There will be nights such as Monday when the Raptors will go through stretches of sublime play.
But what ultimately will define this group will be in its ability to sustain it, which wasn’t the case against the home-town Kings.
For most of the night, the Raptors were the better team, shot the lights out, defended and led by as many as 17 points.
And they showed resilience in coming back late in the fourth quarter when the game turned in favour of the home side.
There is no consolation in losing, but the Raptors did a lot of good things in dropping a 111-108 nailbiter to begin their four-game road trip, which continues Wednesday in Utah against the Jazz.
If the Raptors somehow can bottle the energy they showed in the opening half, extract more from their second unit and continue to receive high-end play from Andrea Bargnani, they will give themselves a chance.
There is no room for slippage, which is what happened against the Kings, especially in the second half when Sacramento emerged as the better team.
A rumour has made the rounds linking Jack with the Miami Heat, where club president Pat Riley is said to be keen on bringing in more shooters to spread the floor and provide better spacing for the team’s Big Three.
Mike Miller remains on the shelf and now comes word of the potential of Jack one day reuniting with Chris Bosh.
Nothing, of course, is imminent.
“I’ve heard about it,’’ Jack conceded on Monday as the Raptors were to tip off their four-game road trip against the Kings. “I can’t control it and it doesn’t bother me at all because I can’t do anything about it.
“It’s just people talking. I’m here with my squad.”
Jack does fit in well with what the Raptors are trying to do in showcasing young talent with upside.
At the same time, the team does need to get a lot more out of its point position.
Back when Jose Calderon was playing at an all-star level, Riley referred to the point guard as a “revelation.”
In a perfect world, the Raptors would prefer to part with Calderon and his hefty contract.
Two Beno Udrih free throws made it a three-point game with 12.2 seconds left, giving the Raptors – who had run out of timeouts – one last chance to tie.
However, they didn’t get a good look at a shot as Linas Kleiza missed a runner on Sam Dalembert, Leandro Barbosa couldn’t covert a put back and Sacramento ran out the game.
“We had a play … we didn’t get it thrown here we had to. You know they’re going to switch and we didn’t throw the ball (to the right place),” said coach Jay Triano.
Jose Calderon had 13 points for Toronto while Tyreke Evans had 23 for the Kings and Omri Casspi had two huge three-pointers in the fourth quarter as part of a 14-point night.
But the main worries for the Raptors after the game were the defensive breakdowns that allowed the Kings to come from behind.
“We tried to stop Tyreke from driving the basketball and you provide help and they went 5-for-7 from the three-point line and shoot 55 per cent in the second half,” said Triano. “We have to be a lot better defensively, it’s tough to manufacture that many points.
“To give up as many points over quarters two, three and four, we’re not going to be successful.”
The Raptors played excellent transition defence – and offence—in a first half in which they took a 62-51 lead.
They had 21 fast-break points, and 31 points in the paint in the opening two quarters as they got almost any shot they wanted.
We saw something in the first half last night that I don’t think we have all season, such that it is.
It was Bargnani and Andersen on the floor together and I’m not entirely sure how good that’s going to work if it ever becomes something routine.
I want at least one of my 7-foot jump shooters to have a desire and ability to rebound and that’s not really going to happen with them out there together.
Now, I understand why and it gets to the one big troubling spot of the season so far:
Amir Johnson has been a virtual non-factor in three games and if they don’t start getting something out of him, lots of problems will emerge.
We all know he’s got the skill and why he’s not going well right now is a bit of a mystery. Sure, he fouls too much still but he fouled a lot last year and was still a major factor in some games.
The kid still works hard, he’s still a quick leaper for rebounds and still rolls to the basket hard but it’s not coming together quickly enough and it has to.
“Cousins did a great job of getting them second chances and being a beast inside and that hurt us,” Toronto coach Jay Triano said. “They didn’t turn it over and they didn’t miss many shots, so it was tough to get transition points going the other way and get easy buckets.”
Quiet for much of the game, Casspi also came up big in the fourth, making all three three-point attempts and scoring nine points.
Toronto, which has remaining road games against Utah, the Lakers and Portland over the next five days, has lost 45 of its last 53 games on the West Coast.
For the third consecutive game, the Kings allowed 60-plus first-half points. The Raptors shot 57.9 percent in the first two quarters while the Kings lagged behind at 41.7 percent.
Kings coach Paul Westphal loved the defense he saw from his team in the second half, when the Raptors shot just 36.2 percent but said the first-half effort was "horrible."
"We weren’t down in a stance ready to play," Westphal said. "We got beat in transition, guys running out and taking a couple hops before we sprinted back. In the second half all that went away."
The Kings also had a problem with Reggie Evans. The Raptors forward finished with 19 rebounds, 10 coming in the first quarter.
For the second game in a row, the Kings turned to Samuel Dalembert off the bench to help settle things down defensively.
Dalembert grabbed 14 rebounds to help stave off Evans, who was laughing at the Kings’ bench as he rebounded.
"We wouldn’t have won either one of these last two games without Sam," Westphal said. "He’s a veteran, smart player who’s got great defensive instincts."
Coming out of the gate, the Dinos played with great energy, pouncing on a hapless-looking Kings club by attacking the rim and being very active on the defensive end. DeRozan and Bargnani led the way, scoring 10 points apiece while Evans managed to grab 10 rebounds in just the one quarter of work. Toronto finished the frame leading 33-16.
Sacramento played a much different game in the second quarter with some major help from reining rookie of the year Tyreke Evans, who scored 14 points in the quarter and looked unstoppable on his drives to the rim. Fortunately for the Raptors, their offence couldn’t be stopped.
The first half ended with Toronto up 62-51 as the club shot close to 60 per cent from the field.
"They made tough shots. We were trying to stop Tyreke (Evans) from driving the basketball. You provide help… and they went five for seven from the three-point line and shot 55 percent in the second half and we didn’t do anything real different. They made tough shots and when we needed buckets down the stretch we couldn’t do it. We need to be a lot better defensively."
The first quarter was terrible. The Kings got into foul trouble extremely early, including DeMarcus Cousins with two in about the same amount of minutes. The Raptors got into the penalty within the first four and a half minutes. Reggie Evans was absolutely killing us on the boards, especially offensively. He had 10 offensive boards in the game, and he just could not be denied. The Kings also were getting ripped to shreds by the combo of Andrea Bargnani and Linas Kleiza. Guarding against Penetration and guarding the three point line have been the biggest problems for the team so far into the season, and it was the same case last night. Toronto was hitting threes left and right, and they were also able to take it inside with ease as well. The Kings managed to hit a few more of their open looks in the 2nd quarter (I believe they only hit one three in the entire first half), and cut the lead to 11 by halftime. It should also be noted that a huge cheer rang out through the arena once it was announced that the San Francisco Giants had won the World Series. Congratulations to them.
Jamal Crawford will be a goner and one or both of Josh Smith and Marvin Williams will likely be as well.
Could the Raptors step in and grab either Smith or Williams with the Chris Bosh trade exception?
Williams is an underachiever but has a lot of talent. It would give the team both a maddeningly inconsistent yet extremely talented former No. 1 overall selection and the same type of player who was drafted No. 2 overall.
Smith would likely cost a lot more and is paid a lot more but would be a nice fit beside Andrea Bargnani.
He should have been a Raptor years ago, just like Al Jefferson, Andre Iguodala and/or Danny Granger.
To me, Smith is not worth acquiring if the cost is a top 5 pick in 2011 and the TPE, but if he can be had for a lottery protected first and the TPE I’d have to think about it. I would even think about Jose Calderon and Ed Davis for Marvin Williams and the TPE for Smith. Without moving Davis, acquiring Smith doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Would Davis and the TPE be too much for Smith? Considering Davis’ potential and far cheaper salary, it probably would be.
Just something to think about. There will be a lot of options of how to play the TPE chip.
The Raptors deflected balls and broke plays up many times in the game, only to have them end up in the hands of a Sacramento player. The Raptors started the game playing very aggressive and took a commanding lead off of their defensive effort, but they also lost because of defensive miscues, bad shot selection late in the game and shear dumb-luck. There will be lots for Jay Triano and PJ Carlesimo to be happy about, but they will also be wondering how their defensive oriented team let a 17 point lead slip through the cracks.
When you look at this critically the Raps really only won the first quarter and the Kings won the other 3. Full marks to Evans and Cousins in this one. I said those would be the key guys in this one and what do you know they were just that. Raps now face the tough task of the Utah Jazz who took apart a much better team then Toronto, when the creamed the Thunder the other day. After that the Lakers and that Kobe guy. Raps lone realistic shot left on this trip for a win might be Portland, who earlier in the night I saw some of their game with the Bulls and they looked pretty awful. Entertainment value was there, but like I have been saying to whoever will listen, that does not make it fun. Losing is just not fun, especially on this west coast trips when you stay up late to watch them.
The sad thing was that the Raptors were in control for most of the game. This was really their game to win or lose. It started to go south when shots that were dropping earlier stopped dropping. That happens sometimes and you can live with that. One bright side, other than Reggie’s continued dominance on the boards, was the play of DeMar DeRozan. Most of the time the Raptors struggled to score, he was usually on the bench. However much his jumper is still inconsistent, his ability to drive to the basket and draw fouls really made this team go, on offense. As expected, he had his hands full with Tyreke Evens, but he did a solid job on him when he was on the floor.
Another bright spot was Jose Calderon finally busting out of his slump, going 5-9 and looking A LOT more confident shooting the ball. And he continued to play much better defense. He’s still not a stopper, but he’s not the liability he was last season.
Kleiza was his usual self, scoring within the offense, being aggressive and picking up at least two travelling calls while trying to post up. Note to Linas: When you move your pivot foot, it’s called travelling. You’re doing it at least once every game. Watch the tape. Still he played well, again, and hit a very big three late in the game.
Welcome to Court Vision, NBAPlaybook.com’s daily video post where we take a look at each game and try to break some things down.
In today’s edition, we look at Luol Deng’s performance, a Raptors’ coaching mistake, and the struggles of the Clippers’ second unit.
The 14 trips to the line are a welcome sign and signal that DeRozan may be ready to take the next step and become a focal point of the Raptors offense.
DeRozan looked like he wanted the ball down the stretch but stopped short of demanding it which is another variable which will lead to him truly starting to take over as the focal point of the offense.
Andrea Bargnani had a good night but has shown that he can not be relied upon to be efficient enough to warrant being a true #1 option and nights like this show that DeRozan has the ability to fill that role, but as mentioned above the mental attitude may still not be there yet, but there is an obvious fire growing in DeRozan’s eyes as he looks to take a bigger ownership role on this team.
The other big question for me is if this team can start to get a little more balance to its performances.
You can laud Reggie Evans all you want for his hustle and rebounding prowess, he’s rebounding per minute more than Dennis Rodman in his prime at present, but he still remains a very one-dimensional player.
And maybe that would be fine if he wasn’t paired with another one-dimensional type in Andrea Bargnani.
If you could combine them together to form one power forward or center you’d be unbelievably thrilled, but at present, it’s a bit like playing 4 on 5 at times and I felt that to be extremely evident down the stretch last night. Once one became ineffective in their niche (rebounding for Evans, scoring for Bargs) then they were pretty invisible on the court and at times detrimental to the team.
The whole situation also made me think about advanced stats like wins produced scores etc.
For anyone who doesn’t believe there’s real value in these type of metrics, all you had to do was watch last night’s match and in particular, zero in Evans and Bargnani.