Tony Parker: Smooth on the court, smooth with the ladies.

Spurs 113 , Raptors 106 – Box

Nobody is really surprised, and nobody is really complaining. Last night was what most people thought it would be, if not a little more exciting and tolerable. Coming off a victory over the Celtics and two tight, hard-fought, one-possession losses to the Lakers and Knicks, the Raptors could have been forgiven for mailing it in due to emotional exhaustion and letting the Spurs steamroll them. After all, Charlotte looms on Friday, a game far more appropriate for the Raptors and the fan-base to get “up” for.

But Dwane Casey and his troops were having none of it, fighting tooth and nail with the mighty dynasty right down to the wire, eventually falling by 7 points. It wasn’t for lack of effort or execution, as the Raptors  shot 55% from the floor for the game and kept the rebound and turnover battles near a dead heat, but the Raptors were simply out-skilled and out-classed in the waning moments.

It looked like it was going to get ugly as the Spurs had stretched the lead to 14, but the Raps fought back to start the third quarter, hitting their first 10 (TEN!) field goal attempts and tying the game up at 66. The Spurs responded with a 13-4 run of their own, and the lead sat at 5 at the quarter break, a safe threshhold the Raptors couldn’t really cross in the fourth despite a few smaller runs.

In crunch time, Casey was rolling with a curious lineup of Jose Calderon, Anthony Carter, DeMar DeRozan, Rasual Butler, and Ed Davis. No, seriously. And it was moderately effective, as Jose played what feels like his 10th straight all-star calibre game, but in reality is just his fifth superb showing in the past eight days (19.6PPG, 11APG, 59%FG over the last five), while DeMar continued his odd streak of getting red-hot against San Antonio. DeMar poured in 29 points on 13-of-21 shooting, which is impressive, even if you can’t look past the 2 FT attempts, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists. At least he attacked occasionally, and there’s not nearly as much wrong with firing up mid-range jimmys when they’re falling as consistently as they did Wednesday.

Back to the odd crunch-time lineup…ummm, weird. Anthony Carter had career highs in points (10), rebounds (5), assists (6), and minutes (22). Wait, Anthony Carter averaged close to those numbers in the early part of this century? He’s been playing for how long? And he’s playing half the game on a rebuilding team? With Rasual Freakin Zombie Corpse Can’t Do Anything G-damn Right Ever Butler (aka Five Seconds)?? I couldn’t be arsed to dig through the game logs, but I’m guessing the last time these two combined to play for 49 minutes, both of their respective teams lost. I know this particular lineup incarnation had some success (at least until Carter fouled out with 2 minutes to play), but the younger players need to have some sort of trial-by-fire to “learn to win” in close games.

I understand the Spurs stayed small (Tim Duncan played but a few seconds in the fourth), but sitting Amir for the entire fourth, even though he was 5/5 for 10 points and 7 rebounds in just 23 minutes, is a terrible means to an end. Going small certainly wasn’t worth replacing one of your most effective players on the night with one of Butler or Carter, even if they were moderately un-embarassing. It’s actually a larger-scale issue I have, an article for another time, with roster utilization in general – why are these guys playing chunks of minutes rather than taking chances on D-Leaguers that have unknown upside? Why taken a known mediocrity over potential? I’m not delusional enough to think finding another Jeremy Lin is likely, but finding a Rafer Alston, Reggie Williams, Kelenna Azubuike, Louis Amundson, etc isn’t outlandish.

Anyway, as far as last night goes, as I said the Raptors just got out-skilled in the final few minutes as the Spurs stretched the lead from 97-96 with 4 minutes to go to our final score. The maddening turning point came after a huge Ed Davis block on Tony Parker preceded Gary Forbes (in for Carter) getting called for a double dribble. This actually happened. And no, it’s not 7th grade. If that doesn’t sum everything up for us all, I don’t know what will.

Even still, this was a game that had considerable value for the team and the franchise. While it might be disheartening for the team to continue to lose close games, this makes 8 straight games since the Celtics thumping where the Raptors have been in it until the end (although the OT loss to the Wizards was inexcusably bad basketball), losing close games to Miami, Washington, Milwaukee, the Lakers, Knicks, and Spurs, with wins against the Wizards and Celtics mixed in. It’s a point differential of +2 in that 2-6 stretch, against opponents with a combined record of 117-119. I’m probably grasping at straws here, but it certainly seems the Raptors have been playing much better basketball of late. The eye test backs this up as well, and Friday’s match-up with the lowly Bobcats should bare this out if it’s actually truth and not anomaly.

For those in the “tanking” camp, this has been a happy stretch of close games lost at the end, games good for development and entertainment, but not damaging to the push for a top-5 pick in June. So congratulations. To the rest of us, it’s just been a nice change to watch consistently hard-played and entertaining basketball, even if the end results are still another year of development away from being where we want them.

Side Notes
*I attended the Lakers game Sunday and the Knicks game Tuesday, just an FYI. I was appalled with the ACC crowd on Tuesday, and while many will disagree, allow me this: a few years back, Steve Nash was awarded the Conacher Award for Canadian Male Athlete of the Year before a Suns/Raptors game. The crowd, understandably and appropriately, cheered him for three quarters. As he began to torch the Raptors in a tight fourth quarter, though, the crowd became anti-Nash and pro-Raptors. For the crowd to remain entirely pro-Lin and pro-Knicks even as he delivered the dagger was embarassing.

*Jose is the man. I know he has his detractors around these parts, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed cheering for him these past few years and would be sad, but happy for him, to see him moved to a contender.

*Jonas….the reports, the comments from insiders and coaches, the videos…just, wow. So excited.

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  • Nilanka15

    The difference with the Nash celebration was that the Raptors were fighting for a playoff spot that season.  Fans react differently when their team is actually playing for something meaningful.

  • Also, Cory Joseph “returned home” and went foul-missed 3FG-turnover. He played just under 3 minutes. Didn’t feel it warranted attention in the post-game, but thought I should make note.

    • Nilanka15

      I was going to make the same comment.  Not much of a home-coming, lol.

  • Nilanka15

    Other than Calderon’s recent stretch of games, individual consistency has been completely lacking this season.  Every player has been unable to stretch 5 good games together, with the exception of Bargnani.

    With DeRozan, Davis, Amir, Barbosa, Kleiza, Bayless, JJ, etc., we have no idea what to expect from one night to the next.  The season is half over, yet we still don’t know if any of these guys can be relied on to be contributors next season.

    All of Casey’s defensive improvements are nice, but what difference does it make it most of these players won’t be back next season?

    • mountio

      Im not so sure that most of these players wont be back. They will (hopefully!) be 4-10 on the depth chart, but DD, Ed, LK, Amir, JJ are all very likely to be back next year. Im wit@7945bf22819550368c42d873e816cc01:disqus h you 100% on the consistency point .. but seeing signs of life and signs of defensive improvement from all of these guys is important as I think they will play role next year – just not THE role .. which will be left to AB, JV, draft pick and maybe FA.

  • Nilanka15

    Regarding the Parker pic, I’ve always wondered why young pro athletes bother to get married.  Stay single, let the ladies ogle you in every city you visit, then when your career winds down, find someone who isn’t concerned with money and the hollywood lifestyle.

    • cesco

       As long as you don’t pull a Magic Johnson .

      • Bendit

        Magic’s problem was he didnt use a sheath and probably employed the Tiger method of abject indiscriminate use of his sword.  

        • Dobsully

          Condoms don’t work.
          They can fail as much as 20%.
          There is 35,000 to 42,000 new aids cases per year in the USA.
          25% of the adult population in New York city have some form
          of STD.
          The view that you find someone special but turn them away
          so one can screw as you please is a sick, greedy lustful selfish
          life.  And in the end a lonely life.
          Why would anybody care about you.  You care about nobody
          but your selfish greed.

          • Bendit


          • minks77

            Ahh, numbers can be so very misleading. These are cherry picked from the highest end to prove your point. It makes no comment on orientation, IV drug use, socioeconomic factors or race. 

            Knocking boots is fun, and if you take basic precautions and use a little common sense it’s not nearly as dangerous as you’re painting it to be. But really, enjoy your abstinence. More for the rest of us greedy, lustful, selfish pricks!

          • Ihatehaters

            You sound homely.

          • cjmcdnld


  • Brian B

    I don’t understand Casey’s preference for Butler over James Johnson. Though Johnson can go out of control at times, I agree that he needs exposure to crunch time – though he is not likely to miraculously become a GOOD player, he might become a rotation filler. Butler is consistently awful and has no future. 

    • LeeZ

      Could not agree more. And Butler’s shot selection last night? It was a miracle, and absolute, fucking miracle that some of those shots went in. I cringe at the thought that on the “strength” of that performance, DC will play him more. Or at all, for that matter.

      • 2damkule

        well, there’s taking a big picture outlook (playing younger guys who figure to at least be part of a future core over older vets who are, essentially, roster filler)…and then there’s taking a bigger big picture outlook, which, at the moment, is predicated on building a team further down the road.  one way you do that is by acquiring future pieces (namely, picks or raw potential guys) for ‘assets’ on your current roster that don’t figure to be part of a future for your franchise, but who may be seen as a valuable (deep) rotation piece by a contending team.  while we laugh in butler’s general direction re. his actual skill, he’s not doing the team any favours by sitting on the bench & lowering his trade value. 

        my guess (and hope) is that with the TD approaching, BC wants casey to showcase some of the veteran ‘talent’ on the roster to see if he can swindle a future 2nd rounder out of some GM (looking to add cheap, no-commitment depth for the playoffs) for butler or carter (or others).

        i’ll only really be concerned if the tendency to play vets over youngsters (esp. in a vain pursuit for Ws) continues beyond the TD.

        • Brian B

           Rasual Butler as tradebait? Rasual Butler as ” a valuable (deep) rotation piece by a contending team”. Thanks- I needed the laugh.

           Do we forget that Da Bulls signed him after the clippers waived him  late last season as end of bench insurance in case Deng got injured? he saw 6 minutes of garbage time in the playoffs. This year, the Bulls have rookie Jimmy Butler in that role instead

          No sane GM of a contender would give up a second rounder for what’s left in Rasual Butler’s tank. Not as long as there are D-Leaguers, and players starting to return from Europe and China. And a glut of wings in Indiana any of whom is better than Rasual. 

          The rational for either Butler of Forbes playing is that with Bayless and Kleiza out, they are thin on the wings. That rational fades when butler gets more minutes than J Johnson, who, whatever his limiations, at this stage is both a better player and better prospect.

  • onemanweave

       Good article.  Effort evident by Raps again tonight.  Guys who have been shredding Casey’s coaching should consider replacing Phil with the Lakers. They are roundball minds of the highest order.
        Agree with the D-league search. Have thought the same for some time. Are you going to find another Lin?  Am I going to win this week’s lottery?  Linsanity simply proves that there are under-valued young players out there.  Why not try finding them, even with the huge downside that would come with jettisoning Rasual and Carter?

    • 2damkule

      ‘…even with the huge downside that would come with jettisoning Rasual and Carter?’

      that was, uh, sarcasm, right?

      • onemanweave

        d’ya think? lol.

  • onemanweave

       Again, in regards to Casey and his alleged ‘mistakes’  — there’s a color-guy we all know.  Granted some of the color has faded and he sings badly, but he’s coached NCAA ball and has forgotten more about the game than we’ll probably ever know.
       In regards to coaching, he says — repeatedly –‘ it’s not the x’s and o’s, it’s the Jimmies and Joes.’
        Systems are great, but it’s the players that count. If they don’t buy what you’re selling, your coaching career is over.  Sam, who I liked as a coach, eventually lost the team. Casey may too, but right now he has them playing as consistently as any Raps team, I’ve seen. Time will tell and  in spite of contrary opinions, I’m pretty sure he’ll get that time.

    • Nilanka15

      I don’t think there’s anything Casey can do that would put his job in jeopardy this season.  Next season, is when the REAL examination of his abilities begins.

      • 2damkule

        only thing i can think is if he plays vets (after the TD) going for Ws vs. focusing on developing the youth on the roster (and taking the subsequent lumps).  hurts the pride, and no coach wants to start (or in DC’s case, re-start) their HC career by piling up losses (doesn’t help the career), but it’s part of the greater good….which i hope they’re all on the same page about.

      • onemanweave

           That’s fair — to a point.  Two rooks and a semi-stud fa should make things better.  How much????   That’s the question.
            It kind of scares me that the frenetic hate directed towards taking Jonas instead of Kemba now seems re-channelled into frenetic hope of what JC can accomplish.
            Let’s remember, he’s a big and generally they take some time. Unless a rook is named Lew or LeBron, they generally take time to make a big impact. 
           Raps fans tend towards bi-polarism, me included.  Casey may need more than  next season to right this perennially-sinking ship. He should get it.

        • onemanweave

           That should, of course, be JV not JC. Sorry, all Europeans look pretty much alike.

          • Lorenzo

            Hopefully that was a joke..

    • 2damkule

      IMO, smitch ‘lost’ that team simply because he lacked cache.  his style was really not much different than many other coaches, but he didn’t have a long history to back it up.  i guess a COY only goes so far…

      • sleepz

        Mitchell lost a team that was 8-9?

        Triano must have thrown them into the never ending abyss because things got a lot worse shortly thereafter.

      • arsenalist

        And he absolutely sucked with the playbook on both sides of the ball.  He needed some guidance from his assistant coaches, if he had it it would’ve ended differently for him.  Even then though, from what’s been said, Mitchell was quite stubborn and even if good advice was dished to him, he tended to ignore it, or at least not give it enough weight.

        • Nilanka15

          You can sense that innate stubbornness every time you hear him speak on TV/radio even today.

  • Alb perjet

    I was raised in a soccer tradition… one thing comes to mind is ARSENAL BARCELONA the return of T.Henry@ the emirates stadium his name gets announced everyone cheers, game starts and he touches the ball everyone booooo’s him…. and I am aware this is not soccer… but for fans to not have respect for their team and cheer and hope that LIN scores is wrong, especially during the last seconds of the game… it was the first time I was embarrassed at the raps fans.    

    • arsenalist

      Nobody booed him at the Emirates, they didn’t cheer him past the substitution but they certainly didn’t boo him. 

      I agree though, the cheering of Lin at the ACC was very bad.  

    • 511

      It might be a bit different for basketball fans cheering for a team that – many quietly hope – isn’t going to the playoffs. And … sometimes it’s just fun to marvel at the marvelous. 

      Personally, the groan and gasp I let out along with throwing my hands in the air, could’ve easily have been mistaken for a cheer. It wasn’t. 

  • guestX

    Everyone talks about the cheers that Lin had been getting but no one who was at the game ever talks about all the hate he received too. I was at the game and he was jeered harder than carter for no apparent reason. It was as if there were pro-lins vs anti-lins. EVERYTIME he touched the ball the boos rained down on him. I dont know why no one ever mentioned this. Remember, this team still had All-star AMARE on the team who still got his against us and no one bashed on him.

    I’m a huge raps fan and to be honest I cheered the raps & lin and gave the respect that they deserved. Just because hes on the opposing team doesn’t mean once in a while you can acknowledge a tough shot.  I never cheered nor booed the final possession. I was already bracing myself for another Raptors let down due to their fourth quarter breakdown. Not only that, I’m one of those fans who at the end of the season want to see a COMPETITIVE CULTURE and a HIGH DRAFT PICK. IMO, this was a COMPETITIVE loss and improves the probability of a higher pick. Its a win-win to me, but i’m sure alot of you won’t see it that way. 

    • guestX

      BTW, looks like the raptors organization doesn’t mind the attention Linvincible is getting around here. People on MLSE’s mailing list are being sent promotional emails about Marchs game against the Knicks. Phrases that are included were: “LIN-sanity took over the ACC!”, “Jeremy Lin put on a show”, “Don’t miss a minute of the LIN-sanity”.. “Get your LIN-sanity Pack”. MLSE is doing a full blown marketing promotion for an opposing player. 

      • mountio

        And you have a problem with this? Isnt there job to get asses in the seats and make money? Seems like they are doing their job to me. Same promotion for a min-pak with the Heat or Lakers or if Lob City would have come to town this year.
        I simply dont get why people are so flaburgasted or surprised here …

        • Nilanka15

          Agreed.  I just heard a promo for tomorrow’s game on Sportsnet 590 mentioning nobody but Kemba Walker.

          Selling opposing players is nothing new.

        • guestX

          ur missing the whole point of my post. I DON’T have a problem with it, I have a problem with people complaining about the reaction Lin received when he was at the ACC. My reference to their marketing tool was directed to those who took consideration to the plentiful amount of Lin fans. if people here have a problem with some fans cheering for the opposing players they like to watch then go send in some complaints to corporate since their marketing campaigns are intentionally bringing these fans into the bleechers…. and plus i do think that the marketing tool was a little aggressive on the Lin hype. It just sounded as if they were on the Lin bandwagon and not marketing both parties… but understand its a business and thats whats going to sell.

          My main point was that being there live at the ACC, I witnessed the cheers and the jeers. Lin fans were significantly outnumbered by raptors fans. He got the Carter-treatment, maybe even worse. So lets stop this “i’m disgusted with the cheers Lin received when he hit the game winner”. The only reason why it was so apparent was because the thousands of raptors fans were silenced.

      • What the

        I would rather have a marketing promotion for Lin than have one for that dude who plays down in Cuba and is trying to repair his “Decision”

  • Lorenzo

    Whatever happened to Azubuike? I understand he was injured all of last year, but he was a solid player and his injury couldn’t have lasted this long?

  • Pesterm1

    I heard Stefanski before the game on ” gate five” talking about Jonas Valanciunas. Stefanski said Jonas will be able to come in and instantly play big minutes for the raptors since he has been playing with men for awhile now. The men in eurpope arnt always as big but they play very hard and are griddy.

    Jonas will most definetly be our starting center next year after training camp…. must say im very excited for it .

    • Nilanka15


      Even with my expectations in check, I wouldn’t be surprised if Jonas averaged 10 and 10 next season.  Throw in a couple of blocks, and that’s a very solid player.

  • Darien

    When Davis made that block I was like OK LETS GO until Forbes somehow got his lobster claws on it. Fuck.

    As for the strange roster utilisation, Im 100% sure that BryCo pulled Casey over at the beginning of the year and was like.. We both know we dont have the pieces to go anywhere. I want a high draft pick, you want some talent, here I got you some guys. Whenever we get too close to winning, Rasual “eminem” Butler and Gary “fuckin” Forbes – just throw them in there.

  • RapsM

     Charlotte looms on Friday, a game far more appropriate for the Raptors and the fan-base to get “up” for.
    Um,no. Raptors always play their worst games against teams with long losing streaks desperate for a win.

    • Marc

      If nothing else, let’s hope that is something Casey is working on changing