Posts Tagged ‘Jose Calderon

Raptors PPG: Playoffs, we’re talking playoffs? Raptors go from tank to bank; What’s happened since the Raptors last made the post-season

- March 29th, 2014

So, the Raptors are in. Fittingly, Amir Johnson, exemplifying everything he brings to the table, was the one to supply the last push Friday against Boston. Amir and DeMar DeRozan have been suffering through down seasons together here longer than anyone else, the last remaining players from the end of the Chris Bosh era.

It’s been a long time coming, that’s for sure. A lot of bad basketball has been played since Bosh broke his face. It’s a new day. While nobody knows what the off-season will bring (a lot of change, or stability?) the tank is long-dead and thoughts about potential playoff opponents can now be voiced.

- Johnson’s been Toronto’s best overall player in the three seasons previous to this one and works harder and plays through more injuries than anybody on the team (though DeRozan is about his equal in both of those regards). That’s why it was nice to see him get the Raptors through.

- No question Kyle Lowry’s been the top Raptor this season (again, with apologies to DeRozan) and he showed what he’s all about as well in fighting off an ankle injury to make some decisive drives to the bucket that helped seal the win.

- DeRozan wasn’t about to let the pesky Celtics, who he’d already seen five times this season, including the two exhibition games, come back again. With his jumper shaky, DeRozan looked to repeatedly attack, getting five shots in the paint in both the third and fourth quarters. Now that he’s an all-star, DeRozan  is getting calls from the officials, which helps quite a bit, but it’s his mindset that is the key.

- Nice to see John Salmons find his game. To say he’s been struggling is a massive understatement. His game had completely vanished, but Dwane Casey kept the faith, even though using Landry Fields instead would have made a lot of sense, and Salmons responded by nailing his first two shots, picking up two assists, a couple of steals and no turnovers. He was also +15, tied for the team lead.

- A bonus thought: +/- is way down on the list of useful stats, but it’s a lot more relevant in basketball than it is in hockey, where power plays mess with the numbers. While it’s not a be all, end all, the eye test shows that Chuck Hayes has been excellent for the team lately. The +/- check shows Hayes has been +15 (tied for team lead), +3 (best of the reserves), +17 (2nd on team) and +16 (best on team) in his past four games. He’s supplied strong defence and helps move the ball around thanks to his surprisingly strong passing skills.

- Since Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu took out the Raptors in five games in the playoffs, Toronto witnessed (a lot more than this, but a few highlights/lowlights):

The ill-fated Jermaine O’Neal deal; The end of the Sam Mitchell era and the elevation of Jay Triano to head coach; Bryan Colangelo gifting  the Heat with the cap space to form the Big Three by dumping O’Neal for Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks; The drafting of DeMar DeRozan; The Raptors “winning” the Turkoglu sweepstakes, only to almost immediately regret it once Turkoglu showed up to camp fat and unwilling to justify his payday; DeRozan starting 65 games as a rookie; the Jarrett Jack\Jose Calderon controversy at the point; A career year from Bosh, that ended prematurely when he got hurt and shut himself down in advance of his free agent flight to Miami; Bosh leaving, Bryan Colangelo ripping him, then saving some face by somehow dumping Turkoglu on the Suns (his former agent was in charge there); A disastrous season that ended with Triano out, Dwane Casey in and Jonas Valanciunas drafted in Colangelo’s ballsiest move, since he wouldn’t come over for a year and because Bargnani had soured nearly everyone in the city on European players; A lockout, followed by a shortened season where the Raptors were horrible to watch because the talent simply wasn’t there, but where Casey turned around the defensive culture and started turning around Toronto’s reputation as a soft team; The development of the youngsters and the drafting of Terrence Ross and Quincy Acy; Last season’s brutal start; The Kyle Lowry/Calderon and Lowry/Casey situations; Ross wins the slam dunk contest; The trade for Rudy Gay which sent Calderon elsewhere; The regression and booing of Bargnani; The arrival of Tim Leiweke and Masai Ujiri; The miraculous Bargnani trade that actually brought back draft picks; The tank talk; This season’s bad start and the Lowry trade rumours and questions about Casey’s future; The trade of Gay to Sacramento; The stunning turnaround of the team into a squad that wins two thirds of the time; Lowry’s all-NBA caliber campaign; DeRozan’s all-star nod; The return to the playoffs.

 

 

 

Raptors at Pacers Points Per Game: Rudy Gay comes to life; DeMar DeRozan has a night to forget; Paul George is a superstar

- November 9th, 2013

INDIANAPOLIS – The Raptors probably should be 3-3, are slightly worse at 2-4 instead and there’s an awfully long way to go this season. Yet, why does it seem there’s an aura of doom and gloom permeating the franchise. I’m not even talking about the fanbase, which seems beyond despair at this point, beaten down with pessimism thanks to years of losing both games and star players.

The players seem quite realistic (maybe because most of them were around for 4-19 last year and know how quickly a season can go off of the rails) – things need to get fixed – and quickly. Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert cautioned today that it’s still very early – “The season is 6/82 complete.If the season was a game there would be 8:30 left in the 1st quarter.Let’s calm down,watch a bit more then judge,” Gilbert tweeted – but how you set the tone matter and the winnable games you blow now matter. A lot. Moreso on the tone setting part. You simply can’t lay an egg against bad or medicore teams and get extra pumped for the contenders when the bright lights are shining. That’s a losing mentality, and, unfortunately, has long been a Raptors mentality.

It also could be the way the team has lost games. Not fouling in Charlotte either time (Dwane Casey defended not doing it with 27 seconds remaining and said not doing it in the final seconds was a mistake. The overwhelming consensus has been a foul should have been committed at the 27 second mark), not playing Amir Johnson, the team’s most invaluable player, in the fourth against Miami (granted, he was being saved for a more winnable contest) and then playing five subs to start the second quarter against Indiana, losing all momentum created by Rudy Gay’s sizzling start, as well as the lead. No, it hasn’t been a good week for Casey or his players.

If you’re Masai Ujiri, what the heck do you do? (A lot more on this point coming). If you blow it up, who is buying? Lots of teams are tanking, so they certainly won’t be. Good teams have cap issues and likely will be more inclined to deal once injuries start hitting. If you want to load up to finally end the playoff drought, what area do you upgrade? Philly would love to get big returns for players like Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes, Phoenix would probably part with Goran Dragic, but do you sacrifice the future to get less mediocre and maybe squeak in? If you trade a Lowry, an Amir Johnson or DeMar DeRozan or Rudy Gay what can you get? Who can you replace them with down the line?

The easiest way to get significantly worse would be to move Johnson. But (1) eventually you’ll need a guy like Johnson if you want to win and (2) do you really want to send out a guy who loves the city, represents it well, is putting down roots here and is proud to represent the franchise? Again, this is why Masai gets the big bucks. With his history, rest assured he’s been over all of these scenarios and thought about the domino effect of all of them down the line. It’s a fascinating time for this franchise, what the heck is going to happen? Unfortunately, right this moment, it’s also an uncertain time and the light at the end of the tunnel looks awfully dim.

If you’re all not horribly depressed after reading that, some more thoughts:

- Indiana, is really, really good. Maybe not too exciting, but who really cares? The team is built for the playoffs. The defence is superb. Frank Vogel is an elite coach already. Paul George is one of the few superstars as good defensively as he is on offence and Roy Hibbert is an absolute wall inside. They are tough, a bit mean (nobody tops David West in the scowl department and nobody sneers at referees more often than Lance Stephenson) and the bench has been upgraded from last year’s disaster (though it could still use some help … hey, Danny Granger is supposed to practice next week).

The Pacers know exactly what they need to do to win games. They let Toronto tire by playing lights out early, knowing there was time to rally and ratchet up the defence. I’m starting to regret my pick of Chicago winning the Central, these guys, assuming Granger is able to be a great sixth man, are legit title contenders.

- Kyle Lowry looked far better and was looking to create more than he has this season. He made clever passes, was constantly looking ahead and above the rim for his teammates. Even Lowry seemed a bit frustrated afterward about the shot selection of Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan, which has bordered on atrocious for much of this season.

“We’ve got to get DeMar easier shots. He got his shots, but we’ve got to find a way to get him some easier shots,” Lowry said.

“We’ve got to find a happy medium with those guys, they both can get shots, but they’ve both got to make shots and then make life a lot easier as a point guard.”

- Lowry was also frustrated by offensive foul calls against him in two straight games on shot attempts. “When I go left and shoot, I kick out my legs, that’s what I do,” Lowry said, shaking his head.

 

- It’s too bad Lowry isn’t more of a pick and roll point guard. Jose Calderon’s defence hurt the club, but no question he got the most out of Johnson and also was perfect for Valanciunas. Those bigs excel in that sort of offence, but can’t show it off here, because Lowry is more of a drive and kick creator and DeRozan rarely passes and Gay seldom does.

More quotes:

I thought Rudy outplayed him tonight. You can talk about Paul George, but I thought Rudy outplayed him, they won the game, but talking about individual matchups, Rudy played the game he’s supposed to play. Now we need some others to join the party.” – Dwane Casey

“We’ve got to put together a full game. We have spurts where we’re playing as good as any team but we let up and they took advantage of that.” – Rudy Gay

“It’s tough for everybody when any of us (struggle). It’s tough for the whole team when DeMar struggles. It’s tough for the whole team when I struggle. We just have to figure out how we can make both of us comfortable at the same time.”

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kyle Lowry might want a change of scenery – expect the Raptors to kick the tires

- May 26th, 2012

Rockets point guard Kyle Lowry doesn’t sound like someone who would prefer to return to Houston next season.

On Friday, Lowry told Rockets beat writer Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle he can’t see both he and unrestricted free agent Goran Dragic coming back.

Just a few weeks after surgery to fix torn abductor muscles and a sports hernia, Lowry told Feigen:

“I don’t think so. I honestly think it would be tough. Things have to be addressed. The situation would have to be addressed.

“If things aren’t addressed coaching-wise, I guess I have to be moved.”

Lowry made it clear that he has undisclosed problems with head coach Kevin McHale. Though McHale and general manager Daryl Morey downplayed any issues, Lowry clearly is unhappy.

Morey told Feigen:

“I think Kyle and coach McHale are both winners and both competitive guys. “I don’t anticipate any issues going forward.”

At one point during the season, Lowry had to be restrained from going after the coach.

A tremendous defender and rebounder, Lowry averaged career highs of 14.3 points, 6.6 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game in 47 contests (In 38 starts, Lowry’s numbers were 15.9 points, 7.2 assists and 1.8 steals per game).  However, his injuries opened the door for Dragic, who averaged 18 points, 8.4 assists and 1.8 steals per game in 28 starts of his own.

Dragic is a far better shooter and finisher than Lowry, except for from three-point range and from the free throw line, where they shoot about the same. Lowry is an elite defender at the point guard spot and a better rebounder.

For his career, Lowry has averaged 10.4 points and 4.8 assists. Lowry has two very reasonable years remaining on his contract and will earn $5.75 million in 2012-1 and $6.2 million in 2013-14.

The Raptors are extremely high on Lowry, so there is little doubt – despite Morey’s desire to keep Lowry in the fold – that he and Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo will discuss a Lowry deal. If that falls through the Raptors could instead pursue Dragic, though I do not know if he is a favourite of theirs like Lowry or not.

After Lowry burned the Raptors for a game-high 26 points (including 4-for-4 from three) in a three-point win in Houston, I asked Raptors head coach Dwane Casey what he thought of Lowry and Casey lauded the guard for his toughness and ability.

“He’s a hell of a competitor. He’s their heart and soul and spirit of their team and I love the way he plays,” Casey said.

Long-time Raptor Alvin Williams, now a scout with the team, is extremely close with Lowry and is one of his mentors. Both are from Philadelphia and both played for Villanova. “Alvin is my main man,” Lowry once said.

Complicating a potential deal would be the fact that Houston would have to be sure Dragic will re-sign long-term with the club to be its starter before opting to trade Lowry. That won’t happen until July 1st, after the draft. It would likely be Toronto’s pick – 8th before Wednesday’s lottery – that Houston would be after. The Rockets own the 14th pick (again, pre-lottery) and the 16th. It’s hard to see the Rockets wanting anything besides Toronto’s pick in a potential Lowry deal since Jonas Valanciunas and Andrea Bargnani won’t be on the table. DeMar DeRozan’s advanced stats likely don’t impress Morey, who is a huge believer in advanced statistical analysis.

Plus there’s the fact other teams could make better offers. Lowry and Luis Scola nearly became Lakers last season in exchange for Pau Gasol and Gasol is very much on the block again and the Rockets have always coveted him.

As well, Lowry has had injury issues including a torn ACL early in his career and has an edge. He was charged with battery after being accused of throwing a ball at a female referee during the lockout. Lowry apologized, received 100 hours of community service and impulse-control counseling.

However, for years the Raptors have lacked extremely competitive, hard-nosed players and that’s a major reason why they haven’t had much success.

Unless Dragic says he’s not coming back, Lowry’s likely moving somewhere. Would he be OK with supplanting Jose Calderon as starter in Toronto if Calderon is still seeing considerable time, some of it in the same backcourt as Lowry? Who knows.

What we do know  is he is not interested in splitting time with Dragic.

“We’re both capable starters. We both want it. It’s going to have to be a situation where they make a decision on one of us.

“It has nothing to do with Goran. I’m not happy with the way coaches handled things. If management wants to do something to keep Goran, I think I’ll have to be moved,” Lowry told Feigen.

“I think I’m still a foundation guy. You can build around me. If I’m not here, that’s welcomed. If I’m here, I guess that’s welcome, too.”

Interesting stuff indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Raptors at Houston Rockets Points Per Game

- February 28th, 2012

All the attention is probably going to be on DeMar DeRozan’s tweet afterwards (he didn’t play in the fourth quarter, despite leading the team in scoring), but there are other things to discuss.

- What’s up with Jose Calderon? He’s fantastic at home, below average on the road. His home-road splits show quite a disparity. Calderon averages 13.7 points, 10.4 assists and 51% shooting at home, but away he averages 8.5 and 7.5 on 41% shooting.

- Raptors and Rockets have gone in opposite directions since the start of the season. Houston opened 3-7, but has gone 18-7 since (and 15-4 at home overall), while the Raptors went a surprising 4-5 early on, but slumped to 6-19 since.

- Toronto got Linas Kleiza back following a three-game injury absence. Casey said he’d be cautious with Kleiza’s minutes. “I’ll try to be smart. I haven’t been accused of that too often,” Casey cracked. Andrea Bargnani is doing on-court running, but the team is being cautious. “He’s got to listen to his body and go with that. Kind of on his terms, as far as his calf is concerned,” Casey said.

- I talked to Leandro Barbosa and he said all the trade rumours aren’t bothering him at all. He knows it is part of the business and out of his control. But it might not all be. Sources tell me quietly, potential landing spots willing to extend-and-trade Barbosa are being sniffed out. Barbosa said he loves Toronto and would happily sign long-term. As always though, we’ll see if the price is right and if the Raptors get an offer they can’t refuse.

- I don’t blame DeRozan for being frustrated. Unlike Calderon and Jerryd Bayless, who didn’t play in the fourth (aside from 11 seconds for Calderon), DeRozan was playing decent-well. Casey said he was thinking ahead to Wednesday’s game in New Orleans, but it seemed like an odd call, especially with Kleiza just back from injury. DeRozan played the entire third quarter, scoring 10 points before sitting.

- Like Casey, I’m a big fan of Kyle Lowry. Was convinced he’d be better than Villanova teammate Randy Foye and that certainly has proven correct. He does so many things well and as Casey said: “He’s a hell of a competitor. He’s their heart and soul and spirit of their team and I love the way he plays.”

Charlotte Bobcats at Raptors Points Per Game, Naughty By Nature edition:

- February 18th, 2012

Disappointed I didn’t get to see Naughty by Nature at halftime, also wondering why the heck Treach and Co. are doing halftime shows now? Sorry Matt and Jack, but I’m not as crushed about missing your halftime show.

- The Raptors let winless Washington beat them earlier this year, so perhaps it isn’t a surprise that Charlotte’s 16-game losing streak also ended against Toronto. The Raptors need to stop playing down, or up, to the competition.

- Raptors were smart to run on Charlotte early. You don’t really think of the Bobcats as a team to run on, but that definitely can be done against them. They should have ran a lot more.

- If Jose Calderon has played at a higher level either in the NBA or internationally, it is news to us.

- Charlotte has been knocked for not playing hard this season, but you could tell they were quite anxious to end a brutal 16-game losing streak. Getting D.J. Augustin back is going to help the Bobcats win a few games. He has become the squad’s best player. The Raptors were desperate not to let-down against such a brutal team, but the squad did not come out with the same energy as in the past few games. It took until late in the first half before the effort level seemed to pick up for the home side. The shooting also cooled noticeably from recent 50% or so shooting outings.

- Ed Davis seems to have a lot more comfortable taking jump shots. Tom Sterner helped James Johnson in that regard, and it appears Davis has improved based on those sessions as well. Not only does his form look better, but Davis also looks more comfortable when he is hoisting his shots, which any shooter knows is a big part of the battle. (Note, I am definitely not a shooter, but I know that is true). The Raptors have been giving Davis more minutes and a bigger role of late in an effort to see what they have in him.

- Don’t really like Kemba Walker off the ball as Charlotte played him a bit on Friday. Don’t think he’s a true point guard either, but he needs to have the ball and to be making the decisions. If his jumper develops, perhaps he can grow into a Ben Gordon-esque role, but that’s not his game yet. Walker’s a great slasher and can set up his teammates, but he’s not going to be an effective NBAer until he greatly improves his jumper and shot selection.

- Raptors director of sport science Alex McKechnie has headed to Lithuania to work with Jonas Valanciunas.

- With Jerryd Bayless back, didn’t expect to see the Calderon-Anthony Carter backcourt again, but it gave Toronto some decent minutes late in the first half.

- DeMar DeRozan could learn some bad things from Corey Maggette, but he also could learn some good. Few players can get to the free throw line as easily and often as Maggette. He’s a bit of a ball-stopper, but he really knows how to put defences on their heels, how to draw contact and create a ton of free throw opportunities. Maggette is best neutralized by turning him into a jump shooter. Meanwhile, DeRozan has really rebounded of late after a concerning stretch of the season. He had 18 points in the first half alone.

- Leandro Barbosa, Amir Johnson and Davis keyed the fourth quarter Raptors comeback, but it wasn’t enough and the team was booed off the court on fan night.

 

Raptors at Suns Points Per Game:

- January 25th, 2012

Finally, a win. Gutsy effort in Phoenix and a lineup change results in a victory to end a long losing streak. Oh, Andrea Bargnani might have had something to do with it.

- Bargnani proved again that he is an all-star, rebounding from a bad shooting start to absolutely pick apart the Suns. Sure Marcin Gortat lit up the Raptors, but Bargnani was only defending him part of the time and did better on that end than others.

- I liked the move to start Aaron Gray, I predicted at the start of the year (before Gray had his health problems) that he would start beside Bargnani for many matchups. Gives the team more size and a better screen-setter at the five. Also sends Amir Johnson a message – get your game back in gear, and he seemed to read it loud and clear. Johnson only played just shy of 13 minutes, but was back to his old active self. Plus the move forced me to try to remember the last time the Raptors started two 7-footers … I can’t remember that ever happening actually, since none of Chris Bosh, Jermaine O’Neal, Antonio Davis or Donyell Marshall are 7-footers.

- Toronto’s 3-pt shooting was a big positive. Beside Bargnani’s 4-for-6, the rest of the team went 4-for-9. That kept them in it when Phoenix was hot, and was a major reason why the end result was a win. Which leads to …

- Leandro Barbosa. He was the reason the Raptors were within four at the half in a game Phoenix should have had well in hand. Barbosa went 3-for-3 from three and was brilliant, particularly in the second quarter against his former team.

- Barbosa’s strong play helped mask another invisible night from DeMar DeRozan. This is at the troubling point now, especially since Bargnani was back, which was supposed to help DeRozan return to form. I liked his agressiveness early, but DeRozan failed to get to the free throw line and could not finish his chances.  His regression is the most negative aspect of this Raptors season, which is now a quarter of the way complete. Something needs to change and quickly. Right now DeRozan looks like a reserve, not a major piece of Toronto’s rebuild.

- I like what Ronnie Price has done for the Suns. Gives them a defensive boost. What the heck happened to Channing Frye? He can’t play anymore. Like at all.

- One more negative before I get to some positives. One of the reasons Toronto’s defence doesn’t look as good as it did early on is because Jose Calderon is no longer keeping anybody in front of him anymore. That’s been the case the past few games and didn’t change against the great Steve Nash. Nash blew by Calderon, this time with guile, not the speed other point guards have been using. Calderon, like most, to be fair, had no answers for Nash and his crafty, change of pace maneuvers. Another concern, re: Calderon, is the fact that he is making 1-2 bad passes at critical times (leaving his feet after dribbling into no-man’s land) throwing the ball away at inopportune times. It almost cost Toronto the game and would have had Phoenix hit more shots in the clutch. He did make some better decisions late that helped the Raptors win the game.

- James Johnson followed up his best game of the season with an even better one. He defended well and was solid on offence. His play would be one of the brighters spots of this season, though I’m sure Bryan Colangelo would prefer to have Johnson showing little instead of DeRozan and Ed Davis both showing next to nothing so far, aside from a fast start from DeRozan.

- Linas Kleiza continues to help the bench with his ability to score.

- I believe Toronto turned the ball over nine times in the first quarter but ended up with 16 total, so obviously the team did a much better job taking care of the ball as the game went on.

- OK one more negative. Marcin Gortat abused the team for three quarters. There was little resistance, he rolled to the hoop unguarded or overpowered the Raptors. The team finally guarded him better in the fourth.
- Dwane Casey drew up some good plays, including one to end the first half and bring the Raptors within four when Calderon went to James Johnson for a dunk. His team also used screens very well and Phoenix puzzlingly didn’t figure out that leaving Bargnani open off of screen and rolls or pick and pops was a very bad decision.

All in all, more good things to say than bad, but DeRozan and Davis need to get on track or else Colangelo doesn’t have nearly as much in his cupboard as he thinks and this retool is in worse shape than we thought.

Raptors at Clippers Points Per Game:

- January 23rd, 2012

So, eight losses in a row. All but maybe two of them well-deserved. Something is rotten in the state of Denmark right now with the Raptors and it seems Dwane Casey is at his wit’s end. Some thoughts:

- Casey sat down Ed Davis earlier this year when he felt he wasn’t playing hard enough, not running the floor the way he can, etc. Casey did the same thing on Sunday against the Clippers to Amir Johnson who has not looked like himself of late. Another change to the starting lineup could be coming, unless Casey wants to see if Johnson finds himself when Andrea Bargnani comes back, likely on Tuesday in Phoenix. If Bargnani isn’t back, Casey needs to give Aaron Gray – who played well – a look. The Davis-Johnson combo is too small and slight and is getting lit up every game now.

- Casey sent a message by playing his bench – which has been better than the starters for two or three game snow – for large portions of the game.

- The Raptors aren’t playing like a team. Some evidence of it I noticed came in the fourth when the just-returned Jerryd Bayless got absolutely annihilated on a screen that Linas Kleiza (or anybody else in the vicinity) failed to warn him about. That’s how team chemistry suffers.

- Jose Calderon is back to not being able to keep anybody in front of him. He did a decent job of it early in the season, but something has happened and a system that was covering for it well is no longer doing so. It wasn’t just Calderon who had trouble with this though, as the other Clippers guards did whatever they wanted against whoever was guarding them. Most notably, Mo Williams,who scored the first 17 points for Los Angeles in the fourth quarter and 25 in all.

- Clips have an embarassment of riches at the point. Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, Mo Williams would all be upgrades for the Raptors and Eric Bledsoe is much more of a true point guard prospect than Jerryd Bayless, though I like Bayless in a Leandro Barbosa role long-term.

- Horrendous performance by the starters, but you probably already know that, and a decent effort from the bench to at least give the Raptors the feeling they were in it a couple of times.

- Davis has a lot of work to do on his offensive game. Another reason why Johnson/Davis doesn’t work as a starting frontcourt stems from their offensive failings. Neither can create for themself and while Johnson can hit a few jumpers, Davis currently is lacking any semblance of an effective jump shot. That needs to change.

- As a whole, Toronto’s shot selection without Bargnani has been mostly horrible. Where is the basketball IQ? Bad shot after bad shot with no spacing or movement. For a few games they were getting good looks but just missing, but against the Clippers, the offence looked completely out of sorts and the players looked exhausted. The stagnant group missed 10 straight at one point.

- Another fatal flaw is the fact that Toronto tends to foul like nobody’s business but doesn’t draw enough at the other end. You can’t win if that keeps up.

- Finally, the zone again worked for a while and continues to be a good weapon for Casey’s Raptors, but like any scheme, it loses its effectiveness the longer it is used. The Clips figured out how to beat it eventually and that was that.

- Positives? The bench. Drew fouls, scored, hit from long-range. Linas Kleiza: Played reasonably well. Bayless: Returned to the lineup. Gray: Did his job.

We end today with a quote from Casey:

“We compete in practice harder than we do to start the game. Our starts in the first quarter and third quarter aren’t who we are. I’ve got to find seven or eight guys who are going to come out and compete.”

Raptors at Sixers Points Per Game

- January 8th, 2012

Ugly.

Not sure what else to say about Saturday’s debacle in Philly, but here goes:

-Toronto kept it close in the first half, staying in a game it really shouldn’t have been in. That was largely due to the strong early play of Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson and even Ed Davis (who sat for a long time despite the good start and did little the rest of the way). Nobody besides Bargnani really created anything on the offensive end and that caught up to the Raptors later.

- Where was the fight?  Davis told me before the game the team would come out hard and was desperate for a win, but that hunger disappeared after two quarters. If the team is fatigued now, as Casey claims, what are they going to do on Tuesday or Wednesday in the midst of a back-to-back-to-back.

- Philly is a good team even though Elton Brand and Andre Iguodala aren’t the same as they once were. The Sixers play hard and get after the ball defensively. They swat, poke and pry at everything, box out well and are constantly looking to grab boards and run. They have some good shooters and can make opponents pay. Whenever they swap the huge salaries of Brand and Iguodala for a stud PF or C they will be a contender.

- Casey is adamant the team didn’t revert back to last year by giving in and failing to protect the paint in the second half.

“The third was more physical and mental fatigure more than it was disposition,” Casey said.

- Casey also said leaving his starters in late in a blowout wasn’t a message to them to play better. Rather, said the coach, it was a message to the team that they must fight until the end of games no matter what the scoreboard reads. “I wanted to go down swinging, let the guys know we’re not just coming here to come in.

- DeMar DeRozan is really frustrated, even though he says he isn’t. He looked at the refs several times on Saturday night after either not getting a call, or being whistled for a charge that clearly should have been a blocking call on Philadelphia. Teams are game-planning around DeRozan for the first time, and he isn’t responding well. Luckily, as he said, this is happening early and he has plenty of time to look at tape to figure out what he can do better.

- Toronto built a 30-18 rebounding edge at the half but gave it all up and ended up on the negative side of the battle for the boards.

- Amir Johnson has not had the same touch inside this season as he showed last year. Bobbles have been a nightly theme and that continued on Saturday, to the point where Johnson looked to the sky after blowing an easy layup, set up by Bargnani.

 

Raptors vs. Nets Points Per Game

- January 7th, 2012

Here we go with the second edition of Points Per Game. Remember, this will be my look at various talking points from the previous Raptors game. Will be posted by the morning after each game.

- Raptors again hold an opponent to sub-.400 shooting percentage. Yet more proof that the team is buying in to what Dwane Casey is selling. The remarkable turnaround continues. On the negative side, it seemed like every shot the Nets made came from three point range. The team made 48.4% of its three-point attempts, which negates a good chunk of what Toronto was doing defensively.

If a team hits about half its shots from three, it counteracts most of the misses from two.

Not to mention Deron Williams had his way with Jose Calderon.

- Second chance points absolutely killed the Raptors. Kris Humphries grabbed nine offensive boards. That can’t happen if a team wants to win a game. Ed Davis was very good again, pulling down eight rebounds to go with his 11 points, but the rest of the Raptors were subpar.

- Another strong outing offensively from  Calderon, 19 points, 8 assists, 0 turnovers, but again, letting  Williams get to the line 13 times was one of the major reasons Toronto lost this game.

- Another good game from Andrea Bargnani. Nobody saw this start coming.

- Anthony Morrow had been horrible this season, but was one of New Jersey’s biggest contributors on Friday. Morrow was on and consistently burned the Raptors, particularly from downtown. Morrow nailed six three pointers.

- Linas Kleiza is close to returning from off-season surgery and could play on Saturday in Philadelphia.

- DeMar DeRozan was due for a stinker and this one was it. He just didn’t have it.

-  Casey said in training camp that no system can stop everything and the Raptors might have to surrender a fair number of threes in order to shut down team elsewhere on the court. On Friday, especially when the Raptors went zone, the team didn’t close out as well as it has and allowed the Nets to get far too many good looks. Most teams aren’t going to hit half of their threes, but still, Toronto needs to defend the outside shot better. All part of the process, but I’m sure Casey’s not a happy man right about now.

- The Sixers looked impressive in a big win over Detroit, but like Toronto, are starting a seven games in nine night stretch. Philly has a lot of shooters, so Toronto will have to fix some of its mistakes from Friday quickly in order to pull off an upset win against a playoff team.