Raptors fail first playoff test against Bulls; Revenge of D.J. Augustin; Where was Valanciunas?

- February 20th, 2014

The Wizards want no part of the Raptors in a playoff matchup and Wednesday brought more evidence that the Bulls would not be a good early opponent for the Raptors. Chicago’s too physical, too battle-tested, too relentless too tough up front to be a favoured opponent. It really is too bad that Derrick Rose is injured again, because this would clearly be the third-best team in the East with him and might even be good enough to finish in the top two.

- The Raptors did well to barely lose after no-showing for the first quarter. In the end, the game might be beneficial to Toronto in the long run, as it was an early taste, for an inexperienced roster, of what to expect in the post-season. The referees will pocket their whistles, the physicality will be ratcheted up several notches and concentration will be necessary on every play. There’s no time to ease up in the playoffs, everything’s full speed and hardcore.

- DeMar DeRozan, in particular, got a good sense of what his first trip to the playoffs will be like. Unfortunately, he and many of his teammates wasted a lot of time complaining about no-calls. Yes, he and the others were fouled, a lot, but if the refs aren’t calling them, you have to adjust. To DeRozan’s credit, he toned down the complaining and got a number of calls in the fourth quarter as the Raptors mounted a comeback.

- Jonas Valanciunas might have had his worst outing of the year. Just wasn’t competing hard enough/didn’t know what to do against the intensity and physicality of the Bulls. It made all the sense in the world to sit him in favour of Tyler Hansbrough, who knows all about slugfests with more on the line from his time in Indiana and at North Carolina.

- Toronto’s defence was consistently broken down by Chicago’s excellent off-ball movement. Some of it was laziness, some of it a lack of strength, some of it just Chicago’s clear expertise in cutting and getting open, but many Raptors had issues staying with their defensive assignment.

- Still, the Raptors did a far better job in the fourth quarter with stopping the Bulls. As has been the case many times this year, the defence was fantastic down the stretch of a contest, giving Toronto a shot at pulling off a miracle comeback.

- Patrick Patterson and Amir Johnson each provide some things the other doesn’t. One thing I’ve noticed with Patterson is he sets great screens and largely avoids getting called for illegal screens, a major problem with Johnson. Amir also sets good screens, when they are legal, but too often, gets called for moving.

- Jimmy Butler’s another example of fine drafting by the Bulls. He’s a bulldog and an elite perimeter defender. He gave DeRozan fits and blocked DeRozan’s best late attempt.

- Speaking of that play. Staying consistent. As I’ve said all year, strongly dislike the end of game isolation play the Raptors love to run. Whether it was Rudy Gay or now DeRozan, surely there’s a better option than having one guy trying to beat a team while none of his teammates are in motion at all? I get that the NBA loves to put the ball in the hands of stars late, but wouldn’t some movement open things up for DeRozan? And wouldn’t Lowry, by far the team’s most efficient scorer, be a better bet to try to break down defences?

- Raptor fans aren’t happy about it because he was a destroyer on Wednesday, but D.J. Augustin’s a good guy. Nice to see him doing well in Chicago. Can’t fault the Raptors for cutting him as he was brutal here.

Categories: Basketball

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4 comments

  1. Lou says:

    The question I am left with is why was Augustine so brutal here?

  2. ryan.wolstat says:

    My theory is he’s one of those players that play way better with big minutes. Jerryd Bayless was the same way – solid as a starter, struggled off of the bench.
    Augustin was used to being a starter in a Charlotte. When he got to Indiana and became a reserve, he was awful. Same in Toronto. Due to injuries, he got huge minutes in Chicago and appeared to regain his confidence and shooting ability.

  3. JT says:

    Not sure how anyone can debate the merits of that last play call. What analysis would support that as a smart play? You iso a guy who has never been a great ball handler against a strong defender? No screen? Is there any history of this working? How was DeMar doing against Butler all game long?

    I appreciate there aren’t great options on this team but this shouldn’t be acceptable for an NBA head coach. Casey deserves credit for improving his substitutions and perhaps some other areas but this kind of play calling is predictable and objectively speaking dumb.

  4. ryan.wolstat says:

    Hard to disagree. Had a miniscule chance of working given all of the factors.

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