Matt and Jack are in the City Of Brotherly Love on the second bus, where they're teeing up the Raptors vs. Sixers on Friday.
Lots of questions here and there about DeMar DeRozan and where he is in the development of an NBA rookie, lots lately on why he doesn’t play in the fourth quarter very often.
The reason? From this angle?
He’s not ready.
Yes, he’s been better lately shooting jumpers and he’s looking a wee bit more comfortable offensively and he seems to be a bit more aggressive rebounding, although there’s still lots and lots of work to do in that regard.
Watch him closely sometimes. He’s going to the offensive glass but sometimes mis-timing jumps and he’s not a very good rebounder in traffic at the other end, either. His tendency to leak out drives coaches batty.
Defensively, he still gets caught up in screens too often and loses his man every now and then.
But, all in all, he’s coming along. Those are typical rookie gaffes and not at all unexpected.
The team enjoyed a complete day off Monday, practised on Tuesday and after their two-day mini-vacation, lo and behold, the Raptors defeated the defending Eastern Conference champion.
"It's been nice," said Jarrett Jack, the Maryland-raised point guard. "The weather's been, uh, difficult up in Toronto. I think that was the idea – get people out of the snow a little bit. You can get comfortable. You don't have to worry about coming in the night before, dealing with the jet lag."
For some, such as Jay Triano, the head coach, any given day's location has little bearing the day's duties.
"It doesn't matter where we go. It's the same thing – watch video and sit in the room, and go find something to eat," Triano said.
As expected, Bosh has aided the Raptors during their recent run by averaging 24.6 points on 54.1% shooting over the past five games. The all-star forward has also made 58.8% of his attempts over the past 12 contests, and is averaging 23.6 points and 11.3 rebounds while shooting 51.8% this season — all career highs.
He will try to help the Raptors move above .500 for the first time since they were 5-4 on Nov. 13, but will face a 76ers team that has shown signs of improvement.
Philadelphia (10-24) won three of its final four on a recent six-game road trip with notable victories over Portland and Denver. The 76ers, however, didn't have a happy return home as they blew an 18-point lead Tuesday night in a 104-97 loss to Washington.
Mitchell, a hand gun owner, spent 13 seasons as a player and told Landsberg that he never once saw a hand gun in a locker room over his time in the NBA.
"After these things came out it was shocking and I can understand why everyone is so upset.” said Mitchell. "It's upsetting to think of a gun in any work place and you never think of a gun in a professional locker room."
The facts that the guns were not loaded and Arenas has a reputation as a jokester did not impact Mitchell's take on the issue.
"The old saying says 'that guns don't kill people, stupid people with guns kill people,' so there is no joking around when there is something that can kill someone."
Toronto revolves around 6-foot-10 forward Chris Bosh, an all-star who is averaging 23.6 points and 11.4 rebounds per game.
"We're getting ready for Toronto," said coach Eddie Jordan, who didn't have guards Allen Iverson (knee) and Royal Ivey (personal reasons) available for the 75-minute session. "A lot of pick-and-rolls. They space you out. They have a lot of three-point shooters. They like to get you in rotations. You have to prepare not to be in rotations. Stick with your guy."
That's right, to me, the interesting debate centers around would you include Noah in a package for Bosh right now. This isn't to say that Noah is such a hot ticket item that the Raptors would swap the two straight up. He's not. However, he's the only long term valuable piece on the roster outside of Derrick Rose to me.
If you traded Deng and Hinrich for Bosh and Bosh left, then you could rebuild with that cap room. If you traded Salmons or Tyrus then you'd figure they were going to leave anyway. If you gave up Johnson, Gibson, future picks, or Asik, then you'd be losing out on a generally low ceiling younger player.
Those are all things you could live with.
The way i see if if we are to make the playoffs coach Triano needs to play the guys who are playing well at that time,if you have 7 or 8 guys who are playing well then stick to those throughout the game and not put a player in because you want to keep him happy.This season i have seen this happen too many times and all it does is ruin the flow of the raptors game.In this league you win with the players with the hot hand.. case in point the NBA finals last year where Rafer Alston was the hot hand for the orlando magic but Stan Van Gundy went with Jameer Nelson instead and we all know what happened next .. lakers won the championship because coach was trying to give his buddy some playing time (joke).
Yes, the Raptors defense has improved since the beginning of December, but that can’t really be attributed to Calderon not being on the floor. There are two problems with this argument. The first being that the defense did not improve right away. The first six games Jack started, the Raptors gave up 106 ppg (including giving up more than 115 points in three games) and in four of the six games let their opponent shoot over (well over) 50%. If Jack was the difference maker, you would have seen an immediate improvement. There wasn’t. One of the Raptors worst defensive games of the season came six games into Jack’s reign as starting point guard, where they let Orlando shoot an astounding 67% from the field.
When they beat the Magic 108-103 on Wednesday, the Raptors survived a fourth-quarter scare and overcame an off night from Chris Bosh, who normally carries the team.
Shortly after the final buzzer, Triano and Bosh shared a moment.
“Chris didn’t have one of his better games," Triano said of Bosh, who had as many turnovers as made shots from the field (six). “We survived that and I said that to him.”
It’s not often Bosh posts consecutive off-nights.
He’ll get matched up, in all likelihood, against Thaddeus Young tonight, a matchup that favours Bosh.
The Raptors should beat a Sixers team that is flawed and in search of an identity.
Then comes a home date against a Celtics team that has had Toronto’s number.
Much like Orlando, which won all three of its previous three season-series meetings, the Raptors are due.
Part five of the Raptors NBA TV special focuses on opening night of the regular season for the Raptors rookie swingman.
Matt Devlin and Jack Armstrong reflect on the Raptors' 108-103 win over the Magic on Wednesday.
Toronto (18-18) has improved defensively in that span, allowing 92.6 points per game. In their first 28 games, the Raptors gave up an average of 108.6 points.
"I think we are just figuring out how to play together," forward Chris Bosh said. "We are finally getting it on defense and rebounding a lot better. Everything right now is clicking for us. We just have to keep it rolling."
Toronto has also limited past two opponents to less than 42.0 percent shooting while recording back-to-back wins and needed every bit of that defense to hold off Orlando for a 108-103 road victory Wednesday night.
The Raptors nearly blew an 18-point lead in the fourth quarter but tightened up late. Bosh and Marco Belinelli made the team's final four free throw attempts to put away the game.
Andrea Bargnani did a good job of battling Dwight Howard one-on-one defensively in the post, which leads me to believe this could be more of a regular occurrence, if the big Italian shows he can perform consistently in that respect. Can you imagine what being able to play with full-time single coverage down low in the post would mean to the overall defence?
Bargnani's play helped Toronto execute the game plan to perfection as Howard scored his points, 20 of them, but the Raptors were able to tag Orlando's three-point shooters, limiting the barrage that has done them in previously against the Magic. Orlando shot 9-of-31 from behind the arc. Maybe it's a telling stat that when the Magic make 10 or more three-point field goals they are 15-5. On Wednesday night, they hit just nine.
The Raptors have reeled of two huge victories in a row and now back at .500, Raptor fans everywhere are starting to believe that there may, in fact, be a semblance of hope after all. Resting Duncan, and Howard in foul trouble notwithstanding these are still major victories for a Raptors organization that seemed destined for the lottery before the injury to Jose.
What do you think Raptor fans?? Have we made a statement as a legitimate contender, or are we dillusional due to an easy stretch of the schedule coupled with Duncan and Howard sitting out for different reasons??
The list of team’s under duress this season due to monetary or performance pressures includes: Chicago, Washington, Detroit, Indiana, Philadelphia, Utah, New Orleans, and Golden State. (and maybe more?)
Some will be willing to make trades now, others will want to see how the season progresses. But there are teams that will be looking to make trades that they didn’t envision at the start of the season.
Some possible trading partners:
The game I wanted to take a deep look at was the Magic-Raptors game. I thought it was interesting that the Raptors beat the Magic at their game. They hit 9 out of 20 threes, and looked real good on offense. They also played some defense (which is enough for them), holding the Magic to just 29% shooting from deep.
Triano is still using the Slap Chop where he needs to start using a regular set of knives. A bent blade at the end of a threaded plunger can work if everything goes as expected. Eventually that bent blade is going to get plugged up and everything is going to smell like onions no matter how much it gets washed. It’s time to bring the knives out, and sharpen them, and use the right ones for the right moments of a game. No more gimmicks used in order to avoid the tough decisions. As much as Reggie is sure to like any nuts he gets his hands on, all of the cheap kitchen gadgets need to go in the junk drawer by the time he returns.
And what about Jose Calderon? Did you see him moving his feet and fighting through screens while guarding Jameer Nelson last night in his first game back from injury? He was actually playing good defence for once! Where did that come from? He sure didn't look like the worst defensive point guard in the history of the universe like I've been telling everyone he was. I hope he doesn't keep that up. That would be unacceptable.
Let's not forget about Jay Triano. I've been pissing and moaning about what a horrible decision it was to give him a three-year contract to coach the Raptors, and through the first 28 games of this season I felt vindicated in constantly declaring that he was obviously overmatched as a head coach and he was never qualified to be anything more than a clipboard-carrying assistant in this league. His playcalling and late-game substitutions have been appallingly smart recently.
Some audio and video for you from last night’s game.
I think the big issue to remember is the problem isn’t that they’ve lost three games in a row. Three games is nothing. The issue is who they’ve lost to. The Pacers, Bulls and Raptors all were sub-500 teams before playing the Magic (the Raptors broke even with last night’s win). That’s the problem. This is, after all, a team that is among the handful of teams with a real shot at the title.
The Raptors have a come a long way since stumbling out of the gate early in the season. They are inching closer and closer to the status many predicted for them before this season started.
Winners of seven of their past 10 games, the only team in the Eastern Conference playing as good or better is Cleveland (8-2 in their last 10).
The Raptors sent Magic coach Stan Van Gundy off on a postgame diatribe/rant that you have to see to truly appreciate (and while the coach tries to gather his thoughts and reflect a bit more we'll start clearing out some extra space for the shelter's newest family member):
So far, so excellent. They swept their first five against the weaker thans. Came out a bit flat against Boston in what can only be described as a missed opportunity given the Celtics were without Garnett, Pierce and Rondo. But the win at home against San Antonio and again last night against Orlando obviously lends some weight to the idea that the Raptors are playing at a new level.
The schedule has turned in their favour, certainly, but there defensive improvement has been significant.
Before their 7-1 stretch the Raptors defensive rating – then 116.1/100 possessions – was the worst in the NBA by a margin. The next worse team in the NBA was Memphis who had a rating of 111.7. The league average was 106.7.
Flash forward a couple of weeks and the Raptors now have a defensive rating of 113.2. They’re still the worst defensive team in the NBA, but the gap is closing between them and the next worst team, which is now the Suns, with a rating of 111.2.
In terms of Bargnani that was one of the more complete games of his NBA career last night. He was very solid on the defensive end and was effective offensively as well. He did end up fouling out but it was a great all around performance. In the past the Raptors would have turned to a Rasho Nesterovic in games vs Dwight Howard. However not last night and that speaks to the faith that they have in Andrea on the defensive end of the floor. When Andrea challenges himself to play good defense he has proven to be beyond a capable defender at the 5 spot. The fact he worked hard to add some extra pounds has been a big help to him on that end of the floor. It has not had a negative effect on his offense to any degree. It makes him even more scray when he decides to take the ball to the hoop.
And with Raptors making their push, the probability of Toronto keeping Bosh past February is increasing by the day. If they do decide to keep the core intact and bring in reinforcements, the goal has to be to improve the porous defense, especially if they want to make noise in the postseason. For instance, even in their victory last night in Orlando, they nearly blew an 18-point fourth quarter lead because they could not get stops. The defense has to addressed, and fortified.
Now it totally depends on how they value Tyrus, but it seems unlikely that the Raptors would take a bad contract like Hinrich’s. The likelihood is that they will want an expiring contract and some young talent and/or draft picks. The rumor isn’t exactly substantiated by any real evidence either, but we can always dream…