TORONTO â€” Kyle Lowry is worried.
The Toronto Raptors had just coughed up a 16-point fourth-quarter lead in a 102-101 to the Detroit Pistons â€” their 10th loss in 14 games â€” and a livid Lowry unleashed his frustration in a funereal post-game dressing room Sunday.
“I’m starting to get worried, yeah,” Lowry said. “It’s not going the way we’re supposed to be going and things aren’t changing, so yeah, I’m starting to get worried.”
DeMar DeRozan scored 26 points for the Raptors (32-23), who fell apart over the game’s final few minutes. Jonas Valanciunas added 17 points and nine rebounds, while DeMarre Carroll and Lowry added 15 points apiece.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope scored 21 points, including a game-winning three-pointer with 13.2 seconds left. Tobias Harris topped Detroit (26-29) with 24 points.
What went wrong down the stretch?
“Everything. Everything,” Lowry grumbled. “Keep putting in the same situations over and over and not being successful, something’s gotta give, something’s gotta change.”
Any idea what?
“I have an idea but I’m going to keep my mouth shut, keep it professional.”
In Toronto’s first game in four days, the well-rested Raptors raced out to the early lead and were up by as many as 16 points in the third quarter.
The Raptors took an 82-66 advantage into the fourth quarter and looked destined for an easy victory. But the Pistons whittled away at the gap, and when Ish Smith scored on a floating jumper with five minutes to play, it pulled Detroit to within just five points.
Andre Drummond scored on a put-back lay-up a minute later, and it was suddenly a three-point game. The Raptors were up by five points with 1:23 to play, but Caldwell-Pope scored on back-to-back baskets â€” his second was his big three-pointer from right in front of the Raptors’ bench â€” that gave Detroit a 102-101 lead with 13 seconds to play.
DeRozan’s shot at the buzzer bounced off the rim, much to the dismay of the disgruntled capacity crowd of 19,800 at the Air Canada Centre, who headed for the exits in shocked silence.
“Pretty bad, they kind of got everything they wanted every time down,” DeRozan said, summing up the final few minutes. “We can (shake this slump), but we have to be quick. . . 27 more games, that’s going to fly by. We don’t have much time.”
With the NBA trade deadline coming up on February 23, do the Raptors perhaps need to make a move?
“Help is always beneficial,” DeRozan said. “I never look at help as a negative thing at all. So if help is an option, why not?”
Toronto’s bench, which was missing Patrick Patterson â€” he sat out his 14th of the last 23 games with a knee injury â€” was outscored 52-23. Cory Joseph, who was a healthy scratch in last week’s game in Brooklyn, had another rough night, finishing with eight points and just one assist.
“It’s not one player, it’s all of us,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “It’s coaching staff, it’s all of us, we’re in this together. Some of our bench guys are now starting, our second group is in the first group so the chemistry is off a little bit.
“There is no excuse. We’ve got to dig ourselves out. We put ourselves in this situation, we’ve got to dig ourselves out of this situation. We’re not going to point fingers, it’s not one person’s fault, second unit, first unit, it’s all of us.”
The loss comes amid a crucial three-game stretch for Toronto. The Raptors play at Chicago on Tuesday, then host Charlotte on Wednesday. The Raptors are fourth in the Eastern Conference, six games back of first-place Cleveland. Chicago, Detroit and Charlotte sit seventh, eighth, and ninth in the East, respectively.
“These next three games are going to be huge for us as far as momentum and as far as the playoff race is concerned,” Casey had stressed pre-game.
One opportunity now lost. Two to go.
The Raptors, who shot a decent 51 per cent on the night, and Pistons paced each other virtually basket for basket through a first quarter that saw neither team lead by more than four points. DeRozan led the Raptors with 10 points, and Toronto took a 27-25 advantage into the second quarter.
A three-pointer by Carroll with 2:39 left in the half was the punctuation mark on a 19-2 run that gave Toronto a 12-point lead. The Raptors went into the halftime break up 51-45.
Lowry drilled a three early in the third that kick-started a 14-2 Raptors run that gave them a 16-point lead, their biggest of the game to that point.
Lori Ewing, The Canadian Press