Raptors at Utah Jazz Points Per Game and thoughts on Bargnani injury:

- January 26th, 2012

- Unfortunately, Andrea Bargnani’s injury is going to overshadow what probably was Toronto’s gutsiest effort of the season. Bargnani said he will be out “a while” and left the arena on crutches, according to Eric Smith. Don’t expect to see the big guy in February, though that’s just my speculation. The Raptors will be extremely careful with him. The team has looked more than competent with Bargnani in the lineup and mostly like a complete disaster without him. Things could quickly get ugly again and now he won’t get the all-star selection he deserves. I understand Dwane Casey absolutey needed to get the team off of the skids, but the Raptors were asking for trouble playing Bargnani heavy minutes back-to-back when he had just returned from a nagging injury. His getting hurt again was a predictable outcome. Now, that said, if I were Casey, I likely would have done the exact same thing.

- Respectable franchises don’t carry 10-plus-game losing streaks against multiple teams so that’s why ending long droughts against Phoenix and Utah the past two nights is so important to the Raptors. Those streaks were embarassing, frankly and indicated that Toronto wasn’t on the same footing as some of the league’s other franchises. The sooners stuff like that is wiped out, the better the franchise will be viewed league-wide.

Now, on to the game:

- I’ll get the negatives out of the way first: Not sure if it is fatigue, worse support from his teammates, or a recurrence of injury, but Jose Calderon isn’t the same defender as he was early in the season. Early on, he was adequately keeping opponents in front of him, far better than we had seen over the past few seasons. Of late, that’s changed. All he needed was a cape on Wednesday night and he would have looked like a matador. Devin Harris simply destroyed him off of the dribble.

- All Calderon needs is a cape the past few games. Harris the latest point guard to destroy him off the dribble. From my viewpoint, Calderon seems to be trying to stop point guards from a less than conducive angle. He basically is attacking picks from an ineffective angle. HE is making it harder for himself to recover when the point guard uses the screen to head to the hoop and seems to also be giving up too easily hoping for help that isn’t coming. Harris blew by him all night, including at crucial moments, and only three missed free throws by Harris prevented a possible loss from being hung on Calderon (though Calderon did make some huge plays and shots to be fair).

- The starters again looked lost early, allowing the team to go down 18 points at one point, though DeMar DeRozan was aggressive again and played well from the start. Heavy fouling in the first quarter is one of the main reasons why the Raptors consistently find themselves down big.
- Jerryd Bayless did some nice things down the stretch, but doesn’t seem to be in shape yet. All his shots are short, which indicates his legs aren’t there yet.

The positives were more plentiful:
- After being invisible, Ed Davis scored on a nice post-up and showed some flashes.
- Leandro Barbosa has been fantastic of late, leading a strong bench. The team looks better with Bargnani or James Johnson and the bench than it does with starters at many points.

- Linas Kleiza has looked much better than he did last seaason. He’s healthy and proving very valuable for a team with limited scoring options. Expect him to replace Bargnani beside Gray in the new starting lineup (though again that’s just my guess) and the Raptors will expect him to continue to play well and pile up the points.

- Once again, the zone worked well for Toronto, allowing the team to fight back from a deficit and throw off an opponent. In particular, the ability of the Raptors to guard the three-point line was top-notch. Usually a zone allows good looks from three, but Toronto players were out to contest far faster than is usually the case.

- James Johnson continues to excel defensively and is now on a nice run of strong games. If he can keep this up, Bryan Colangelo has one less thing to worry about this off-season and can focus on upgrading at guard. At the worst, Johnson is showing that he can be a defensive stopper. At best he can be a valuable starting small forward, if the Raptors don’t land one of the stud SF’s in the draft.

- It was nice to see Bargnani come out of his shell both in Phoenix and in Utah, a trend that has been apparent all season. He let out a primal scream after missing a shot just before the conclusion of the first half.

- DeRozan brought the closer’s mentality, which  we haven’t seen in a while. Obviously he got the message sent when he was benched for the entire fourth quarter in Phoenix.
- Toronto’s defence forced multiple air balls down stretch and forced Utah into poor execution. Only four absurd Utah shots during the course of the game made this a double OT thriller.

All in all, a big night for the Raptors, though the Bargnani news certainly will be a crushing blow to the team’s psyche.

Categories: Basketball, NBA, Toronto Raptors

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