Posts Tagged ‘Jeremy Lin

Raptors at Rockets Points Per Game: Raptors show great fight; set record for offensive futility; something needs to be done about offence; Ross a positive

- November 12th, 2013

Rudy Gay made history, DeMar DeRozan’s struggles continued, the Raptors showed laudable fight and Terrence Ross’ early play is a rare positive for this team. That’s the Coles Notes version of Monday’s bizarre double-overtime loss in Houston.

- First off, you have to commend the Raptors for playing some tough, gritty defence against the Rockets. This game really shouldn’t have gone to overtime or double-OT at all. It should have been an easy Houston win with the way the offence was staggering. Also must point out another strong game by sophomore Terrence Ross. The light appears to be coming on for Ross. He’s starting to defend the way the team thought he could when they drafted him. The thinking was he could be a very good perimeter defender and we are seeing signs of that. He’s come back to earth after a torrid start from downtown (2-for-7 over his past two games), but is still shooting 41.7% from outside.

- Toronto was down 80-66 in the fourth, but using mostly zones and taking advantage of Houston’s terrible free throw shooting, got right back into the contest.

- Another solid game from Jonas Valanciunas, who battled hard against both Dwight Howard and Omer Asik would be another positive takeaway.

- The negatives are a lot longer. So long, that I won’t even get into all of them. That’s losses in 4-of-5 now for the Raptors. The offence is in shambles. As I said on Twitter, “no movement, horrible passes, not enough Valanciunas, terrible shot selection.” And I said that before the fourth quarter and beyond. When Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan apparently believed every shot was a good one and passing was best left to lesser players. How is it possible that DeRozan, who went 2-for-12 from the field in the first half and 4-for-13 from there was a mere footnote to Gay’s historically brutal 11-for-37 evening? Yes, Gay remains one of the most clutch shooters in the league (as his game-tying three attests), but the problem is the other 46.5 minutes of games. He and DeRozan over-dribble, nobody else moves around, plays get broken and bad shots galore get hoisted. Rinse and repeat. Your Raptors offence.

- Surely Masai Ujiri knows (and I’m sure he knew before) that this combo isn’t going to work. We said it when Gay was acquired and a few good games doesn’t change it. These two players simply can’t work effectively together. They don’t play off of each other at all. Shoot too many low-percentage long two-point attempts and one of them is only a threat from a couple of areas outside the three-point line, the other doesn’t shoot enough threes (Gay). Add defensive liabilities to the mix and it’s not exactly pretty. Another Twitter line I’ll repeat here: “Two (poor) mid-range jump shooters who rarely pass and refuse to vary their game. You can get away with one, not two.”

- Some real statistical marvels from this one. How do you only get 10 assists on 38 makes and how do you attempt 30 more shots than your opponent and still lose? Back to Gay, he’s the second player to take that many shots and not get to 30 points. Damon Stoudamire, in his second year as a Raptor, had the previous futility record, also shooting 11-for-37, but going for 31 points because of more made free throws. And Michael Jordan also scored 29 once, but on 39 shot attempts (all according to basketballreference.com). The 10 assists on 38 scores was the worst by any team since 1985-86, according to Blazersedge.

- The Raptors didn’t just miss bad shots, the team – Gay and DeRozan specifically, missed many normally eminently makeable inside looks. Something is going on with both of them as they’ve never struggled this much inside. Never struggled anywhere close to this much, in fact. DeRozan’s shot 36% or lower four games in a row now and a lot of that is from not being able to hit shots inside he has finished over the course of his career. He is doing a better job of attacking the rim of late, but the referees are back to not showing him any love. Of course, having Howard and/or Asik waiting inside makes finishing far harder for any player.

-  Asik, the second straight Turkish big man  Valanciunas has had to contend with, presented quite a different challenge than Enes Kanter. Kanter is an offensive force, but a terrible defender, Asik is pretty much the exact opposite. He’s one of the best defenders in the league and extremely tough to score on down low. He forced Valanciunas into a turnover early than blocked a shot, though it was called a foul. But Valanciunas was able to do some good things against Asik or Howard and he did a nice job defending Howard on a couple of plays, before the big man broke loose in the first half.

- The trend would continue, but we’ll highlight how it impacted things early: Just two assists against four turnovers early. Little ball movement and the missed shots and bad passes allowed the Rockets to get out and run and build up the lead.

- Ross did a particularly good job for most of the night on Houston superstar James Harden. Harden is one of the toughest covers in the league, he’s herky-jerky, deceptively quick with his first step and basically, a new-age Manu Ginobili. But Ross has a huge athleticism advantage over Harden and that allowed him to recover quickly. But most of the time, he didn’t have to, because he was doing a great job keeping Harden in front of him.

- Why was there no play drawn up at the end of the game? That’s what everybody was asking at the end of the fourth quarter.  Gay’s had great success over the years beating teams with final second plays in the right corner of the floor. Yet, he just dribbled for a while and hoisted up a bad shot. Dwane Casey said afterward that there actually was a play drawn up, but Gay rejected it and freelanced (he didn’t say it in those words, he said they wanted Gay to attack the basket, that was the play, but he didn’t. Maybe because of fatigue or good defence). And that’s a huge problem with Gay and, to a lesser extent, DeRozan. They try to do it on their own. Don’t accept screens at times, break plays, go into iso-mode. It’s not a strategy that has proven successful over the years in the NBA. It’s difficult to call out captains getting paid so much money, but at some point, if this coaching staff wants to stick around, it probably needs to happen. The Gay three came about after (surprise) no movement.

- Like most people, I’m not certain the Howard-Asik combo is going to work long-term. But we’ll leave that for the Houston writers to scribe about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rockets at Raptors points per game: Move the ball, play some D, success will follow; Calderon NBA’s most professional player; Sabonis, the all-time great, in the house

- December 17th, 2012

Funny what having everybody on the same page and everybody trying hard does for a team. The Raptors have been locked in, have had a focus to playing defence and a commitment to playing team basketball at both ends over the past three games, and have been rewarded with two victories (and a big lead against Brooklyn that they couldn’t hold).

There’s a clear difference between the sorry outfit we saw in November (and parts of December). A key has been getting off to better starts. Regular readers know I vouched for an Ed Davis, Jonas Valanciunas starting frontcourt and they are doing what I expected. Even though the numbers didn’t exactly jump out after the first quarter either on Friday or Sunday, it was clear, the duo were major reasons why the Raptors played well from the jump. Once Valanciunas gets stronger and puts on some more meat they’ll be even more effective, but even right now, they out-rebound opponents, get easy buckets above the rim and alter and block shots, making life more difficult for opponents.

Some thoughts on Sunday’s game:

Alan Anderson has emerged as an X-factor for the team. He might be the best perimeter defender on the squad (though Terrence Ross gets better in that regard every day), he has confidence and swagger and is extremely shifty while also having a good enough three-point shot to keep opponents honest. He’s a really nice glue player to have on the roster and played extremely well.

Jose Calderon said he doesn’t worry about who is starting or how much he is playing and just wants to be the most professional player in the league. Great quote. He’s the consummate pro. He would prefer to start elsewhere, but is going to do whatever he can to help the team play well.

That said, not about to start a point guard controversy. Kyle Lowry is a better all-around player and a better fit for a Dwane Casey-led team. Lowry just needs to settle in, stop forcing things and gamble a bit less on defence upon his return. He’ll be fine. If Calderon can be moved for value, great, if not, a lot of teams would kill to have a Lowry-Calderon combo, it’s certainly not the worst thing in the world.

I thought the Raptors stuck around to set good screens a little better on Sunday and it helped give players like Calderon, DeRozan and Anderson more room.

John Lucas’ shot seems to be back and he’s getting teammates involved too. This is by far the best he has played since starring in the pre-season.

As Casey said after the game, Toronto’s pressure and aggressiveness eventually threw Houston off from three-point range. We saw it in the third quarter and it also was very apparent down the stretch, when the Raptors forced Houston into three air balls late.

Casey sat Davis for the fourth even though he turned the game around in the third with 13 points and … it was the right call. If he wasn’t going to go big (normal?) with two 6-10 or bigger players, going with Amir Johnson over Davis as the lone big makes more sense. Davis has become one of Toronto’s best help/team defenders, but Johnson remains the best on the team in that regard. He is a bit quicker and more instinctual in terms of reading and reacting for switches and did a nice job helping on James Harden.

“Amir did a heck of a job and he was in the flow of the game. Down the stretch. I thought that Amir would be better for switching onto Harden,” Casey confirmed. Playing Davis and Johnson might have worked, we’ll never know, but if you were going to play only one, Johnson made sense this time.

Johnson was amusing afterwards when asked about how talking more on defence has helped the team. He basically said not only do they tell each other where to be or what is happening, they also just yell out random stuff at times to try to throw off and confuse opponents.

Aside from the first time I was around MJ, I haven’t been star-struck in this job before, but shaking hands and scrumming Arvydas Sabonis was pretty damn cool. There aren’t many living basketball legends, but he is one of them. Probably one of the 20 most talented players ever and I didn’t even see him before his injuries. Just from 1992 (on NBC and since then, on tape) and from when he finally came over to the NBA with Portland. Even then, when he was a shadow of his former self, you could see just how absurdly talented the man was. He’s also the biggest man I’ve ever met, bigger even than Shaq. Spoke pretty well of Jonas, but made it clear he expects a lot more from him in the future and believes Jonas will meet the challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raptors at Rockets Points Per Game: Classic let-down game. Ross only Raptor to show up after first quarter

- November 28th, 2012

HOUSTON — You kind of got the feeling something like that was coming. So many close losses, with the Raptors playing extremely hard with nothing to show for it. A let-down game was due.

The players aren’t happy about it. Dwane Casey definitely isn’t happy about it. But, as Jose Calderon said afterwards, games like this happen in a long season. Doesn’t excuse them for not showing up, but it happens.

Quick thoughts:

- The turnovers were brutal and Houston seemingly made Toronto pay for every miscue. Omer Asik dominated on the boards and Houston was a step quicker getting up and down and also chasing down rebounds.

Toronto shot 55% in the first half, yet still trailed by 10 because Houston converted  nine turnovers for 16 points and Toronto managed 0 points off of turnovers. that doesn’t happen every day.

- Again, this was about hustle and effort. Nobody seemed to remember how to rotate properly defensively.

- As usual, there was at least one positive: Terrence Ross didn’t back down against James Harden and at times guarded him solidly. He also showed what a big-time athlete he was, particularly on his Dr. J tribute, but says he isn’t interested in entering the dunkoff. Have to think he’s going to get a lot more playing time with DeMar DeRozan (tough night, bad turnovers, bad defence) spending more time at small forward.

Post-game quotes:

Kyle Lowry:

On if he’s 100% healthy: “I’m on the floor, so that’s all that matters.

They were aggressive. They were in the passing lanes. They overplayed a lot of the plays. They were aggressive in the passing lanes in trying to get out and run. They got a lot of easy buckets and we did a lot of bad mistakes, especially myself. I turned the ball over too much tonight.

“We have to figure out what kind of team we’re going to be. We have to figure that out in less than 24 hours. We have to figure out as soon as possible what type of team we’re going to be. How we’re going to bounce back. We’ve got to figure it out quickly. Sooner than later,” Lowry said.

“I made (bad) decisions, I missed some shots. I played terrible, but it’s only one game, I won’t keep my head down. We’ve got another one tomorrow, I’m sure I’ll be better.”

(On returning to Houston) “It wasn’t a pleasant one for me. They kicked our ass tonight and we didn’t play well and just got out played tonight. There are bunch of different guys over there, but they played hard tonight. They are young and very talented. They are going to be a force in the West in the years to come.”

Jose Calderon:

“We were bad from the start. There’s not a lot we can talk about, it is what it is.

The team we saw (tonight) is not the team we’ve been watching. It happens sometimes. We had a bad one. Just go to the next page and be ready to play tomorrow.

I want a game the other way. One we can win by 20. It happens, we’ve got to bounce back, keep doing what we’re doing. We’ve been working so hard since training camp and have all those close games, to just have a game like that … we cannot do that. Try to get it tomorrow.”

Dwane Casey:

“It started in the first quarter, continued in the second quarter. That style of game lends itself to not playing defence. I told our guys: ‘the first team that plays defence wins and we didn’t. They went on a 7-0 run to start the third and that began the avalanche.

I thought Terrence Ross had his best game and gave us some big-time minutes. Now we need to get some other people to join the party.”

(On the Rockets) “They made shots, but we can’t allow our defense to regress to the point where we get in a tic for tack kind of game. Houston out ran us down the floor and our turnovers killed us. Those are the tough type of turnovers where you don’t get back in time to defend, but we shot ourselves in the foot. Houston shot the heck out of the ball, but we caused some of that by our turnovers.”

 

(On Lowry’s return) “It did not go the way he wanted. He struggled. Those type of games usually go one way or the other. You either play great or you get caught up in the situation. I thought he came back in the fourth quarter and tried to fight down the starch, but it was a little too late. It wasn’t just Kyle; it was everybody collectively as a team.”

 

 

Kelvin Sampson:

(On Jeremy Lin play) “This is the best game that Jeremy has played, no question. I thought he got his swagger back against New York. He had a little back contusion or spasm and didn’t practice Sunday but he came back yesterday (Monday) and got a lot of shots up. He’s been working hard with his shooting. If you work at something you’re probably going to get better at it. Its confidence, his mojo, his swagger whatever you want to call it. He looks more comfortable on the court.”

Terrence Ross:

Confident. Everyone kept telling me to be aggressive. Keep attacking and make sure you play defence. That’s as good as it gets from me.

I’m just going out there and fitting in. Knowing my position, knowing my role.

Have to go out with a confidence and swagger. We have the pieces, not it’s just putting them together.

I’m just getting used to the NBA game style. How the game is played defensively and offensively. I think I’m just adjusting to everything.

MORE TIME FOR DAVIS

Dwane Casey is giving Ed Davis more time based on his solid play of late, but hopes the forward keeps it up.

“In the last two games, he’s really played big-time (15 points, 14 rebounds nine points, four rebounds in 10 minutes),” Casey said.

“Ed has been playing great. Rebounding, active in the paint, athletically. He’s one of our best rotating defensive guys now. He’s going to be rewarded with time and he’s got to make the most of his time, which he has done.”

Casey wants Davis and Amir Johnson to show up on the same night, which he pointed out has been rare.

Getting Bargnani, DeRozan and Lowry hot in the same game would be good as well.

Spurs at Raptors Points Per Game:

- February 16th, 2012

Another good game, another tough loss. The Raptors are making an art of entertaining their fans, while still losing enough to stay in the Anthony Davis hunt. As usual, a few thoughts on the game and then some quotes I couldn’t get in to my story.

- DeMar DeRozan really needed that game after being a no-show too often of late. I keep harping on this, but he needs to be that aggressive player in order to succeed. He also took better control of the ball, which is needed since he can’t be turning it over off of strips 1-3 times every night.

- You have to appreciate the Spurs. Nobody ever pays any attention to them, yet all they do is win. Tony Parker: “We are nine in a row so if nobody talks about us, that’s good, we’ll keep playing good basketball.”

- Definitely some strange units out there. Dwane Casey said he was searching for offence with Bargnani, Bayless and Kleiza out. That left more defensive-minded players like James Johnson benched. He said he gave the red hot DeRozan a long break because of the back-to-back. Thought DeRozan would be able to give more down the stretch if he did that.

- Anthony Carter looked finished earlier this year, but now has found his game and is contributing.

- This team sure finds novel ways to lose eh? Five second call one night, two hands on the ball another. A foul out of bounds …

- The Raptors need to have better court awareness and stop taking a ton of offensive fouls. Too many Raptors are charging into opponents and it hurt them on Wednesday.

- Amir Johnson had been struggling mightily to hit mid-range jump shots this season, but he was nailing them on Wednesday

ONE OF A KIND

Metta World Peace one game, Popovich, the next? As a reporter, you can’t beat that.

The irascible Popovich is always a riot. With a dry, quick wit, Pop mixes bemusement with frustration as well as anybody.

He had some gems before the game:

To a larger crowd of media than he is used to: “It’s Toronto and San Antonio, take a break.”

On whether Cory Joseph should have stayed longer at Texas: “What am I, the answer man?”

On Joseph’s biggest challenge: “(Said dryly and in a short manner) “He’s a rookie.”

Some quotes on Joseph:

Cory Joseph:

“I don’t try to put pressure on myself, I just try to focus on the gameplan, play hard and let everything decide itself.

(Talks to Tristan about once a week). Only had like a week of training camp. Wanted me to get some game experience. Everybody looks at the D-League like it’s a bad thing, but Austin’s a good thing for me. Good coaching staff. (Soak up) A whole lot. Decision-making, what decisions I should do within the system. Just try to soak up as much as possible. Anybody can play in this league just given the opportunity.

(Watch Texas?) Obviously I miss it, but I’m happy where I am now. I watch them a couple of times when I’m able to. Hopefully they can win this next couple of games to solidify themselves in the tournament. That would make me happier.

Talk to Myck. Tell him to run your team, make sure you get the wins.”

Tony Parker:

“They played them all the way to the end. Just tough games for Toronto.

If we play like that, move the ball great and everybody’s healthy, we have a good chance to go all the way.

We played basketball all season long then TD got hurt and Manu went down the last game (last year).

On Cory: It’s tough as a point guard he’s not playing that much and we don’t practise so it’s tough for him to get some minutes because he doesn’t know the system, he doesn’t know the plays and Pop, sometimes he calls plays he didn’t call for 10 games. I’ve been here 11 years so I know the plays, so it’s tough for Cory. When you’re a point guard and you have a coach like Pop, you need practice time and you need to know all the plays and right now we never practice, we just rest, play, rest, play. He’s talented, we just have to be patient with him.”

Dwane Casey:

“Health is an important thing in this league and when you don’t have it you search. Tonight I was searching for any group that could help us.

This is a difficult team to play. We’ve played three emontional games, and I think our team competed in each of them. My hat is off to our guys because I think they competed and any basketball person, in seeing who we have in the floor, talked about how we competed.

That’s important to me, to the organization going forward. It’s going to help us once we get our program on the right spot. We want to continue this culture of playing hard, competing and putting yourself in position to win. What we have to do is execute … executing down the stretch. The game within the game (double dribble, holding call even though he was out of bounds). All the young guys need to learn how to play in those situations.”

“DeRozan. His major challenge this summer is going to be getting in the weight room, getting bigger, getting stronger. (Looking at Kobe and LeBron) looking at how big and strong those guys are and keeping the athleticism.”

“Good for psyche? No question. We don’t want to be satisfied with close, but with the growth that we’re making against the top teams (without top scorers), my hat is off to the guys who competed. The guys took up the slack.”

New York Knicks at Raptors Points Per Game:

- February 14th, 2012

First off before any Linsanity, the Dwane Casey/Tyson Chandler ring ceremony before the game was a nice touch.
- The Raptors have been starting most games terribly, but led by Jose Calderon, they really played well in the first quarter. The pressure was turned up on Jeremy Lin and the offence was solid.
- I’ve liked what Ed Davis has done of late. He isn’t blowing anybody away, but he’s doing a number of nice things – such as his early post-up – while cutting down on some of his mistakes.
- The difference between the horrible offensive basketball we saw the last time Andrea Bargnani was sidelined for weeks and this time? The play of Linas Kleiza. Kleiza has been sizzling and his play has helped make up for many of the 20-plus points the team misses every night without Bargnani.
- The Knicks gameplanned around DeMar DeRozan. They didn’t give him any room to operate and the pressure frustrated him.
- Ridiculous stuff from Lin at the end. Simply ridiculous. What a story.
- Some horrible rebounding by the Raptors down the stretch is what set up Lin’s heroics. He wouldn’t have had that chance without the Raptors struggling to pull down important boards.
- Something has happened to Amir Johnson’s shot this year and it hasn’t been a good something. The form doesn’t look as smooth and the jumpers are not falling anywhere close to as often as a season ago. His shocking breakthrough at the free throw line also looks like it was a one-year wonder.
Johnson’s defence remains excellent though, and he gave Amare Stoudemire some trouble, blocking four of his shots.
- Similar things could be said about Landry Fields. So good as a rookie, Fields has lost his effectiveness this year. He doesn’t look like the same guy who was so consistent as a rookie.
- Lin definitely is an NBA player but I think he’s going to be a good backup, not the star everybody already have pegged him as. He has skills, but tries to make the most difficult play too often, which leads to turnovers. He also can’t defend. Putting Iman Shumpert on Jose Calderon helped turn around the game.
I still want to see a bigger sample size before I anoint him a sure-fire starter, but no doubt he belongs in the league. But he’s proven everybody wrong already, so what do I know?

Boston Celtics at Toronto Raptors Points Per Game:

- February 11th, 2012

So, that’s why they play the games eh? It wasn’t impossible to see this one coming (I noted yesterday that for once, the Raptors would be at home rested waiting for a tired opponent and then the Celtics went to overtime in a battle with the Lakers to exhaust them even more). But still, considering Boston had taken 17-of-19 from the Raptors and beat up on them multiple times this season, it was still somewhat of a shock that Toronto upended Boston on Friday night.

- Boston had been averaging 98 points to Toronto’s 68.5 in the season series, shooting 50% to 35.9% for the Dinos.

- After being called out by Dwane Casey and humbled by the Celtics repeatedly, the Raptors showed some pride by taking this one. Gold quote from Amir Johnson:

“Excuse my language but I guess we just got tired of getting our asses busted,” said Amir Johnson, who had 12 points to go with 12 rebounds. “They have been beating us all season and the preseason. We finally stood up and hit them in the mouth.”

- The trick for the Raptors will be building on this without a letdown against the Lakers on Sunday. Los Angeles is going to be coming for the jugular thanks to their struggles.

- Casey showed some smart coaching by making his team run on the tired Celtics, who are old in the first place and had nothing in the tank after Thursday. Starting off hot was a key, jumping on Boston early was the only way to beat them. Toronto managed that with a higher compete level and an extra effort for 50/50 balls and second chance opportunities. Toronto has the young legs and athletes to do that all the time. It’s just a question of effort and willingness to do so.

- Jose Calderon rebounded from some spotty efforts with 14 assists and zero turnovers. The turnovers were the key as he had been making some uncharacteristic mistakes the past few weeks. I believe he’s the first Raptor ever to post 14 assists or more in three straight games, though Damon Stoudamire also might have pulled it off.

- Aaron Gray was one of the rare effective Raptors in Boston this season, and he had another nice night, pulling in 11 rebounds. I like the spacing he gives the team with his size and his screens. Will be interesting to see a Bargnani-Gray combo once Andrea gets back.

- Have to love what James Johnson is giving the Raptors at both ends. He has proven that at worst he is going to be a great reserve forward and defensive stopper going forward, and possibly much more than that. While Bryan Colangelo deserves the hammering he takes for some of his disastrous moves (Giving up all-star Roy Hibbert and more for Jermaine O’Neal, than giving up way too much to get rid of O’Neal and allowing Miami to get the cap space to form the Big Three for example), but stealing Johnson for a late pick in a bad draft was a heist that keeps looking increasingly astute.

- And, just to get some pageviews, the Jeremy Lin story is absolutely ridiculous and very cool to see. Even if he turns back into a pumpkin on Saturday, it has been a fantastic story and a reminder of why we love sports. Linsanity will be in the house Vinsanity built on Tuesday and all of a sudden a dull meeting with the possibly Melo and Amare-less Knicks becomes a likely sellout and a must-see for basketball fans.