Toronto Sun

How well is Bargnani playing this season — for the first time ever and the first time since Chris Bosh was in town, a smattering of possibly well-lubricated fans were chanting M-V-P when Bargnani went to the line.

MVP? Let’s not get crazy, people, but Bargnani certainly has played at an elite level so far.

Casey agrees.

The coach singled out Bargnani for — of all things — his defence, particularly his ability to cover enough ground to make the defence effective.

He’s playing at an all-star level,” Casey said.

“I’ve been around some great players: Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton, Kevin Garnett, Dirk (Nowitzki), he’s playing at that level offensively and defensively.”

Bargnani has averaged 27.5 points per game over his past four games.

The Raptors were also buoyed by the play of DeRozan, who continues to emerge as a completely different player.

DeRozan hit two ridiculous three-pointers in the first half, including one in the final seconds from a few steps past halfcourt, to help the Raptors claim a seven point advantage heading into the break.

DeRozan has now nailed 10 three-pointers on the season after hitting only nine – total – over his first two NBA campaigns.

With officials thus far refusing to give DeRozan the benefit of many calls for his forays to the hoop, the shooting guard has taken matters into his own hands, drilling shots from all over the court.

Toronto Sun

From Magloire, there has been nothing but reluctance for Canadian basketball, where he has played the part of Dr. No. It hasn’t mattered how or when he was asked to play for Canada — the answer was always no. The question was asked in different ways and at different times, but it was never really answered satisfactorily.

Do you want to play for Canada, he was asked again and again. The answer, if he bothered giving one that wasn’t convoluted, always came up being no. Twelve years in the NBA and there was always a reason. A contract situation. An injury. His dog ate his homework. There was always a story, just never one that was articulated to anyone in any way meaningful way. In a sport in which Kobe Bryant plays for his country, Manu Ginobili plays for his, Tony Parker plays for his, Dirk Nowitzki and Pao Gasol and Andrea Bargnani, play for theirs, you get the picture.

On Wednesday, almost comically, Magloire was talking about his legacy. His legacy, to me, is nothing but unwillingness.

Toronto Sun

Solomon Alabi is heading back to the NBA Development League.

The 7-foot-1 centre was assigned to the Bakersfield Jam of the NBADL on Wednesday. He will still be included on Toronto’s roster, but will be placed on the inactive list.

Alabi made three trips to the D-League last season, totalling 22 games, where he averaged 7.2 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.8 bloocks per game in 18.5 minutes.

Alabi has only managed to get off of the Raptors’ bench once this season and played 12 games for the club last season.

Head coach Dwane Casey recently told the Toronto Sun that Alabi desperately needed playing time in order to develop.

“Really, Solo needs to play more than anything else to learn the NBA game and adjust to the speed,” Casey said.

"A summer league would have been great for him. All the workout drills don’t really help him (as much as game situations).”

Toronto Star

“We did a decent job of closing out, tagging (cutting down open space),” Casey said afterward, in that blasé way he sometimes favours. “It was a solid defensive effort.”

This is Casey’s pattern — under praise the group; over praise the individual.

He had a lot of candidates last night after drubbing the Cavs 92-77 in a game the Raptors controlled from start to finish.

First and foremost, Andrea Bargnani, who has finally become ‘big’ figuratively as well as literally.

Bargnani scored 31, his best statistical night in more than a calendar year, snagged seven rebounds and was generally surly in the paint on both ends.

After one scrappy basket underneath to push the Raptors lead to 12 in the fourth quarter, a few in the crowd launched into M-V-P chants.

That’s happened before. This time it wasn’t sarcastic.

A few days ago, Casey compared Bargnani to his old charge, Dirk Nowitzki. He’s brought several plays designed for Nowitzki to Toronto and placed Bargnani in the German’s spot. Some figured that was the basis for the comparison.

Last night, Casey expanded the analogy so that there wouldn’t be any confusion.

“I’ve been around some great players – Shawn Kemp, Gary Payton, Kevin Garnett, Dirk. (Bargnani’s) playing at that level offensively and defensively. He’s playing at a big-time level,” Casey said.

That isn’t heady praise. It’s praise that encompasses the whole body.

It’s also probably an exaggeration, but we must now adjust ourselves to the idea that after six lost years in Toronto, maybe Bargnani has been found by Casey.

Toronto Star

Less than two weeks after the regular season began, and less than eight weeks before the actually game, the league unveiled the ballot Wednesday afternoon and there were no Toronto surprises.

Guards Jose Calderon and DeMar DeRozan and forward Andrea Bargnani were named to the ballot for the Feb. 26 all-star game in Orlando.

Globe and Mail

The Raptors took a 15-point lead into the fourth quarter but learned in their games earlier this season that a big lead was no guarantee of a win.

The Cavaliers scored the first five points of the fourth but Leandro Barbosa responded by hitting a 34-footer for three points that brought a gasp from the crowd.

DeRozan hit his fourth three-pointer of the game with 8:52 to play in the third quarter to put Toronto into a 10-point lead. Led by Bargnani’s 11 third-quarter points, the Raptors opened up a 66-51 lead going into the final quarter.

The Raptors beat the Cavs 104-96 in the opening game of the season for both teams on Dec. 26 in Cleveland. But Cleveland (3-3) won three of their next four games before Wednesday’s game as Toronto (3-3) lost three in a row before beating the New York Knicks 90-85 on Monday.

Bargnani scored eight points and DeRozan had seven as Toronto led 21-18 after the first quarter.

Toronto built the lead to nine points late in the second quarter but Cleveland cut it to four before DeRozan hit a three-pointer with the last shot of the half, a 28-foot, pull-up jumper, to make the half-time score 46-39.

DeRozan finished the first half with 15 points that included going 3 for 3 on three-pointers. Bargnani added 10 for Toronto while Jamison led all first-half scorers with 17 points for the Cavs.

National Post

“I think Jose is definitely one of the most underrated point guards in this league,” DeRozan said. “He can do a lot for us on both ends. He’s definitely stepping up his defence this year. That’s big. He’s carrying us. He’s getting us going. He’s getting us going from the start.

“I love seeing him when he’s playing like this. He’s a big part of the offence. He’s a reason why we get easy buckets.”

It would be easy to say Calderon is defiant in not talking about himself, preferring to speak of the team over the individual, except that there is very little defiant about the habitually pleasant Calderon.

The closest he comes to explaining his productive start — he is shooting 53% from the floor and averaging 10 assists per game — is a return to full health and a clear break from the awful seasons that came before this one.

“I think we needed a change for sure after what happened the last two seasons and after what happened last year,” Calderon said.

“It was a tough year last year. It was really tough.

“You don’t forget how to play basketball.”

Most expected this would be another in a long line of tough years, and two wins over the similarly expectation-less Cavaliers should not alter that vision too much. But if Calderon plays at this level, the Raptors will have a chance to avoid the dreary depths that past seasons have sunk to.

Canada.com

Pick-and-Roll:

The Raptors were 6-of-1 1 overall in pick-and roll-situations. Jose Calderon was very effective scoring the ball in the pick-and-roll, going 4-of-4 in this scenario. The team’s ball handlers, in this case mainly Jose, generated 1.14 points per possession in that play.

Their pick-and-roll roll men, Andrea Bargnani and Ed Davis, scored 62.5 percent of the time and generated 1.13 points per possession. The pick-and-roll took up 16.5 percent of the Raptors overall plays.

Franchise cornerstones stepping up:

Toronto’s dynamic duo, Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan, combined to score 56 of the Raptors 92 points. Bargnani has been on a tear this season, scoring at least 20 points in each of his last five games.

Like Bargnani’s improved play this season, DeRozan’s three-point shooting has been a welcome sight for Raptor fans. He has worked on his shot this summer and it is paying major dividends.  The duo of Bargnani and DeRozan are now the fourth highest scoring duo in the NBA.

CBS Cleveland

No one on the Cavaliers had an answer for Raptors big man Andrea Bargnani, who went off for 31 points on 11-for-16 shooting. Guard DeMar DeRozan scored 25 for Toronto in 25 minutes.

After winning their last two games at home, the Cavs fell back into poor shooting early, and rookie Kyrie Irving had another rough overall game against Toronto.

The #1 overall pick scored 12 points, but was just 3-for-13 from the field. He had four assists, three rebounds, and a pair of turnovers as well.

Antwan Jamison led the Cavaliers with 19 points. Coming back to his hometown, rookie Tristan Thompson had his worst night of the season, scoring just one point.

“Every game you don’t win is disappointing whether it’s in Toronto, or whether it’s in L.A. or whether it was in Phoenix,” Thompson said. “Not being able to get the win is definitely disappointing but it’s a long season and we’ve got to go back to the drawing board.”

The team as a whole had their worst night of the year shooting, hitting just 29 percent, shooting 24-for-81 from the field.

The Cavs also had a tough night from three-point land, hitting just 7-for-23.

“I thought they played great basketball on both ends of the floor. We couldn’t throw it into the ocean.” Scott said “Every time we made a little bit of a run they hit some miracle three to kind of break our backs. We’ll just have to pick ourselves up and get ready for the next one.”

Rant Sports

Positives

Andrea Bargnani lead the slaughter, pacing the Raps with 31 points. Bargnani has been an absolute monster offensively this year, and shows no signs of slowing down. DeMar DeRozan shined with 25 points and nailed a career high 5 three pointers. Jose Calderon was also outstanding with 13 points, 11 assists, and 6 rebounds. The defense was also phenomenal, allowing the Cavs to shoot an awful 29% from the field. Also, Kyrie Irving was shut down once again, as Jose Calderon held Irving to 3-13 shooting.

Negatives

The Cavs out-rebounded the Raps 45-43. If the Raps dominated the glass, the Cavs might not have cracked 50 points.

Overall, a very solid game for the Raptors. They will look to keep the momentum going in another winnable game Friday vs the New Jersey Nets.

The Plain Dealer

“There’s no possible way anyone can put into words how a back-to-back is going to feel on your body,” Irving said. “It wasn’t even a physical tired, but more mental.”

Irving finished with 12 points on 3-of-13 shooting. Thompson contributed one point and three rebounds while playing in his hometown.
"(Thompson) didn’t play well at all, but he wasn’t the only one," coach Byron Scott said.
The Cavaliers (3-3) had lots of passengers on a night they shot 29.6 percent from the floor and had no answer for the Toronto troika of Andrea Bargnani (31 points), DeMar DeRozan (25 points) and Jose Calderon (13 points, 11 assists). What kind of night was it? DeRozan was 5-of-8 behind the 3-point arc after shooting 5-of-52 last season. Leanardo Barbosa drilled one from nearly half court. Bargnani converted a rare four-point play in the third quarter as he was fouled by Anderson Varejao.
Other than Antawn Jamison nobody could find a rhythm, particularly early when the Raptors (3-3) were also sloppy. Irving is now 5-of-25 in two games against Calderon and the Raptors. Toronto is an improved team under coach Dwane Casey and the Cavs can testify to it.
Scott has said recently the team hasn’t faced any adversity in achieving a decent start. Here it comes. The Cavs have six more on the road before they return to The Q. A big part of development is learning how to deal with nights like these. They didn’t handle it well a season ago which gave them the opportunity to draft Irving and Thompson.

Beacon Journal

The night was even worse for Thompson, who was playing in front of more than 200 friends and family. Thompson, who grew up just outside Toronto, missed all five of his shots and disappeared for most of his 17 minutes.

“There was no pressure at all,” Thompson said. “Unfortunately we didn’t get the win, but there was definitely no distraction.”

Veteran Antawn Jamison, who has played many games in front of hometown fans in Charlotte, N.C., disagrees.

“I know how it is to go home,” Jamison said. “You want to see your family and it takes you out of your routine. It definitely makes a difference.”

Andrea Bargnani had 31 points and seven rebounds for the Raptors and DeMar DeRozan added 25 points. DeRozan had five 3-pointers, including a couple of deep ones, after shooting 5-of-52 on 3-pointers last season.

The Cavs had no answer for either of the Raptors’ top scorers. The Cavs rolled different defenders at Bargnani most of the night, but he kept finding himself open all over the floor. He completed a rare four-point play in the fourth quarter when he came open off a pick-and-roll and knocked down a 3-pointer as Anderson Varejao fouled him.

That put the Raptors ahead by nine midway through the third quarter, and the Cavs never challenged them again. Leandro Barbosa added a 34-foot 3-pointer in the fourth quarter, leaving Scott to just chuckle and shake his head.

Fear The Sword

The Cavaliers shot 29.6% from the field Wednesday night in Toronto. What else do you want me to say when that happens? When you can’t make a single shot, it doesn’t really matter what else happens. I’ve got to give props to the Raptors; they did a phenomenal job protecting the paint. Ed Davis and Amir Johnson, along with virtually every other Toronto player, do a great job collapsing in on the lane when they see penetration. This keeps the Cavs from getting any easy buckets. It was obvious that Cleveland was laboring all night for every single point that they got.

Cavs: The Blog

– Andrea Bargnani isn’t this good, except when he is. He was unstoppable tonight: hitting threes, going hard to the basket, and playing something resembling defense. It’s near-impossible to defend a seven-footer when he’s on fire like Bargs was.

– Luke “The Decatur Decapitator” Harangody straight killed it in garbage time. 5 points on 2-2 shooting. You cannot stop him, you can only hope that it’s a close game because he will certainly not be playing in that scenario.

– I can’t pull up the stat right now, but did the Cavs score a single second-chance point? They had 13 offensive rebounds, but squandered most, if not all, of those additional opportunities, which is emblematic of what a miserable offensive performance they turned in tonight.

The Cavs got whooped because they couldn’t score while their opponents did so with alacrity. It’s going to happen from time-to-time this season. The boys travel to Minnesota for a game against Catalan heartthrob Ricky Rubio and the T-Wolves on Friday. In the meantime, it’s time for TT and Kyrie Irving to do what rookies do best: get yelled at, get better.

Hoops Addict

Last season DeRozan went 5-52 from beyond the arc. Tonight against Cleveland, DeRozan made five three-pointers while going an impressive 5-8 from beyond the arc.

You read that right: DeRozan made more 3′s against Cleveland tonight than he made all of last season.

“He has really improved his three-point shooting,” Dwane Casey raved to me following the win against Cleveland. “Now he opens up the floor for everybody else because now you have to honour him with spacing. He doesn’t necessarily have to have the ball, but they have to honour him and that opens up the roll. It opens up the weak side for 3-point shooting. Just his improvement on his three-point shooting is going to help us out a lot offensively.”

Don’t think for a moment that DeRozan isn’t aware the impact his perimeter shooting has on his game as well as that of his teammates.

“I definitely noticed that,” DeRozan admitted to HOOPSADDICT.com. “That’s one of the things I wanted to be able to do coming into this season and being able to do that, not just for myself, but for my teammates, so that we get easy buckets.”

Last season DeRozan relied on his athleticism to score as he would attack the rim and try to draw a foul. When that wasn’t working, DeRozan would settle for a mid-range jumper. However, that meant opposing defenses could back off of him and jam the lane, preventing him from attacking the rim like he wanted to.

Besides taking away his offense, it also jammed up his teammates and it created havoc in Toronto’s spacing on offense.

The Score

One thing I’ve noticed in two home games this season that I didn’t see much of in the last few seasons was intense, vocal coaching coming from the Raptors bench. And I’m not just talking about Dwane Casey himself. At various points in the games against the Pacers and Cavs, I could see four Raptors coaches either standing up and hollering something at their players or gesturing instructions. The only times I saw guys doing that last season, Reggie Evans or P.J. Carlesimo were doing it. Does it automatically mean that the coaching this year is better? No, but from a fan’s vantage point, it definitely looks like the entire coaching staff is more into the game.

Zan Tabak Herald

Jose Calderon continues to fill the stat sheet adding another double-double to his resume tonight.  He runs the offense with confidence, but what has been less noted is his defensive improvement.

Calderon is never going to be a candidate for defensive player of the year, but he has shown improvement in Dwane Casey’s system.  He is learning to take charges, blocked a shot this year and is clearly working on that aspect of his game.

This guy is a lot better than anyone gives him credit for and is showing himself to be a solid point guard to lead this young team

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