An astute observation from our #RTZ Tweet of the Night winner @BarryMRubin, which certainly held up as DeRozan turned in a potent performance at both ends of the floor in the Raptors’ 116-98 win over the visiting Rockets at ACC on Wednesday.
DeRozan’s recent resurgence, with six outings of at least 20 points in his last eight games after a very tough start, has been emblematic of this years Raptors, who are proving to be increasingly difficult to pin down and rounding into form.
“I think this is probably the most games he’s had in a consistent way of getting to the free throw line — a good balance of shooting jump shots, free throws, getting to the basket,” said head coach Dwane Casey post-game of DeRozan. “He’s doing a much better job of being consistent and playing with a lot of confidence, which is huge in this league.”
As for team performance on Wednesday, even Casey himself can be off when it comes to his work in progress. Before the game, he admitted that while his team’s grasp of his desired brand of defence was ahead of schedule, the offence was behind where he expected it to be.
Naturally, the Raptors responded with their finest offensive output of the season against the Rockets — setting new season highs in total points (116), fourth-quarter points (34) and shooting percentage from the field (.592).
There’s no denying that a win against a slumping Houston team coming off an OT loss the night before should be taken with a grain of salt. But the Raptors adjusted from the slow start that cost them in Houston the week before and also recovered on the fly in the fourth quarter — when a lead whittled down to five points with 7:44 to play absolutely blew up courtesy of a sizzling 29-7 run the rest of the way.
It’s a further sign that the Raptors have shown some growth over the last month and that’s looked more and more indisputable whether you’re pulling for lottery balls or a playoff spot.
What’s far more ambiguous is just how much has this team improved, but some clarity on that front could be coming.
At 13-26, the Raptors now find themselves among three other teams with just 13 wins on the season and only three teams in the league are worse than that pack. Much worse.
But the Raptors now face the Pistons (13 wins), Bucks (15), Cavs (13) and Nets (13) in the next seven days, with the return of Andrea Bargnani very likely somewhere in that stretch. A very good week could create a little separation from that pack. Anything less keeps the Raptors within that lottery-team logjam.