Raptors 99, Pistons 101 – Box

Raptors lose to the Pistons on the road by two in a game where they were down big, came back, stuck around, and couldn’t pull it off in the end.   Live blog here.  Just like Who’s Line Is It Anyway?, the score doesn’t matter and we got to look at the impressions made by the team and individuals.

Positives

John Lucas III has a bit of a controlled Mike James in him. We knew he could score, we didn’t know how confident he really is passing the ball, pulling up, and taking it to the rim at every feasible opportunity.  It’s only one game, but if he produces even half the 16 points he got last night going forward, he’s going to be a good kick off the bench.   And it’s not like he’s in there to get his, everything is opportunistic and within the confines of whatever the group is doing as a whole.  The shot is smooth and he looks to play a bigger part on this team than anyone might have anticipated, especially if his three-point shooting holds.  His interaction play with Terrence Ross was great, he doesn’t let the ball get stuck, and looks to really lead the second unit.

You might look at Jonas Valanciunas’ first stat line of 2/0/0 and say WTF, but hold on.  The guy came off the bench and was busting it on both ends.  He got a couple blocks and moved well without the ball, especially rolling to the rim after setting picks, which freed up outside shooters after the defense shifted to the middle.  It’s a slow start for Jonas, but I’ll say he got the wind of an NBA game, got an idea of the people he’ll be up against (ahem, Munroe, Drummond), and will be better next game as he gets more touches and a feel for the NBA game.  He got scored on a couple times, lost an offensive rebound, but all that’s to be expected.  What might hurt the perception of his game is how beastly Andre Drummond looked in comparison.  We passed on him to draft Ross.  I made this joke on Twitter.  Sticking on the center note, Aaron Gray had a tidy enough game.  He, like the others, started a little slow but soon got the hang of making a rotation or two on Brandon Knight who was making every Raptors guard look very ordinary on defense.

DeRozan’s game was tight, although still heavily dependent on getting to the line.  He used his size against Stuckey and Knight well at times and on other occasions – like with the game on the line – took a shot from close to behind the backboard.  His defense was poor for the most part, but I think that’s about as good as he’s going to be there because he just doesn’t have the lateral quicks or tenacity needed by a lock-down wing defender.  Offensively, he made two jumpers and missed five.  With little help from Bargnani and no Lowry, the Raptors looked to him to score and although he did a good enough job putting points up by getting to the line (9-10 FTs) and throwing a thunderous dunk in transition, perhaps he needed to shoot more than 8 times.  Overall, pleased with his performance, if not his jumper.

We’ll get to his defense in a bit, however, suffice to say Jose Calderon looked really good.  Fifteen points and four assists in 23 minutes.  The guy looked in mid-season form and there was a stretch there in the second quarter where he was basically challenging any Pistons guard to stop him, all the while playing within the team.  The ball movement on the perimeter was exquisite, and when he’s got his pull-up and set-shot going, he’s a starter quality player on any team.

Negatives

Ed Davis and Amir Johnson were overwhelmed in every regard, the latter committing a key turnover through an offensive foul late in the game.  Davis was inexplicably called for a three-second violation when trying to post-up!  There’s always been concern about their strength, and last night that was plain to see.  They combined for 10 rebounds, but were overpowered for most of the night.  Of course, Andrea Bargnani collecting one rebound over 22 minutes of action didn’t help but I’m tired of complaining about that.  He took too many long twos for my liking, but that’s just my liking.   Maybe you’re into long twos, maybe that’s how you get your rocks off, I don’t.

You might recall Brandon Knight as the guy many thought we should have drafted, and a year later, you can see why.  Let the fact that he was against some mediocre defenders not take away the ease of which he penetrated our defense and set up scores to the tune of 6 assists in 26 minutes, while netting 14.  Th Raptors help defense was poor all night and I rarely saw two successful rotations made on one possession.  Knight’s assault combined with Bynum’s aggressiveness set the tone for the Pistons and their bigs finished off the deal by outrebounding the Raptors 47-32.  Bad perimeter defense, poor interior rotations.

The Rest

Fields missed a couple open looks, Anderson was mildly efficient in his 14 minutes, and Dominic McGuire is someone I can see either really liking or really hating.  TBD.  Kleiza and Ross deserve comment, both will feature this year and need to be productive in short minutes. Ross will have to learn to do that, he dropped 7 points on 3-7 shooting which is pretty good, I just felt that he could’ve done more on defense and I’m surprised Casey didn’t try him on the Knight or someone to test his laterals.  If he’s going to be a Mo Pete type player for us, he’ll need to find a way to be produce, it just can’t be about shooting.

Kleiza, on the other hand, can never be a consistent player in this league because there’s nothing he does really well.  He shoots a bit, rebounds a bit, runs the floor a little, but none of those things are above average in any way.  He might be the most boring player we have on this roster as whatever he does, someone else can do better while being less annoying at it.

Conclusion

You must be out of your mind if you think we can draw conclusions at this point.  On Friday we’ll see if Jonas has more of a jump in his step, whether Ross can figure out how to make himself more useful, and if Bargnani can be bothered.  I’m not sure what it says that Casey didn’t even bring him into a tight game in the fourth (except for that one last play as a decoy) to try to win this game.  Was he sending a message?  Probably not, just pre-season.

 

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