Toronto 92 Charlotte 87
TORONTO — When the three-point shot stopped falling, Andrea Bargnani settled into the post to take advantage of a favourable matchup down low.
That decision ultimately led the Toronto Raptors to their first winning streak in more than two months.
Bargnani had a game-high 30 points and hit the pivotal jumper with 26.9 seconds remaining as Toronto defeated the Charlotte Bobcats 92-87 Tuesday night, giving the Raptors consecutive victories for the first time since Jan. 23-25.
More astonishingly, it also gave Toronto its first back-to-back wins at the Air Canada Centre since Dec. 1-3, 2010 — a span of 59 home games.
With the Raptors (19-35) ahead 88-87 following a long D.J. Augustin three-pointer, Bargnani drove and hit a turnaround hook shot over Byron Mullens for his eighth and ninth points of the quarter.
Mullens then airballed a three-point attempt and Bargnani finished things off with free throws, helping Toronto polish off an impressive 3-2 homestand.
Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said the call to send Bargnani into the paint came after he had struggled from beyond 20 feet for most of the night
“I thought his outside shot wasn’t really falling so we tried to mix it up, give him the balance of inside and outside,” Casey said. “He did a great job of getting his back to the basket and going at Mullens in the post.”
Bargnani said he doesn’t mind drifting in from the perimeter if the situation calls for it.
“I feel comfortable either inside or outside, it depends on who’s guarding me,” said Bargnani, who shot 11-for-22 from the floor and scored the Raptors’ final nine points of the game.
“Coach is very good at finding the right situation, either inside or outside.”
DeMar DeRozan scored 16 of his 20 points in the second half, driving to the hoop with regularity after being held to just two shots in the opening 24 minutes.
“I said, ‘We’re going to get you going in the second half,’ and he did,” said Casey.
“He did a great job of attacking again, (of finding) balance between attacking and outside shots and did a great job for us in the third quarter.”
Mullens led the way with 20 points for the Bobcats (7-44), who have dropped eight straight.
Augustin chipped in with 18 after being a late scratch from the starting lineup with right knee tendinitis.
Bobcats rookie guard Kemba Walker said Bargnani’s performance, particularly down the stretch, made the difference.
“Every time we made a shot, he came down and made a big play,” said Walker. “That was really the key to their win.”
As with Sunday’s victory over the Washington Wizards, Casey found plenty of areas for improvement — beginning with the 17 offensive rebounds his club allowed to a Bobcats team that ranks fourth-last in the NBA in that category. But he applauded his team’s efforts in holding Charlotte to just 40.3 per cent from the field.
“I thought everybody came into tonight, fought and scrapped,” he said.