Raptors Cage

Raptors blow Dwane Casey’s return to Toronto in wild finish

Dwane Casey led the Raptors to the greatest era in their franchise history, but he’s never looked happier in Toronto than tonight, where he was coaching the other team. Despite a lead of as much as 19 points, the entire Raptors roster signed GoDaddy contracts midway through the third, blowing the lead and losing at the buzzer on a Reggie Bullock tip.

That was a lot of emotions. Let’s break them down.

The night started with Dwane Casey tributes galore, milked very heavily by Sportsnet throughout the entire pregame show. It was impossible to not feel some things when Casey was announced as the opposing coach. Casey was a class act his entire time here and seeing him on the other side was very bittersweet. The official tribute came during the first timeout with a montage for the crowd to enjoy while Dwane, business as usual, was huddled up with the team holding his clipboard.

More importantly though, if we have to talk about it, the game, which was certainly a tail of two halves.

The 1st half

It opened as many Raptors games have this year, but with an extra dose of Kawhi. He had an excellent first half, playing aggressively on offense while not forcing anything, starting out 4/5 with 11 points and 5 boards in the first quarter. He also dished two gorgeous assists to Pascal Siakam, who he showed great synergy with for the first time this year. Siakam finished with 17 points… I guess he’s one of the go-to scorers now?

The other star of the first half was, surprisingly, Greg Monroe. Moose dropped 10 and 6 in his limited first-half minutes, providing an answer in the paint to Andre Drummond. He was even rewarded with the halftime interview. Again, the first half was business as usual for the Raps who, other than the Pelicans on Monday, have been beating inferior teams with ease.

The 2nd half

The Raps took a big hit when Danny Green was declared out. Delon Wright wasn’t great on offense, leaving minutes to Fred VanVleet who had no answer for Reggie Jackson or Langston Galloway. The two did their best E’Twaun Moore impressions with a solid second half from each of them. Kawhi was a lot worst in the 2nd, turning the ball over several times and going back to forcing shots. There was no life anywhere in the 2nd, and you have to expect more from at least one of the secondary guys JV and VanVleet. There was no secondary option to be found, and with Lowry in ultra-complimentary mode, scoring was needed.

The collapse was reminiscent of Raptors teams of old. Stanley Johnson showed why the Pistons haven’t given up on him yet, hitting back-to-back impossible threes to extend the Pistons run. Blake Griffin was constantly left open, totaling 30 points in his 40 minutes. The Pistons crawled all the way back, taking a two-point lead late.

The Ending

Everyone is going to harp on Kawhi, but he did have a great drive to tie the game after the Pistons late lead. Unfortunately, after the Raptors got a stop, the Klaw dribbled it up the court and off his leg. That set up Dwane Casey to do what we became used to during his time in Toronto: Creative plays to end games…. Wait, what?

Of course, the Raptors are still 12-3, now tied with the Warriors (or what is left of them) for the best record in the NBA. So let’s not get too down. This game had emotions ramped up because of DC’s long-awaited return, but these Raptors are still damn good. Plus, Danny Green’s injury isn’t serious, which is terrific because he was certainly missed on Detroit’s two guards in the second half.

Looking ahead

I’m trying to take away a negative from this game, and it’s probably that these Raptors aren’t as great from three as advertised. Kawhi is still rusty of course, but the team shot 4-20 and aren’t all they’ve been cracked up to be from behind the line. With CJ Miles out of the picture, for the time being, it needs to come from somewhere.

The Raptors play the Celtics on Friday, which should be another intense one sure to take several more years off of our lives. Still, the Celtics lackluster offense kind of devoys them of some of the scare they’ve had in the past. The Raptors certainly have a good chance of going into Boston and winning. Remember everyone… This is still an elite team.

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