Raptors at Spurs Points Per Game: Mighty Spurs too much; Fields provides spark; Lowry back soon, but how will he accept demotion?

- December 27th, 2012

The streak is over but there is no shame in losing to the best organization in the NBA, San Antonio, without Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas and Andrea Bargnani. Toronto just didn’t have enough firepower and missed Valanciunas, who might have had his best game as a pro last time out against Tim Duncan and the Spurs.

Some thoughts:

Going to be mostly non-game stuff today. Hope everybody enjoyed/is enjoying some time off with friends and family.

Said in my five questions this week http://www.torontosun.com/2012/12/25/top-five-questions-facing-the-raptors that Landry Fields should be shooting for Mickael Pietrus’ minutes as he tries to get back into the rotation. Fields finally got back in yesterday and looked solid. Hopefully the surgery has taken care of his issues. With Alan Anderson and Terrence Ross settling into reserve roles nicely, still think Fields takes over for Pietrus soon. Fields is younger, more versatile, healthier and simply a better player than Pietrus, who doesn’t provide much more than solid defence at this point.

The Raptors really miss Andrea Bargnani … off of the bench. Linas Kleiza simply isn’t getting that done and Bargnani, who regular readers know I don’t believe is a good fit in Toronto as a starter, would be just what the doctor ordered providing some offence from the bench. Anderson and Ross can’t do it alone and they haven’t consistently been providing scoring at the same time. Do I think the Raptors would use Bargnani off of the bench, where he’d be most effective? Absolutely not. But it would be the right move.

Speaking of bench vs. starting, Kyle Lowry probably plays against the Hornets, or, failing that, will be back in Orlando. He’s not going to be given his starting role back. Casey believes Jose Calderon has earned the job, at least for now. Keeping things status quo for a while makes sense, the Raptors have been playing well, for the most part, but most likely, when the losses start to mount again, the team eventually turns back to Lowry (that’s my speculation, right now they are only thinking Calderon will start). In order to regain the confidence of the team, Lowry must re-commit to defence as a reserve. He’s just not the same guy we’ve seen in the past on that end and many believe it started last year in Houston. Sometimes, when players become key offensive forces they don’t have enough in the tank and/or start to care less about being elite defenders. We’ve seen it many times, with Tracy McGrady perhaps being the best example, albeit an extreme one  (one of league’s top defenders as a Raptor, became a scoring champion and just an occasional defender post-Toronto). Lowry needs to find the right mix. He still needs to do the damage he can with the ball, but needs to get back to the player who made his name early in his NBA career thanks to his defence. I think the Raptors need Lowry in the starting lineup with Calderon either powering the bench or moved for much-needed assets, but for right now, at least until Lowry finds himself, Calderon should remain the starter. The problem is, if it is presented to Lowry as a permanent thing, problems likely will follow. The Raptors need to make it clear it is a competition and whoever is playing the best – and just as importantly has his unit playing the best – will be the starter.

Another reason I think Fields comes in for Pietrus soon …there’s nowhere close to enough offence on the floor with this group of starters. Aaron Gray helps free up space for shooters, but there aren’t enough on the floor. DeRozan’s not a shooter, Pietrus certainly isn’t and neither is Ed Davis. Calderon’s the only shooter with that group. Fields isn’t a sniper or anything, but he was pretty good as a rookie in that regard and might be able to regain his form. Or Amir Johnson could start for Gray, providing some more offence.

It’s too bad we won’t get a look at an Anthony Davis-Valanciunas matchup on Friday. The Hornets definitely are beatable, as are the Magic, as the Raptors have already proven twice. The question is, will Lowry’s return provide a lift, or mess with the chemistry?

 

Categories: Basketball, NBA, Toronto Raptors

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