For the fifth time this season, Amir Johnson reached double figures in scoring.
But it’s his sixth sense that has earned him minutes. When a loose ball needs to get tracked down, Johnson is more than willing to sacrifice his body. When he’s asked to defend a bigger opponent, Johnson answers the call.
It’ll be interesting to see how the Raptors dole out minutes to the forward/centre when Reggie Evans returns, but for now he is enjoying the moment.
Sunday’s win over a quality Dallas team provided Johnson an opportunity to excel at both ends of the floor.
About the only downside was Hedo Turkoglu’s jumper. He went 2-for-9 from the field, but none of his heaves could have been classified as bad shots.
“Everybody was ready to play and to do good things on the court,’’ Calderon said. “I’m feeling pretty comfortable. We are winning and that’s the main thing.”
It was Calderon who lit the fuse for Toronto’s reserves when they took to the floor to begin the second quarter, a 12-minute period that saw the Raptors outscore the Mavs 34-18. Amir Johnson, Sonny Weems and Antoine Wright also stepped up.
“We’re playing pretty good basketball, right now,’’ Bosh said. On Sunday, the Raptors were very good.
Chris Bosh makes half his field goal attempts, goes 5-for-6 at the free throw line, grabs a game-high 13 rebounds, has a couple of assists without a turnover and has a couple of blocked shots and the over-riding reaction is “ho hum.”
Seriously, he dominated everything the Mavs did to him; didn’t matter if it was Erick Dampier or Dirk Nowitzki or Mark Cuban guarding him, the kid did whatever he wanted whenever he wanted.
In one first half stretch he showed it all:
Tough, tough fadeaway from the right side in front of the Raptors bench, next a drive on the left baseline (he went left, not right) that gets him fouled and to the line and the next touch he drill a foul-line jumper.
Think at about that time, we knew it was going to be some kind of day for him; didn’t think he’d become an afterthought, though. But when you’ve been seeing that kind of stuff on a regular basis, it becomes the norm.
"I know my role here," the 22-year-old Californian said. "When I come off that bench, I'm pretty much running the floor, getting guys open, getting rebounds, doing anything I can do to give our team a lift. We pretty much didn't need it (Sunday) because everybody had energy. We played hard."
But none, really, played harder than Johnson, as has been the case in the overwhelming majority of Raptors games this season. He unfailingly tries to provide a spark, seldom goes long stretches where he's uninvolved and for a team that was counting on the still-injured Reggie Evans to provide work ethic off the bench, he's filled in admirably.
"Everything he gets is hustle," coach Jay Triano said of Johnson. "Roll hard to the basket and if they don't collapse, he's going to finish the play; if they do collapse, he's going to get somebody on the weak side open for a jump shot and I think he did a real good job creating both those opportunities for us."
But the big Italian is gaining notice around the league for slowly but surely raising his game.
“He’s getting better and better all the time,” said Cuban, chatting while sitting on an exercise ball in the Dallas dressing room before the game. “He’s getting more aggressive. He’s taking advantage of his athleticism instead of just settling for threes. He had to realize he could take the bumps and grinds of the game first and now he’s realizing it.”
The best evidence came last week when Bargnani grabbed 29 rebounds in two games, the first time in his NBA career he managed consecutive double-figure rebounding outings.
Chris Bosh had 23 points and 13 rebounds in the Raptors 110-88 win over the Mavericks
"If you can’t get stops and you can’t score in the half-court, you’re in trouble," said Dirk Nowitzki, who had 19 points. "Some nights you have to outscore teams. Some nights you have to grind it out with defense. We didn’t do either one.
"Anytime you get blown out by a team that’s barely .500, that’s not good. Our offense has basically been garbage all season long. But we prided ourselves on defense, and that’s how we were getting wins and were second in the West all this time."
After a convincing win yesterday afternoon over the Dallas Mavericks, Franchise ponders if fans saw the tip of this team's iceberg, or if the best is yet to come…
Lots of talk about expiring contracts as we head into the final month of trading season before the trading deadline, so, I thought it would be useful to put together one list to use a resource for the next month.
The latest win came against a tough Western conference squad in the Dallas Mavericks. And it was a blowout win at that. The Raptors took care of business in the second quarter and didn't look back. The Raps outscored the Magic 34-18, going on an 8-0 run midway through the second quarter. The Raps who have had some impressive victories this season, did their work on the defensive end and had what may be their most impressive win to date. Chris Bosh had 23 pts/13 rebounds and Andrea Bargnani finished with 22 pts, 6 boards and 2 blocks.
Of course, some perspective is needed. Although the Raptors currently sit only 1 percentage point below Miami for the 5th seed in the East, if they were in the West, they be below both Memphis and New Orleans, in the 12th spot. Ironically, Memphis and New Orleans are two of the three teams in the league that have a better record than the Raptors over the last 10 games. The other one? Charlotte. This is another worrisome issue. Charlotte is only a half game behind Toronto, and have beaten good teams (Cleveland, San Antonio, Phoenix and Houston) and they’ve beaten hot teams (Memphis and Chicago). In fact, the only team Charlotte played that isn’t either in the top 8 in their Conference or above .500 was New York. Who they lost to. Go figure.
The Raptors have played at home 19 times this season (sporting an impressive 13-6 record).
There has been roughly a 50/50 split between Sunday home dates and non-Sunday home dates (9/10 split).
Despite the nearly even split of Sunday and non-Sunday games, the Raptors have played just one Western Conference team on a non-Sunday home date. Conversely, the majority of their Sunday home games have come against teams from the West (Phoenix, Houston, New Orleans, San Antonio, and Dallas).
Before we get to some more numbers, first, let me explain the theory:
Watching Andrea Bargnani and Dirk Nowitzki going at it tonight got me thinking about the trend for great big men shooters in the NBA of late. So with a bit of help from the excellent HoopData, I pulled out the top big men three point shooters so far in 2009-10. To be on this list, you had to be primarily a power forward or centre and you had to be 6'10" or over.
These stats are threes made per 40 minutes and for all players with greater than 10mpg.
The Raptors close the half way mark of the season on a major high with a big win over Dallas. Now that we are officially at the half way mark time for me to pretend to be a teacher and hand out some grades. Let's start off at the top with the head man of everything Bryan Colangelo.
This grades are based on performance vs my personal expectations and a little of what others have to say on the various folks. Basically it is far from a scientific process.
Toronto avoided its typical third-quarter meltdown, rode the energy of second-unit players and dominated. The win got Toronto one game over .500 at 21-21 into a virtual tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference and was the kind of all-around effort that's been lacking at times.
"We played like a team," said Jose Calderon, whose excellent second quarter keyed a 34-18 Raptors run that gave them a 13-point halftime lead.
"That was a great win for us against the second-best team in the West. We played for 48 minutes, everyone was ready to play and do things on the court.
"I think we beat a really good team, every win is good but against them it's a little bit better," he added. "We owed them because of the game down there, they beat us pretty good. We knew that and we were ready for them."
That's when a holler came from the shower area behind the locker room.
"Touchdown!" Out strolled little-used centre Patrick O'Bryant, who grew up in Minnesota. He walked to the perimeter of the scrum, with his arms aloft in the universal sign for touchdown. "Yeah!" O'Bryant then stood there for a few long seconds.
Patrick O'Bryant, 1; Chris Bosh, 0.
The problem is, trading for Bosh now doesn’t guarantee he’ll be around in the future. Acquiring Bosh would be a big-time risk that could blow up in July if he decides to bolt for, say, the beaches of Miami or Broadway in New York. The Thunder will have then traded valuable assets for nothing. It’s that risk that partially explains why Phoenix was unable to move Amar’e Stoudemire last season after all the fuss and trade rumors regarding where he’d land.
"It was disgusting," Jason Terry said. "I don't care who you're playing, you got to come out prepared to fight. Our second unit comes in the game and thinks it's going to be easy.
"We were prepared, but we didn't carry that over into the game. Our starters did an outstanding job. For our second unit to come in and play the way we did, it's embarrassing. I challenge them and challenge myself. I'm part of that group."
The slow starts that dogged the Mavericks in recent games wasn't a problem. They clamped down defensively and had a lead to start the second quarter. Then, it completely unraveled.
THE FAN is proud to present highlights (clip #1 courtesy Paul Jones) and a recap (clip #2 courtesy Eric Smith) of the 110-88 victory by the Toronto Raptors over the Dallas Mavericks.
The influential executive joins Eric to discuss Friday night's Italian Heritage Night in New York in which Andrea Bargnani and Danilo Gallinari showcased the nation's basketball talent. Gherardini also chats about the growth of basketball worldwide.
Egg on my face. On Thursday we posted two different points of view on what to do with Jose Calderon. Here and here. Well, tonight he proved keeing him might be the better option. In the second quarter he was nothing short of spectacular. Ripping the game away from the Mavs and never looking back. If Bryan Colangelo has a good offer on the table come February, he might be a little bit more pensive to pull the trigger after a game like this.
The Raptors aren't a piece away from challenging for the title. They should see what they have in DeRozan and keep Calderon around.
If at some point they are offered a capable backup point guard and something else of considerable value for Calderon, than pursue that, but not bringing back a quality backup would kill this team. Guard play – particularly from the point – is huge now in the NBA. Teams that have strong guards tend to be successful. Those that can't throw out quality guards for all 48 minutes tend to get trampled.
Just last year the club was terrible, largely because Will Solomon and Roko Ukic were Calderon's backups. Marcus Banks is an upgrade to those two, but even with Banks, the team wouldn't have enough at the point without Calderon to have a shot at staying in the 4-6 position in the East and challenging for a series win in the playoffs.
How did the Raptors do it? They played excellent defense. This is not one of those, ‘the other team misses wide open looks’ defense. The Raptors contested many of the shots the Mavs took and making life harder for Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry and co.
The offense was rolling in the second quarter with Calderon running the team. We criticize Jose for his defense, but we always ignore that he is an excellent quarterback for any offense. He finds the open man, doesn’t turn over the ball, hit open looks. George Karl once said that Jose Calderon is coach’s dream of a PG. He is showing why in the last two games.
Smith Says:- “The second unit was outstanding today and Amir Johnson has to get a lot of love for the energy and hustle (and rebounding) he provided today. Heck, he’s been doing it all season. And it looks like he’s developing a nice bit of chemistry with Calderon of late as well.”Jones Says:- “Great team effort for Toronto. The support players really stuck to their roles this afternoon and Calderon continues to do a great job off the bench.”
Check out some of DeMar DeRozan's best dunks from the first half of the season.