Raptor fans, it's time to put your hands in the air, and commence waving them like you just don't care.

Raptor fans, it's time to put your hands in the air, and commence waving them like you just don't care.


Wow. That’s about all I can say about this one, off the top of my head. Of course, you didn’t come here for one-word articles, and there’ll be a bit more directed analysis then that to follow (click here for the Quick Reaction), but I figured I’d start the postgame by talking about how much fun that game was to watch last night. The 3s were falling, the team was running on all cylinders, and it really did feel like I was watching the Raptors of the glory years. Sure, close games are exciting, but after all the heartbreaking losses to start the season, it was pretty damn entertaining to just watch an old fashioned Raptor blowout.

As the broadcast began and it became clear that the Magic were without Jameer Nelson and E’Twaun Moore (just the only two point guards who receive playing time), you had a feeling that tonight could be a good one for the Raps. Sure, they were on the road playing a back-to-back, but a team rolling out a 3rd string player against the position that has proven to be the Raptors’ greatest strength? On paper, it seemed like a recipe for disaster for the Magic, and the Raps had to be licking their chops when they got the opposing roster before the game.

That wasn’t exactly how things began, though. The Magic started Ish Smith at PG, who I’d never heard of before (had to look him up – he played at Wake Forest, who knew?), but who was making things difficult for Jose in the early going, shredding past him into the lane, as speedy offensive point guards are wont to do. Luckily for the Raptors, he proved to be a fairly offensively limited player (I suppose that’s why he’s a 3rd stringer, after all), and so his effectiveness in the lane was largely limited to dishes to the Orlando bigs, particularly Andrew Nicholson, who had a very good night shooting the ball both in mid-range and off post-ups. Vucevic was also quite effective from mid-range, which will continue to be an issue as long as Aaron Gray gets starters minutes – due to his size, he’s hesitant to close the distance on jump-shooting bigs, and so if opposing centers can make the 15-footer, there’ll always be the chance they go off on him. In either case, the Magic bigs dominated the outset of this game, even though Raptor shots were falling, and forced Casey to call timeout early with the Raps down 17-11.

My, though, what a difference a minute can make, and the Raptors came out of the huddle looking nothing like the team we’ve been accustomed to seeing this year. This was a group of players jump shooting with confidence, taking the ball to the rack when it was open (even Jose finished a nice drive in the first, rather than dish as he’s done so often this year), and after a quarter the Raps had turned the 6 point deficit into a 15 point advantage largely due to a ridiculous .700 shooting percentage (and 4 of 5 from 3 point range!). That exceedingly high shooting percentage looked (and proved to be) unsustainable, but there were other signs that the scoring differential may not be: for one, the Raptors assisted on 11 of their 14 made field goals in the quarter (a ridiculous 78.5%), showing a team effort to move the ball and find the open shot.

For me, that ball movement was the biggest take-away from tonight’s win. Success breeds success, and it sure looked like the Raptor players were enjoying swinging the ball around the perimeter to find the best shot possible. Numerous players (DeRozan and Pietrus, to name two) besides our point guards brought the ball through the lane, only to find the open man outside rather than force up a shot. This team doesn’t have a true number one scoring option, and playing “team ball” like this is clearly the way the Raptor offense is most effective. They may  not always be able to put up 120, but this mindset is the only way they’ll get there, and so hopefully it will become part of the team’s hard-nosed all-for-one identity.

The second quarter was more of the same from the Raptors, as the bench came in and continued to shoot the lights out of the building (ending the half 10 for 14 from long range). Once again, the Raptors went small with their second unit, but this time using Landry Fields instead of Linas Kleiza at the “4.” Kleiza actually didn’t get any run at all during the game (no idea why, yet), but Fields made Casey look like a genius with the move, continuing his excellent play since his return from injury and making up for his lack of size with great hustle, both defensively and on the glass. I’m very quickly becoming a Fields fan – it’s so refreshing to watch Raptor wings actively hunting for boards – and it seems like he’s had better and better games every time he’s gotten burn since his return. Sure, we can haggle about the contract all we like, but the bottom line is he’s a member of the team, and production like this will help the Raps win on a nightly basis. Simple as that.

The Raps ended the half up 67-47, which must have had Raptor fans who switched over to the UFC prelims or “The Chronicles of Narnia” on CBC double-checking their phone/tablet/box score providers of choice in disbelief. Sure, the Magic were shorthanded and their defence was porous, but putting up that many points on any NBA team is an impressive achievement, and regardless of the opponent the Raptors were playing their best offensive basketball of the year. It was a lot of fun to watch this group playing with extreme confidence – it really did seem like they were able to score whenever and however they wanted, no matter who was on the floor or who the Magic had on defence. This was the deep, talented team we’ve been promised by management all season, and although the chances of us seeing a performance like this more than a couple more times during the course of the year is slim, it’s still fun to watch games like this and just forget about the team’s record on nights like tonight. Mickael Pietrus made the bold claim at halftime that the Raptors would make the playoffs if they could keep up this sort of effort for the rest of the year, and, for once, it didn’t seem like a stretch.

As usual, the Raptor starters came back in to start the 3rd quarter, and promptly looked like they’d already won the game. The offense became stagnant, with wings standing around the perimeter and waiting for Jose to distribute rather than moving the ball with the frequency we saw in the first half, the defence began to sag, and it was only because a good percentage of Raptor jumpers were still falling that Orlando was only able to cut the lead to 13 midway through the quarter. At this point, Casey had seen enough, and reinserted Amir for the struggling Aaron Gray (who really struggled this game – he’s just not built for fast-paced, end to end games like this one), as well as Alan Anderson and Kyle Lowry. This substitution, in my opinion, was the death knell for the Magic – Lowry promptly reinvigorated the team with a couple of phenomenal drives, Anderson contributed on the other end with tenacious defence (very quickly becoming a recurring theme, which is extremely exciting), and by the time the quarter was over, the Raptors were up 16 and essentially playing the entire fourth in garbage time. Ball game, and nothing really left to speak of other than stat-padding and how crappy Hedo Turkoglu looked (seriously, -37 in 23 minutes? I don’t know what I’m more shocked about – that we gave him that ludicrous contract, or that we found someone else willing to take him off our hands).

I won’t elaborate too much on the end of the game, save to say that Quincy Acy looked pretty good in his few minutes of playing time (I really wish he’d get a bit more run, especially in games like this where the outcome really wasn’t in question), and it was great to see John Lucas play so well after what was certainly an unbelievably emotional day for him following his grandmother’s passing. I think I speak for everyone here at RR when I say we wish all the best to both him and his family.

Long story short, though, the Raptors won a game by 35 in which everyone, save Gray (did I mention he led the team in turnovers tonight?) played an excellent game. Sure, it might not be the team we see every night. Hell, it might not even be the team we see every few weeks. But for tonight, it sure was a lot of fun to watch our guys run up and down another team, on the road, and dream of what could be. The favourable schedule continues Wednesday back in Toronto against Portland. Here’s hoping we start the New Year as well as we finished 2012.

  • Truthkiller

    Screw a bargs, I want me some WINS!!!

    • Statement

      Can’t screw Bargs right now, bangam bile is currently having his way with him.

      • Raptor

        that his is a her. 

  • mike, prague

    Nice write.

  • Ppellico

    all this sight ever fucking does is point our Gray’s inabilities. He is slow…here, hesitant to move out to centers with outside shts.
    OK…but he held the middle. He opened shooting lanes and allowed for safe open looks for shooters.

    Very few times did the inside get abused with him in.

    OK…so Amir runs around. I counted at least 5 times when he was caught far outside or away from the basket and they just abused us with a decent inside dunk.
    Why? because you need to do MORE than just run around. THIS team does not rotate well or hand off defensive assignments. Amir is athletic…but not wholly aware of the floor.

    Please try to be honest.

    • mountio

      i have to admit, I was waiting for your response after Gray got the “F” .. I appreciate your consistency

    • Statement

      What’s next, claims that he spaces the floor?

    • Scottbbaird

      I think Amir’s hustle, even when it gets him in trouble trumps Gray’s generally laxadaisical shuffling on the court.

  • Rubuntech

    Sportsnet claiming rumours Bargs is being moved. The rumour is not really surprising but appears to be getting traction

    • Boshrawr

      I think we’ll see kleiza moved before bargs. Didnt play a single second in the game, heck he didn’t even check in during garbage time if I’m not mistaken. Not sure as to his situation and whether or not he’s in casry’s doghouse but he doesn’t seem to have an apparent role on the team considering our plethora of wing players. Like with bargs there’s a possibility of him coming back from injury and being a backup 4, but linas seems to have lost favour.

      • Scottbbaird

        Because he didnt play in one game?

        I agree that he should be packaged in a deal, but I dont think his lack of run in this game is enough to base your prediction on. Casey is still struggling to figure out who should play on the wing.

  • j bean

    That game has to be something like the vision Colangelo and Casey has for them. I get who it was against but their confidence is growing with all these wins.
    TRoss, JV, Fields and Lowry all look like this years additions could turn out as good as hoped. If they can just figure out and implement a positive scenario for Andrea, whether it be a trade or a new role.

    • Statement

      It bothers me that we have to shoehorn Bargina back into the rotation because he makes all of that money even though we are playing like a cohesive team devoid of chuckers.

      It must be what the Knicks feel like with Amare.

      • Statement

        Also, bangam bile is a fucking moron.

      • mountio

        Not sure it has anything to do with “making all that money”. The thought would be that, in a different role, he can be helpful to the team (which he should be able to be). Id be very clear with him. No step back long jumpers. Post ups and wide open 3s only. If he cant play that way, then fuck him – nail his ass to the bench.

        • Pele

          +1. 

          However, Bargs was the centrepiece after Bosh left. I’m not sure that the he, or the team, can adjust mentally to turning Bargs into a 2nd stringer. Besides, to be realistic, if Bargs comes back, he should be used as a both a back-up center to Jonas, matching minutes with Gray or Amir, depending on the match-up. He also could be used as a back-up PF, with the bulk of the minutes going to Amir or Ed Davis.

    • ckh26

       I can’t remember which game amongst the many we came second in during the early part of the season but it was one where we were exposed badly on the  lack of speed on the floor.

      Both Barney and Kleiza could be hitched up to a Budwieser wagon and not look out of place. If Casey continues to try to install a more uptempo pace both AB and LK will have to adjust in large measure. The odds are against Klieza being able to adapt his game to do that. What of our great purple dinosouar Barney ? He could get into better shape than he was even before his inury  BUT… and its a big BUT.. why after 7 years of showing no signs of it would he suddenly have an epiphany and be able to run the floor. So I believe with Barney there are 3 likely outcomes… 1) he gets his chance to show he can blend in and if he doesn’t he sits, 2) he gets traded for something that is a better fit for us but the debate will rage on if its of equal value 3) you amnesty him and use his 10M to acquire another asset. Sports is pretty much all business now and AB is an asset that has to be salvaged. 

  • Statement

    On a more positive note, Demar looks like he’s making incremental improvements to his game.

  • mountio

    A great game all around. T Ross is still up and down, but proving he can be a great addition. His one little shimmy pull up in the fourth was sweet. He needs to get more and more minutes – we don’t need to wait until DD comes out to get T Ross in. LF looks decent .. I actually like going small and getting TR, DD, LF all out there together. LF rebounds well for a 3 (and even ok at the 4) – so we don’t seem to be that bad off. Obviously against a Memphis or other big teams it wont work.
    Glad to see LK not getting minutes – hes been brutal and a headcase. If we can just get MP out of there too, we will be in business with DD, TR, LF, AA getting minutes at the 2/3 (in that order).
    The starting lineup with Gray and MP is a real issue .. ball movement gets very stagnant with these two offensively challenged players. TRoss would be a lot better (or even LF, who might make more sense once JV is back).
    Weve had a very easy stretch of games here (ORL is just awful and weve had them 2 times already!) .. will be interesting to see what happens when we have more middle of the road type teams (POR, PHI, etc. ) – but all in all, Im certainly encouraged.

  • Aaron

    The raps have played some decent team ball with JC starting and adding a lot more stability into running the offense and getting everyone involved.  Everyone plays better defense when they touch the ball on offense and thats always been the hidden secret to playing good team ball.   Defined roles and defined positioning allow for young players to understand how they can be successful.  
           Fans need to take this success with a grain of salt.  This run has come against weak opponents with injuries and for the most part has come at home where the raptors have always had at least a 500 winning percentage.  
           To me the biggest difference is the coaching is now emphasizing defensive rotations and holding the players accountable which he wasn’t doing at the start of the season.  On offense the emergence of AA and TR has made this team much better offensively but also defensively because those two players are the best wing defenders on the team.  
        The last point here is that Andrea Bargnani should be brought of the bench because he could become a very successful if he just plays basketball the right way.  He needs to become a mid range player and get rid of this standing around the outside waIiting for 3 point shots.  If AB can become accustom to playing the basketball the right way and playing of the bench he WILL BE WORTH A LOT MORE THEN TRADING HIM FOR NOTHING AT THIS POINT.

    • grizzly73

      Bargnani will be just as useless coming off the bench because the word “hustle” does not exist in Italian.

      • et-man

        What do you know about anything Italian. Now that he isn’t even playing   you still have to point out his faults and the best you can do is to paint him as lazy because he is italian. This site is not a raptors fan site, its a bargnani bashing site.

  • Hound

    Does anyone want to take a flyer on Cousins? Maybe, Bargs, Klieza and a 2nd round pick for Cousins and some salary coming back. Do we want the headache? What will Sacramento get for him on the market? I am having a hard time figuring out what Cousins worth is right now.

    Also, I can’t see Bargs being worth more than a 2nd round pick and a bad contract coming back. I can’t see anyone paying more than that, therefore I am really reluctant to trade him. I would much rather see him coming off the bench (20 minutes or so). What is his value right now?

    • mountio

      I would do that deal in a split second. AB and KL are basically useless to us now, so the flyer on Cousins is worth it (like you say, would you rather have a 2nd rounder (Acy!) or Cousins? I think that’s a no brainer.
      Having said that, do I think Cousins would work out here? Probably not. This guy is a total headcase and we don’t have the vets to control him. As much as Id hate to see if, the Celtics, Heat or Spurs are the types of teams where he could do really well.
      However .. I don’t think the kings would trade him for AB/LK .. they will be looking for more (and will probably get it). If we threw in Lowry, that’s a deal that might happen ..

      • Hound

        I would throw in Lowry, but we would need to take back a pg (probably Aaron Brooks) and only if we could re-sign Calderon at a normal amount. I just can’t see anyone, Boston included paying a bunch for Cousins.

        Could you see a Cousins/Brooks/2nd rounder for AB, KL, and Klieza? This seems like to much for my liking.

        • mountio

          Yes .. I think that deal (or Thomas instead of Brooks) is reasonable. I don’t think we could get Evans .. but either of Brooks / Thomas realistic. That’s a pretty good haul for Sac to get rid of their headache .. theyd have to think about it.
          Simmons had an interesting 3-teamer below (doesn’t include AB, but probably could easily be expanded). Has us getting Thomas and Evans and only giving up Lowry, with Rondo going to Sac, Cousins and Lowry to boston (among others)

        • Mark

          These trades is ridiculous for both teams. Cousins would be a mess in Toronto. Making a franchise altering trade after a small winning streak against poor competition is why fans aren’t GMs. They have played 2 good teams since they went down and lost to both. You want to move forward with Aaron Brooks at PG with Evans and DeRozan on the wings? Ya Cousins would be really effective with both wings in his lap all night because nobody can shoot. Love the passion guys and girls but be real.

      • grizzly73

        How can you say KL is useless to us? Sure Jose is playing well, but KL’s defense, penetration and shooting on certain nights when JC is not playing well can be the difference not to mention that JC, at times, can be injury prone. What happens when JC leaves at the end of the year?
        Wasn’t he brought in to be the defensive stopper that JC isn’t?

        • mountio

          sorry .. typo – should be LK (responding to the original post of an LK/AB trade). KL is far from useless – hes a very good player (although your comment on defensive stopper is interesting, because that’s the one area where he has been disappointing to me .. he should be WAAAY better than JC .. but hasn’t been)

    • grizzly73

      The big difference is that Cousins is a true big  and can score rebound and play better defence whereas Bargs can only score – a big difference

      • 2damkule

        i hate to agree with leo, but his comments at halftime re. cousins were about the most logical i’ve heard him mutter in all the years he’s been involved with the raps.  to wit: cousins MUST go to a team that has a very strong veteran presence (both on the floor – players – and mgmt – GM, HC, and assistants).  there are very few teams that would be able to wring out all his positives, while limiting his knuckleheadedness.  at a certain point, you are who you are…he’s not going to change his personality, but if he goes to a team that isn’t able (or willing) to control him/his personality, it could wreck whatever chemistry exists.

        in case you’re wondering…he’s about the worst fit one could imagine for the raps.

    • ckh26

       Great Question !
      Just my opinion but its pretty harsh… Cousins = Ebola

  • Mark

    Much like I was worried the media and fans would turn on Lowry when he returned I have no doubt that they have already organized the firing squad for Bargnani. It’s too bad he will never be able to be cast in a role he can excel at in Toronto and will most likely be traded for cents on the dollar at the deadline due to public pressure and BC being a poor leader. He was never a star. He never said he was. What he could be is the best stretch 4 in the league off the bench. I noticed NO just moved Anderson to the bench for the same reasons. Bargnani can’t guard starting caliber bigs and more importantly is about as bad a help defender as you could be with his size and agility. But he can guard back ups a lot better than they could guard him. Starters NEED to be two way players. If Bargnani was allowed to be a scorer off the bench he could play 25 MPG and still get 15 shots up without taking shots away from more efficient players. 2nd units always struggle to get good shots and often long 2’s are what they endup getting. So why not put a guy who is good at hitting those shots with them?

    It’s easy to say screw Andrea for not being the star BC promised. But instead of focusing on the success without him and pointing out that he must have been the problem in the past, why not try to image what he could add to the 2nd unit when he returns? I think Lowry will eventually take back his starting job but I can see AB becoming one of the best 6th men in the league if the Raptors let go of the past and think about the future.

    • Sinatras

      I think most fans are frustrated with AB as a starter and that is why many say trade him.Many fans are concerned that pressure will be brought on by BC to put AB back in the starting lineup. If the question was “bring AB off the bench till early February and reassess OR trade AB today at all costs (no matter what is given in return)” I believe most ,even the frustrated fans, would prefer to try AB as a 6th man first and see if DC can get AB to buy into the team first-hustle-Dfence- concept!!!!! Any thoughts?

      • ghost

        There isn’t any pressure for BC to play AB. The only pressure BC has is to win and win now. His contract expires this year and if he doesn’t win now, he’s gone…plain and simple. The Bargnani experiment is over. The fans want him traded or coming off the bench and management wants to trade him. Only problem is, who will take him?   

      • Kamzaid

         except all those wins came against bad teams. all of them below 500. Look what happened to us when we played san antonio. AB is only a part of the problem. the real problem we dont have a VC like star on the team or CB4 for that matter

    • FAQ

      I suspect Bargs wouldn’t object to being the 6th or even 7th man off the bench inserted for his 3 point shooting (if he still has that skill).  I can’t see him asking for a trade since his skill set is somewhat limited for effective NBA play.

      When he came to the Raptors he came with the name “Il Mago”… the magician.  He’s either lost his magic or it was taken away in the tougher NBA.  He was left with his 3 point shooting and over the seasons he developed a pull up jump shot from 18-20 feet and a dribble drive to the hoop.

      His defense is lacking because he apparently is unable to quickly read what is happening around him and cannot move his bulk fast enough, which results in more fouling. 

      How can Casey utilize such a player in the current playing style of the new Raptors?

      • Danny De Vito & Co.

        Just for what you said it means you are :

        a) watching free low quality streaming
        b) not watching and reading RR only
        c) trolling

  • Doug

    The Raptors aren’t getting Cousins for an AB package. The Kings would want young talent and picks. They do realize DC is good. If you want him think Cousins and Evans for Jose, DeRozan Ed Davis and a pick. Still want him? If the Raptors do look to trade Bargnani I would be think a guy like Al Jefferson might be more realistic. While a long shot, I would be cheering for LA to struggle. I still think if the Lakers need to trade Gasol a Bargnani, Calderon and Kleiza or Anderson package is the best LA is going to do if they intend on contending this year.

    • Hound

      no way do I want Gasol. Bad knees+ bad contract = bad deal

  • ckh26

    .

  • ckh26

    Have a look at this guy. We don’t need this migrane headache.
    Not now. Not next year. Not ever. Not even if 
    he came with a 1st rounder for next year in exchange for AB and a 2nd
    rounder in 2026.

     

     

    Just look at this immature clown. The only thing missing is
    the orange jumpsuit and a series of numbers identitfying him for a future
    address in one of the US’s
    correctional facilities.

     

    He is the lead inmate in the dysfunctional mess that is Sacramento. No matter
    what you think of Barney he is a mature professional and would not put you in
    the position of having to suspend him for conduct unbecoming to the team. A
    trade for Cousins is not an option the organization should consider.