TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors were set to depart for a gruelling four-game road swing after Wednesday night’s loss to the Charlotte Bobcats.
The trip couldn’t come at a better time, as it’s homecourt that proving a disadvantage to Toronto this season.
Kemba Walker hit a buzzer-beating jump shot in overtime to lift the Charlotte Bobcats to a 104-102 overtime victory Wednesday, handing the Raptors their eighth loss at home this season.
“It’s one of those things that whatever it is, we’re not generating enough focus. . .,” said Raptors coach Dwane Casey, at a loss to explain the discrepancy between playing at home and on the road.
“We have far more focus on the road than we do at home, and that is a concern. I talked to the team about it today. We have great fans, great crowd, warm building, hot building, so there’s no reason why we can’t come out with that type of fire and intensity and don’t wait until you get hit in the mouth, punched in the mouth until we turn it on.”
The Raptors are 5-6 on the road this season, and just 4-8 at the Air Canada Centre.
Walker scored 29 points, including his 18-footer that sealed the victory for Charlotte (12-14). Al Jefferson added 24 points.
“It hurts, everyone who loses a game by a buzzer beater, you’d rather get blown out by 50 than lose on a buzzer beater,” said Raptors guard Kyle Lowry, who had 17 points and six assists.
DeMar DeRozan scored a game-high 30 points for Toronto (9-14), while Amir Johnson had a game-high 13 rebounds to go with 10 points. Newcomer John Salmons finished with 11 points, while Jonas Valanciunas added 10.
The Raptors led by as much as 16 points midway through the third, but the Bobcats closed the quarter with a 25-9 run to send the game into the fourth locked at 70-70 in front of an Air Canada Centre crowd of 15,201.
It was a see-saw battle through the fourth quarter, and the Raptors trailed by three points twice in the last 21 seconds — the difference negated the second time by Lowry’s three-pointer with 12 seconds to go to tie the game 95-95. DeRozan then stripped Walker on the Bobcats’ last possession to guarantee overtime.
Valanciunas, Johnson and DeRozan had the Raptors’ only three field goals in a sloppy five minutes of overtime that saw the Raptors miss on their first six shots. But DeRozan made one-of-two free throws with a second left to tie it up 102-102. Walker, guarded by Valanciunas — who was slow to get to him — was open when he made the winning buzzer-beater.
“Tough, tough one second,” Valanciunas said. “He made a tough shot. Could make a better job on defence, but it happened. Could be earlier, maybe he wouldn’t make that, but what happened happened.”
Now the Raptors depart for a tough four-game road trip that takes them through Dallas, Oklahoma City, San Antonio, and New York. The Raptors play eight of their next 10 games on the road — a good thing, perhaps.
“I don’t know, I have no idea,” Lowry said, on the poor home record. “I really can’t explain it, I can’t put my foot on it, we’ve really got to find a way to change it around.”
Lowry doesn’t agree with Casey assessment that it’s a lack of focus.
“Naw. . .we’ve just got to find a way to win at home, make the homecourt more of an advantage for us.”
The Raptors shot 43 per cent from the floor to Charlotte’s 46 per cent. The Raptors outrebounded the Bobcats 50-40.
It was another strong game for Johnson, who injected some desperately-needed energy into one of the ugliest quarters of basketball by either team in a while. The Raptors’ two assists were the only assists in the quarter, and both teams shot just under a lowly 32 per cent. The Bobcats led 18-15 heading into the second.
The Raptors pulled away in what was an only slightly more exciting second quarter, outscoring their visitors 32-19. DeRozan had 11 points in the frame, and Lowry’s driving layup with 23 seconds left put the Raptors up by 12. They took a 47-37 lead into the halftime break.
Walker scored 11 points in the third quarter as the Bobcats chipped away at Toronto’s lead, tying it up on a Jefferson layup with two minutes to play.