Calderon’s 19 assists may have led the way — he joked afterwards he really had no choice but to pass the ball as much as he did because he couldn’t find the mark with his shot — but he had plenty of company in guys who made an impact in this one.
Amir Johnson, for instance, had a near-perfect evening and finished with 19 points on 8-of-10 shooting, a perfect three-for-three from the line and 12 boards, five of them the offensive kind. He also had six assists, three steals and two blocks.
Head coach Jay Triano said there were countless deflections too.
The Energizer bunny would have been jealous with how active Johnson was Friday night.
“His line is like almost perfect basketball for a power forward,” head coach Jay Triano said.
But to a man, the Raptors kept coming back to Calderon and his ability to get the ball moving and get everyone involved as the key to the Raptors first win since Jan 9.
“He was finding everybody,” Andrea Bargnani said, “finding the open man and distributing the ball, collapsing the defence and kicking it to the outside. He played an unbelievable game.”
Bargnani was on the receiving end of plenty of those Calderon passes and for the first time since Jan. 14 reached 30 points, this time on 10-of-26 shooting.
Calderon didn’t want to hear of anyone getting any more credit than anyone else.
“Right now everything helps. It doesn’t matter who it was today,” Calderon said. “We just needed a win. There are times when we won’t make shots, but today everyone was shooting the ball well. Andrea, DeMar (DeRozan) and Sonny (Weems) were all hitting. It was a team win more than ever.”
“It feels good,” admitted coach Jay Triano. “Again, our focus has been not on what’s happened in the past, it’s been on the game at hand.
“I read all the stuff that different people say and talk about our guys being down a lot, I’d rather have them be down when you’re losing rather than be joking around.
“These guys care and they work hard every day in practice and like I’ve been saying all along, I want to get a win to reward them for all the work that they’ve done and hopefully they feel good about tonight.”
They should because as iffy as the competition was, the Raptors played a solid game at both ends and were full measure for the win.
Calderon, who privately seethed as the losses mounted, dished out 19 assists, tying a franchise record he shares with Damon Stoudamire, while Johnson had 19 points, 12 rebounds, six assists, three steals and two blocked shots.
“I thought Amir was unbelievable,” said Triano. “Six assists for him? His line is almost perfect basketball for a power forward and the number of deflections he had and the steals? He was great.”
Without backup point guard Jerryd Bayless (knee) and with Leandro Barbosa once again out with a strained hamstring, the Raptors needed to get major production out of a starting unit that’s been piling up the minutes for the past three weeks.
And they got something from everyone as Andrea Bargnani had 30 points, DeMar DeRozan 20 and Sonny Weems 16.
“We’ve been saying, if we’re going to be successful, we have to have more than one or two guys play well and tonight we did,” said Triano.
The Raptors (14-37) came into the contest on a mind-bending 13-game losing skid – tied for the second-longest in franchise history – that ruined their season even before the all-star break.
Somewhere, Chris Bosh must be smiling.
That’s all in the past, at least for now, as the Raptors received a solid bounce-back game from centre Andrea Bargnani in defeating a terrible Minnesota team that has only won twice on the road all season.
Bargnani, who had a horrible game in Toronto’s last outing Wednesday in Atlanta, led the Raptors with 30 points on 10 of 26 shooting.
Toronto gave Minnesota plenty of opportunity to escape with a win, as a game-high 10-point lead with more than 10 minutes left in the game crumbled to just two points with about six left.
But a big Bargnani three-point shot ignited the Raptors down the stretch and the victory was sealed when Amir Johnson rammed home a jam with almost two minutes left to play to provide Toronto with a 107-99 bulge.
After the game concluded, the crowd actually gave the winners a standing ovation.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are keeping the Toronto Raptors in relative anonymity. They are also serving to scare Amir Johnson straight.
Heading into their game last night in Memphis, the Cavaliers had lost 22 games in a row, one game short of an NBA record. It has overshadowed the Raptors’ own losing streak, which was 13 games before their game on Friday night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. And Cleveland, not Toronto, is getting major play south of the border, too.
“When we were stuck in Indiana, we went out to eat and we saw they did something on ESPN where they did like a top-10 list of their losses and we were looking at each other like, ‘Yo, we can’t be on that top 10 for losing streaks,’” Johnson said on Thursday. “So we’re definitely hungry for a win. It’s just coming to a point where we’re like, ‘Man, we’re going to go all out and get a win.’ ”
Johnson need not worry anymore. The Cavaliers can have the drama — and the potential record-breaking — to themselves. The Raptors put their streak out of its misery, beating the similarly terrible Timberwolves 111-100 at the Air Canada Centre.
Of course, if it was not going to end on Friday, it did not deserve to end. Minnesota has won just twice on the road this year. To make the task easier, the Timberwolves lost Michael Beasley, their second best player, to a sprained left ankle in the second quarter.
But a win is a win for the Raptors, and the Raptors’ franchise record of 17 straight losses, set back in the 1996-97 season, lives on. A victory’s degree of difficulty is an afterthought at this stage.
The Wolves played on without those two starters and couldn’t stop a Raptors team that hadn’t won since beating Sacramento at home on Jan. 9. Four of Toronto’s five starters scored 16 or more points, led by center Andrea Bargnani’s three threes and 30 points. The other starter, point guardJose Calderon, had 19 assists.
"Our defense was abysmal the entire ballgame," Wolves coach Kurt Rambissaid. "We didn’t shut anybody down in their starting unit. They all played well. Their offense completely dismantled what we wanted to do defensively. We just couldn’t get stops."
They reversed course on Friday night, allowing the Raptors to go from a season worst 33.7 percent shooting at Target Center on January 29 – the lowest field goal percentage of a Minnesota opponent this season – to 54.8 percent on Friday. Toronto’s hot shooting snapped what was a 19-game streak in which the Wolves held opponents below 50 percent shooting. In fact, 54.8 percent is the highest mark allowed by Minnesota since the Thunder shot the same when the Wolves visited Oklahoma City on November 22.
Although he only scored six points, credit Raptors point guard Jose Calderon for much of the 21.1 percent increase.
The Spaniard dished out a career-high tying 19 assists, breaking down Minnesota’s defense all night and setting up Andrea Bargnani, DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson for easy buckets. That trio combined for just 32 points last Saturday at Target Center, with Bargnani missing the most shot in any one game of his career and DeRozan scoring only six points. On Friday, the three gashed the Wolves for 69 points – not to mention 18 from Sonny Weems.
Calderon’s 19 assists tied for the most surrendered by Minnesota this season with Steve Nash’s 19 on December 15. But Calderon wasn’t the only Raptor sharing the rock – Toronto ultimately assisted on a whopping 35 of its 46 made shots while the Wolves fruitlessly scrambled to stop penetration. The Raptors outscored their counterparts 50-38 in the paint.
Minnesota didn’t do itself any favors offensively, hindered in part by the loss of Michael Beasley in the second quarter. Beasley was just 2-for-7 from the floor when he stepped on Love’s right foot with his left foot on the defensive end less than three minutes before halftime. He hopped straight into the locker room and did not return.
The Wolves ultimately shot just 41.2 percent from the floor, its worst showing since January 11 against the Spurs. Only its 12-for-30 night from beyond the arc kept Minnesota competitive until the end.
This is the story of the Wolves’ season, isn’t it?
On the same night that Kevin Love got awarded for his dizzying individual efforts, the Timberwolves lost to a Toronto team that hadn’t won in nearly a month 111-100 six days after they had beaten the Raptors by 16 at Target Center.
Afterward, Kurt Rambis called his team’s "abysmal."
I don’t recall him using that word before, but you’ve seen this — an opponent running its offense and scoring at will — before.
Love still got his double-double — his 35th straight, two shy of Kevin Garnett’s franchise record — with a 20-point, 15-rebound game on a night when the Wolves played without starting point guard Luke Ridnour and reserve Wayne Ellington (both away from team to tend to family matters) and lost Michael Beasley when he rolled that left ankle late in the second quarter.
But losing to a team that hadn’t won since Jan. 9 was no way — or maybe the fitting way, with this team — to end an evening that started when Rambis opened the team’s pregame scouting session by announcing David Stern picked Love to replace injured Yao Ming in the All Star Game in Los Angeles in two weeks.