Raptors 104, Cavaliers 96 – Box

Much has been made of the difficult early schedule which sees the Raptors play 17 of the first 26 on the road, but what was forgotten was that the first opponent were the Cleveland Cavaliers who served the Raptors extremely well last night. Dwane Casey couldn’t have asked for a better overall effort from his team, and the result, albeit against a side of questionable quality, earmarked the ethos that he intends to make prevalent around these parts.

The excellent Roll Call has already covered the individual key points, so I’ll only serve to pepper the proceedings with a dash of what is likely treadmill commentary, and closely resembles the remnants of an earlier Amaretto.

Bargnani got the start at power forward, Rasual Butler edged James Johnson for the starting lineup, and Amir Johnson pulled a Willis Reed at the center. Right off the bat one noticed the total commitment to help defense, and I’m not referring to the nine blocks the Raptors ended up having in the half, I’m referring to the fact that every time a Cavalier got near the rim, there was gentleman in a Raptors uniform there asking for his rim-access credentials . Whether it be Amir Johnson redirecting the ball downwards, or James Johnson making up ground to contest on the break, or even Bargnani slipping over to make himself a presence, the rim protection was there and it came from all angles.

Andrea Bargnani’s quick 7-point start was thanks to some nifty playmaking by Jose Calderon, who was circa 2007 – 15 points, 11 assists, 6 rebounds, and a post-game interview that’ll make you feel comfortable with him marrying your sister. Of course, the quality of the opponent has to be kept in mind when discussing any facet of this game and all you need to know is that Cleveland was running offensive plays for Anderson Varejao. That is all. Rookie Kyrie Irving might turn out to be a great player someday, but in his debut he looked like a cross between Jarrett Jack and a three-legged table.

The Raptors jumped out to an early advantage and could’ve had more but for Cleveland injecting Ramon Sessions who sparked their offense. Cleveland’s return into the game was also helped by Jerryd Bayless who, despite having redeemed himself with some very un-point guard like late jumpers, had an overall terrible game if one is to evaluate him as a point guard.

The defense was in high gear for the Raptors in the second quarter, and it was helped by some “blurry” plays from Leandro Barbosa, who got in for a few chuck-mode scores. The second quarter did set the stage for a night-long battle between Ed Davis and Tristan Thompson, the two were going at each other all evening, and the Canadian held his own early but faded late. Ed Davis showed why fans are excited about him; the man doesn’t take a play off on defense, takes high-percentage shots, and doesn’t smile like an idiot at any point in the game, no matter what the situation. I don’t like players who smile. Ed Davis doesn’t smile. I like Ed Davis. Did Thompson dunk on him (kinda) at one point, sure, but that’s what happens to players who play defense. His line at the end of the night: 17 minutes, 14 points, 7 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 7-7 FG.

The Bargnani v Jamison matchup intrigued me at first, because on the surface Bargnani had a clear height advantage which he exploited well early. I simply expected Jamison to run around Bargnani on the other end. It didn’t happen. Jameson was 6-20 for the night, and I remember only two plays where he got the better of Bargnani. This is one of those matchups that can look really bad for Bargnani, and yet he came out of it looking unscathed. He was only 5-12 for 13 points, but did hit a couple late jumpers that served to ice the game. Again, I’m happy with his effort and in making me happy he didn’t have to score 30 points and hit 5 threes. Life is simple when you play defense, eh Andrea?

The Raptors went on a 12-0 run in the second quarter to establish themselves, and James Johnson’s work needs to be acknowledged. As soon as he came in he threw a careless pass which led to a turnover (one of his four), but that was the entire negative to his game. After that he was committed defensively, was chasing through screens like he on a string, and made the right pass every time he got the ball. The combination of Calderon, Johnson, and the bigs moving the ball was highly effective, and nothing speaks to that more than 35 assists on 45 field goals. Enough said. The halftime lead was 10 at 52-42, and was the result of a quarter where the Raptors held the Cavs to 19 points.

What was a bit of an anomaly, and was no doubt unexpected was the Raptors’ proficiency from long range: 9-21 3FG for 43%, with the point guards going 5-8. It was the three-point shooting that helped extend that second quarter lead to double digits, and the 54% halftime shooting was a nice touch given the preseason offensive showcase. I was not expecting this to continue.

Cleveland adjusted for pace by inserting Daniel Gibson in the third and it had the desired affect against Jerryd Bayless, who struggled mightily in running an offense. The hot three point shooting (four threes in the third) kept the Raptors ahead by 8 at the end of the third, but some careless turnovers by the Raptors served as warning that even a brief dip in play would bring Cleveland right back in it.

The three-point shooting which had propelled the Raptors got cold in the fourth, and Cleveland clawed back to within three. That’s when DeRozan, having a poor game and getting benched in the third, presented himself as a scoring threat, and was helped on by Bargnani who found two late field goals after being quiet for some time. And that was all she wrote, the Raptors are 1-0 after a road win.

You look at the box at the end of the night and you see a total team effort: 7 players in double figures, a ridiculous assist-FG ratio, plus 8 on the boards, 9 blocks, 53% shooting, and 41% opponent shooting. This was as a perfect game against an imperfect opponent.

Some notes:

  • The absence of uncontested layups by the Cavaliers was pleasing
  • Andrea Bargnani positioning himself on defense – he might not get the rebound, but he’s actually thinking about getting the rebound
  • DeMar DeRozan’s role on this team has changed, he’s not the primary initiator of offense, and neither is Andrea Bargnani. The initiator of offense was the floor spacing, the off-the-ball movement, and the requirement that you pass the ball when it makes sense to pass it. Here’s the Casey quote that backs this up:

    “This is not a democracy offensively,” Casey said. “We want to make sure we get the ball where we want it to go. This is not a my-turn game. It’s not a rec league game. We want to make sure our offensive players who are closers get the basketball.”

  • Leandro Barbosa is in terrific shape, and was the quickest guy on the floor by a distance. Every time I look at him, I can’t help but think of what we can get for him in a trade
  • Bayless is concerning me a little. I’m not sure what Casey wants his role to be, if it’s to be a proper point guard, he’s failing at it. If it’s to be a scoring punch in the same vein as Jarrett Jack, then he’s on his way
  • Who does Jose Calderon like passing the ball to? His assist distribution: A. Johnson 5, DeRozan 4, and Bargnani 2.

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46 Responses to “A Perfect Win Against an Imperfect Opponent”

  1. grL

    “I’m referring to the fact that every time a Cavalier got near the rim,
    there was gentleman in a Raptors uniform there asking for his rim-access
    credentials” 😀 rotfl
    I hate the way that Bayless played yesterday… 
    Add some promising rookie and D-Will next offseason and we will be 5th strenght in conf 😀

  2. Balls of Steel

    Great recap Arse. Here’s some of my notes:
    1. Bayless needs to get everyone involved. Calderon is playing throwback for sure.
    2. The second unit rests on Barbosa so trading him may do the second unit scoring some harm.
    3. Agree with Andrea’s new desire to go after it but he has ways to go when compared to Varejao’s positioning on both sides of the floor for rebounds. The forwards gotta work more on box outs.
    4. DeMar was cold, pressing too hard.
    5. Ball movement was very welcome. If we had a legit 3-point shooter in the mould of Dorell Wright, the spacing will be that much better.

  3. Nilanka15

    It’s amazing how an offense can look when NOT facing the Celtics 😉

    J.Johnson looked like the 2nd coming of Josh Smith on the defensive end. I was very impressed with how lively he was. Just as impressive was his awareness of his limitations because didn’t force anything with his offense (only 4 FG attempts).

    Yes, it was only 1 game against weak competition, but I liked what Bargnani showed last night. His rotations were better, he kept Jamison in check, and went after loose balls. He doesn’t need to score 25ppg if he does the little things that help teams win (that may or may not show up on the boxscore).

    Calderon and Amir’s performances speak for themselves.

    After 3 games, I’m not impressed with anything I’ve seen from Bayless. Not one thing.

    17 mins is not enough for Davis. We need to find a way to get him 25 mins. Similarly, it felt like Magloire was on the floor much longer than he needed to be. But overall, I was pleased with Casey’s sub pattern and play calling. His quote above regarding the offense is very comforting. And the set play alleyoop to DeRozan was a thing of beauty (great screen by Bargnani).

    • mountio

      Agree completely on Ed. Need to get him more minutes. JM is fine if the bigs are in foul trouble or gassed .. otherwise he shouldnt be seeing the floor. Its becoming clear that our bigs are WAY better than our guards (issue will be even greater when JV is here next year) .. so Id like to see a mix of some rotations with AB/ED/AJ on the floor at the same time or at least more of JJ with two of them. Swapping JJ and RB is probably a good start (although I understand and agree with the theory of having another 3 pt shooter for better spacing)

    • cesco

      So you are finally admitting that he will not be traded by the trade deadline of this year ,  thank you .

  4. ardefen

    i know less than almost anyone about basketball but follow the raptors closely. my opinion(s);
    magloire may be a big body but seemed clumsy, stiff and unco-ordinated. has he always played like this?
    bayless seems like amateur hour compared with the much maligned jc

    • mountio

      Magloire was actually good (albeit for a short period of time) when he was younger. Big body and much more agile than he is now. He is just simply old and worn down now. I dont think (or certainly hope) that anyone expected him to be a contributor (outside of BCStefankskietcgotstogo!) this year. He was brought in for his mentoring / as a community figure (which, btw, Im fine with)

    • j bean

      You really don’t know Magloire’s game? He has played in the all star game and has scored over 1,000 points and 800 rebounds in his best year. He’s here for vocal veteran leadership and depth.
      Compare Ramon Sessions with Kyrie Irving last night and you see the same thing as comparing JC and JB.  There will be games when the tables are turned with the young guys outplaying the vets.
      The biggest Raptor win as far as comparisons go in yesterdays game was coaching.  

      • sleepz

        Agreed but Irving will be a better player than Sessions. Imho, Bayless will never be better than Calderon. Calderon is a true 1, Jerryd is not.

        • j bean

          There are so many different ways things could work out. He could flop, be average or be a star. Unless you can raise yourself up above the time barrier and see how Irving develops four years into the future there is no way of knowing. 

  5. KJ-B

    Agreed with the Barbosa assessment… He’s baffled me–made nice in the 1st half, which might be why Casey, rushed the starters outta the game in Q3, but then he regressed to his slinger-Weems mode a la ’10-’11 and the lead disappeared…

    I could see how Casey fell in love with the 2nd Unit in the 1st half but some history with DeRozan and even #7 might’ve helped some… Condensed season or not those 2 guys shouldn’t have benched benched for as long as they were–BETTER teams would’ve made him pay for that decision… The NBA has a Star system for a reason 5 v 5.

    All around, it was a great, getting-to-know-you type of vibe last night–albeit Jose was under control but still looked awfully slow, NO TRANSITION GAME…I guess it’s a work in order, but there’s actually a top-10 calibre coach pacing the sidelines for 1st time since Lenny Wilkens, so that ain’t half bad!

  6. Bendit

    Nice write up…well balanced. JJ is showing it.

    But I notice a blog named Hoops Addict has a headline which says that the Raps “steal” a road win!! I suppose this is homerism redefined? (written by a local Clevelander)

  7. Rpsfan95

    I think the playing time was given out fairly by Casey, they won on the road, they closed a team out in the 4th quarter, let’s see who still has energy tomorrow

  8. c_bcm

    I actually don’t mind ED’s minutes last night. He impacted the game in a small amount of time. Which is a perfect roll for him in some games. He will be asked to play more minutes in other games. No sense killing him early. I see Casey rotating Amir and ED in the rolls we saw last night. Some time ED starts and plays 25-30 minutes, and sometimes Amir (such as last night). Its a good way to give everyone minutes without wearing them down. Both guys are supporting units anyways. Sounds like Demar and Bargs are the horses.

  9. sangaman

    a couple of points…
    One play by Bayless shows he needs work as a point guard…He drives to the hoop has a wide open raptor big next to the bucket-yet choses to try to score over a Cav big..and gets stuffed.

    Bargs will never get 8 boards a game if he plays the perimeter on D and continues the asinine defensive ploy started with triano where he tries to trap a guard and gets caught 50 feet from the bucket.. Bargs is not quick enough to complete this maneuver..better to have a small forward or point guard do this- 
    This way bigs near the basket can start a fast break with a quick rebound///

    • CalgaryRapsFan

      Bargnani was guarding Jamison, who plays out at the 3-pt line.  His job is to guard his man, regardless where he is on the court.  His 6 boards last night were pretty good, given who he was guarding.  That’s the problem when you just look at the boxscore.

      • Theswirsky

        Jamison took 4 3 pters last night.  That was 4 of 50+ (missed FGs + missed FTs) possible defensive rebounding opportunities.

        Jose and JJ both grabbed 6 rebounds last night.

        Bargnani only grabbed 6 rebounds because he was guarding Jamison  is a terrible excuse.  Thats the problem when you forget to consider the box score. 

        • CalgaryRapsFan

          When other players take shots and Bargnani is guarding a man who’s out at the 3-pt line, how can you expect him to be down banging inside?  He’s guarding his man, which puts him out of prime rebounding position.  It’s not an excuse, it’s a fact of the game.

          • Theswirsky

            yet Jose and JJ were both able to grab as many rebounds, as a pg and sg who guard guys who are even more perimeter oriented.

            I also neglected to mention long shots lead to longer rebounds.

            Bargnani didn’t get many rebounds because he isn’t a good rebounder.  We all know that.  There should no longer be a need to make excuses for him.  He simply needs to go out and rebound.  There is zero reason why Bargnani can’t go out and grab 10 a game when a guy like K.Love can lead the league.  Zero reason.

            • p00ka

              Ever see Love’s role in the defensive scheme to cover the PG? Triano, now Casey have Bargnani doing that, but why pay attention to such details when it’s more fun to dump on facts that a moron who doesn’t watch a game can get.

      • ED DAVIS

        now you see why i have to leave this team as soon as i can, i’m backing up a 7fter who can’t even get 8 rebounds a game playing 30mins and he’s a starter i’m the real magician no one saw me getting my points and rebounds it’s magic and soon i’ll be taking my act to CUBA to be with LBJ and DWade i can’t wait

        • Matt52

          Assuming you are even correct, ED is on his rookie deal for 2 more seasons, then the Raptors have the right to match any contract he signs OR he could play out the qualifying offer.  Unless Toronto trades Davis, he will be a Raptor for a minimum of 3 more seasons.

  10. BCStefanskiCaseyGots2Go!!!

    The Raptors beat a NBA team that is currently worse than them in the Cavs- good W beat the teams that you should beat.

    It’s hard to get excited over 1 game I tend to look at the Raptors in 5 game blocks lets see how the next 4 games play out.

    Ed Davis should be playing 30 minutes a game- he’s young and is the future at PF for the Raptors.

    Amir held it down- 13 & 13. He already has half of AB’s double double total (2) from last season.

    Bargnani (6 rebs) doesn’t fit in with the new defense 1st Raptors time to move him ASAP I’d rather see both Ed & Amir getting the PF minutes split between themselves.

    Why do some folks want to trade Barbosa aka Iverson Light as he is an excellent 6th man I would hope that he’s re-signed.

  11. Killingjoke

    I expect low scoring games from AB if he actually puts an effort on D. He’d probably be worn out..  Bayless showing why hes been bounced from team to team? Is it me or is he a little cocky for his own good? Unless your the next coming of Kobe there shouldnt need be

  12. hateslosing

    Good game by everyone but Bayless and Magloire last night. 
    Bargs didn’t get the rebounds we’d like him to, but we did out rebound the Cavs by 8 and if you watched Bargs was engaged most of the time in trying to get on the boards. He’s playing harder on D and took mostly good shots, I’ve been impressed with him so far. Ed Davis played great and is starting to show a little offense. The jump hook is coming and his rim defense is solid. Not sure how the organisation is going to handle him coming into his own, one of him and Bargs will need to be moved over the next few seasons. Right now, I think Ed is our guy.Jamal Magloire needs to play less and as much as I like the toughness he brings, he is simply not as good as Amir or Ed. I’d love to see them take 5 minutes from Magloire and let Ed play with Andrea a bit. Those two looked good together in preseason and I’d like to see how much more they could bring. If James Johnson plays like this all year, screw Harrison Barnes. Dude has been impressive and is a monster defensively. Meta World Peace really did help him out :). I kind of want him to start ahead of butler but the second unit needs his defense so I’m a little torn. Calderon rocks my socks. Seriously though, that’s how you fill a stat sheet. I have never been much of an Amir supporter but the glimpses we saw last night may change my mind. If he can keep the strength on and get in a bit better shape, he really has the potential to become a great great player.  

    Derozen, while completely silent through 3 quarters, played like a champ in the fourth. That play where he followed his shot and stole the ball to get to the line was very nice. 

    We beat a bad team. Here’s hoping we can do this all year. Don’t like our chances against the Mavs.

    • ED DAVIS

      don’t forget that i had more double-doubles last year than the 7fter that i’m backing up and if my teammates give me the ball i’ll dunk it i can score i don’t need 17 shots . i took 7 shots and i gave you the same points as the 7fter that i’m backing up and i did it in 17mins

      p.s  and i’m only in my 2nd year

        • p00ka

          Which is why his most creative thing is to change his tag every other day. He lacks the intelligence/knowledge to come up with anything more than regurgitating a few lines he sees from other whiners.

  13. raptorsdd10

    I am huge Raptors fan and can’t stand seeing this team lose..but I just wish we lost yesterday…For the Raptors to finally become a team we need a high pick next yearand we just beat one of the worse teams inthe league on the road…next years pick can easily be the best Raptor of all time and if we amnesty calderon we will have OVER 20 million in space…the number 1 pick in a STACKED draft will make free agents want to come here…but we also need our players to improve..wish we could that and lose at the same time lol

    • Harry S. Truman

      I agree to a point but, shedding a “loser” culture > high draft pick. The draft is nearly always a gamble, but you can bet you’ll have trouble nabbing free agents if you’re perceived as a perennial loser (unless David Stern helps you).

  14. Akash_singh

    seems that jose used to extended break to learn some english, impressive interview lol.


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