Ed Davis, PF35 MIN | 8-14 FG | 1-2 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 17 PTS | +15Early foul trouble limited his effectiveness on D early on (as well as forced the Raps to go small), but he came back strong with an excellent performance on the offensive end. Was the beneficiary of some beautiful passes from Amir, but the most impressive part of his game for me was his insistence to establish position in the low-post and demand the ball, which is almost unheard of in Raptorland. Three turnovers is too many for a big, though.
Amir Johnson, PF40 MIN | 6-11 FG | 7-8 FT | 12 REB | 5 AST | 19 PTS | +21Davis’ early foul troubles forced him to play passive defence under the hoop in the early going, but this may have been his best offensive game of the season. He came strong to the hoop on every fast-break, ran the pick and roll with Jose to perfection, and hit his Amir Shot (™) early in the 4th, sure – but the most impressive part of his game were those five assists, which came courtesy of beautiful hand-offs to Davis down low.
Landry Fields, SF42 MIN | 5-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 10 PTS | +18He’s going around your big men, he’s snapping all your rebounds up – hide your kids, hide your wife. His long-range shot is still a work in progress, but he made some nice plays with the ball in traffic, played solid, energetic defence, and rebounded like Reggie Evans in his prime. If that shot ever comes along, nights like this will go a long way in justifying that contract.
Jose Calderon, PG31 MIN | 7-12 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 11 AST | 14 PTS | +20Fourteen points, 11 assists, zero turnovers – a classic Jose game punctuated with a classic Jose line. Holiday’s struggles in the first half allowed him to hide his D, but when he did start scoring, Jose simply responded by matching him shot for shot. He might take something off the table on the defensive end, but on nights like this when the offense often stagnated, he’s absolutely indispensable for the Raps.
DeMar DeRozan, SG41 MIN | 8-15 FG | 3-3 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 19 PTS | +21Kept the offense moving in the early going, where he did a nice job mixing up shots with drives and taking advantage of ‘Sixer switches. He slowed down a bit as the bigs and Jose took over late, but it was a nice bounce-back game for DeMar after he struggled on Sunday. Plus, he went left… twice!
Kyle Lowry, PG17 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 2 PTS | -2His compression shirt gave him special powers, apparently – he ditched it tonight and played very hesitantly, even though most of his minutes came against Philly’s underwhelming second unit. Like any young player, he’s sure to have off days, and we might as well count our blessings that he had one on a night where it didn’t matter much.
Mickael Pietrus, SG8 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 PTS | -2Finally bumped from the starting lineup and played 8 minutes in a short rotation, which is about right. Wasted two possessions with ugly early-in-the-clock 3s and played adequate defense, AKA the “Pietrus special.”
Alan Anderson, SG25 MIN | 4-13 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 9 PTS | -1His chucking really slowed the offense in the second quarter, where it seemed like he threw the ball up every time he touched the ball. Made some much better decisions in the 2nd half, though, including a pretty no-looker to Amir, but was rightly pulled when the Raps needed to close out the game. His irrational confidence was particularly irrational tonight. I do love his defensive energy, though.
Dwane CaseyDid a good job managing a short bench, keeping Jose in the game for longer than usual in the 2nd half and keeping Lowry out of the gam ein crunch time when it was clear the starting five was the best lineup to go to. My criticisms are in his defensive strategies early in the game, where the Raptors seemed to be playing for steals even though Philly was clearly struggling in one-on-one situations. By the second half, though, he (and the team) seemed to have it figured out. Plus, he finally took Pietrus out of the starting lineup! That alone deserves an A-.
Five Things We Saw
This was an ugly game, especially in the early going. Both offenses seemed very stagnant before the Raptor starters blew the game open in the 3rd. That said, kudos to the Raps for gutting out a game they desperately needed to win against a struggling opponent.
Even though Philly was awful on offense, the Raptors let them off the hook with an ultra-agressive defensive strategy in the first half, seemingly reacted to their point guards’ turnover tendencies by having all their wings jump for steals. Although this resulted in 6 steals for the Raps, it also resulted in a lot of open shots for the ‘Sixers, and they hit enough of them to stay in the game. In the second half, they played a much tighter man scheme, only forcing 3 steals but also forcing Philly into far more difficult shots. A simple adjustment, sure, but a nice example of the coaching staff not being tied to the scouting report.
Speaking of D, another key adjustment made by the Raps in the second half was the help their wings provided their bigs down low. Early fouls left both Amir and ED hesitant to challenge Philly slashers and bigs, and the Raptors responded to this by forcing their wings inside, taking fouls when necessary and, in the process, contesting far more ‘Sixer shots. Again, Philly may have been brutal on O tonight, but a very good adjustment given how slow the Raps looked on D early.
The second and third quarters were yet another example of how much better this team’s offense is when the ball is moving. Offense stagnant: ugly quarter and blowing of a 10 point lead. Offense active: 29 point quarter and the regaining of said lead. Force it around if you have to, I don’t care – JUST MOVE THE BALL!!!
Again, ugly or not, the Raptors really needed this one to get back on track after two pretty underwhelming losses. No, they didn’t look like world-beaters tonight, but an 18 point win is still an 18 point win, and they showed enough flashes tonight to build some important momentum for this weekend’s games against Charlotte and Milwaukee.