Archive for December 20th, 2012

Raptors keep streak going against Pistons Points Per Game: Jose rolling, but I’d still go back to Lowry eventually; Kudos to Amir; Anderson’s been the glue; small ball isn’t the answer

- December 20th, 2012

Four in a row. First time in two years. An accomplishment no doubt, even if Detroit and Cleveland are horrible and should be beaten. No question here at full strength Toronto is better than those teams, but the Raptors deserve credit for beating them without Kyle Lowry and Andrea Bargnani, which evens things up talent-wise quite a bit.

Don’t look now, but with the East horrible, the Raptors are poised to make a jump. I believe, despite the bad start, the Raptors can finish ahead of Cleveland, Detroit, Charlotte, Washington and Orlando. That puts them 10th in the East, right about where I pegged them at the start of the year (believe I said 9th or 10th).

Back to the game against Detroit:

Was great to see the team finally looking for Jonas Valanciunas. He has been rolling for most of the season towards the bucket, but nearly always was merely a decoy. Finally, he is getting the ball on the move. Most bigs can’t get there fast enough, which gives the Raptors, a team that needs any edge it can get on offence, a leg up on opponents. It needs to keep happening, and Lowry needs to make sure he does it to when he gets back, likely after the short holiday break.

Jose Calderon’s on quite a run. A 17 assist, 2 turnover night is as solid as it gets. They’ll take him missing six-of-eight shots too, because he’s among the best shooters on the team and needs to keep firing away.

Of late, we’ve seen Ed Davis and Valanciunas start slowly, making little impact in a first half before flat out dominating the third quarter. For a team that needs to come out strong in the first and the third, their big third quarters have been huge. Not a huge fan of sitting them down for the fourth and going small as has been Dwane Casey’s wont so far though. Dwane’s making a lot of great calls, the offence is finally on point and the defence has been much better, for the most part but … while I understand the need for spacing, I don’t believe either Bargnani or Linas Kleiza are consistent enough to trot out there over far superior defenders and rebounders like Davis or Valanciunas. That’s particularly true against a team like Detroit, which only does one thing well, rebound. Going small against a team like that is asking for trouble. Casey has his reasons, mostly trusting the guys he puts out there in the fourth and the recent results indicate he’s making the right call, but I’m not sold on it. Against certain teams? Sure, but against Cleveland (Varejao, Thompson, etc.) and Detroit, it’s a bit odd.

Have to think the reason the Raptors finally are finding some success from three has to do with more open looks. The ball is moving, so the shots are open ones more often. Now, guys need to start sinking more of those open shots. Kleiza and John Lucas III, in particular.

Alan Anderson remains a great story. He’s played so well that an argument for starting him over Mickael Pietrus can be made. Pietrus has defended well (though he got lost on back screens too many times early, partly the fault of teammates not communicating with him, to be fair), but his offence hasn’t been good. The play of Anderson has cut into Terrence Ross’ time and has forced Casey to keep Landry Fields, the former starter, on the bench, allowing Fields to get some practices in before he plays.

Only two rebounds for DeMar DeRozan, but that’s deceiving. He looked completely in control on offence and played well defensively again.

Amir Johnson is one of the toughest players in the league. He doesn’t tell you about it, he just goes out and plays through just about anything.

Blocked shots vs. opponent’s blocks for the Raptors over past five games (four wins and a game against Brookly that should have been a win, considering the big lead that was blown): 27 for the Raptors, 12 for opponents

Anybody that’s read me a while knows I don’t have an ounce of surprise over team playing better, being more productive and competitive without Andrea Bargnani. Unless he’s on one of his crazy offensive runs, a team is better off with a more balanced player who isn’t a complete liability on the boards and as a team defender … someone a bit like Ed Davis.

As for Lowry-Calderon. Fully expect the team to keep things status quo and bring him off the bench for a bit upon his return … but, if that sticks long-term, again, it’s a mistake. See the previous Points Per Game for some of the reasons why. Strongly believe the downside of the move far outweighs any upside. And, again, I mean if Lowry comes off the bench for more than 3 or 4 games upon his return.

The Myck Kabongo situation is a shame all-around. The NCAA looks foolish for overreacting and going in full witch hunt mode. Make no mistake, Kabongo’s alleged punishment is all about sending a message to LeBron James and Rich Paul, not to Kabongo. Don’t have all the facts, but know enough that a season-long ban is silly. Suspend him a bit if, as reported, he wasn’t entirely truthful, but for the whole year, for going to a workout paid for by his good friend Tristan Thompson, who was paid back by Kabongo’s family almost immediately, from what I’ve been told? That’s just silly.