Archive for December 22nd, 2012

Magic at Raptors Points Per Game: Ross steps up as Valanciunas goes down; Amir backs up haircut; DeRozan makes best of tough night

- December 22nd, 2012

Will the Raptors ever lose again? This is the longest winning streak for the team in just under three calendar years. The bulk of the five straight have not been pretty, but an ugly win is far better than a pretty loss.

It was far from a perfect effort for the home side – the ball wasn’t moving as much, Orlando was allowed to go to town down low, not fouling late was a huge mental error by a team that seems to make too many mental mistakes (and it’s not all on the  youngsters, just what the heck was veteran Mickael Pietrus doing? At least Pietrus made a good play at the very end).

Some thoughts:

Was staring right at Jonas Valanciunas for some reason as the play developed where he got hurt. Knew right away it wasn’t good. A brutal loss for the Raptors as Valanciunas seemed to be finding a second wind of late. Recovery time will depend on surgery, but don’t expect to see him play in January. That likely means Ed Davis and Amir Johnson start until Andrea Bargnani returns – all bets are off when that happens if the team is still playing well – and Aaron Gray will get some minutes.

“He broke his hand. No timetable, he’s got to see a hand specialist. We’ll find out something in the next couple of days. Very unfortunate because the young kid is growing every time he walked on the floor and now he’s set back with a broken hand,” said a disappointed Dwane Casey afterward.

As rough as losing Valanciunas was for the Raptors, the emergence of Terrence Ross at least helps salve the wound a little bit. He had what he called his best game as a pro on Friday, defending the Magic swingmen better than any other Raptor, while also changing the momentum not once but twice. His putback dunk, the best Raptor play of the season so far, arguably, got the team rolling on an influential run in the third quarter, and his three-steal-breakaway windmill got the ACC buzzing more than it has in a few years. Ross is 10-f0r-16 from the field over his past three games, including 5-for-7 from three. But it is his defence, the main thing the Raptors drafted him for, that has most impressed Casey. The team believed he could be its best perimeter player as early as late this season, and all the signs indicate they weren’t blowing smoke. Meanwhile, Ross has averaged 10.3 points a game on nights where he plays at least 20 minutes, shooting 45% from the field, despite going just 14-for-48 from three in those games. If his threes continue to fall as they have the past two games, Ross is going to be an X-Factor for this squad and a very dangerous offensive player. When he shoots off of the dribble, he has struggled, but he’s been downright automatic as a catch and shoot guy.

Amir backed up his haircut with some clutch plays, particularly a key offensive rebound.

Arron Afflalo is a load. Just a silky smooth offensive player who gets after it on the other end. Well he might not be the elite defender he was his first two years in the league, sometimes that happens when you become an important offensive weapon (see Tracy McGrady and many others who started out as defenders), he’s still quite good when he wants to be. He gave DeRozan fits, but to DeMar’s credit, he was able to help in other ways. DeRozan led the team in rebounds with eight, made all seven of his free throw attempts, and stayed aggressive, missing three chip shots he normally would make at the rim.

Quietest night we’ve seen from Ed Davis in some time and he was outplayed by Nikola Vucevic significantly, but getting off to good starts is extremely important for this team and Davis had his best quarter of the game in the first, a quarter most of his teammates were horrible in.

Will be interesting to see what Casey does with his wing rotation. He doesn’t want to mess with the chemistry so could see him leaving Pietrus out as the starter, but thinking MP might get a short hook after 5 minutes or so in first quarters, allowing Alan Anderson to come in. At some point, Landry Fields will get back in the mix, but Ross is making quite the case to be in first off of the bench instead of Anderson. Don’t think they’ll start Ross yet, opting for a veteran like Pietrus for now makes some sense. By the end of the year though I can see Ross starting with Fields being first off bench and Anderson and Pietrus lesser factors.