After a sluggish defensive effort and ice-cold shooting from All-Star Kyle Lowry, the Toronto Raptors had fought all the way from a 16-point deficit to tie the Charlotte Hornets at 90 with just 25 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Time Warner Cable Arena's been a house of horrors during Toronto's visits over the years, but following a thrilling scramble in the closing seconds, fortune finally appeared to smile on the Raptors ... until, y'know, it didn't.
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As Hornets point guard Kemba Walker attempted to drive to the basket looking for a game-winning shot in the closing seconds, Raptors guard Cory Joseph poked the ball away, and teammate DeMar DeRozan came up with the loose ball. DeRozan took three dribbles from the foul line into the frontcourt, then rose up from right around the "o" in the Hornets' half-court logo and fired away. His triple try splashed through, seeming to give the Raptors a 93-90 lead with less than one second remaining.
"Seeming to," though. The referees waved off DeRozan's basket, ruling that the Raptors had called timeout after DeRozan had taken possession of the ball and before he had let his game-winner fly. And, to be fair, they sure did — you can see Lowry signaling as soon as DeRozan gets the ball, with more than 3 1/2 seconds remaining:
Though his motion's a bit too blurry to capture cleanly in a screenshot, it also looked like Raptors head coach Dwane Casey started signaling for timeout with just over two seconds left. The officials evidently didn't see or hear either plea for a stoppage until just under one second remained, though ... and that, unfortunately for the Raptors, represented the worst of both worlds: a game-winning jumper waved off, and too little time left on the clock to draw up a high-percentage look. (Unless you're the Grizzlies, that is.)
Casey called on a catch-and-shoot play for Lowry, who'd made four of his 10 shots in the frame — including a 3-pointer to bring Toronto within two with 56 seconds left — after going 1-for-13 through the first three quarters:
... but it came up empty, sending the game to overtime. The two teams traded baskets for the first 3 1/2 minutes of the extra session, but a 3-pointer from the left corner by P.J. Hairston with 1:30 remaining put Charlotte up for good, as the Hornets finished the game on a 13-3 run to earn a 109-99 victory on Thursday.
Walker scored nine of his 27 points in overtime, adding seven assists, six rebounds, two blocks and a steal in 44 total minutes of work, continuing his stellar season for head coach Steve Clifford:
But the star of the night was Jeremy Lin. Pressed into starting duty for just the second time this season after shooting guard Nicolas Batum was ruled out with an undisclosed illness, Lin responded by repeatedly slicing and dicing the Raptors' perimeter defense, finding driving lanes in the pick-and-roll and finishing firmly en route to a season-high 35 points — his highest-scoring performance in three years, three shy of his career high — on 13-for-22 shooting to go with five rebounds, four assists and two blocks in a game-high 47 1/2 minutes:
The two-point-guard backcourt provided the firepower, but they had some help bringing the Hornets across the finish line. Hairston added 14 points, shooting 4-for-7 from 3-point land, while Marvin Williams chipped in a double-double (10 points, 10 rebounds, three assists) and the reserve duo of Spencer Hawes and Frank Kaminsky combined for 11 points, 16 rebounds, five assists, four blocks and three steals to help Charlotte snap a two-game losing skid and improve to 15-10.
With Lowry, Luis Scola and Patrick Patterson all struggling with their shots on Thursday, DeRozan carried the Toronto offense, scoring seemingly at will in a 31-point, 12-for-25 shooting performance. DeRozan kept the Raptors afloat until the other members of a small-ball lineup featuring former Charlotte center Bismack Biyombo (who set a new career high with 18 rebounds against his former club, and tied a career best with seven blocks) flanked by DeRozan, Lowry, Joseph and swingman Terrence Ross woke up enough to rip off a 15-3 run over the final five minutes to get within one shot of a regulation win.
That closing-seconds break didn't go their way, though, and Lowry (who finished with 20 points on unsightly 6-for-29 shooting, including a 3-for-17 mark from 3) wasn't pleased after the game, according to Doug Smith of the Toronto Star:
[...] whether or not they should have had more time was the talking point and the whining point in the aftermath of the loss.
“I called a timeout with 3.2 seconds left, it’s as simple as that,” Kyle Lowry said. “I watched the tape. I called the timeout as soon as DeMar (DeRozan) touched the ball.”
Not in the eyes of the officials.
“They said they couldn’t review it because the clock didn’t go to zero, it had to go to zero before they could review it,” Casey said. “We clearly called a timeout early, with three-plus seconds to go. I don’t know why they couldn’t review, the officials said they saw us call a timeout, everyone was jumping up and down signaling for a timeout, we signaled during the play. But they said they couldn’t review it.”
And as a result, the Raptors' best chance at snatching victory from the jaws of defeat went by the boards. The basketball gods can be cruel that way.
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