The Raptors passed the test. While the team’s overall record since the Rudy Gay deal looks fantastic, the mark against good teams (likely playoff squads) had hovered around .500. That’s why beating an excellent team like the Warriors – especially without key starter Terrence Ross – was a good sign for the Raptors.
- Dwane Casey wanted his group to be physical (he wanted them to emulate the Bulls who “kicked their butts” the other night). He meant the Bulls both beat Golden State on the scoreboard and also battered them with clean (and not so clean, that’s what six fouls a person are for) play all evening. The Warriors don’t respond well to that type of treatment. While Toronto didn’t look like the ornery Bulls, (Chicago doesn’t let David Lee waltz into the paint at will), it was progress from what went down in Golden State’s 28-point comeback against Toronto earlier this season.
- Speaking of that, Casey also warned his group that getting into a run-and-gun mode would be disastrous. That’s what happened when the lead was lost in the earlier contest. The Raptors did a decent job of trying to slow things down against a team that loves to run, but were far from perfect. Klay Thompson missing 5-of-7 three-point attempts and Andre Iguodala going 0-for-2 in an arena he has starred in in the past, had a lot to do with Toronto ending up on top.
- We’ve talked about Jonas Valanciunas being down on himself lately and how it’s carried over to pre-game at times. On Sunday, he was his old self before the game, talking about the weather, cracking a joke or two and just looking generally more comfortable than we’ve seen him recently. When the game began, he looked better than he has in a while. Casey thinks his mindset and play are related. When he hones in on accomplishing a few tasks instead of trying to do everything at once, Valanciunas is much better.
- People love to ask why he doesn’t play down the stretch of some games. One reason is Amir Johnson is the team’s best defensive player. The other is Patrick Patterson is a far better positional defender, he’s more experienced and simply knows where to be on the floor. He also has the ability to stretch the floor and can hit from anywhere. Patterson hit some huge buckets late on Sunday. As good as Valanciunas was early, no issues with going with Johnson and Patterson late. Valanciunas played nine minutes in the third and was invisible.
- The absence of Jermaine O’Neal was a big advantage for the Raptors. Sounds crazy, but J.O. has miraculously become healthy down the stretch (another happy customer of that German doctor) and his defence, post scoring and ability to spell Andrew Bogut were greatly missed by the visitors.
- Not sure I’ve seen DeMar DeRozan play any better than he did in this one. The vast majority of his shots were in rhythm, he read the defence expertly (Six assists, 0 turnovers, yet another 4+ assist, nada turnover performance). Whenever Toronto needed a big shot, DeRozan was there and his defence was a notch above its usual level as well.
- Have mentioned this on Twitter before, but no question I, like most other NBA writers, was completely wrong about DeRozan and, particularly, about the contract he was given by Bryan Colangelo. Still think the timing of the deal was wrong (it could have waited a year), but it’s turned into a bargain and justified Colangelo’s show of faith. Once again, beware when writing off young players early, especially ones that work as hard as DeRozan. Elite athleticism and work ethic is a combo that doesn’t fail too often.
- The fourth quarter juggernaut did it again. Toronto leads the NBA in fourth quarter point differential while Golden State came in 26-4 when leading through three quarters. Something had to give and the Raptors came through again in the fourth. Why? A lot of it had to do with the Warriors turning it over six times in the frame after committing just seven turnovers through three quarters. The Raptors didn’t turn it over once in the fourth, even though DeRozan and Patterson played the whole period.
- Another nice outing from Greivis Vasquez off of the bench. Was a little strange to see him guarding Stephen Curry at times, but perhaps the thinking was no matter who took Curry, lots of help would be needed. Vasquez went from six turnovers the other night to just one.