Archive for November, 2012

Raptors at Grizzlies Points Per Game: Not dead yet so put away the shovels, Lowry says

- November 29th, 2012

MEMPHIS — Really, what did you all expect? Memphis is one heck of a basketball team. Toronto is not, yet matched the Grizz for 24 minutes. After that, Memphis took over. That said, it wasn’t all talent. A lot of what happened in the third quarter – a complete Toronto collapse – was because of effort and experience. The Grizzlies played hard, as they usually do and that veteran-laden team, a rare squad that has kept its starters intact for years – played like the men they are against a Toronto team that still has a lot of growing up to do. You can understand that, but you can’t understand, or accept, the lack of fight in the third. Young Terrence Ross said he realized that and maintained he and his teammates will catch on.

“When a team turns it up, we have to follow and turn it up too. We’ll catch on to it. I think it’s just a mental thing at this point. We’ve just got to fight through it,” Ross said.

More thoughts and some post-game quotes:

-Jonas Valanciunas said he was fine after a scary-looking fall. “Good thing I have big chest,” he said with a laugh. He was in decent spirits considering the fall, yet another loss and since it was his worst game in weeks.

-Kyle Lowry looked like a prizefighter with his eye half-closed after getting poked in the eye. He didn’t see the  zaniness that was going on when it happened, so all he could do was laugh when told Quincy Acy got him, then gave Rudy Gay a good shot, while Gay gave Valanciunas a shot to the groin.

Lowry insists the Raptors aren’t dead yet. They have some dirt on them “five feet deep,” he said, but he believes they will pull out of it, starting with the game against Phoenix.

Lowry doesn’t look right. He’s clearly battling to get back in form. He wasn’t in great shape to start the year thanks to his injury and then got hurt again, which has limited his effectiveness.

-More Ross, talking Grizzlies: “They have good ball movement. They know how to score, what works for them.”

-Doesn’t sound like Andrea Bargnani will be sidelined for long with his ankle injury. Amir Johnson said he’s fine after what looked like a brutal ankle sprain. “I’m the rubber band man, I bounce back,” Johnson said, adding he felt fine.

game gives him and play through whatever defence Tony Allen throws at him.

-Weird that Lowry wasn’t champing at the bit against his former teams these past two games (even without being in peak form) and that Jerryd Bayless had a bad one against Toronto.

-Mickael Pietrus is a good fit, especially if Landry Fields is out longer than anticipated. Once they’re both healthy, the Raptors will have a decent foursome at the wing. Is there enough minutes for four guys? Sure. DeRozan probably plays 32-35 minutes a night, the other three 20-25.

-Casey didn’t like the lack of ball movement and found the play out of the half “alarming,” but believes the unselfishness will return and this was an aberration. As for the passion out of the half? He doesn’t know.

-Sounds like Ed Davis was one of the only players he was pleased with, so expect more minutes for Boss.

“Ed came in and played well, really battled two of the most physical guys in the league, that’s a positive,” Casey said.

The bad news? Casey liked the two point guard look of Calderon and Lucas. The sooner the team is done with the dual point guard look, the better.

-One more on the Memphis side of things. The team doesn’t have the best record in basketball by accident. Those guys don’t lack confidence either. They know they are good.

Lionel Hollins said this:

“Our defence, it was overwhelming in the third quarter. It was just outstanding. We held them to 14. We scored 33 on a lot of transition buckets … our defence energized our offence. We had 23 deflections. We didn an outstanding job all around.”

By the way, Hollins also pointed out that Lowry isn’t back to his usual self, since he’s just back from his ankle injury and indicated that helped Memphis a lot.

 

Raptors at Rockets Points Per Game: Classic let-down game. Ross only Raptor to show up after first quarter

- November 28th, 2012

HOUSTON — You kind of got the feeling something like that was coming. So many close losses, with the Raptors playing extremely hard with nothing to show for it. A let-down game was due.

The players aren’t happy about it. Dwane Casey definitely isn’t happy about it. But, as Jose Calderon said afterwards, games like this happen in a long season. Doesn’t excuse them for not showing up, but it happens.

Quick thoughts:

- The turnovers were brutal and Houston seemingly made Toronto pay for every miscue. Omer Asik dominated on the boards and Houston was a step quicker getting up and down and also chasing down rebounds.

Toronto shot 55% in the first half, yet still trailed by 10 because Houston converted  nine turnovers for 16 points and Toronto managed 0 points off of turnovers. that doesn’t happen every day.

- Again, this was about hustle and effort. Nobody seemed to remember how to rotate properly defensively.

- As usual, there was at least one positive: Terrence Ross didn’t back down against James Harden and at times guarded him solidly. He also showed what a big-time athlete he was, particularly on his Dr. J tribute, but says he isn’t interested in entering the dunkoff. Have to think he’s going to get a lot more playing time with DeMar DeRozan (tough night, bad turnovers, bad defence) spending more time at small forward.

Post-game quotes:

Kyle Lowry:

On if he’s 100% healthy: “I’m on the floor, so that’s all that matters.

They were aggressive. They were in the passing lanes. They overplayed a lot of the plays. They were aggressive in the passing lanes in trying to get out and run. They got a lot of easy buckets and we did a lot of bad mistakes, especially myself. I turned the ball over too much tonight.

“We have to figure out what kind of team we’re going to be. We have to figure that out in less than 24 hours. We have to figure out as soon as possible what type of team we’re going to be. How we’re going to bounce back. We’ve got to figure it out quickly. Sooner than later,” Lowry said.

“I made (bad) decisions, I missed some shots. I played terrible, but it’s only one game, I won’t keep my head down. We’ve got another one tomorrow, I’m sure I’ll be better.”

(On returning to Houston) “It wasn’t a pleasant one for me. They kicked our ass tonight and we didn’t play well and just got out played tonight. There are bunch of different guys over there, but they played hard tonight. They are young and very talented. They are going to be a force in the West in the years to come.”

Jose Calderon:

“We were bad from the start. There’s not a lot we can talk about, it is what it is.

The team we saw (tonight) is not the team we’ve been watching. It happens sometimes. We had a bad one. Just go to the next page and be ready to play tomorrow.

I want a game the other way. One we can win by 20. It happens, we’ve got to bounce back, keep doing what we’re doing. We’ve been working so hard since training camp and have all those close games, to just have a game like that … we cannot do that. Try to get it tomorrow.”

Dwane Casey:

“It started in the first quarter, continued in the second quarter. That style of game lends itself to not playing defence. I told our guys: ‘the first team that plays defence wins and we didn’t. They went on a 7-0 run to start the third and that began the avalanche.

I thought Terrence Ross had his best game and gave us some big-time minutes. Now we need to get some other people to join the party.”

(On the Rockets) “They made shots, but we can’t allow our defense to regress to the point where we get in a tic for tack kind of game. Houston out ran us down the floor and our turnovers killed us. Those are the tough type of turnovers where you don’t get back in time to defend, but we shot ourselves in the foot. Houston shot the heck out of the ball, but we caused some of that by our turnovers.”

 

(On Lowry’s return) “It did not go the way he wanted. He struggled. Those type of games usually go one way or the other. You either play great or you get caught up in the situation. I thought he came back in the fourth quarter and tried to fight down the starch, but it was a little too late. It wasn’t just Kyle; it was everybody collectively as a team.”

 

 

Kelvin Sampson:

(On Jeremy Lin play) “This is the best game that Jeremy has played, no question. I thought he got his swagger back against New York. He had a little back contusion or spasm and didn’t practice Sunday but he came back yesterday (Monday) and got a lot of shots up. He’s been working hard with his shooting. If you work at something you’re probably going to get better at it. Its confidence, his mojo, his swagger whatever you want to call it. He looks more comfortable on the court.”

Terrence Ross:

Confident. Everyone kept telling me to be aggressive. Keep attacking and make sure you play defence. That’s as good as it gets from me.

I’m just going out there and fitting in. Knowing my position, knowing my role.

Have to go out with a confidence and swagger. We have the pieces, not it’s just putting them together.

I’m just getting used to the NBA game style. How the game is played defensively and offensively. I think I’m just adjusting to everything.

MORE TIME FOR DAVIS

Dwane Casey is giving Ed Davis more time based on his solid play of late, but hopes the forward keeps it up.

“In the last two games, he’s really played big-time (15 points, 14 rebounds nine points, four rebounds in 10 minutes),” Casey said.

“Ed has been playing great. Rebounding, active in the paint, athletically. He’s one of our best rotating defensive guys now. He’s going to be rewarded with time and he’s got to make the most of his time, which he has done.”

Casey wants Davis and Amir Johnson to show up on the same night, which he pointed out has been rare.

Getting Bargnani, DeRozan and Lowry hot in the same game would be good as well.

Spurs at Raptors Points Per Game: More heartbreak, but Valanciunas breaks out

- November 26th, 2012

There’s a theme falling into place for the Raptors: Battle hard all night, regardless of the opponent. Have a chance to win a game. Lose said game.

It’s brutal. For the players. For the staff. For the fans. And for the writers just trying to write an early game story off of a blowout for once.

Credit Dwane Casey and his staff for keeping spirits up in the midst of one of the toughest stretches in Raptors history.

Some thoughts:

- A lot of people recall Chris Bosh coming out of his shell and announcing himself as a prime-time player back in the day against Kevin Garnett and the Minnesota Timberwolves. Jonas Valanciunas’ performance on Sunday against San Antonio brought me back to that game. Career-high 22 points, great work on the boards, blocked shots and most importantly, challenged one of the top 15 players ever Tim Duncan, at both ends, showing no fear. Valanciunas’ was fantastic and is only scratching the surface of where he could be one day. Duncan made a point of going up to him after the game, a sure sign of respect. Bryan Colangelo’s taken a lot of flack for many of his moves in Toronto, but nobody can say he made the wrong call taking Valanciunas. It will go down as one of the best decisions of his career. Funny that xenophobic fools hated it from Day 1 (even though I and others wasted time trying to talk them down from the ledge) … speaking of which, have to love the keyboard ninjas who sent pure class athletes like Jose Calderon ridiculous, hate-filled garbage via Twitter. Get a life, clowns.

Back on topic, unfortunately, there’s only one Valanciunas on this roster. But he’s a tremendous building block, even in a league that currently is trying to go small. Things change.

- The Raptors didn’t have much business being in a game with San Antonio. The team is great and is awesome on the road. Plus the Raptors couldn’t shoot the ball. Not too many teams win games when they shoot 36% from the floor.

- Said Ed Davis looked great in Detroit. Well, he looked even better yesterday and needs to get more run. Sure, his offence is limited and he isn’t the most consistent player around, but the team does better when he’s on the court then when he is off. Unlike that other guy … but I won’t go there – too much. Not fair to dump on Bargnani now. I’ve made my case many times previously. Two great games and one all-time stinker don’t change it. He still needs to go. He still doesn’t fit and he still hurts the team more than he hurts it.

- I’m fine with Casey playing Bargnani so much hoping he’d regain his form … but I would have changed it up in the second overtime. It was clear by then it wasn’t happening. Davis could have provided a lift. Team wasn’t scoring anyway, might as well try to get some easy buckets. Bargnani was doing a solid job on Duncan, which makes keeping him in more understandable, but might have been worth seeing what Davis could do on that end.

- Casey hated the club’s efforts on the boards in Detroit, and got a great response. Toronto throttled San Antonio on the glass and that’s how the team stayed in a game it had no business being in.

- Tony Parker is a fabulous player. One of the most unstoppable players in the league. I can add a “duh” here. Spurs liked Valanciunas so much that they considered a Parker-for-Valanciunas and something swap at that draft. Spurs ended up doing quite well with Kawhi Leonard, who, like Valanciunas, probably goes down as one of the top 4 players from that class.

- Another 51 minutes for DeRozan. The man needs a rest. If and when Bargnani goes, a swingman that can take some pressure off of DeRozan must be the return. That or a quick return to health by Landry Fields, who is expected to still miss at least another month. We should get more clarity on Fields later this week.

Raptors at Pistons Points Per Game: Pon de replay

- November 24th, 2012

What can you say at this point other than bad luck seems to be following the Raptors like a dark cloud that refuses to go away.

The team seemingly has had every possible bad break go against it and the season is only 13 games old. Amazing. But like Dwane said, the game wasn’t lost on one play (Knight’s layup, Lowry’s miss, Drummond’s goaltend that wasn’t) it was lost on a lot of mistakes. Eight offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter is unacceptable. Even if Valanciunas was battling, but basically playing on one leg after getting kicked in the calf, as Casey said. Besides the o-boards, the Raptors are getting broken down far too easily night after night by quick guards.

Before everyone kills Lowry, understand that there would be no close finish without his going off in the third quarter (14 points). Yes, he needs to make better decisions down the stretch of games, but on the flip side, that fearlessness, that break down the defence and make a play ability has been missing from the Raptors for years. It’s a fine line. Rein him in and team will suffer. Let him go and mistakes might be made. He is pressing, trying to put the team on his shoulders. Trying to put the dagger in opponents and it isn’t working at the moment.

Positives: Bargnani’s past two games have been fantastic. I’ve never seen him play better offensively than he did tonight, though I’ve seen him play overall better games (better defence). He has taken charges three straight games.

Ed Davis was fantastic. Two monster blocks, 3-for-3 from the line, big dunk. Really gave the team a spark. Amir was better, but is struggling a bit right now.

Not the best outing from Valanciunas, but he was solid until the injury. By the way, Lowry says he’s fine (but he came down weird on his ankle late in the fourth after a drive).

Tayshaun Prince had a hell of a game after mildly calling out his coach. Credit where credit is due.

SAME OLD, SAME OLD?

Detroit players always seem to have problems with their coach.

After losing twice to the not tremendous Orlando Magic recently – and giving up a 21-0 ru – a couple of veterans seemed to take some mild shots at head coach Lawrence Frank.

Will Bynum told the Detroit Free Press Frank’s rotations were “all over the place” while Tayshaun Prince questioned his substitution patterns and use of time outs, though both said their quotes were misinterpreted.

Detroit is not in a great spot at the moment. There is talent in place, but success seems a long ways off, meaning veterans are bound to get cranky.

Drummond is a monster. Still raw, still very challenged offensively, but a machine on the glass. Should the Raptors have gone to the hack a Drummond down the stretch? Might have been worth thinking about.

 

And finally, some post-game quotes from Casey and Lowry:

Dwane Casey: It looks like the last play was the reason it wasn’t. It’s 15 offensive boards. Once Jonas hurt his leg, he was playing on one leg and just got five in a row on him, offensive boards and we had to get him out. He would have been a difference I thought if he was healthy. But it was the plays all before that. That’s the story. You can’t rely on just one stop to win or lose the game.

Once we correct those lulls, those numerous offensive rebounds, we’re going to be OK. But tonight it was a combination of that and their second shots.

No not really. He was penetrating, he got to the rim on one. The last two, I don’t know what decision he made at that time, I thought Andrea was open on the penetration. He made that decision, that’s the freedom you give players. He’s done a heck of a job getting to the rim and those other two, I think if he looked at it, he’d make a different decision. I can’t get in his mind, he’s taking what the defence gives him. But again, it shouldn’t come down to that.

“15 offensive boards, everybody has a piece of that. I’d give 2 or 3 of (Bargnani’s) buckets to have some defensive rebounds.”

We’ve got to get tougher in the paint.

More physical in the paint, especially when you’ve got a guy that’s hurt.

Have to get DeMar more involved. They were paying special attention to him.

We had Amir on Prince, backed him down. We had Dom on Prince, backed him down point blank. That’s just way too easy for two of our better defenders.

Kyle Lowry:

I got the shot I wanted. Missed it, that was it really. Got to a spot I wanted to get to on the floor, shot a shot I’ve shot a million times and the next time I shoot it, it will go in.

Very frustrating. We’ve got to learn past it. We’ve got to chip away and keep playing.”

 

Raptors at Bobcats Points Per Game: “Winning time” horror; What’s up with the refs?; Fine line with Lowry

- November 22nd, 2012

The hits just keep on coming for the Raptors don’t they? Another game the team could have won with a few breaks. Some thoughts:

- Let’s start with the refs again. They were brutal. Somebody sent me an e-mail saying Raptors have lost past 8 games Ed Malloy has reffed, not sure if that is correct or not and it’s not just him, but it has been crystal clear this year that NBA refs don’t respect the Raptors, don’t give the team the calls good teams get (which makes sense, the Raptors are not a good team and haven’t been for a long time). Just as egregious was Kemba Walker getting a call on Jonas Valanciunas when Valanciunas did nothing wrong and shouldn’t have fouled out. That was almost as huge as the Bargnani play. Valanciunas was incredulous afterwards, couldn’t believe it was called. He better get used to it. The NBA might hide it, refs might say it isn’t true, but home teams get calls road teams don’t. We saw two crucial examples last night.

That said, if Charlotte hits its threes like an NBA team (25-30% instead of 15.8%, the team wins going away and we aren’t talking about the refs).

- The Raptors had five chances in the dying seconds. Charlotte played some outstanding defence on four of those plays and Bargnani was fouled on the fifth. I like the team taking it to the hoop even if you know fouls aren’t going to be called at that point. Still a better chance of going in than a jump shot with a man in your face. Can’t fault the Raptors for the final sequence, especially since team didn’t have a timeout.

- Have to be impressed with the work of Valanciunas. Told me last week he hadn’t found his rhythm yet. Back-to-back double-doubles and one of best players on court past two games. Says he’s feeling more comfortable now, but still not doing enough, because the team isn’t winning. Have to love that attitude. Raptors have a gem in this kid, but need a few more like him.

- Speaking of rookies, Terrence Ross also continues to adapt to NBA life. Not at the defensive end, mind you – and Casey said as much afterwards – but on offence, Ross is showing what he can do. Great outside shooter and is starting to use his athleticism in transition.

- And speaking of transition, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a beast on the move. Same as he always was. He’s brought a winning attitude to the formerly sad-sack Bobcats. Kemba Walker is a winner too and he has improved significantly. He plays like a point guard now, not an undersized two. Not a pure point, but good enough. Thought Brandon Knight would be better pro than him, but now revising my opinion.

- Byron Mullens and Ramon Sessions got lucky. Mullens was horrible all night, but still walked off with a win. Why he trash-talked the Raptors bench, we’ll never know. you do that when you’re playing well, not when you’re stinking it up. Sessions’ pre-game comments probably were overplayed, but instead of bringing it he had a putrid game – before – Raptors luck of course -getting an Al Jefferson bounce on his game-winner.

Some stuff I couldn’t get in the paper:

Free throws continue to be a problem for the Raptors. Team shot 70% from the line, missing six free throws against Charlotte. That came after shooting 69% and missing 9 against Philadelphia, 60.9%, missing 9 against Orlando and 67.7%, missing 10 before that. Toronto has shot about 66% since hitting 16-of-19 a couple of weeks ago.

- Lowry is pressing a bit in the clutch. He, like Jose Calderon, has made some uncharacteristically bad decisions in “winning time.” That needs to change. His heat check, way off three allowed Charlotte to have a chance to rally. Better idea would have been to kill some time. But, that aggressiveness is a big part of what makes Lowry a great player, so it is a razor thin line.

- Casey was happy to have Lowry back and to be able to put Calderon back on the bench, “to give us some balance with the second unit.”

We saw Lowry-Calderon again, which made sense against a small Charlotte backcourt, but no John Lucas III  on his 30th birthday. Casey hinted before the game that we’d be seeing less of the dual point guard lineup.

“Our +/- is not really great with Jose there. Mainly the defence,” he said.

HANDLE OWN BUSINESS

Raptors forward Ed Davis wasn’t too concerned with what Sessions had to say about his club ahead of Wednesday’s game.

Davis brushed it off, while taking a mild shot at the Charlotte franchise.

I don’t pay attention to it. He should feel that way. That’s how every team should feel. Every game should be won, especially when you’re at home. We’ll see if he can back it up,” Davis said.

“It doesn’t matter, look what they did last year. They have a winning record now so they’re feeling themselves a little bit now, but we’re just going to focus on what we need to do to get a win. We’ll worry about this locker room, that’s all.”

- Toronto will get a much-needed mental break on Thursday. The team will take in the Detroit Lions-Houston Texans game in Detroit. Valanciunas said he had never seen American football before.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raptors at 76ers Points Per Game: Bargnani, Calderon not going to work; Three point defence brutal; Too much Swag, too much Damaja (Jrue)

- November 21st, 2012

PHILADELPHIA —

Cue the grumbling. And there’s a lot of it, following the latest poor effort by the Raptors in the clutch. Some of it is warranted, some of it isn’t, some of it is just plain crazy. Some thoughts:

- Might as well get this out of the way here: You’re not going to win very often with Jose Calderon at the head of your defence and Andrea Bargnani providing its last line of defence. We have lots of evidence of this. Lots. It’s not really Calderon’s fault. How many NBA point guards can guard their quick counterparts effectively. It’s a small list and really, the best merely slow down guys like Jrue Holiday, who was fantastic. More problematic, to these eyes, was the poor rotating, the slowness getting to the correct spots by the other Raptors. This team guarded the three tremendously last season. Now? Few teams do it worse.

- Casey indicated last week that he might try to force the issue with Philadelphia the next time the team went small – ie. playing a big lineup instead of trying to match small with small. But that didn’t happen. I would have liked to see Jonas Valanciunas start the fourth quarter and give a tiring Andrea Bargnani a rest. I can understand Casey wanting to go with Amir Johnson and Bargnani down the stretch, that’s who he is comfortable finishing with at this point, but Valanciunas was the best Raptor on the floor through three quarters and seeing what he could do against the small Sixers lineup would have been nice. At some point it has to happen. I’m not sure if this is an issue or not, because they aren’t good defenders to start with, but Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan are playing a ton and maybe that’s why they are even worse defensively late in games?

- Holiday is a very good basketball player but not the greatest at finishing at the rim. I think the plan was to get up on him so that he could blow by and try to finish at the rim instead of shooting jumpers, which he is really good at. Problem was instead of going to the hoop, Holiday found open teammates constantly. The Raptors were helping too much, leaving the team exposed. Just let Holiday go to the hoop, that’s your best chance against him. Stay on your man.

- Expect to see Terrence Ross tonight. DeRozan needs a breather.

- On the plus side, Toronto’s ball movement was excellent. Most buckets were created from an assist and the cuts and movement without the ball was superb for most of the game. Bargnani played well offensively and Lowry provided a lift. An in-form Lowry makes his free throws and guards Holiday and the Raptors probably win this game.

- Ed Davis continues to be buried many night and there’s not much Casey can do against teams that go small. Davis isn’t going to produce offence and he’s not going to be able to guard Thaddeus Young or any of the other guards or forwards Philly put on the court.

- I knocked Valanciunas for his hands during the game, but upon further reflection, a lot of his bobbles are the result of bad passes. Either the passes are low, or they aren’t thrown at the proper time. A discussion with ex-point guard Sherman Hamilton helped change my thinking on Valanciunas’ mitts. He’s not great catching it on the move, but to be fair, he’s not really being thrown the ball properly.

- Two big turning points: Doug Collins takes a technical after DeRozan gets to the line. Things changed after that. Also, when Lowry picked up his fifth foul and had to sub out, Philadelphia went on a run.

- Nick Young sure loves playing the Raptors.

Some quotes I didn’t get in the game story

 

ALEX KNOWS BEST

While Lowry was eager to return as soon as possible, Casey said the team didn’t let the fierce competitor dictate the decision.

“Well, no, I’m going to listen to Alex (McKechnie) the medical people. Not to Kyle, because Kyle will want to be out there the whole time and play the whole time and you can’t do that. We’ll have to listen to the professionals,” Casey said.

The coach said Lowry needs to get back into game condition, something that will be difficult considering the team won’t have many practices in the next little while.

“That’s the hard part, getting that conditioning and that sharpness back without a practice.

“He’s excited, but we understand the situation with his health and we want to make sure we do the right thing for the team for the long run.”

Lowry will be tested on Wednesday in Charlotte, when the Raptors complete a back-to-back.

Dwane Casey:

We lost a lot of guys in transition. Everybody focuses in close games on missing shots, that has nothing to do with it. We missed free throws, yes, we missed nine free throws, but basketball plays, winning plays, 50-50 balls, second shots, transition defence, closing out the touch, all those little things are basketball plays that you have to make in  crunch time.

It’s not missing, it’s when you miss them (free throws).

Kyle Lowry:

A lot of the things, I just put on myself tonight. Nick Young got hot, J-Rich got hot. They hit some tough threes. They made some wide-open shots. They executed their offence really well down the stretch.

I thought I was ready to go and that’s why I played. It (being at home) had nothing to do with it.

Jose Calderon:

Mental thing? No, we just have to be able to get better. They were switching a little bit more. Was more against us, wasn’t about them. It was our game and we couldn’t control it at the end.

(On struggling to guard three-point attempts) We have to try to get a little bit closer. We’re maybe too worried about the points in the paint. It’s something that has to be collectively. It’s a team issue. We’ve got to get better in a lot of aspects of the game as a team.

DeMar DeRozan:

Just a step slow. We’ve got to anticipate the next pass and understand who the next person is, whether it’s a three-point shooter or a driver.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magic at Raptors Points Per Game: DeRozan brilliant, Bargnani wakes up a bit; Calderon, Johnson renew dynamic duo act

- November 19th, 2012

It’s early, but that was a huge win for the Raptors. Sure, Charlotte and Detroit are beatable teams, but losing to a weak Orlando side at home would have been a blow. Now, the Raptors have a chance to head into a tough stretch (5-of-6 on the road) with some momentum and confidence.

Some thoughts:

Another solid game from DeMar DeRozan, one of his best all-around efforts of this breakout season. Led the team with nine rebounds and 20 points, hit a three, was extremely effective. The improvement in his ability to handle the ball is the thing I notice the most this season. He is more confident with the ball and seems to know what he needs to do. He is making quicker decisions and is making more correct decisions. The next step is becoming an average or slightly above average defender, because he’s still not strong at that end, but he’s getting close to average.

There haven’t been many combos in Raptors history more effective than Jose Calderon and Amir Johnson. Calderon knows where Amir is going to be, pretty much every time and puts the ball exactly where Johnson needs it to make a good play. Ideally, they’d be leading a strong bench, but the combo powered the Raptors in the fourth yesterday.

Ed Davis only played 7:41, and only grabbed one rebound (with five points), but he looked solid. He helped the team and only sat later because Amir came to life and because Andrea Bargnani was having one of his better games this year.

Speaking of Bargnani, the team got him going early and he responded by playing harder and being more effective overall at both ends, though he continues to shoot himself out of hot starts (finished 7-for-19). As I’ve said for years now, he still hurts the team and still needs to be traded, but when he plays like he did on Sunday he is probably a slight positive. He creates space for his teammates and even made life tough for the smaller Magic players down low. He’s an underrated man-to-man defender, but still struggles immensely as a team defender. Have to think he’s reading his press. Not sure I’ve ever seen a player bolt from a winning locker room so quickly after a game. He’ll keep the wolves at bay for a bit if he keeps trying hard, but, again, long-term, the franchise would be better off finding decent trade value for him.

Dominic McGuire says he is getting more comfortable as a starter. He’s settling into his role, defending the best opposing swingman and taking open shots. When the Raptors run, he is even effective on offence because he has size and athleticism and can finish in the open court. Down the line, he’ll be a solid option off of the bench who Dwane Casey can call on for a few minutes every game to harass and tire big-time scorers. For now, he has to do more than that.

Jonas Valanciunas responded to being yelled at by Casey for not boxing out:

At one point Casey exclaimed: ‘Come on Jonas!’ After he allowed Glen Davis to grab an offensive board. After that, Valanciunas started to use his length against Davis’ bulk and he found success on the boards, particularly on the offensive boards.

Mississauga’s Andrew Nicholson looked to be pressing a bit, but showed the skills that made him a first-round pick. He’s going to be around for a long time. Very skilled big man.

Congratulations to Jamaal Magloire for his new position with the club.

See you in Philadelphia.

Raptors at Celtics Points Per Game: Terrible start, bad finish; Rondo goes wild; KG too much for Valanciunas

- November 18th, 2012

So, not the prettiest game on Saturday.
The Raptors were outclassed at every position except, maybe, power forward. With Kyle Lowry and Landry Fields out, Boston is just a much better team. To compete with the Celtics, the Raptors needed to get off to a fast start. Instead, there was no defence, Andrea Bargnani disappeared after a stellar opening two minutes and Rajon Rondo annihilated Jose Calderon and the Raptors.
As expected, Kevin Garnett had his way with Jonas Valanciunas. KG’s quickness and shiftiness down low was a while new lesson for the rookie.
Searching for positives, here they are:
Active night from Ed Davis. Nine boards in 21 minutes and a key part of Toronto’s rally. The Raptors got it down to four at one point, before Boston swamped them again.
John Lucas has found his shot. He hit 5-of-11 and is now up to 25% on the season, from his brutal 8% start.
Quincy Acy got a chance after having what Dwane Casey said was a great practice on Friday, and played well.
Terrence Ross continues to show flashes, though he still has a lot to learn. His offence is far ahead of his defence at this point, which will limit how much Casey can play him.
Back to Bargnani, again, you can’t win when he has games like this and is one of your top options. Does very little beyond scoring and wasn’t hitting his shots. He’s not the only problem, but he’s hurting the Raptors when he’s out there.
Like most teams, the Raptors seem to have no idea how to slow down Rondo, who was brilliant.

Raptors at Celtics Points Per Game: Outclassed and the bad start didn’t help

- November 18th, 2012

So, not the prettiest game on Saturday.
The Raptors were outclassed at every position except, maybe, power forward. With Kyle Lowry and Landry Fields out, Boston is just a much better team. To compete with the Celtics, the Raptors needed to get off to a fast start. Instead, there was no defence, Andrea Bargnani disappeared after a stellar opening two minutes and Rajon Rondo annihilated Jose Calderon and the Raptors.
As expected, Kevin Garnett had his way with Jonas Valanciunas. KG’s quickness and shiftiness down low was a while new lesson for the rookie.
Searching for positives, here they are:
Active night from Ed Davis. Nine boards in 21 minutes and a key part of Toronto’s rally. The Raptors got it down to four at one point, before Boston swamped them again.
John Lucas has found his shot. He hit 5-of-11 and is now up to 25% on the season, from his brutal 8% start.
Quincy Acy got a chance after having what Dwane Casey said was a great practice on Friday, and played well.
Terrence Ross continues to show flashes, though he still has a lot to learn. His offence is far ahead of his defence at this point, which will limit how much Casey can play him.
Back to Bargnani, again, you can’t win when he has games like this and is one of your top options. Does very little beyond scorie and wasn’t hitting his shots. He’s not the only problem, but he’s hurting the Raptors when he’s out there.
Like most teams, the Raptors seem to have no idea how to slow down Rondo, who was brilliant.

Raptors at Pacers Points Per Game: Shocker in hoops country; Calderon, DeRozan, JV lead charge; Signs of life from Ross

- November 14th, 2012

This will be one of many times we say this this year: “That’s why they play the games.”

You never know what will happen in pro sports, you might have a pretty good idea, but things happen. The Raptors had no business beating the Pacers last night. They almost played a doubleheader the night before, two starters (including the team’s best player, Kyle Lowry) and a key reserve remained sidelined, Andrea Bargnani was horrendous on offence and Indiana was well-rested and unbeaten at home.

But, Jose Calderon was a force and the Raptors rallied after a smart Dwane Casey timeout early to outplay the Pacers and eventually, hang on for the win (admit it, most of you thought Indy would find a way, maybe a Roy Hibbert three?)

Speaking of Hibbert, he looks awful. Not sure if he’s trying to justify the contract like Landry Fields, but this isn’t the same player we’ve seen the past two years. Maybe he really misses Danny Granger?

As for the Raptors, the triple double was better than the 17 assist game the night before. Against Utah, Calderon had too many turnovers throughout the game, especially down the stretch in the fourth quarter and couldn’t keep Mo Williams in front of him. In this one, he got the mistakes out of the way early and was masterful. His emotion afterwards said it all. Finally.

Would have liked to see more of Jonas Valanciunas down the stretch again, but understand that Amir Johnson was playing extremely well. But how about taking out Bargnani, who is really hurting the team at the moment? I realize that lineup would be really bad offensively, but it would lock down teams at the other end and it wasn’t like the Raptors were scoring much late anyways (5 points in the fourth quarter, a franchise-low).

With every passing game it becomes more evident that Bargnani needs to go. It’s also clear that he’s not in top shape. He probably needs to start playing decently again to up his trade value and the jury is out on whether Bryan Colangelo will ever deal him, but it has to happen for the team to take the step forward it needs.

While DeRozan’s night statistically wasn’t outstanding, he was solid again and he deserves all kinds of credit for going hard for 40 minutes a night after playing 60. Ah, young legs. At some point, DeRozan is going to get some calls from the officials. As it is, he is one of the league leaders in free throw attempts (even though he deserves two more trips a game) and is the Eastern Conference’s leading scorer among shooting guards.

Valanciunas made a huge impact early. He frustrated Hibbert at both ends and his activity really fired up the Raptors.

Fellow rookie Terrence Ross had his best night yet. He looked more comfortable and his jump shot remains picture perfect. Was impressed with his defence as well. Like Valanciunas, he was active and filled a lot of gaps. His speed and jumping ability really help him on defence. Think he’s going to start seeing some more minutes.