Archive for the ‘NBA’ Category

Heat at Raptors Points Per Game: Hail to the King; Gay impresses again; Bosh, like Vince, feeds off of the boos

- February 4th, 2013

A decent game by the Raptors against the defending champs but Miami played far better than when the teams met recently in Miami, so the result was a lot more decisive. Turnover issues, missed shots and bad rotating on defence sunk the Raptors. Well, that and the fact these guys are very, very good.

“They got us out of whack. It did not help that Rudy has only had one day of practice. Going into a game where everyone is not on the same page is tough, but this is the NBA. We have to get back to the practice floor and be able to execute plays. You know the problem was that we did not get stops,” said Dwane Casey.

“We lost something in our rotations which is something we cannot do. That is on a team and not on an individual defender.”

Rudy Gay said he still feels a little weird being a Raptor, but things will settle down and he’ll get more comfortable once he gets some practices in. Gay said he is still “feeling my way out there.”

“It’s easy to play with these guys, we have a great group of guys who all want to win. I just want to come here and help with that.”

Gay said he loves the challenge of taking on LeBron James while Terrence Ross said guarding James is a whole lot different than guarding anybody else in the league. “Yeah, he’s kind of in his own categor,” Ross said of James.

Most of the Raptors were rooting for the Ravens in the Super Bowl, especially Gay, a Maryland native.

Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra respects Toronto’s athleticism.

“They’re aggressive offensively. If you’re late, it’s going to end up in a dunk. They have five or six guys that can compete in the dunk contest. They have that type of athleticism,” Spoelstra said.

Dwyane Wade said Gay would be a big addition for Toronto:

“Rudy is a very good player, he is a guy who can get his shot off at any point,” Wade said.

“They get even more athletic. This team is one of those teams that will continue to get better, especially if they get their confidence going, especially in the second half of the season. It’ll be tougher next time we play them and we have to come with our hard hats again.”

LeBron James agreed. “(Gay) brings another dimension to the team. A guy that can score, rebound, another athletic wing. They are very, very athletic, so they put a lot of pressure on your defence when those guys are in attack mode.”

James enjoyed attending the Maple Leafs-Bruins game on Saturday. “It was awesome, that was my first hockey game and I picked a good one to go to. It was a lot of fun and the people treated us with open arms. Great hospitality.” The ACC patrons greeted the heat with a lot of hospitality on Sunday as well, though Chris Bosh got a lot of boos, which he said motivated him.

A couple more points:

- Kyle Lowry needs to find his game. Practice will help, but we haven’t seen his usual aggression level and his decision-making hasn’t been good. He’s forcing passes.

- Aaron Gray has given the Raptors a huge lift. Until Jonas Valanciunas catches up to the NBA game a little bit more, Gay is going to continue to see a lot of minutes.

- Might be time to cut Alan Anderson’s minutes drastically now that Gay is here. Anderson’s in a bad shooting slump and now isn’t needed to play as much, since Gay is a huge minutes eater. With the playoffs a longshot, Terrence Ross should be getting more minutes than Anderson every night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Clippers at Raptors Points Per Game; Heck of a debut, heck of a night

- February 2nd, 2013

Well, that was a rare bit of fun for the ACC faithful. The start of the Rudy Gay era really couldn’t have unfolded any better. A pair of alley-oops right away, some fearless firing from outside, a crushing of one of the NBA’s top teams, evidence that Gay and DeMar DeRozan just might be able to co-exist well together after all … It’s been a long time since there’s been a buzz like that for basketball at the ACC. Hopefully it’s the start of something good, because everybody’s sick of watching (and in this case, covering) bad basketball and bad basketball teams.

It’s dangerous to get carried away by one night, especially by what someone does in his first appearance, because the adrenaline doesn’t surge like that every night – there’s always an extra boost on Day 1 – but that was impressive.

Gay brings the Raptors a presence the team hasn’t had, really, since Chris Bosh left town. Players were even joking about it afterward when a huge swarm of media gathered by Gay’s locker. He was getting some treatment after the game, the result of a long day (left Memphis at 5 a.m.) so took a while. After he answered questions (and before he answered even more from a few more reporters), Gay joked: ‘Y’all waited around for that?’ Mocking his answers. Unlike some stars, Gay carries himself like a normal, friendly person. After one question came out a bit mangled from a reporter who apologized, he even joked that it was all good because he butchers answers all of the time.

Gay and DeRozan will take pressure off of each other because if opponents want to double one of them, the other will be able to get a better shot than usual. While Gay isn’t an elite passer, he isn’t bad and DeRozan has showed of late (with all of his 5+ assist games) that that aspect of his game is really coming along.

Weak sauce from Tough Juice was my tweet about Caron Butler. It was a pretty bush league thing to do, but I think he was steaming from the game and don’t forget the Raptors had just completed an alley-oop, rubbing it in a bit.

Jonas Valanciunas was furious after the game and looked legitimately bummed out that he wouldn’t get a chance to play the Clippers again this year and maybe (though he didn’t say it) get a chance to lay out Butler with a hard foul if he drove to the bucket. Kyle Lowry said he didn’t tell Jonas anything. “He’ll learn,” Lowry said. DeRozan laughed and said Valanciunas wouldn’t forget what happened. And Gay said “He definitely won’t do that again.” Valanciunas hates to be shown up, he was seething, but he’ll remember and use it as a learning experience.

Raptors at Hawks Points Per Game: Rudy Gay Edition!

- January 31st, 2013

ATLANTA – A game did happen in Atlanta last night. Not a lot of people were paying attention (from the non-existent fans, to the scribes who had other things on their minds), but it was a pretty good game. A great effort by the undermanned Raptors who had no business being in a game with a solid, playoff-bound squad that was at full strength.

DeMar DeRozan showed great professionalism, turning in a good game after losing his best friend, Ed Davis, to the Memphis Grizllies.

Yes, the referees jobbed the Raptors again. Yes, it was bad and something really needs to be done about it (challenge flag? Replay?) Yes Dwane will get fined for justifiably finally deciding that enough was enough and going on a solid rant. As Jack Armstrong said on the broadcast, the league got rid of (some of it was for medical reasons) far too many good, experienced referees and the guys that have replaced them aren’t yet ready for prime time, in a lot of cases. It’s bad. It’s making the league look really bad.

Quick take on Rudy Gay with a plane to catch which will keep this brief for now (you can read a lot more about the trade here : http://www.torontosun.com/2013/01/30/raptors-acquire-rudy-gay-jose-calderon-to-grizzlies and here: http://www.torontosun.com/2013/01/31/colangelo-hints-that-bargnani-could-go

I am biased, saw big things ahead from Gay when I watched him play a lot for UCONN. Still think he has an upside and is already a very talented player. With a new start and with his best friend Kyle Lowry, I think he comes closer to being the player he is capable of, even if he probably never fully takes advantage of his gifts. Raptors had to sell high on Calderon and selling high on Davis when Amir Johnson is still on board and with Jonas Valanciunas yet to develop, made a lot of sense too.

Tough to lose those guys, great people who did strong work here. And Ed is only going to get better, but it was for a guy who was badly needed and will help a lot. The deal will result in a lot of dominos falling, and I’ll have a lot more on that (I’ve talked about some of them already).

Bryan Colangelo now must stop overpaying marginal players by 40% now that Gay’s huge salary is on the books. It’s fine to overpay for top talent, doing it for easily replaceable guys is a recipe for disaster.

 

Warriors at Raptors Points Per Game: Out of gas; Nice to see Bogut back; DeRozan piling up the assists; Lots of Rudy Gay speculation

- January 29th, 2013

There’s too much Rudy Gay talk swirling (and have to get ready for my flight to Atlanta) to spend too much time hashing over this game.

- The Raptors were undermanned and tired, facing a solid (as in would be easily top 4 in East) team that was energized by the return of its second-best player (when healthy), Andrew Bogut. Still, as is usually the case, the team gave a good effort, was in it at the half behind unexpected contributions from Aaron Gray (this game goes up there with his monster near 20-20 effort as a Bull against the Raptors and his fine playoff game for New Orleans against the Lakers as his finest NBA moments).

- The Raptors ran out of gas after surprisingly mounting a comeback from double-digits. Many teams would have packed it in after going down by 10, considering, there was no Kyle Lowry and a lot of tired and flu-ridden guys on the court.

- I like this Warriors squad, assuming the nearly impossible can happen and they can stay healthy. Stephen Curry remains a fantastic player and seems to be improving, not crazy, considering how young he is. Bogut is a force at both ends when healthy and beside David Lee, gives the Warriors a ridiculous rebounding front court. He’ll make up for a lot of Lee’s defensive failings as well. Klay Thompson can fill it up and Harrison Barnes has a ton of talent. And a ton of athleticism, as his dunk over Gray illustrated.

- DeMar DeRozan had 9 assists. He’s been piling them up of late and that’s a good sign. It shows he’s making better decisions and is reading the game well. Opponents are swarming him because without Andrea Bargnani and Lowry, there aren’t many offensive threats around him.

- The Rudy Gay talk has picked up again. Even though Memphis got under the luxury tax by dumping players last week, the team still isn’t sold on Gay at his contract number. And they’re probably right, Gay isn’t worth $17 million or so a season. But once you’re as good as that team is, you should keep the core together. Gay’s still a very good player, even if he’s having a bad season.

The Raptors would have to surrender Ed Davis and Jose Calderon in a deal. Despite the leaks, it’s highly unlikely they’d have interest in Darrell Arthur. A straight 2-for-1 is most likely, though that could change. The trade isn’t happening for sure, but there’s a good chance it does, according to sources. Re: Gay’s big deal. I’d much rather overpay for above-average talent than for a bunch of bench performers (ie. Kleiza, Fields, Kapono, etc.)

I’ll have a lot of thoughts if it comes to pass, but in general, I’d be OK with it, even though I like Davis a lot as a player and as a person. The Raptors aren’t really going anywhere as is. Either way they’re going to lack high-end talent, the talent needed to win. Using Davis and Calderon’s expiring deal to get a solid player (not elite, but high-end non-all-star esque, like Lowry) would be a step in the right direction if a full tank isn’t happening (and it isn’t).

Lowry and Gay would both play better together. They are close, and both are being underutilized. Anybody that reads me knows I prefer Lowry as a building block to Calderon for many reasons. Davis still has more upside, but he’s always going to be thin. As effective as he is at finishing at running, the floor and at rebounding, he’s always going to give a lot back on defence against large big men, because he just isn’t physically equipped to stop them. If you stand pat and lose Calderon for nothing, where do you go from there? You’re still going to be an 7-10th place team in the East forever with no hope of bringing in top talent (too good to get a high draft choice unless you miss playoffs and win lottery, too bad to do damage, not a free agent destination).

There would be many repercussions to a deal. Many is probably understating it. Future deals would have to happen. Andrea Bargnani is gone as soon as he reestablishes value. Gay and DeMar DeRozan will never work because they are too similar and share many of the same weaknesses so DeRozan would likely be moved down the line, allowing Terrence Ross to step in.

There are many more off-court dominos that I won’t get into today. It’s all very interesting and intriguing stuff.

Cavaliers at Raptors Points Per Game: If you don’t know, now you know (that Kyrie’s a top 10 offensive player); Another lead blown; Thompson improving; Tough night for Lowry; Anderson making the right play more often

- January 27th, 2013

Everybody has to be used to this by now, no? Kyrie Irving hitting the dagger from the parking lot was a bit of a new wrinkle, sure, but that’s how things go 90% of the time for these Raptors. It isn’t all execution, a lot of the heartbreakers have had a lot to do with luck as well. Irving, as good as he is (and he’s awesome and only going to get more dominant), shouldn’t really be sending that shot straight through. That’s skill, and luck. What was Alan Anderson supposed to do on the play? Irving had been carving the Raps on the drive all night so playing up on him, especially that far from the three-point line, would not have been advisable.

Some thoughts:

- Let’s start with the Cavs. Irving can’t defend at all, so I liked how they put Alonzo Gee (an underrated, rich man’s Jamario Moon) against Jose Calderon and Kyle Lowry. Gee’s no star, but he’s solid. He was too quick and physical for DeMar DeRozan to handle and he beat him several times in the game.

- Tristan Thompson’s game has really expanded. He looks a lot more comfortable on offence and is in the best shape of his NBA career. He shutting up many of the detractors (including where he plays) who foolishly wrote a young kid off after one lockout-shortened season.

- Though DeRozan had some issues defending, the aggressiveness and confidence we expected to see stemming from Thursday’s game-winner was apparent, especially early. Cleveland did a better job taking the ball out of his hands through traps and the like later in the game, but early on, DeRozan looked good.

- Anderson really has been passing the ball better of late. Even before the Miami game where he forced far too many shots, Anderson was passing the ball more. He is making better decisions, as he told us in the locker room in Miami he would. Sometimes it’s dangerous (the last-minute passes he throws while going up for a shot are very difficult to catch, but they worked on Saturday), but varying things and becoming more unpredictable is helping.

- Quincy Acy gave the Raptors a lift. He’s still making mistakes, but he looks like an NBA player, which is all you can ask for from a second-round pick. Will be interesting to see if his minutes completely dry up when Jonas Valanciunas and Andrea Bargnani return either late next week or early in February.

- The Raptors could probably thank Ed Davis for taking a sparse lead into the half. His rebounding got them a lot of points.

- I remain unimpressed by Dion Waiters. I think he was a reach. His game has a lot of holes. He is talented, but doesn’t play the right way and makes a ton of bad decisions. Like Randy Foye (he’ll probably be better than Foye, but that’s a comparable), he was taken too high with an ill-advised selection. Terrence Ross or Andre Drummond would have been better picks.

- The Raptors have to stop giving up these fourth quarter runs that allow teams to come back. A “duh” statement, sure, but it has to be done, by hook or by crook, as Dwane Casey might say.

- Tough night for Kyle Lowry who had a sore back and had a brutal shooting night. He still moved the ball well and rebounded, but he was a negative because he didn’t hit shots and gambled far too frequently on defence, which Jack Armstrong noted on the broadcast (I’ve come down with the Florida flu. Consider me doubtful for Monday’s game as well).

 

Raptors at Magic Points Per Game: Buzzer beating winner from DeRozan!

- January 25th, 2013

Raptors fans have waited an awfully long time for a buzzer beater to go the team’s way for once. Since December of 2006 actually, when T.J. Ford memorably sank the Clippers, leading to frenzied hugs from teammates and then head coach Sam Mitchell. This time, DeRozan got a peck from Dwane Casey.

Casey was thrilled for DeRozan, who he has been on constantly to be more aggressive over the past six weeks or so. Both Casey and DeRozan are well aware of his struggles. You could feel a weight lift from the shoulders of all of the Raptors when something finally went right for them.

This was an impressive trip for the Raptors. Hanging with the Heat is just as big an accomplishment as sweeping the Magic in a four-game season series.

Some thoughts and updates:

- It was an ugly game, a dead crowd and not much defence, but ugly games count too. Credit the Raptors for pulling out four wins over Orlando, though Casey isn’t planning any parades yet.

- Now the club needs to build on this, with the next 7-of-10 at home.

- Amir Johnson said he rolled his ankle again recently, and that makes six times this season where that has happened. Johnson said it’s not the ankle he had surgically repaired last year. Still, the ankle is very loose and will bother him the rest of the season.

Andrea Bargnani continues to take shots before games, but is still in pain and still likely needs another week or two. Expect Jonas Valanciunas back first. Valanciunas needs to get in a practice or two before he is allowed to return, most likely, so mid-week seems most realistic.

Linas Kleiza still doesn’t look anywhere close. He was icing his knee after the game and wasn’t even dressed for the contest. Just about every Raptor had some body part wrapped in ice afterwards. Valanciunas continues to ice his hand.

- If you missed my all-star selection (mild) rant, I find it as wrong as Mark Jackson that Stephen Curry didn’t make the team. No Brook Lopez was the second-most egregious error, followed by no Marc Gasol.

Random stuff that didn’t make the paper:

“Last game was totally different, they didn’t have Jameer (Nelson), didn’t have E’Twaun Moore, didn’t have Davis. They’re playing much better basketball, as are we. Totally different team,” Casey said beforehand.

There was a lot of praise for Nikola Vucevic, who has been tremendous and came away with another double-double.

“He’s long and he also can step out and hit jump shots. He can stretch the floor as a big five. He gives us all kinds of problems in the post,” Casey said.

Vucevic went to work, tapping in countless shots and controlling the boards, but Orlando didn’t use him much in the pivotal fourth.

WANT MORE? YOU’VE GOT MORE

Casey said he wants to see more aggressiveness out of DeMar DeRozan.

DeRozan started the year better than ever, but has plateaued mightily since.

Forays into the post, where DeRozan has found considerable success, particularly when he gets the ball in close, have been far less frequent, and he has not attacked the basket like he did to start the year.

Casey said the team was tracking DeRozan, and he got to the rim about seven times a game last season, but has not approached those numbers recently.

“This year there’s a significant dropoff. He and I talked about it. Not the easiest team to do that against (because of Arron Afflalo, a strong defender who has given DeRozan trouble in the past),” Casey said before DeRozan answered the bell.

Against Orlando, DeRozan continued to play passively, settling mostly for jump shots, many of the unhelpful long-two point variety, until the fourth quarter, where he began to play more to his strengths.

Though not all of the close looks fell, DeRozan found more success playing that way and it paved the way for his heroics.

Lakers at Raptors Points Per Game: Calderon, Davis best players on floor; What’s up with the Lakers? The reffing remains a farce and Landry Fields continues to impress

- January 21st, 2013

While NBA refereeing is pretty predictable (stars and big-name teams get different calls than others), the outcome of NBA contests can often be quite unpredictable.

Take Sunday, for instance. How many people saw the Raptors upending the Lakers? Sure, L.A. is a mess right now, a discombobulated group of stars trying to form like Voltron into one, but the team still has Kobe, Nash, Gasol, Metta World Peace and Dwight Howard (at least for part of the game).

But credit the Raptors and especially Jose Calderon and Ed Davis for taking it to the Lakers. Yes, another huge lead was almost blown, but, in the end, it wasn’t quite and the Raptors gave their fans a treat for once.

Some thoughts:

Howard looks terrible. He’s still getting decent numbers (leading the NBA in rebounds) but he doesn’t look like the force he once was. Not defensively, and certainly not on offence down low.

The Raptors set some great screens early on and that was part of how they built up the big lead. Aaron Gray gave his teammates a lot of space out there and Calderon taught a master class in using screens to his advantage.

Davis continues to shine. Was strange not to see him in down the stretch, but he’s been gassed lately as he adapts to playing more minutes than he ever has before, and Dwane Casey said afterward that he was purposely managing the minutes of both Davis and a flu-battered Amir Johnson.

Landry Fields wouldn’t have been a Raptor if  Nash had said he had no interest in signing in Toronto (which doesn’t mean the Raptors didn’t have interest in Fields, they liked him all along, they just paid a premium to try to stop the Knicks from getting Nash). Fields is doing a lot of helpful little things. He’s rebounding, playing defence, moving without the ball and on Sunday, finally had a big offensive game (18 points).

The Lakers dressing room probably is my favourite in the league (aside from waiting forever for Bryant that is). Besides Kobe’s gems, you’ve got Nash, always a good interview. Gasol, an insightful gentleman who weighed in on his friends Calderon and Kyle Lowry (more on that later this week). And, of course, the former Ron Artest. He’s the best. I wish I had his scrum on video because it was a gem. He talked about Avatar, how positive energy cannot be broken, how nobody cares about basketball in Montreal, about how wrong he was in saying the Lakers would beat Chicago’s 72-win record, and about a dozen other topics. Too bad they only come to town once a year.

The Raptors get a chance to pull off another shocker in Miami against another dream team that started off slowly in Year 1. Good luck. Beating Orlando for the fourth time this season will be extremely difficult as well (not because Orlando is good, but because you don’t see season sweeps very often), so it’s a good thing the Raptors knocked off the Lakers to end a four-game losing streak.

Raptors at Sixers Points Per Game: What can you say at this point?

- January 19th, 2013

PHILADELPHIA -

I’ll keep this brief today, because, really, what else can you say about the Raptors and this season from hell?

The lack of talent is apparent. The team went 1-9 in close games (three points or less) last season, and lack of talent was a major culprit. This year the talent is better, but it’s still not good enough. Kyle Lowry is the closest thing to a closer and you aren’t going to win many games if a 6-foot PG is your only option (with a 37% shooting journeyman being your second-best option in the clutch, no offense to Alan Anderson). DeMar DeRozan took the blame for his passiveness, but maybe he just isn’t the closing type? Is it fair to blame himself if he isn’t good enough to be a top dog?

Another major problem is a lack of quality veterans. There’s no Charles Oakley, no Dee Brown, no Dell Curry, No Muggsy Bogues, Kevin Willis or Antonio Davis to teach these guys how to win, how to play in the clutch, how to drown out all the noise, etc. Until at least one more above average starter lands in Toronto and until a couple of good vets arrive as well (or kill two birds with one stone by getting a star vet, which obviously is quite difficult to do), these things are going to keep happening.

A few more points:

Not getting the ball in on two chances late is inexcusable. The cuts have to be far better. Harder, faster. These guys might be (for the most part) young, but they’re old enough to know you have to want it in the clutch and that takes effort.

Sure, Anderson got fouled, but it never should have come to that. you can’t blow a 20-point lead one night, and learn nothing from it. Killer instinct. Maybe they need more players with an edge. Players that will step on throats and get the job done? This corner doesn’t have the answers other than more talent and some vets.

Let’s dig for some positives: When Terrence Ross is on, he’s fantastic. He needs to find consistency, but there’s no doubt here that he’s going to be a solid player. From talking to people league-wide as I make my road stops, that’s what other people are saying as well. Ross is starting to bother opponents on defence, remains a deadly threat from deep and is starting to pick up his rebounding significantly (9 the other night and 7 on Friday).

Fellow 2012 draft pick Quincy Acy also looks like he’s going to be an NBA contributor. Acy is improving every time he hits the floor. He’s still a bit raw, still makes a lot of mistakes, but he gets after it, gets in position to help the team and provides a boost with his athleticism and intensity. Has as hot at being first competent second round pick ever (Matt Bonner was acquired via trade, but he’d be the only competition, sadly).

Yet another strong game from Ed Davis. Career-high six assists (he’s made big strides passing the ball this season and has developed a nice chemistry with Amir Johnson). His short jumper was working and he was active, leading the team in points and rebounds.

Anderson both helped shoot Toronto back into the game and out of it.

Casey said he’d ride the hot hand at point guard and rode Lowry, but it was for too long. He needed a break. Casey’s in a tough spot. He’s going to get ripped for whatever he does point guard wise, and he knows it.

Jrue Holiday is a fantastic player. Another one who got away, though not nearly as bad a miss because at least DeRozan can play a bit, unlike guys like Araujo, Radojevic, Graham and Villanueva, who gave nothing or next to nothing and cost the Raptors many excellent players.

Bulls at Raptors Points Per Game: Good job, good effort; Lowry needs help in the clutch; Refs: What the f…. you gonna do?; Wolstat’s all-stars

- January 17th, 2013

I’ve never followed a franchise anywhere closely as in depth as the Raptors, but it sure seems that Murphy’s Law applies to this franchise more than to any other (even the injury-cursed Portland Trail Blazers have won a title and have had playoff success). Anything that can go wrong, seems to and any crazy, regularly uncalled play, or rare mistake seems to happen to this group. The Amir stepping over the line call, rarely gets called. The delay of game for throwing it to the ref rarely gets called. The Noah throwing it out of bounds call was a weird one – it changed direction, so must have been tipped … but the Raptors never get those kinds of calls, it seems. To be fair, the refs missed a few the other way as well, which helped the Raptors mount the comeback.

That said, there is no doubt, Amir was attempting a shot at the end of the game and that Luol Deng pushed off on the game-winner. Two egregious mistakes that, again, never seem to go Toronto’s way. Call it whining, call it whatever, but it’s the truth. I feel for those guys and for Raptors fans, because it has to be awfully tough to see these sorts of things happen so consistently.

All that said, if the Raptors had more talent, particularly another finisher to help out Kyle Lowry, the team wouldn’t be in this position, where a bad break causes a loss, nearly as often. DeMar DeRozan is not that guy at this point, it’s on him to see if he ever will be. Credit to Alan Anderson for turning himself into a rotation NBA player, but a playoff team needs two starters with the ability to break down the defence and come through in the clutch. Until Lowry gets some help. this pattern will repeat itself.

Other thoughts:

It was a hell of an effort. Back-to-back against a relentless defensive squad. No quit in this team and Lowry, Jose Calderon, Amir Johnson and Anderson playing through a lot of pain tells you a lot about this group. They have heart. What they don’t have is enough talent. Jonas Valanciunas and Andrea Bargnani (or the threat of Bargnani having a good game at least) are sorely missed. No updates on the big men, but looking like at least another couple of weeks based on what I’ve been hearing.

Duh, but, the Bulls really, really miss Derrick Rose. When Marco Belinelli is the guy you’re running plays for in the clutch, you’re in trouble. Belinelli had a horrid night. Also, Deng should be an all-star. (For the East, I’ve got: LeBron, Carmelo, Kevin Garnett, Deng, Rondo, Irving, Holiday, Wade (he’ll be voted in, but I’m not sure he should be there), Paul George, Joakim Noah, Tyson Chandler, Anderson Varejao (will be replaced due to injury), Chris Bosh (the East is light on big men and his rebounding has been bad, but overall, Bosh has had another solid year).

I’ll throw out my West picks here too: Kobe, Chris Paul, Kevin Durant, Tim Duncan, Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker, James Harden, Marc Gasol, David Lee, Serge Ibaka, Stephen Curry.

Back to the game, have to credit Quincy Acy for getting better the more he plays. In just a couple of weeks he has come a long way. Still will make a lot of mistakes, but his energy and positioning (drew four charges) is really helping the Raptors, especially over the past two games. Will be very interesting when Bargnani and Valanciunas return and get their minutes back. Will be difficult to get Acy in at that point, unless the Raptors force Amir to take a week or two off to heal up.

Good to see Lowry looking like he’s back to normal.

The Raptors had all kinds of chances to pull this one out after mounting a strong comeback, but could not seal the deal. Again, a lot of that comes back to not having a finisher besides Lowry.

Interior defence is a major problem for this team. That’s a concern. Ideally, long-term, Valanciunas bulks up to the point where he can handle the big boys down there. As much as I like Ed Davis, that’s never going to be him. Doesn’t have the frame for it. At best, he can emulate Bosh, who still gets overpowered.

 

Raptors at Nets Points Per Game: Lowry returns, leaves, returns on fire; Turnovers tell tale; Nets a dangerous offensive group; Rookies bounce back

- January 16th, 2013

BROOKLYN -A good response to a bad meltdown, but outclassed by a better team. About sums it up, no?

Well, kind of. Brooklyn’s a better team with more talent, but the Raptors can beat that squad. Just not last night. Not with all the non-point guards handling the ball like it was on fire. Too many mistakes and, like most teams, an inability to stop a very talented offensive team.

Some thoughts:

You can read about how the turnover discrepancy was the difference in the game story.

In what felt like the blink of the eye we went from: ‘Kyle doesn’t have it again’ to: ‘Oh, there’s Kyle’ to: ‘He’s hurt again and won’t return’ to: ‘He’s back, and he’s dominating.’ Yes, an odd night for Kyle Lowry. The good news is he told us he wanted to be more aggressive and attack and after returning, he did just that, scorching the Nets. The bad news is he hurt his ankle again and is questionable for Wednesday night’s game against Chicago. I asked Lowry if he’d consider switching to high tops and he said he’s always worn low-cut shoes and he just stepped on C.J. Watson’s foot, so the shoes had nothing to do with it.

Brooklyn’s a very good rebounding team with a ton of size, yet the Raptors outrebounded them 41-34. That was impressive. They got 20 rebounds alone from Landry Fields and Terrence Ross (crushing his previous career high with 9).

Ross struggled to shoot (just 2-of-9) but Dwane Casey said he’d be fine. Casey had to like the bounce-back from Ross and Quincy Acy, who were coming off of bad games.

Brooklyn’s a tough team to zone against and when they put good three-point shooters like Mirza Teletovic (a key in the game, according to Casey with his three made threes) and Keith Bogans (a solid glue guy who defends and hits from deep) around offensive forces like Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Deron Williams, any team is going to have a hard time stopping them.

Raptors are going to have a hard time winning games if DeMar DeRozan continues his alarming troubles in January and both Alan Anderson and Ross aren’t hitting their shots.

Quotes:

RYAN WOLSTAT

Toronto Sun

BROOKLYN – After blowing a game against Milwaukee on Sunday, the Raptors had two ways to go. Hang heads, or show some heart.

Though the Raptors chose the latter on Tuesday night in Brooklyn, the undermanned, hurting group could not quite upend the NBA’s hottest team.

Kyle Lowry overcame a sprained ankle to spark the Raptors with 19 points in the fourth quarter, setting a Raptors record for scoring 20 points (21 in under 15 minutes) in the fewest number of minutes, but Brooklyn’s big three of Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Deron Williams combined for 64 points in a 113-106 Nets win.

If you’re looking for a single reason why the outcome ended up the way it did, turnovers told the tale.

“The number one thing was the turnovers, which is uncharacteristic of us, and every time we did, Brooklyn scored on us. They scored 24 points off our 14 turnovers,” said Raptors head coach Dwane Casey.

“We see the great play, but we need to make the easy play. We’re trying to squeeze it and it’s just not there.”

Meanwhile … “We took care of the ball,” said Nets interim coach P.J. Carlesimo.

“We had six turnovers. In the first two games against these guys, we had 35 turnovers.”

Toronto actually could have taken control of this one early. The Raptors were pounding the Nets on the glass and scoring some buckets, but only two Brooklyn turnovers in the first half, allowed the home side to take a four-point lead into the half, despite being outplayed for large stretches.

Brooklyn started cooking from outside in the third, nailing 3-of-6 in somewhat of a replay of their prior meeting in Toronto, when Brooklyn rallied by hitting 9-of-11 three-point attempts in the second half.

That set up a fourth quarter that wasn’t all that interesting until Lowry went off partway through.

Though Lowry was originally not expected to return, after getting some work done during the break, he came back and sparked Toronto’s final run in the fourth, which ultimately came up short.

“Kyle Lowry could hardly walk at halftime. He played his butt off. That was the Kyle everybody was looking for and we need in those situations, to be aggressive but make the right basketball decision and he did,” Casey said.

Lowry had been criticized of late for playing too passive (he had scored only 21 points – total – in his previous four games).

“Everyone knows I haven’t been aggressive, I just wanted to be a little more aggressive, that was the plan,” Lowry, his left ankle bathed in a bucket of ice, said after the game.

“I sprained it really bad, I just toughed it out tonight. It’s really sore right now … I thought I was done, but we have a good training staff, I did not want to leave my teammates, I’ve been hurt a lot this year. Coach trusted me and put me back in.”

Brooklyn came in 8-1 under interim head coach P.J. Carlesimo, the former Raptors assistant who took over for Avery Johnson and improved to 23-15 overall, the Raptors slipped to 14-24.

Though Calderon and Lowry did not commit a single turnover, every other Raptor except John Lucas III did and DeRozan continued his January struggles, missing 10-of-15 from the field (he came in shooting just 40.7% from the field for the month).

Lowry said he was not sure if he’d be able to face Chicago on Wednesday and Calderon, who ran into burly Reggie Evans, suffering a hip pointer, also was in a lot of pain afterwards, but said he’d probably play.

Calderon took solace in his team’s perseverance.

“Let’s take the positive part,” he said.

“We’re competing against a good team in the East now. It’s different from the beginning, we’re a different team, that’s what we’ve got to show out there and that’s what we’ve got to keep doing. Tomorrow it’s another good team, but we can beat them too if we play the right way.”

Amir Johnson again played through a significant ankle injury, but still managed to scroe 15 points, missing only a single shot.

FINDING A BALANCE

There had been ample chatter about the struggles of Lowry. Though Casey thought the criticism of Lowry was overstated, because Lowry is Toronto’s top player on paper, it was bound to come up.

Casey and DeRozan were convinced Lowry would find himself and they were proven correct.

“He was getting criticism the first part of the year for shooting too much. Now he’s trying to figure out what’s going on and fit in and run the offence, now he’s not doing enough. So I told Kyle play basketball. He has to play his game and do what he does as far as penetrating, making basketball plays. Don’t try to force passes, don’t try to force shots. Just like everything else in life, have a balance,” Casey told the Sun.

“He gets it, he understands what he’s got to do”

DeRozan also expected the old Lowry to reappear.

“I don’t worry about Kyle because I know like the game tonight, once he gets going, he’ll be back to himself. Everyone’s going to think this or think that if you have a couple of bad games, but he’s going to get it together.”

And that he did.

Ironically, Lowry sprained his ankle just seconds after finally making his first vintage Lowry play in a while, driving to the hoop and getting fouled.

ryan.wolstat@sunmedia.ca

 Jose Calderon:

“Reggie slipped and couldn’t stop. We’ll see how it I wake up tomorrow, but even if sore, hopefully we go ahead.

Let’s take the positive part. We’re competing against a good team in the East now. It’s different form the beginning, we’re a different team, that’s what we’ve got to show out there and that’s what we’ve got to keep doing. Tomorrow it’s another good team, but we can beat them too if we play the right way.”

 

Kyle Lowry:

“It happens, life goes on. I’ve got a great training staff, we’ll do treatment, we’ll ice it, we’ll rest it and we’ll go and see how it feels in the morning.

I sprained it really bad, I just toughed it out tonight. It’s really sore right now. I’ll just ice it down, probably ice it all night. See the trainers and go from there. I thought I was done, but we have a good training staff, I did not want to leave my teammates, I’ve been hurt a lot this year. Coach trusted me and put me back in.

It was just open looks. Everyone knows I haven’t been aggressive, I just wanted to be a little more aggressive, that was the plan. At that point of the game we were down a few points. I had to do something. John came in there and gave us a spark, T-Ross got a nice tip-in. We played hard, that’s all we can ask for.

You have to have trust, he has to be able to trust me and I have to be able to trust me.

I said coach I’m ready to go, he was trying to save me for tomorrow. He trusted me and hopefully I earned some more points tonight.

It’s a trust issue, he’s the coach, I’m the player, I tell him how I feel, he goes off of it.

I just wanted to help the team, I didn’t know how many points I scored.

This ankle’s on fire right now, I can’t even move it right now. If it wasn’t on ice, I would be in pain.

They’re a good team. We let them get out and make some shots and get in transition. They played to their potential tonight.

(Happy with his performance?) No, we lost the game, individually, whatever, it doesn’t matter to me. We lost the game as a team and that’s all that matters. It’s a team game, we win together, we lose together, no matter who does what.”

Dwane Casey:

Lost Teletovic in transition.

“He came in and opened the game up. We lost him in transition. The number one thing was the turnovers, which is uncharacteristic of us, and every time we did, Brooklyn scored on us. They scored 24 points off our 14 turnovers.

We see the great play, but we need to make the easy play. We’re trying to squeeze it and it’s just not there.

Kyle Lowry could hardly walk at halftime. He played his butt off. That was the Kyle everybody was looking for and we need in those situations, to be aggressive but make the right basketball decision and he did.”

DeMar DeRozan:

“Just losing them in transition. We just got lost.

(Tough stretch for him personally, teams playing him differently?).  We’ve just got to play better, ain’t nothing to it. We all have our tough games, it comes with the territory, you can’t let it get you down. You can’t think too much about it, you’ve just got to move on to the next game. They’re just trying to deny me the ball, force me out of my sweet spots a little bit. It’s just a matter of me figuring it out and getting back on track.

It’s definitely inspiring (that Calderon, Lowry and Johnson played through injuries that would keep a lot of people out). We’ve got a tough team, no matter what, we’ve been through a lot thus far in the season, we’re not even halfway through it. The adversity we’re fighting through, it shows how tough we really are.”

MUTUAL ADMIRATION SOCIETY

Casey and Carlesimo both are impressed with what their opponents have been doing.

“They’re playing the way everybody envisioned and P.J. has kind of carried on what Avery started. They’re going to be a big-time team as the year goes on, it’s just taken them a little time to come together and play together,” Casey said.

“That group is well put together, it just took time for them to eventually come around.”

Toronto went on a run after blowing the game against the Nets last month and Carlesmio has noticed the change.

“They’re playing at a completely different level than the first two times we played them,” Carlesimo said.

“They’re defending well, Dwane’s teams are always going to defend well. They’re making shots, (Alan) Anderson’s really given them a lift. They come at you a couple of different ways. They’re executing better in the halfcourt right now and yet they can still get the ball up the court.”