PHILADELPHIA — The next time DeMar DeRozan finds himself in a lull, the Raptors should fly in Jakarr Sampson for some scrimmage work. For whatever reason, DeRozan seems to have his way with the Sixers rookie. Sampson bites on all of his fakes and that allows DeRozan to get a lot of easy points.
With Kyle Lowry being rested, the Raptors couldn’t afford to have the February version of DeRozan show up, even against the overmatched Sixers. If that came to pass, the Raptors wouldn’t have won, not with the defence playing so terribly for the bulk of the game. But DeRozan had perhaps his best game of the season and carried his team to a win, the way stars are supposed to.
- In Lowry’s absence, the point guards were rock solid. Greivis Vasquez predicted DeRozan would have a big game and that he would be OK as well and then delivered. Vasquez hit most of his shots and ran the pick-and-roll well. His swagger and confidence helped. Lou Williams had been tried out at point guard in the pre-season and the coaching staff loved the job he did, but with Lowry and Vasquez around, he had barely been required to run the show at all. On Monday, Williams became the backup point guard and he was excellent, dishing out five assists without a turnover, as well as chipping in with 21 points. Williams wasn’t as predictable in this role, since opponents have to respect the fact that he will look for teammates more often when he is playing the point. In addition to his assists, Williams also had a team best three secondary assists (hockey assists).
- The team talked pre-game about how good Jonas Valanciunas was against New York and how they had to establish him early, then – they totally decided not to do that. He got posted up a few times – most memorably, when James Johnson yelled at him to establish position, but he was mostly a decoy. Afterward, Valanciunas didn’t care, he was just happy to get the win. The only thing he was miffed about was some of the calls that got him into foul trouble.
- Dwane Casey and his staff made a smart call in scheduling a fun, laid back shoot-around. The team was tight and not feeling great about itself after losing to New York, the fifth loss in a row, so having the Raptors relax by playing a shooting game in the morning loosened them up for the game.
- It was far from a strong defensive performance. While the Raptors had far more energy than they have had in a while, Philadelphia is the NBA’s worst offensive team (and was missing top shooters Robert Covington and Jason Richardson) so there is really no way the team should shoot 53% for the game and notch 32 assists. The defence was lazy at times and far too scattered. The offence was dominant, so it didn’t matter much, but the Raptors good run of defence seems to have hit the skids a little bit. Philadelphia shot 64% at the rim, which is just atrocious defending. On the plus side, after a brutal first half, Tyler Hansbrough really stepped up defensively down the stretch.
- DeRozan’s controversial comments about preferring to shoot with a hand in his face weighed true for one night at least. He shot 6-for-9 on contested attempts, just 6-for-15 on uncontested (though it really was 6-for-13, since two of them were end of quarter heaves. Either way, still better when contested in this one).