The Toronto Raptors improved to 12-6 on the season after defeating the Memphis Grizzlies 120-105 Wednesday night for their 4th straight victory. While Lowry and DeRozan continued to lead the way combining for 53 points, Patrick Patterson finished with 14 points & 13 rebounds on 4/6 shooting from beyond the arc. This would be Patterson’s first double-double on the season and also matched his season high in points. Terrence Ross, who has been a streaky scorer throughout the season, finished with 3 points on just 1/6 shooting. The Raptors certainly need consistent production from these 2 players coming off the bench, as their sparks have made the Raptors one of the deepest teams in the league for these past few seasons.
Trailing only the Los Angeles Lakers, the Raptors currently rank 2nd in the league with a +10.8 in bench efficiency. This is more of a compliment to their defense, as they only rank 19th in the league in bench scoring with an average of 31.3 (Terrence Ross averaging 10.4, Cory Joseph averaging 8.1, Patrick Patterson, averaging 7.3). Dwane Casey’s well-balanced line-up has extended from the starting unit to the bench. After all, Terrence Ross was once a full time starting Small Forward and Patrick Patterson was inserted into the starting line-up during last season’s historical playoff run. The Raptors need consistency from both these players, especially down the stretch of the season, as this will put less pressure and log less minutes for the starters.
Patrick Patterson remains the only player on the Raptors acquired in the Rudy Gay trade. He instantly became a perfect role player off the bench with his ability to spread the floor and knock down the open jump shots. Patterson is also a reliable on-ball defender, as he is able to use his quick feet to defend the league’s top forwards. This past year, Patterson also worked on his ability to knock down shots off the dribble. Dwane Casey has often chosen to finish games with Patterson, even last season when he struggled with his shooting early on the season. However, he found his groove at just the right time at the beginning of 2016 and helped the Raptors reach several milestones. This season, his struggles were also noticeable early on as defences were electing to give Patterson open jumpers but he was unable to knock them down. Dwane Casey still continues to ride with Patterson to close out games, with rookie Pascal Siakam playing limited minutes as a starter. It is unclear yet if this trend will continue once Jared Sullinger (the projected starter) returns from injury and makes his Raptor debut. In the first 12 games, Patterson only scored in double figures three times and was shooting a low 30.38% from 3 point range. However, he has found his groove over the last 2 weeks, averaging 10.5 points in 6 games while shooting 53.33% from beyond the arc. His performance has improved the Raptors’ overall 3 point shooting efficiency, as they now rank 4th in the league with a combined 37.9% 3-point FG%. Keep an eye on these stats, as life only gets easier for Lowry and DeRozan if they have more spacing to work with.
Terrence Ross is another player who has benefitted since the Rudy Gay trade (although you could argue every Raptor player/fan has). Ross was immediately inserted into the starting line-up and saw an increase in his scoring average. Fans had high hopes for the 8th overall pick out of Washington. He had superb athleticism (2013 Slam Dunk Champion) and his elevation gave him the ability to knock down contested jump shots. His most memorable game to date came on January 25, 2014 when he tied a franchise record by scoring 51 points against the Los Angeles Clippers. This made him the first player in NBA history to score 51 points while averaging under 10 points per game, which is a record/stat most people would NOT be proud of. Masai Ujiri had stated his struggles could have been attributed to having to play the 3 spot when he is a natural shooting guard. This is when DeMarre Carroll was brought in and Ross was moved back to the bench role. Ross continued to play inconsistently and it made him the topic of several trade rumours for the entire season. However, the Raptors still showed faith in the 25 year old, signing him to a 3 year, $33 million extension last year. Dwane Casey still elects to keep Ross as a spark off the bench, choosing to start second year Norman Powell when Carroll is resting on the 2nd night of back-to-backs. Ross is currently averaging 10.4 points a game and the story has not changed. There are time spans when he has scored in double figures 4 straight nights and some nights he only has 1 or 2 field goals. Terrence Ross remains the X-Factor for how good this Raptors team can be throughout the season.
The Raptors will play back-to-back home games this weekend. Catch them in action tonight against the Los Angeles Lakers, live at 7:30 p.m. Eastern and again tomorrow against the Atlanta Hawks, live at 7:30 p.m. Eastern. Check @atbnews and ATBNews.com for the latest updates and highlights.