We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, a win is a win. It doesn’t matter if a win is ugly or pretty, they all count the same. While it’s obviously better to play well in a win, it’s better to win when you don’t play so well, then lose when you do play well as far as the standings are concerned. Sure the playoffs are a huge (huge is probably an understatement) long-shot, but it’s important that the Raptors make the record more respectable and make up for some of those heart-breaking losses, which will improve the team’s psyche, as well as making the pick heading to Oklahoma City as bad as possible.
Some thoughts on Nuggets-Raptors:
- We’ll start with the Nuggets for a change. That’s a really good, dangerous team when at full strength. Even without top defender and 2nd-best overall player Andre Iguodala, deadly scorer Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, the Nuggets still gave a healthy Raptors squad all it could handle. Led by Ty Lawson, the Nuggets attack with blazing speed, always looking to push the pace. Kenneth Faried, the Manimal, lives up to his name every night as basically, a younger, faster, more athletic, more versatile Reggie Evans. He’s relentless and the team has a bunch of other guys who put all kinds of pressure on opponents. At times, teams just can’t handle what Denver throws at them. While we’re talking Faried, I’ll never understand how guys like Faried and Paul Millsap slip so far in drafts. All they do is post historic rebounding numbers in the NCAA. Rebounding is one thing that transfers pretty well over from the NCAA. Faried slipping when everybody knew he’d be a good rotation player with a chance to be a good starter. How does he fall? Of course Millsap is a whole different story. He fell all the way to the second round. People thought he was a bit of a tweener and while he’s been able to play a bit of small forward in the NBA, he’s done quite fine as a power forward.
- Why don’t teams give Lawson all kinds of room and force him to shoot? I realize he’s an above-average outside shooter (36%) but he’s got elite speed and is an elite finisher so wouldn’t you be better off forcing him to do something other than drive to the hoop or drive and kick? I realize that’s easier said than done, but playing up on the guy doesn’t make a lot of sense.
- Not this guy, not Rudy Gay. Well, “this guy” is making quite the first impression on Raptors fans. Have to think a few people who hated the deal are changing their mind right about now. The guy has the presence in big situations and the skill and length to get a shot off whenever he needs to. Again, you’d have to go back to Vince Carter to find a Raptor who could consistently deliver in the clutch. Surely teams are going to start doubling Gay late when he heads into the corner trying to iso? I’m sure it won’t be long before teams make somebody else beat them.
- How big has John Lucas III been of late? Few players can be as streaky as Lucas. Lucas went from a pre-season where he rarely missed a shot to a November where he couldn’t make a shot (25.9% from the field, 30.8% from three). He found his way a bit in December, but was still off, shooting less than 40% from the field and just over 33% from three. Since then, he’s just been getting hotter and hotter. In January, Lucas shot 42.5% from the field and 46.7% from three in 8 games. In February, he’s gone off, particularly in the clutch. In 6 games, he has shot 48.9% overall and a blistering 63.6% from three. Most importantly, he has helped the Raptors pull out a couple of games they were dangerously close to blowing by nailing so many threes late.
- Is this the most athletic group of Raptors ever? Terrence Ross, Rudy Gay, Quincy Acy and DeMar DeRozan – who threw down a dunk that might have been the best by a Raptor in a few seasons, except for the fact that Ross has also done some filthy stuff this year – are quite the group. But it’s hard to put them ahead of the Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady, Doug Christie, Antonio Davis squad in my book. As ridiculous as this group is athletically-speaking, Carter might be the best dunker in the history of the game and top 5 ever where athleticism is concerned. A young McGrady wasn’t too far behind and Christie and a youngish Davis were both pretty impressive athletes. It’s a good debate either way.
- Denver is a tough team to slow down, but Toronto’s defence was pretty poor for most of the night. If the Nuggets had Iguodala and Co., this probably would have been a laugher for the visitors.
- Jonas Valanciunas continues to play well. His energy and rebounding is a huge help. He has a ways to go defensively, but all evidence indicates he’ll get there. Right now he’s part of the problem guarding the interior, but expect him to be much better next season.
- One of the toughest things for Dwane Casey right now is finding minutes for his wings. Gay and DeRozan both play big minutes, but Terrence Ross needs to be developed, Landry Fields has played well since returning from surgery and Alan Anderson might be the best defender at this point out of all of them. Gay’s foul trouble (25 minutes) made it work on Wednesday (12-15 minutes for the three), but on normal nights, somebody is going to have to sit unless Gay or Fields see some time at power forward.
- Andrea Bargnani didn’t do much for his trade value on Wednesday night.
- Welcome back Myck Kabongo, finally freed from NCAA nonsense to make his debut as a sophomore tonight.