Perhaps it can be considered progress that a Raptors win is no longer a cause for celebration the way it was when victories were harder to come by. Now, a win in a game played so wretchedly by the Raptors can only be slagged. Orlando’s horrible, worse than the Boston team that gave Toronto some trouble. There’s no excuse for letting that group shoot 55% from the field, collecting 24 assists (to Toronto’s 13, a low number not seen since the Rudy Gay trade). Only a huge edge at the line (27 attempts to 14) and an 18-9 edge on second chance points allowed the Raptors to escape after blowing a 21-point lead.
- The positives first: DeMar DeRozan wasn’t going to let the Raptors completely blow this one. He was in attack mode again, just as he had been against the Celtics, drawing more trips to the line than the entire Orlando team (Orlando head coach Jacque Vaughn, who is crusty on a good day, wasn’t too pleased about that fact). He also hit a clutch three. Backcourt partner Kyle Lowry did his usual thing as well, upping his workload considerably in the fourth, mostly driving the ball into the heart of the Orlando defence.
- Jonas Valanciunas continues to be a first half all-star. More often than not, he’s excellent early in games, than doesn’t see much of the ball when DeRozan and Lowry take over (Valanciunas has averaged 7.1 points in the first two quarters of games since the all-star break, half of that in the final two). Ideally, there would be a better balance, but you can’t argue much with the results. Valanciunas is really coming along lately, averaging 13.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, 55.7% shooting from the field and 90.2% shooting from the line over his past 10 games. Going beyond those stats, he’s also been noticeably better rotating on defence.
- The bench stepped up, Landry Fields and Nando de Colo particularly. Fields has been a true vet, ready to produce when called upon. He’s earned some of the minutes given to John Salmons. Fields played twice as many minutes as Salmons on Sunday. We’ll see if that continues. With the starters struggling to defend, the bench did a good job of providing more resistance.
- The bad: The defending. The lack of ball movement. Letting a bad team keep its confidence and claw back. No Terrence Ross for the final 15 minutes of the game (even though Orlando was shooting the lights out. Ross is Toronto’s best perimeter defender …)