December 21, 2017 / 2:49 AM / 10 months ago

Red-hot Raptors steamroll Hornets

Red-hot Raptors steamroll Hornets

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Coach Dwane Casey says he is holding the Toronto Raptors to a higher standard this season.

After the Raptors routed the floundering Charlotte Hornets 129-111 on Wednesday night at the Spectrum Center, Casey still wasn’t completely happy.

Long after DeMar DeRozan, Serge Ibaka and the other starters were out of the game and watching from the sideline, the Raptors’ backups let the Hornets cut into what was once a 25-point lead. And that bothered Casey immensely.

“Offensively, we’re playing pretty well,” Casey said. “But defensively, this team shot 46 percent against us and we can’t be satisfied to be ordinary defensively. We want to be great defensively, and to come in with that attitude and disposition. It’s something we’re going to keep pushing on them.

“We need the young guys to get better from a defensive standpoint. It’s not just an offensive game. It’s not, ‘My turn to work on my offensive game.’ It’s about getting defensive stops. We were good defensively up to a point, but then we got lackadaisical. I won’t tolerate that from the younger players.”

Still, it had to be considered an outstanding performance by the Raptors (21-8), as they won for the fourth game in a row and for the 10th time in the past 11.

DeRozan led the way with 28 points despite not playing in the fourth quarter. Ibaka scored 24, and OG Anunoby scored 20 thanks to 6-of-7 shooting from 3-point range.

The Raptors shot 53.8 percent from the field after being much higher most of the night. They were 16 of 33 from 3-point range and had a season-high 35 assists on 49 baskets. DeRozan was 10 of 15 from the field, Ibaka 11 of 16.

The shooting display was highlighted by a torrid second quarter in which the Raptors outscored the Hornets 41-21. The Raptors were 15 of 23 from the field in the period.

“We’re going to have really good shooting games like this,” said Toronto guard Kyle Lowry, who amassed 11 points and eight assists before also sitting out the entire fourth quarter. “OG got it going and hit some early, Serge hit some, DeMar hit some. Everyone hit some threes and we just kept rolling. You’re not going to have nights like this all the time, but it looks really good when you have nights like this.”

Casey said he was pleased with the balance, particularly the offensive sparks from Ibaka and Anunoby, which he said makes it easier for DeRozan and Lowry.

“It takes a lot of pressure off,” Casey said. “It takes a lot off both of those guys. When they do bring a crowd to Kyle and DeMar it leaves someone open, and you’re not forcing it. You’re not force-feeding it. You really spread the floor and all the options are there. I thought our guys did one of the best jobs we’ve done all year moving the ball and finding the open man.”

The Hornets (11-20) may have played their worst game of the season, certainly from a defensive standpoint. There were times when the Raptors simply scored at will.

Charlotte has lost 11 of its past 14.

Jeremy Lamb led the Hornets with a career-high 32 points, but he got little help. Kemba Walker and Dwight Howard finished with 15 points apiece, and Johnny O’Bryant scored 10 in mop-up duty.

“My teammates put me in great positions to score and I was able to knock shots down,” Lamb said. “But we were down 20 the whole game, so it doesn’t really mean much. We’ve just got to play better. It’s tough. You want to come out and play well, but it doesn’t feel good when you don’t win.”

Associate head coach Stephen Silas continues to coach the Hornets in Steve Clifford’s absence.

“Obviously, disappointing results,” Silas said. “The second quarter, they just took off on us. After the game, I talked to the guys about consistency and obviously in an 82-game season, that’s an important word. For us, it’s going to be consistency on the defensive end, consistency individually with production, and consistency from quarter to quarter, game to game, week to week and month to month.”

NOTES: The Raptors won the teams’ only previous meeting this season, 126-113 in Toronto on Nov. 29. They will face off two more times. ... The Raptors were without F C.J. Miles (dental procedure) and C Lucas Nogueira (right calf). ... The Hornets were without F Cody Zeller (left knee surgery) and F Treveon Graham (back spasms). ... The Hornets are now 3-7 since coach Steve Clifford left the team to deal with an unspecified health issue. There is still no timeframe on Clifford’s return. ... The Hornets were closing out a four-game homestand. They will play at Milwaukee on Friday. ... The Raptors will close out a brief two-game trip at Philadelphia on Thursday.

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