Things have not gone well for the Raptors against the Charlotte Bobcats this year. When you consider the Bobcats have only won seven games and the fact that two of them have been over the Raptors is embarrassing however you cut it. Would the embarrassment come to any end or be John Cena like in getting swept by the lowly Bobkittens?
Early signs were let the embarrassment continue as the Bobcats jumped out in front to a 6-0 run to begin the game. Aaron Gray would only manage one of two at the line to get the Raptors on the board. After a DeRozan bucket the star of last year's Final Four Kemba Walker nailed a three. James Johnson got some serious home town rim action as he answered with a three. He would follow that up with 2 more and it was a 9-8 Bobcats lead with 7:20 to play in the first. Took over 6 minutes but Andrea Bargnani finally found a way to score. James Johnson and Aaron Gray had hooked up for a score earlier and the did it again to give the Raptors their first lead of the night 14-13. Bargnani after being pretty invisible the first 6 minutes was making up for lost time making a wide open three. Maybe he was made that I tweeted something nasty about him. But Bargnani was on a role now with another 2 points. Raptors had a 19-14 lead with just under three minutes to play in the quarter. Raptors would let thing slide and it hardly a surprise anymore against this team it is expected. In a minute and half the score shrunk to just a 21-20 Raptors lead. How can that happen? Fouls as the Bobcats were 9/9 from the free throw stripe. Bobcats would take the lead 22-21 on an 8-2 run. In the end a Kleiza shot late would give the Raptors a 24-22 lead. This despite the fact they we shooting above 50% from the field.
Linas got things rolling in the 2nd with a three to open the scoring and give the Raptors a five point lead. Believe it or not the Bobcats have won 6 straight over the Raptors. They were hanging around again in this one with the Raptors up 33-28 with 7:45 to play in the half. After getting up by 7 the Raptors with some sloppy play quickly see that lead trimmed to just 3. Kleiza was making some key baskets with a one point lead Linas nailed a big three to make it 38-34. He wasn't done as he made it back to back threes and it was 41-34. Bobcats would make another push and get it back to two points but then Calderon would hook up Bargnani for a slam. Bobcats would get a tech as well that Calderon would drain. Raptors had a 44-39 with under 3 to play in the half. Bargnani was having a big half on offense. Not so much in terms of rebounds. A rare still and break away lay-up gave him 15 points. Bargs missed a buzzer beater to close the half. Raptors take a 53-46 lead into the half.
Andrea Bargnani after 6 minutes of sleep walking on both ends has been wide awake on offense since. In terms of defense and rebounding the moments of alertness have been few and far between. The Raptors were winning though and given their dubious history with Bobcats they will take a win any way they can get it. Byron Mullens had been hustling all night long he got a nice block on DeRozan coming from out of no where. Raptors had dominated this game but on lead it 61-56 with 5 to play in third. If you are not concerned you should be or you are still one of those delusional folks convinced tanking will help. Raptors get called for a clear path foul on DeRozan and Kemba Walker makes one of two and the Cats keep the ball down four. Jose Calderon with a nice strip of Mullens makes what could have been an ugly stretch for the Raptors work out well. DeRozan makes up for his mistake on D with a nice drive to hoop and finished it off. Something he is doing much more consistently. DeRozan seems to have been fired up ever since that clear path foul and he sinks a jumper no sweat and Raptors lead 67-60 with under 2:30 to play in 3rd. After Henderson made a pair at the line and DeRozan back at it he had 10 in quarter and was helping the Raptors maintain this lead on his own. Kleiza who had been silent after his 14 in first half gets a bucket late to keep the lead at 7 points and give DeRozan some needed assistance. Tyrus Thomas got laid out in a collision with 0.3 seconds left and slowly made it to his feet. Raptors had a lead heading to the 4th with a 71-64 advantage. could they hang on and finally beat the worst team in the NBA? This was there last shot at it win or lose.
DeRozan tried to keep his hot streak going but his jumper fell out and D.J White scores on the other end of the floor. D.J Augustin with jumper and just like that Bobcats were back to within three. A vital steal by the 10 day guy in Uzoh and he passed ahead to Kleiza for the easy score. DeRozan followed that with a drive not a jumper and another score and the lead was back to 7. Uzoh goes from hero to goat as he turns it over and it leads to the easy score. DeRozan soon after would lose his temper on a foul call and get a technical foul. Raptors had dominated this game aside from the opening few minutes. They were letting it all slip away and not showing the killer instinct that is required to beat bad teams. Raptor would get a bucket from Bargnani in the paint that would give them a 77-71 lead with 8 to play. DeRozan again inspired by a self inflicted wound would nail a jumper and extend the lead to 8. Again the Bobcats were not going away as Mullens gets an easy slam and keeps them hanging around down 6. Mullens would drive down the heart of the lane and look to cut into that lead further with 4:38 to go. He would miss both at the line. Bargnani with a nice pass to Ed Davis and he draws contact and makes he shot. He would miss the and one and Bobcats would run off the rebound and get an easy score leaving the lead at 6 after all that. Bobcats got this game down to 4. D.J Augustin draws a foul but also an injury and Bobcats had already lost seldom used Tyrus Thomas but this was a much bigger player to lose in your starting point guard. A time out would give him some time to recover and see if he could continue. D.J would remain in the game and it was Bobcats ball and they score at the end of shot clock to make it a two point game. Mullen's with a block and Bobcats at a chance to tie or take the lead. Instead a miss a long rebound to DeRozan and he was off to the races drawing a foul in transition. TSN decided to loss the feed which is typical. They do wake up in time to get us back for the end. We missed an Andrea three that made it 88-84. D.J Augustin says I can do that too and makes a response three. There are 40.6 seconds left and Raptors clinging to a one point lead against worst team in NBA. Yes this is pretty pathetic. Bargnani in the post with the big score and he has had his best night on offense since returning to the line-up from his calf injury. There is 26.5 to with the Raptors up three. Mullens who had been having a great night air balls one and likely cost the Cats a shot at winning. Gerald Henderson laid the wood on Bargnani with a hard foul with 8.9 to play. Bargnani makes him pay were it counts at the line making both and sealing this game up it would appear. It would indeed ending a very embarrassing 6 game losing streak to the Bobkittens. It also is the first back to back wins at home for the Raptors since Dec 2010 (A stat I saw on Twitter) and last time in general since January 2012. Raptors get win number 19 with a 92-87 win and now head out to Philly tomorrow for 2nd half of a back to back.
People may argue this point but this was the first real dominant performance from Bargnani since his return on offense. In terms of defense the fact Casey was switching him with Amir Johnson for D for O late in game spoke volumes more than I could about his play on that end. He also is back to an optional rebounder at best. All that said he had 30 and was a huge reason along with Demar DeRozan as to why the Raptors won this won. Back to back wins over the Wizards and Bobcats is hardly reason to celebrate but given the Raptors failures against both it may feel like it. Just one win from our pre-season prediction of 20 wins. I think the Raptors will get there and likely past that number. Dwane Casey has done a great job under trying circumstances. On can only imagine how bad this team would be if Jay Triano was still at the helm. Let's just say the tank nation would name him the general. I will just call it a night.