Posts Tagged ‘Terrence Ross

Vs. Pacers PPG: Short-handed Raptors make a statement; Valanciunas stands tall; Playoff preview; East races tight

- April 5th, 2014

Add another highlight to a season filled with them for the Raptors. Beating the Pacers, the No. 1 team in the East for the vast majority of this season is impressive. Even if Indiana seems to be coming apart at the seams, completely discombobulated, a shadow of its former self, that’s still a statement win. Dwane Casey said as much afterward. It would have been less impressive had Kyle Lowry or Amir Johnson been in the lineup, but without them it was a massive jolt of confidence.
Lowry is the initial point of defence, the quarterback at the top, while Johnson is the anchor at the back, the guy that makes it all work. At the other end, Lowry and DeRozan are the offence, period and Johnson is the most efficient finisher the team has. Those are two huge players to be without.

- How did the win happen then? Well, Jonas Valanciunas was fantastic again, continuing a monster 15-game stretch that has to be quite heartening to team brass. He’s really starting to come into his own at both ends of the floor. Roy Hibbert used to give Valanciunas all kinds of trouble, but Valanciunas whupped him on Friday. Meanwhile, fellow sophomore Terrence Ross did his best to replace Lowry’s offence and even a bit of his defence. Ross has grabbed 20 rebounds and scored 40 points over his past three games.

- The Raptors played tough, refusing to back down. Chuck Hayes and John Salmons were at the forefront of that, but Valanciunas wasn’t backing down either.

- Nando de Colo looks like a bit of a find. The passing was there from the beginning, but now he appears to be gaining some confidence with his jump shot. The Raptors will bring him back for cheap next season and will have an interesting decision to make if Lowry gets the money he deserves (it will be a lot) – let Greivis Vasquez go and save about $1.4 million at the backup PG spot (or bring them both back, Vasquez is due only a small qualifying offer, just over $3M, unless he gets a contract extension or another team signs him to an offer sheet).

- Interesting comments from Dwane Casey related to Tim Leiweke saying he wants to bring Lowry back on a long-term contract.

“That’s out of my department,” Casey said. “That’s the front office. That’s their paycheck. I would if I was general manager of a team. But that’s their decision.

“Kyle has done everything we’ve asked him to do. He’s helped put us in this position with this team. He’s grown, he’s matured, and that’s huge as far as we’re concerned.”

- The East race is getting mighty tight. Brooklyn and Chicago kept pace with the Raptors with blowout wins.

Toronto now has home games against Philadelphia, New York and Milwaukee and road tilts with Milwaukee, Detroit and New York. The Knicks are highly motivated, but the rest of the games could be cakewalks, with, or without Lowry and Johnson.

Chicago has home games against Detroit and Orlando and road meetings with Atlanta, Washington, Minnesota, New York and Charlotte. That’s far more challenging, so the math says the Raptors will finish ahead of Chicago, but once again, that’s why they play the games.

Brooklyn has a game in hand on both teams and will play Atlanta, Orlando and New York at home and Philadelphia, Miami, Orlando and Cleveland on the road, but sits three games back in the win column. Toronto holds tie-breakers over both Chicago and Brooklyn in the event they finish tied.

- Washington survived against the Knicks by a point, so held serve with Charlotte. The Bobcats and Wizards will meet in a huge contest in Washington next Wednesday. If Charlotte wins, it owns the tie-breaker if they end up even.

 

 

Hawks PPG – 4th Quarter Kingz; Lowry wills another win; DeRozan big too; Ross solves Teague problem with his D; Hayes provides a lift; Vasquez balling

- March 24th, 2014

The media has been referring to the 2013-14, post-trade Toronto basketball team as the “Bizarro Raptors” for some time now. They showed why once again on Sunday. For a good decade now, Raptors teams made a habit of either fighting back from a big deficit only to lose in demoralizing fashion right at the end or of blowing leads in the clutch. Not anymore.

Trailing 74-60 early in the fourth quarter, things looked bleak for the home side and the – ‘The Raptor is a jinx’ – angles were already being written up with the mascot returning Sunday. Then Nando de Colo decided to hit his first shot as a Raptor and it was a huge one. It restored some life to what had been a quiet building and sparked the Raptors. It came off of a great pass from Chuck Hayes, who had a quietly excellent game in true Chuck Hayes, understated fashion. Hayes played some superb defence in the fourth when a battered Amir Johnson was getting some rest. The length of Jonas Valanciunas – missed the other night when he was injured – also was quite useful. Atlanta’s bigs are talented and have long arms and wide posteriors, but they are shorter than Toronto’s bigs (Hayes aside).

- Valanciunas has his faults as a help defender, but he really played well on Sunday. When the quick Atlanta players got by their initial defender in the fourth, Valanciunas was a wall, making them adjust their shots.

- Without Kyle Korver, the three-point happy Hawks just weren’t the same. They didn’t attempt as many as usual and they weren’t nearly as effective from outside. No surprise there considering Korver’s one of the three best outside shooters in the league.

- Jeff Teague dominated the Raptors in the previous meeting, but this time, Terrence Ross did a solid job keeping the speedy Teague in front of him. Ross didn’t do a perfect job, Teague’s a hard player to prevent from driving, but he did far better than any Toronto player managed previously. Teague had to work a lot harder.

- At the other end, Kyle Lowry simply lit Teague up. Once again, Lowry would not be denied in the fourth quarter and DeMar DeRozan also stepped up again. A weird note:: Lowry attempted three long twos, quite odd for the analytics crowd’s poster child (he almost always only takes threes and inside shots).

- Amir Johnson’s pain threshold is ridiculous. Has to be one of the toughest players in the entire NBA.

- Like in the New Orleans game, Toronto appeared poised to give up a very winnable game in disappointing fashion. Luckily, the team can do little wrong in the fourth quarter. With Brooklyn charging and Chicago not going away, grinding out both of those wins could end up being huge.

- Greivis Vasquez continues to be Toronto’s top reserve in the absence of Patrick Patterson, who thankfully should return soon. Vasquez has put together several strong games in a row and has found his missing jump shot.

- Since the Rudy Gay trade, Toronto is +252, behind only title contenders Los Angeles (Clippers), Oklahoma City and San Antonio. In fourth quarters, Toronto is a completely absurd +203. Miami’s next in final quarters at just +100. Again, the number is ridiculous.

 

 

Thunder-Raptors PPG: Where Kevin Durant happens; A night to remember – and to forget; Rough stretch for Salmons hits its bottom; Amir remains Toronto’s unsung hero

- March 22nd, 2014

Well, that happened. What a memorable night at the ACC. One of the most improbable, entertaining and potentially season-defining game for two franchises you’ll ever see.

Watching Kevin Durant at Texas, I knew he’d be good. Seeing him in the NBA it was obvious he was special. Seeing him live five games in a row two years ago at the Finals it was clear he’d be an all-time great. The scary thing? He’s clearly hit another level compared to where he was when the Thunder lost to the Heat. The man is flat out ridiculous. Near seven-footers shouldn’t be able to shoot the ball like Kyle Korver, handle it like teammate Reggie Jackson, all the while, being as cool as a cucumber. It’s not really fair.

More thoughts:

- Questions: Why don’t you foul Durant before he can even attempt his game-winning three from the parking lot? “We tried,” said Dwane Casey. If a player is going to raise up and shoot from that far back, it’s nearly impossible to get the ball out of his hands. The double team was coming, it just couldn’t get there quickly enough. That said, Toronto’s defending of three-point attempts hasn’t just slipped recently, it’s vanished. A strength has become a weakness. Come back soon Patrick Patterson.

Why was John Salmons playing instead of Terrence Ross? Ross suffered a minor injury and was unavailable.

- It’s a shame the referees were so awful. They hurt the Raptors more than the Thunder, but also made some truly horrific calls in Toronto’s favour, particularly that clear foul on Durant after  Salmons bungled the inbounds.

- You have to feel for Salmons. He was crushed afterward after missing two free throws and failing to execute the inbounds. He was so good for the Raptors early on, that steadying veteran influence who took care of the ball, never panicked and hit some clutch shots. For five weeks, Salmons was great. Then, it all started going awry. There’s no sugar-coating it, while his defence has only slipped a bit, Salmons has cratered offensively. He’s shooting 28.6% in March (20% from three), even worse than how he was performing to end February. It’s time for Casey to see if rest will get Salmons back on track. It will be humbling, but Salmons needs to sit out a few games. Then see if rest was the cure for what ailed him. Because, he’s  not getting out of this by playing through it. If he’s not hitting shots and not calmly handling the ball late in games, there has to be another option. Landry Fields perhaps? Salmons was huge for the Raptors early in his Toronto tenure, but, sadly, he needs some rest.

“He’s a veteran,” Casey said of Salmons. “In those situations, you’ve got to believe in him, that he’s going to make those free throws in that situation. Terrence goes down. He hurts his hip. We had to go with John in that situation. He’s been one of our best defenders in that situation. But it’s not just one guy. We’ve got to get one more guy to step in and step up in that situation to give us a boost. Kyle and DeMar and Amir are laying it on the line, and JV did a good job down the stretch, too.”

- Classy move by DeMar DeRozan to check on Russell Westbrook after the game. DeRozan went into the Thunder room with his daughter. Hopefully the MRI checks out. Westbrook looked fine and said he felt good. The game was huge for OKC, since it came in double overtime at the end of a back-to-back and because it showed that Durant is capable of carrying the team through whatever needs to be done, even if Westbrook is out.

- It’s too early for all of this Durant to Toronto chatter. Sure, he grew up with Toronto being his favourite team and Greivis Vasquez and Landry Fields are two of his best friends in the league, but 29 other teams will be trying to sign him and who knows if Vasquez and Fields are even Raptors by the time Durant is a free agent. Vasquez will be a restricted free agent this summer and Fields will be on the final year of his ill-fated deal next season.

- Unfortunately, Durant’s brilliance will completely overshadow one of the best games of Amir Johnson’s career. In his 500th NBA contest, Johnson was quietly spectacular himself. He had 25 points, 12 rebounds, five blocks and four assists. He was everywhere defensively, serving as both Toronto’s lone rim protector (Jonas Valanciunas needs to get better at this) and best help defender. Offensively, he was a machine. Johnson’s now scored 10+ in eight straight games, averaging about 17 points per game on shooting north of 65% in those contests. He’s no longer criminally underrated, but remains one of the NBA’s best-kept secrets.

- Toronto was oh so close to sweeping one of the league’s true title contenders. This one will hurt.

“We’ve got a lot of basketball left. We’ve got 14 more games to go down the stretch,” Casey said. “We can’t let it be a hangover. We can’t let this game be a hangover in that situation. A big learning experience for our guys. You’re playing with one of the teams in the league, one of the top players, scorers — he’ll probably go down all time as a scorer in the league. And you give yourself a chance to win in [double] overtime.”

- The offensive foul call on Vasquez that fouled him out was brutal, and, in the end, a game-changer. That’s either a no-call (the right call) or a foul on Durant. Durant got him early, then the refs called Vasquez for jumping into Durant. But Durant got him before Vasquez exaggerated it. Without Vasquez, who was playing what might have been his best game as a Raptor (continuing a strong run), Salmons had to come in and that was a massive drop-off.

 

 

 

 

Raptors/Magic PPG: Another slow start? No problem; Another Lowry takeover; Ross more confident with ball; Impressive stats since the Rudy Gay trade

- February 24th, 2014

Cue the recording: Another slow start, another huge third quarter and another win for the Raptors. For once, these Raptors do a good job of putting away the league’s dregs. We haven’t seen that from a Raptors team in years. Dregs might be strong, but Orlando lost for the 15th straight time on the road and is full marks for its place near the bottom of the NBA’s standings. If Philadelphia wasn’t so brutal, the Magic could well have the worst record of anybody. In the midst of one of the easiest stretches of the schedule, Toronto’s come through, winning 5-of-6. Beatable Cleveland and a Washington team that has proven no match for the Raptors so far, are next.

- There haven’t been many blowouts at home, but the goal of making the Air Canada Centre a tough place to play for visitors seems to be coming to fruition as the Raptors own a 12-3 record there in the past 15 home games.

- Tough to see Amir Johnson hurt his ankle again, especially on a freak play. Casey said he was kicked and should be fine. Will be interesting to see if he practices tomorrow ahead of Tuesday’s game in Cleveland. Johnson was a big contributor to Friday’s win over Cleveland.

- Have joked here in the past that maybe the Raptors just enjoy the challenge of fighting back in games. They certainly do it often enough. DeMar DeRozan said:

“Maybe we just like a challenge sometimes.  Put ourselves in a tough situation so we can fight ourselves out, but we’ve got to stop that and understand we’ve got to come out of the gate so we don’t make the game that hard on us.”

- Lowry and DeRozan have had some absurd quarters this season, but the third on Sunday was up there with nearly any of them. Neither of them missed and Lowry played like he was an NBA Jam on fire character.

- That allowed the Raptors to overcome a very uncharacteristic 24 turnovers. That many miscues usually will make you lose, but not against struggling Orlando (a bad team without its best player, Arron Afflalo).

- Is Terrence Ross getting more comfortable handling the ball? Sure looks that way. He’s been putting it on the deck more often lately, which has set up a number of floaters, which appear to be good shots for him. On Sunday, we saw a new wrinkle when Ross, dribbling over halfcourt with his right, stutter-stepped, then moved the ball behind his back from right to left just above the arc, attacked the rim with his left, then spun away from a double-team for a fadeaway. It didn’t go in and was a tough shot, but it was the initial attack that caught my eye. Already an elite shooter and athlete, a Ross confident in his ability to create his own shot would be something to see.

- That’s 25-13 since the Rudy Gay trade. Here are some stats since Dec. 8, the day a short-handed group of Raptors knocked off the Lakers in Los Angeles. The next game, reinforcements arrived from Sacramento.

25 wins since then, tied for second behind only Oklahoma City.

.658 winning percentage, sixth in NBA.

8.7 made threes per game, tied for 7th and percentage is also 7th and also 7th in free throws made (a good sign the offence is mixing it up).

9th in assists per game, 10th-fewest turnovers per game.

10th in offensive rating.

7th in defensive rating.

Vegas Summer League all-stars

- July 22nd, 2012

Caught six days of NBA summer league action in Las Vegas last week. Here are the top players I watched and some disappointments:

TOP DOGS

Damian Lillard – Shot poorly through 2.5 quarters of his debut, then went absolutely off, dominating the competition. Averaging 26.5 points per game, living up to his billing as an excellent scoring guard.

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist – Shut down almost immediately, but wowed the crowd in his lone appearance, doing a little bit of everything and leading his Bobcats.

Josh Selby – Nobody ever questioned his talent. Wasn’t a good fit at Kansas and didn’t play much in the NBA last season, but tore it up in Vegas, leading the summer league in scoring at 27.5 per game. Athletic scorer.

Kawhi Leonard – No surprise, starter on league’s best team, dominated against weaker competition.

Klay Thompson – Unstoppable scoring force was shut down early once the Warriors saw enough.

Donatus Motiejunas – Rockets pick played hard, the number one issue most had with him, and showed off an offensive game as advanced as any big man in Vegas.

Jeremy Lamb – Another of Houston’s exciting young crop. Averaged 20 points per game and was difficult to stop.

Brad Beal – Didn’t dominate, but showed, as expected, he had the skills to be a good scorer and rebounder.

Eric Bledsoe – Does a little bit of everything, but is not a point guard. Averaged almost as many turnovers and assists. Athletic, scoring guard who can rebound.

Cory Joseph – Pickering NBAer was great. Showed an improved handle, set up his teammates well and was hitting his jump shots. Averaged 17 points, 4.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists per game plus 1.8 steals.

John Henson – We’re big fans of Henson and he was a defensive force in Vegas while also chipping in offensively.

Tobias Harris – Another young Milwaukee talent. Harris can pile up the points.

Ed Davis – Everything looked improved, especially his jump shot.

Terrence Ross – While his jumper wasn’t falling, some of that was a result of fatigue. Showed top tier athleticism, smart positional play on defence and smooth form on his jump shot.

Markieff Morris – Good defence, great rebounding and solid inside-out scoring from the poor man’s Rasheed Wallace.

Bernard James -The 27-year-old rookie was solid. Shot over 60% and nearly averaged a double-double.

Malcolm Thomas -Don’t know much about him, but he owned the boards, pulling down almost 15 per game.

Wes Johnson – Long-time readers know we’re not sold on the former Syracuse star, but, credit where it is do, he was on fire from deep, shooting nearly 50%.

DISAPPOINTMENTS

Dion Waiters – 12.3 points per game, 30% shooting. Showed a good first step and that’s about it. One of the biggest risks in the draft wasn’t in great shape and looked far from a top 5 pick.

Kemba Walker – Yes, he led his team to wins, which is huge, but he still shot 35%. That needs to improve.

Kendall Marshall – Shooting was dismal and his turnovers were too high.

Thomas Robinson – He’s going to be good, but could not make any shots and turned the ball over like crazy.

Jared Sullinger – The double-double was good, the 25.6% shooting, not so much.

 

 

 

 

Thoughts from Summer League in Vegas

- July 13th, 2012

LAS VEGAS — In Vegas taking in summer league for the week, will post some observations here from what I see:

Day 1

Washington vs. Atlanta

Bradley Beal is the size of a point guard, which could give him some problems defensively since he’s a shooting guard, but has a silky smooth offensive game, particularly a quick first step. Beal finished with a game-high 22 points, scoring nine of them at the free throw line in a 102-82 loss.

Still not sure why Jan Vesely went so high a year ago. He has size and athleticism, but not sure about NBA skills. He did do a nice job shooting the ball on Friday though and missed most of his dunk attempts, which is quite un-Vesely like. Vesely has put on weight, which was a major issue last year. It will be important for him to show signs of progress this season. He had some issues on the foul front in his first summer league game. The Czech forward fouled out – and you get 10 fouls in summer league! – late in the game, getting a sarcastic ovation for his efforts.

Washington has a nice young bench player in James Singleton. He is athletic, plays hard and crashes the boards.

John Jenkins was considered one of the better scorers in the draft and he illustrated why, sinking 5-of-6 three-point attempts.

Toronto vs.  Houston

Raptors off to a quick start with Terrence Ross draining his first two shots as a Raptor.

Ross threw down a monster two-handed jam in the second quarter and swished a three on the next play. He had 21 points in a strong performance.

Ed Davis was getting worked by Donatus Motiejunas early at both ends. Davis did have a nice second quarter block. They have been working on his jumper and it looks much better. Still, aside from the blocks, Davis struggled defensively.

Motiejunas finished with 25 points on 11-for-13 shooting.

Toronto’s Devoe Joseph had 11 points and a couple of assists and played well defensively.

Bobby Brown scored 15 points but was too shot-happy.