Let’s start by stating the obvious: New Jersey minus Brook Lopez and promising sophomore Damion James and with a disinterested Deron Williams is a pretty bad team. That said, this was one of the only “should be a win game” for the Raptors in a while and the team did what it had to and looked quite good doing so.
- Williams, even this version, remains a premier point guard, so Jerryd Bayless deserves the credit given to him by Jack Armstrong during the broadcast for his defence. Bayless frustrated Williams and did a great job against a very tough player to guard.
- DeMar DeRozan’s defence has picked up of late, necessary since his offence has been a concern. On Sunday, DeRozan showed something we haven’t seen much from him this year – using his leaping ability to block shots. He had a couple of nice ones, using timing as much as his hops and also was disruptive in the passing lanes. DeRozan’s third quarter was one of his best of the season on both ends of the floor.
- Clearly DeRozan was feeling some heat from critics and came out with an edge we haven’t seen very often. He took charges, had a swagger and was intense. The Raptors need to see more of that from him. Some minutes at small forward agreed with him.
- Dwane Casey deserves a lot of credit for helping the team complete its first winning road trip of at least five games since 2001. It was the latest embarassing mark to get erased this season (losing streaks in Phoenix and Utah, also accomplished on this trip). It should never have stretched this long and it’s good for the franchise to have that road record pushed to the background.
- The Raptors shot 29 free throws to New Jersey’s 19. That hasn’t happened many times this season. Toronto was the aggressor in all facets of the game and that’s what it takes to have success.