What’s with this team and playing up to the level of good teams? Yes, they came out on the short end, but this had all the ingredients of an entertaining match.

You got the marquee team with the marquee player coming into town for their only visit. You got a furious comeback by the underdog home team after everyone writes them off after a horrible first quarter. Then you have a close game at the wire with big plays at both ends. Throw in a little controversy at the end of the game on a questionable call by the refs, and you got yourself a real barnburner.

The start was bad. It wasn’t anything in particular, just a Laker team that looked focused after a high profile loss to New York. It also coincides with an emerging trend on this young Raptor team; they start slow, especially on defense. An explanation for this could be that the reputation that Toronto built over the years of having an epic-ally bad defense gives teams that carefree confidence to attack without hesitation. It’s only when a few possessions go by where an improved Raptor defense presents itself that teams realize that there is a difference and become a little more tentative on offense.

Once the defense came around, the Raptors started chipping away at the sizable Laker lead. Linas Kleiza continued a strong return from major injury to lead the bench, while Leandro Barbosa gave his expected contribution of instant offense. What really ignited the Raptors biggest run in the first half was the entrance of Jamaal Magloire into the game.

Wise people have articulated that teams should be built around centers and point guards. This game gave Raptors fans both. Magloire played Andrew Bynum to a near standstill with tough defense and some timely buckets. Aaron Gray was no slouch either, with a spirited effort in the second half.

The story of this game from the Raptor perspective was really the play of the somewhat enigmatic Jose Calderon. It’s really too bad that he has such an unselfish attitude, because when he has that smaller guard on him, he can shoot over the top and shoot it well. It seems that he gets discouraged after missing a couple early in the game and that’s that. Again, with Amir Johnson fading away this season, Numero Ocho is the best player this team has. And he plays good against good teams too. It does seem his days are numbered, and if he does find his way onto a contender, he will be a great fit. That’s because the type of game he plays works very well in structured offenses. That’s why he’s having a resurgence this year. Dwayne Casey actually has a coherent system in place.

Casey also threw different looks at the Lakers, which he’s done to great effect this year. Sometimes it’s just to take good teams out of their rhythm. Veteran squads do figure it out, but it might take a few possessions, and that’s the little edge you need sometimes to cut into a lead, or build one. Weaker teams might just be freelancing more on offense, so it may be less relevant to try these kind of tactics.

DeMar DeRozan was Buzz Killington on this day, for those who watch Family Guy. (For those who don’t, start now.) Whenever the Raptors were on a roll, DeMar tried to fan the flames, but got burnt instead. I don’t understand his frustration with officials. It’s not a conspiracy, sometimes you run over guys for offensive fouls and you get called for it. It’s just when your boss the GM, fills your head up that you’re the next Vince Carter, that you feel entitled to superstar treatment before you’ve actually become one. DeMar will probably go off for 20 points next game, because he’s been given the keys to the offense and he is talented. Just not that talented. He did get 7 assists, which is great for him and hopefully he continues to develop court awareness.

Can’t NOT talk about the call. Yes, Casey called a timeout, but it was a little too nonchalant when it was very close to 5 seconds already. Rasual Butler probably should not have in-bounded. It’s hard to be on the bench cold like that and then expect to make an important play like that. That play is kind of like being a quarterback. And being a quarterback isn’t easy, am I right?

You can look at that play like most do, but what gets overlooked is giving Kobe Bryant an easy three pointer over Linas Kleiza a couple plays before that. If any team on this planet should know about Kobe Bryant’s ability to hit big shots with a defender in his grill, it should the Toronto Raptors. You do not let that man take a three with Kleiza, only Linas Kleiza on him and a 4 point lead. You do a hard double or you put a bigger mobile guy like Amir Johnson on him and crowd him on the 3pt line. Let him get blow right by, but you take the three away from that equation. The winning shot on the baseline was just a great misdirection by a great finisher who’s done this kind of stuff in his sleep. But that three, it really hurt, especially after Kleiza’s three ball right before that barely missed going in and would have probably iced the game.

The main point here, Raptor faithful is that this is a competitive team that plays hard and at the very least is watchable on most nights. You look at these players that used to literally laugh and have a good time at the Raptors’ expense in previous years. Then they come onto the court this year and by the end of the first half that smirk gets a little smaller when they realize that this won’t be a layup drill anymore. And by the fourth quarter that smile is completely replaced by a frown of frustration as they wonder why they haven’t put this team of unproven youngsters and journeyman out of their misery already, along with a couple of unwelcome nicks and bruises.

That puts a smile on this fan’s face, win or lose.

Photo Credit: Ron Turenne/NBAE via Getty Images

  • onemanweave

    Good article.  Some of the resident geniuses on here are all over Casey’s coaching. Of course, they have that great arm-chair aid called hindsight.lol.
        One of the few times I’ve seen a Raptor team follow a good effort with a good effort.  Maybe Casey IS changing the culture and maybe they WILL pound the rock. Game against Knicks will tell a lot.

  • Valit

    I was reading this morning another basketball blog where some guy(s) were upset that Calderon shot and scored too much, but praising DD for his 7 assists ( which were great). They were preferring him to pass rather than shoot. Are not people here ripping Calderon for passing too much and not shooting? Like our lovely Giselle would say:’ you cant pass and catch the ball in the same time”. It will be really fun to have this team coached by a bunch of armchairs fans for a week or so..That it will be worth watching.

    • WHAT THE

      because Calderon is a better shooter and has the ball more than Demar and his almost double double that what the coach whats to see you go boy

  • brother

    Great game and a big thank you to raptor-killer Rasual Butler. The man is a genius. Taken aside by management in the pre-season and told “Rasual, we have a lot of money riding on losing as many games as possible. Are you our man?” Rasual answered emphatically today.

    Have you ever seen a single player be so intricately involved in the acquisition of lottery balls? The guy is a genius: throwing it away, air ball threes a plenty, 5 second violations whilst whispering timeout in the opposite direction of the ref. Hey this team needs this guy. Without him, we’d probably drop 3 spots in the draft. Thanks again Rasual.

    • Destro

      hilarious yet it DOES make sense now i think about it….

    • cb

       this is all that matters right now. let’s not lose focus people. that win against the celts was simply heartbreaking.

      this is bargnani’s best season so far; that calf injury is exactly what we need.

      on a serious note: anyone here trust BC to make a trade or be at the draft table this year? me neither. he got to go.

    • raps buying into tank nation

      don’t forget our man from tdot jamaal also cost us 2 games in clutch situations.

  • Ppellico

    when we have slow first quarter…I see this…

    COLD, FREEZING shooting and horrible perimeter defense.
    Perhaps they are connected, I  dunno.
    But to me last night showed this with these following first qtr stats:

    1rst quarter..15 missed shots.7 made shots.2 turnovers.

    And each time you run down and then your team misses a hot, a little bit more worry creeps into your head.
    Your next hot is even more tight and harder to make.
    Combine this with the fact that you all know you are doing this against the LAKERS and it gets amplified even more.

    And as far as Mags go, his being inserted into the line up did allow for some banging and less worry about your starter getting fouls.
    But again…LOOK at reality.
    They started to make some outside jumpers. It was as if the tats reversed themselves.

    So MAKING your outside jump shots does make for better all around play.

    • Bendit

      Normally one would advocate going inside when the shot is not dropping….except that is the strength of the Lakers with their big front court.

  • Ppellico

    Tell you the truth..IMO IF they get a great solid 3 point or outside shooter, this team is going to surprise the entire NBA next year. Thi one position alone ets up a spead out opposition and allows for better play inside.

    You add the euro kid…and he gains weight and is mentored well by a teammate, you keep Gray, Bargs is back.
    Jose is back.
    A luck/terrific draft pick….

    this team can suddenly find itself on national TV regularly next season.

    • JYFelony

       A guy like Jason Kapono….

    • cb

      this is exactly what’s wrong with Toronto hoops fans. so deluded.

      this team goes no where until we have a stud center and 38 min/night PG that casey can mold.

      drafting bargs to be a 5 was pretty much the death knell for this franchise; it’s been a steady downhill path since that horrible moment.

      whether bargs is a legit NBA player or not is irrelevant. he got drafted to play a position for which he was uniquely unqualified to play. they tried to rework the NBA game around him and it was a disaster. BC got to go man. he got to go.

    • Mario Ivakovic

      A guy like Brian Scalabrine would put us in that upper-echelon of title contending teams.

  • Ppellico

    i appologise for my typing.

    still recovering from a stroke and letters on the left side of key board seem to not show up when typing.
    Getting better……

    • Bendit

      Stroke? Hope the close games dont mess you up more than you can stand :)

      Get well soon

      • WHAT THE

        or Gray not getting any burn

    • Ppellico

      ya..had a terrible stroke approx 5 years ago that took me a long time to recover from…well, at least to this point.
      I am very stubborn and refused to allow the mind damage and physical destruction.
      So I took up tennis from tossing the ball against the wall and trying to catch without falling down to where I am today, a 4.0 player in the championhip doubles toury this weekend.

      But still I get a few weird mental visions and the eye/mind/finger thing is still a bit messy.

      And considering I wa THE worst speller in history before the stroke…this isn’t making a very pretty blog/live typer!!!!

      I hope everybody look
      s at what I say, not how well I say it.

      • Ppellico

        my kids tell me zi scared the life out of them. I came home from the hospital and tried to run on the treadmill.
        I kept falling off onto the floor.
        I was cusing and kept getting back on and getting thrown off.
        I was eventually on the floor in tears and cussing.
        Don’t remember all of this but I must have been pretty scary.

        • cesco

          Keep fighting and your reward will be watching a championship series in a few years involving your favorite team . Do not apologize again for your typing mistakes , we understand .

  • 511

    Good writeup. Just like they knew Jose would be our first target with the inbound ball at the end, we knew Kobe would be their first target. And … Lakers win. I’ll have to see that play again but … did Kobe have to work as hard to shake his defender as what he did (or might’ve done – another play I’ll have to see again) to cover Jose? I know he’s great (truly f’ing great) but … was it that easy for him to get free when we KNEW he’d be the first (and second and third) option at the end? Amazing.  

    One thought I’ve had a lot in recent games is how Casey is squeezing more-than-respectable games out of … you know, the players we have available. And when the guy out there who we would’ve thought (before the season started) would be our best player if Andrea’s on the shelf, is having games like yesterday where he couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat … and we STILL take the Lakers down to the last seconds of a game that is (or ends up being) as entertaining and competitive as you’d want to see … well, I think it says something. Mainly, just wait until we have talent on this team that’s closer to being equal to what some of the better teams out there have. There’s a light at the end of this tunnel that I don’t recall seeing here in a long time. And it’s all about Dwane Casey. 

    • 511

      Was able to see the last minute of yesterday’s game again. Kobe’s shot: don’t know how anyone could’ve stopped it. He ran from the key up towards the in-bounder, feinted right, cut left and James Johnson was almost on his tail, but not close enough … and DeMar’s half-hearted double coverage on him was … well, forget about it, not even close. Kobe got the ball, continued a couple steps and … nothing but net. Butler’s time violation: He could’ve gotten it in BUT … bad Xs & Os or bad execution, probably both, because nobody was really freeing himself up (like anything at all the way Kobe had just done) so … I take some of the blame away from Butler and distribute it around to some of the players on the court and (maybe especially) Casey. Bad play all around. The ref: Bad call, but Butler’s Time Out signal was very weak and too close to being too late considering the way some of the refs are in the ACC … but the ref is still a cheater as far as I’m concerned (go ahead and fine me, David Stern, ya prick) because he chose not to see Butler’s signal and/or hear Casey calling it out. (Funny how I’m almost used to bullshit – read crooked – calls in the NBA … esp where the Raps are concerned. There’d be gov’t enquiries if I had anything to do with it.) Lastly, DeMar’s last shot: He could’ve gone strong to the hole if he had anything in his sack (there was room between him and the basket … and time), but … that wasn’t going to happen, of course … so he faded backwards, off balance and let a shot go that he really had no stomach for, like he just wanted to get it over with and get off the court. And … it was an airball and the buzzer sounded and I said some bad words to my tv. Again. Game over. Bring on the Knicks. 

  • Nilanka15

    Inserting Butler to inbound the pass was a questionable decision by Casey, but let’s not kid ourselves…that 5-second call was ENTIRELY Butler’s fault.  Every kid growing up playing basketball is taught to count to 5 in his head.  When the clock gets to 4, call timeout.  Whether it was a blown call by the refs isn’t really the point.  It’s that a professional athlete choked with a game on the line when a grade-school fundamental attribute would’ve sufficed.

    • 511


    • 2damkule

      i don’t really question having butler inbound…as one of the more veteran raptors, he’s been in pressure situations before.  he’s got good height & decent passing ability, allowing him to see over a tall defender if the lakers had chosen to front the inbounds.  while we don’t think of him as a 3-pt threat, he can shoot it, and would have been a good 3rd-ish option if the lakers had bottled up the 1st/2nd options (and ignored the inbounder, which often happens, though it happens less with a vet team like LA).

      my issue isn’t so much that the call was incorrect, per se, but it’s the type of call that simply doesn’t get made if it’s #24 in the purple/gold inbounding.  was it a 5-sec violation?  sure, going strictly by the letter of the law.  but from the replays, it was also pretty clear that butler was indicating/saying ‘timeout’ at the latest right around the 5-second mark, which in, what? 98.5% of cases goes for the player?  it also seemed pretty clear that casey was yelling for a timeout before the 5-sec mark was reached (standing about 10 feet from foster), sooo, yeah.

      in the end, you can’t say it cost them the game, just that it lowered their odds of winning considerably.

      what ‘cost’ them the game (other than the poor start and otherwordly D-league quality play from carter – again) was kleiza.  hard to point fingers, but he was integral in 3 key plays at the end – the (barely) missed 3 that likely would have iced it, his letting kobe get a 3 off (yes, it  was contested, but you simply can’t let him shoot anything from beyond the arc in that situation), and his turnover right after.  that being said, his shooting was a big factor in them even being it it.

      • Bendit

        I have seen multiple slams against LK on the Kobe 3. Easier said I think. Are we not forgetting who was shooting? I have seen Kobe make even more improbable 3s many many times even buzzer beaters at that. And what if LK had fouled him while shooting (4 pts). There should have been a double team….everyone knew who was getting the ball there. Somehow Kobe found himself on the left side with everyone cleared out and just LK on him. That is a combination of a good inbounds play and getting the ball in the hands of the best option…something the Raps were unable to do twice there after.

      • 511

        The thing about that play to me was how it appeared that Butler didn’t do the ‘time out’ sign until the five count, and even then, it was kind of on the feeble side. For a potentially important moment in the game, at the four count, he should’ve – himself – (I thought) been loud and clear about what he wanted. It didn’t look to me like he was, especially knowing how some refs in the ACC can be a little hard-of-seeing when it comes to something that’ll help the Raps. 

      • Raps

        And that is the inconsistency of the NBA officiating. I would eat my shorts to see Scott (I want to make all the calls)the ref make that call in a marquee match up… Even at my level of officiating this is called game management and let the players decide the outcome of the game and it goes like this: at 5.0 seconds if the ball isn’t released yet I will wait to 5.3 before I turn my head away from the player and point the direction of the violation than maybe I can see the coach calling time out. Heck even if I gave him the time out at that point the opposing team wouldn’t have any problem with it.
        Was it a five second violation? yes, a very close one at that. Do they call all travels and fouls at the buzzer? no, never and they shouldn’t especially with a tie game. Bottom line, the call created a lot of questions and may have changed the outcome of the game.

      • mountio

        I hear you theorhetically on having Butler throw the ball in (ie a guy whose 6’8″, decent passer and has shooting range). But, a) Butler has fucked up this situation a few times already this year (I recall him trying to get Jose the ball in the back court and handing someone a wide open layup .. Jose went nuts on him afterward) and b) he was DEAD COLD. So, he doesnt have any feel for the game and even if he has to get the ball back after the throw in, he has not touch.
        Its totally Butler’s fault for fucking up and its totally Casey’s fault for putting him there.
        Having said all of that, 4.2 or 3.7, we still have to make the shot .. and we didnt after we tried to get it back to Jose (same play as the game tieing 3 from the other night, but Kobe jammed it up) and were forced with DD as the third option.
        Good D by the Lakers .. we only had one guy making shots yesterday .. and they stopped him.
        More ping pong balls, entertaining game, great crowd (best of the year) .. ok with me.

  • Truthkiller

    I blame Sam Holako.

    • Sam Holako


      • BurnestHemingway

        It’s all in good fun obviously, but don’t look at it from a “Raptors never win when I write” perspective, instead try a “they’re getting closer to the #1 pick when I write” mentality.

  • Kevin Oppella

    Yes, it is better to see other teams actually having to try and sweat and grind out a victory against the Raptors, that’s fair. What I still don’t like is the fact that the Raptors have a tendancy to loose to teams beneath them. Teams who play terrible against us but still win. Washington for example.

  • 2damkule

    hey, remember when forbes spent some spot duty running the point when bayless was out?  did that experiment go much worse than i thought that we’ve been subjected to anthony fucking carter the last couple games?  what’s the point of acquiring players like forbes if the plan is to not see what they can do for you?  i could care less whether he would have made a difference, but a) there’s no way (NO WAY) he could be any worse than carter, in any situation related to the game of basketball, ever, & b) isn’t seeing what he’s got what this season is for (not ‘him’ specifically, but all these young guys)?

    as a tank-or-bust guy, this is the kind of game that i kind/sorta want…tight, generally well-played, not backing down, yada yada yada…ultimately ending in a close loss that they guys can learn from.  i’m fine with that…as long as it’s the right guys who are doing the learning.  i’m not sure what they learn from watching from the bench (other than that they need to play better to ‘earn’ a spot off the bench…of course, that idea is negated by watching DD suit up, start & play 35mpgs every GD game).  the message is, apparently: earn your playing time, unless you’re a lottery pick.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_SJT6LQ6HZQWMPJMT22LTN24UUY Antonino Ferraro

    Is there anyone that wants emphasize the Kobe’s travelling? Also why we complain against Kleiza, against Butler, against the coach and against DeRozan? The guys played really well. They have had the strenght of will to recovery the game even in emergency, without AB and JB.

    Ok, they have lost the game when there were the chance of getting a victory but on the other side of the floor there were the Lakers. Clearly, not the best version of them but more talented more experienced than us. I hope the team continue playing like yesterday because of all these games are important for all the guys to understand the difference between them and the best teams.

  • IROR

    the Raptors should just straight up fire Rasual Butler…

  • Nilanka15

    He was hired to tank, and he’s performing his duties admirably 😉

    • WHAT THE

      what about his job for net year

      • Nilanka15

        If Butler’s back in Toronto next year, it will be in a popcorn-dispensing capacity only.

        • Steve

          So you’re giving up your job? 

          • Nilanka15

            Well, well, well, someone decided to take a minute away from his favourite site, Picket Fence, and grace us with his presence.

            • Bendit

              Did TimW get rechristened? I thought he was on sabbatical.

    • WHAT THE

      …also i think it time for some 10 dayers

  • Scott_Hall

    A Dub wrote:

    “An explanation for this could be that the reputation that Toronto built over the years of having an epic-ally bad defense gives teams that carefree confidence to attack without hesitation. It’s only when a few possessions go by where an improved Raptor defense presents itself that teams realize that there is a difference and become a little more tentative on offense.”

    This makes no sense what so ever. Teams score at will until they realize this Raptors team can play defense better than last year or the year before? Are players so mentally fragile they just stop trying to score when they realize the Raptors are showing effort? Would that also mean with approx 40% of games played this year, Mike Brown failed to notice Casey had made changes and did not prepare his team?

    • Nilanka15

      Yeah, I didn’t understand that in the article either.  Seemed like grasping to find reasons for the poor start(s).

    • A-Dub

      If you don’t believe a team can stop you, that’s part of what’s called confidence.  I think we can all agree that confidence does help people in a lot of ways, including sports. 

      From the perspective of the Lakers it’s pretty much the same cast of characters as last year when you look across the floor.  I can totally expect that still fairly early into this season, teams that have previously feasted on the Raptors don’t think this defensive focus will last, and they will be the ones to prove that.  Basically, experiencing it in person facilitates their acceptance of it.

      When teams start realizing early on in the game that this team can actually stop them, that confidence has to take a hit, I think.

      • FLUXLAND

        Interesting theory, but only valid if you subscribe to the “culture change”.

        What seems to occur more often than not is one of these two scenarios:

        Opponent races out to 346-05 lead, becomes disinterested, their coach tinkers with lineups and Raps are suddenly back in it.


        Opponent is not even remotely interested in playing the game, mostly coasting for 3/4 of it, turning it on and closing out to save embarrassment.

        Either way, you get “entertained” because “the Raps fought hard”, allegedly, regardless of outcome.

        I don’t think any team in the NBA loses any confidence playing the Raps, especially if you light them up in the first or barely played the whole game. It’s generally considered a nuisance in their schedule to face this team.   

        • cesco

          Their offense for whatever reasons is slow to get in fifth gear at the start of the games and it affect their defense also . After a while they start scoring and they get back in the game . At the beginning of the season it seemed that Andrea was the only one who was scoring early in the game and everyone else were throwing bricks . It seems to me the problem they have at the beginning of the game has been there for years .

          • FLUXLAND

            “After a while they start scoring and they get back in the game..”

            As mentioned, that’s because after gaining a huge lead, the opponent just becomes disinterested. You could even argue the Raptors level of play forces the opponent to lower quality basketball.

            As for starting slow, that same “problem” appears late in games, no?  Blown leads or meltdowns are issues equally discussed as slow starts in Raptorville.  Basically, a full 48 minutes of pro level ball is as common as spotting a unicorn being born. 

            That’s because there is no respected pecking order established, or alpha
            males on the team.  Andrea’s just stepped into Bosh’s role of filling the stat sheet, DeBrick has stepped into Andrea’s – jacking up shots and getting crucified in the media. After that, it’s a “take what you can get boys”; mostly consisting of guys freestyling.

            The problem is they all think they are better than each other. Makes for lovely chemistry, really. 

            In ChemicalBC, we trust.    

          • WHAT THE

            cesco it has been there for 7 long years and it’s Speedy if the guy could just give you 15 point per game instead of our starters playing 4 on 5 we need a scoring point guard

  • Buschfire

    uhm I don’t know why we are still arguing this 5 second thing… before that play Kobe clearly travels taking 3 steps before putting the ball on the floor when he too his “game winning shot!” Effin NBA refs!!!!

  • OneLuv

    Strange how “fans” are getting all worked up over Raps losing to the Lakers. These same “fans” picked this as the worst Raps team ever who would struggle to win 6 games in a strike shortened season.

    And all “fans” who are still saying the Raps should tank to get a high pick ought to take a look at the Wizards, where their top pick superstar has not stopped them from being one of the worst teams in the league.

    The Raps seem to be on the right track with a good and experienced coaching staff.  I am sure also that this experienced staff is also going to help BC step his game up. Can you image the kind of input BC was getting from JT and Smitch on what the team needed?

    This Raptor fan really enjoyed last night’s game and has enjoyed more games than not this season and I am really looking forward to the second half of the season to see how some of these young guys develop.

    Go Raptors, go!!

  • Cantdl

    this game was a win-win. raps didn’t give an easy win, raps get the loss which i want.