The Raptors played like a cohesive team against Dallas on Friday and were rewarded with a rare victory.
Dallas definitely played a horrible game, O.J. Mayo might have had his worst outing of the season, but it wasn’t a matter of the Mavericks simply being off, Toronto had something to do with it. The defensive rotations were much better, there was more pressure and more passion.
On offence, Toronto moved the ball far better than it has for most of the season and was able to overcome the absence of Kyle Lowry and Andrea Bargnani’s offensive talents thanks to big games from Linas Kleiza, Jose Calderon, Terrence Ross and DeMar DeRozan
Lowry and Bargnani were knocked by their teammates for selfish and/or poor play earlier in the season, but everyone was on the page on this night. Linas Kleiza made a point of signalling out the importance of playing as a team and spreading the ball around in a post-game interview. Lowry and Bargnani will need to catch that drift upon their return. They might be Toronto’s most talented offensive players, but the league’s top offensive players recognize that they can’t do it all themselves.
After some tough outings, the rookie Ross looked great. His confidence was back and he even picked up a career-best two assists. He needs to keep giving up the ball at times to make sure he isn’t too predictable.
Fellow rookie Jonas Valanciunas is in a bit of a funk. He’s having some issues outplaying proven vets like Chris Kaman. I would expect he’s going to have an extremely difficult time slowing down Omer Asik on Sunday. He has had a look at Asik already though and has tended to look a lot better against an opponent the second time around (Kaman aside).
Have to credit the fans for showing up in huge numbers the past two games. Despite everything that has happened this year, they are showing up in droves. Top 10 in the NBA in attendance to see a bottom 3 (record-wise) team says a lot and sends a message to all of the morons who still claim (hope?) that the team will move elsewhere.
Alan Anderson might not have been able to do much on offence, but as usual, he did his job on the boards and was part of the three-headed monster that gave Mayo fits. Once Dirk Nowitzki comes back, Dallas is going to be a good offensive squad, but without him, unless Mayo is on fire, they aren’t so good.
Derek Fisher starting over Darren Collison is bizarre. Not entirely sure what Collison did to get Rick Carlisle to sour on him so quickly.
An Andrea Bargnani comment: Like his “depressed” quote from Thursday, I believe something was lost in translation when his interview with an Italian paper got translated to English. Bargnani’s an honest guy and he might have meant that Toronto was the worst team in the league, but more likely, he was trying to get across that the team is one of the worst in the league and had been awful so far. I don’t think he’s clinically depressed and I don’t think he believes the Raptors are the worst team in the league.
Final word from Dwane Casey’s good friend Carlisle, because it backs up my assertion that anybody who thinks Casey needs to be fired to magically solve Toronto’s woes is a moron:
“They played great and we played poorly. They had a lot to do with us playing poorly. After tonight, it’s very, very clear that whatever problems the Raptors franchise has, it is completely unrelated to coaching because Dwane Casey is doing a great job with a roster that’s beat up. I just have so much respect for him.”