team did to start the third); there’s literally no one else on this Hornets team to fear. And yet the Raptors let these guys hang around. I was really disappointed in the Raps’ defensive efforts; Walker is a tough guy to guard because he can beat you inside and out. But Dwight Howard, Michael Carter-Williams, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist… these are fairly one-dimensional players. They can’t shoot—yet the Raptors crowded them and allowed blow-bys to the rim. And that led to a ridiculous 35-11 free-throw differential.

It took him 20 games, but Kyle Lowry looks like himself

This was a vintage Kyle performance tonight; yeah, he sucked, along with everyone else, for the first six minutes of the third. But he was stellar in the first half (19 points, and helping turn a 7-point first quarter lead to 19 by halftime) and stellar in the fourth. He wasn’t going to let the Raptors give this one away; he went 3-4 from deep in the fourth, and found DeMar DeRozan on a drive that led to a DeMar hammer dunk that sealed it. He scored 36 on 18 shots with 8 made threes (a career high). He also took his league-leading 14th charge, and acquired approximately 23 new bruises, scrapes and cuts. Glad to see old Kyle back!

Lucas Nogueira is hurt again

Tell me if this doesn’t sum up Bebe’s career: Jonas Valanciunas and Jakob Poeltl were both battling foul trouble tonight, which gave Bebe an opportunity to play after being the odd man out the past several games. He comes in, hits a three, picks up three fouls, and leaves, injured, after 8 minutes. Sigh.

I’m actually a fan of Drake on the broadcast

If I only tuned in to the occasional game, having Drake chime in with Matt and Leo for a quarter might bug me – that’s not what I want to hear, right? But when you watch every day it actually adds a nice bit of color every once in a while! And he clearly is having a great time, he loves it, he’s funny… I dig it. And Matt and Leo seem to dig it too… And hey, if Kyle’s postgame interview is any indication, he digs it too. And that’s all right for me.

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The Pacers are in town Friday. Can the Raptors fix their third-quarter woes before then? Remember what happened the last time they played Indiana