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Raptors 120, Cavaliers 105 – Box

If beating the Mavericks wasn’t enough, the Raptors pulled off another win on a back-to-back, this time against a much less impressive opponent in the Cavaliers. Matt Devlin called it in favor of the Raptors right before tip-off it and he was looking quite the tool when the Raptors were down 34-19 late in the first quarter. Matt Devlin called it in favor of the Raptors right before tip-off it and he was looking quite the tool when they were down 34-19 late in the first quarter. Things were going south on defense at every position and it appeared that win-starved Cleveland was up for this one, and they would have had a crack at it if it weren’t for Triano swapping out the defensively ineffective DeRozan and Kleiza in favor of Barbosa and Wright. Andrea Bargnani obliged by taking care of Leon Powe and Ryan Hollins, and in a reversal of trends, the Raptors had a 40-25 second quarter which provided enough momentum to carry them through the game. Rather easily.

Matt Devlin later described the game as an “unbelievable comeback”, not sure I agree that but I’ll let it pass since he called it before the tip and didn’t appear shaken when down 34-19. A couple of concerns jumped out early at you, one of them being dribble penetration which was a big problem against Chicago. Against the Bulls it was excusable with Derrick Rose being there, but when Daniel Gibson and Mo Williams get into the paint that easily, questions have to be asked of your defensive technique. By “your” I mean DeMar DeRozan and to a slightly lesser degree, Linas Kleiza who had trouble with some guy named Alonzo Gee. Andrea Bargnani gets a lot of criticism dished out at him for being an awful defender and all that might be true, but DeRozan is just as bad, if not worse. I’ve rarely seen a starting shooting guard get beat on a high-screen after he goes “under” the screen, and it happens to DeRozan consistently. Poor perimeter defensive play led to pressure being put on an unfit Amir Johnson who was already trying to deal with Antawn Jamison – things weren’t looking good.

The offense was sputtering with Andrea Bargnani’s touches coming randomly and without an accompanying plan, so it was left for Jose Calderon to make something out of possessions and to his credit, he was solid all night long. Kudos to Triano for recognizing the two weak links on defense (not Bargnani, pretty adequate again and even took a charge) and subbing them out in favor of Julian Wright and Leandro Barbosa. How much it was a response things or how much of it was just the normal substitions taking place isn’t quite known, what is know is that it worked. Leandro Barbosa had his good streak going and just like he’s done numerous times, he supplied timely offense that was much-needed – 14 points in the first half. His offense was contagious to Andrea Bargnani (14 points in the second quarter) who had three straight scores to open the second frame to shave the Cleveland lead down to five. He pwn3d Leon Powe twice so Byron Scott put Ryan Hollins on him, after Hollins got had, Scott called a timeout, presumably to check whether any other NBA jobs were available.

The man of the second quarter had to be Kansas-product Julian Wright (+32 for the game!), check out his first half line in 13 minutes: 11 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and buckets of defense. I swear I had him confused for Oscar Robertson. He embodies what a 15-minute role player should be and if I had the power, I would get a chainsaw, cut Wright’s body into 14 pieces and then find me some surgical equipment to insert those 14 pieces into every other Raptors player. If there’s any pieces left, I would clone them, grow them into more Julian Wrights, cryogenically freeze them and then sell them on eBay.

Cleveland’s early lead was entirely due to the Raptors bad perimeter defense which allowed them to shoot 67% in the first quarter. As we know, it’s hard to shoot 67% for the whole game and the Cavaliers happen to have the second worst offense in the league (Bucks). It was not going to last and if the Raptors kept on shooting at their 48% clip, things would turn out just fine, as they did. Not to mention that they had 10 fastbreak points in the first quarter, most of them off Raptors turnovers. It was going to be hard for them to keep up that act up because they also happen to be 25th in the league in defense.

Two guys I’d like to single out for props:

Amir Johnson: He’s obviously in pain and is playing through it. Antawn Jamison was torching him by taking him outside and Andersen Varejao was causing the Raptors trouble with his interior defense but Johnson did not relent, he went right at Varejao a couple times for scores, didn’t back down in the paint and even dove for the ball (ill-advised given his condition). He is showing things that make you believe that if he’s able to find a consistent form, he can be the leader of this team. We know that’s not Bargnani’s cup of tea, DeRozan doesn’t appear to be the vocal type, Weems is turning out to be a fraud, Calderon isn’t here long-term, which perfectly paves the way for Johnson to assume the quiet leadership role. I know, 12 points, 4 rebounds and 4 fouls doesn’t jump out at you, but his presence in the first half was key. There aren’t many power forwards who can cope with Jamison on the perimeter so I’ll excuse Johnson for that.

Jose Calderon: Let’s check out the good ‘ol assist distribution which went nicely with 8-10 shooting and 20 points:

By player:

Bargnani 4
Johnson 3
DeRozan 3
Barbosa 3
Wright 2
Kleiza 1
Davis 1

By quarter:

1Q: 4
2Q: 4
3Q: 3
4Q: 6

Steady captain that guides the ship through the rough seas. Too much? Probably. How about: A shepherd tending to his young flock. Too serene? Let’s go with: A camp counselor making sure everybody crosses the street safely.

Whatever metaphor you go with, Calderon is the glue that makes this team function on the rare occasions it does. He was killing Gibson and Sessions on the high pick ‘n roll, was getting his nose dirty on defense (2 steals) and spurring his teammates to get ahead so he can deliver the ball. Barbosa was his beneficiary when this game was still in relative doubt and late on, when matters had been settled, DeRozan was spoon fed a couple times. Speaking of the USC grad, his scoreline looks a little more respectable (13 pts, 6-15 FG) thanks to his fourth quarter burst, but I was expecting more last night because he actually had a physical advantage at his position. He couldn’t translate that into scores in the first half despite getting to the rim, his poor finishing letting him down.

Ed Davis (a tidy 8 pts, 7 reb) stepped it up in the second half with Johnson’s time being limited, he didn’t look out of place and ran a couple good instances of the two-man game with Barbosa and Calderon. It’s too bad we didn’t see him go up against J.J Hickson (healthy scratch, pissed off Byron Scott). By the time the fourth rolled around, Antawn Jamison had cooled off, Gibson couldn’t care less, and Mo Williams was seen talking to his agent wondering if any team was looking for the services of an under-sized and over-paid defensive liability. It was only a 6 point game at 90-84 when at the start of the fourth, Ed Davis fought for an offensive rebound for a dunk, and then ran a two-man play with Calderon to make it a 10 point game. Really, that was it as the Raptors went up by as much as 19 before winning by 15.

Raps beat the worst in the east, up next it’s the best: The C**tics. Check out this description of the Boston accent:

The Boston Accent is not just an accent, it’s a lifestyle. Everyone in New England who speaks with varying degrees of this “No R” accent has a swagger about them, because they know they’re better than people from other parts of the US. We all live the No R Lifestyle.

Honestly, that entire town is full of sh*t. And I saw “The Town” the other day which is based in Charlestown (part of Boston) and it sucked. The movie sucked, the people in it sucked, the places sucked and Ben Affleck sucked. From Bill Belichick to Aerosmith, they all suck.

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