DeMar Moore

My, what a difference a night can make.

For most of this game, Arse’s opening paragraph from the Miami (and Philly) recap seemed to hold true – in typical fashion, the Raptors built up a sizeable lead, only to lose it late in the fourth due to some questionable shot selection, substitution patterns, and refereeing (not nearly as egregious as it’s been in the past – though a pretty blatant Glen Davis travel late wasn’t called). Lather, rinse, repeat, and you have yourself a Raptors game.

Tonight, though, the basketball gods decided it was time to reward our fan base for the seemingly endless heartache we’ve had to endure this season, in the form of a DeMar DeRozan buzzer-beater that seems more unlikely every time you watch it. The play itself had all the hallmarks of a classically mis-managed final Raptors possession: broken play? Check. DeMar shooting a low-percentage fadeaway jumper (and by the way, how hilarious was it when Matt Devlin called him “the best mid-range shooting guard in the league” early in the game)? Check. Double covered? Double check. Everything about this play made it seem like the Raptors were headed for yet another overtime, and, likely, another excruciating loss.

But this time, something was different: for once this season, the shot went in. We’ll talk more about DeMar’s game in a bit (click here for the Quick Reaction and player grades), but suffice it to say that in the fourth quarter of last night’s game he took a major step towards both ending his slump and becoming the team’s alpha dog. He might not be ideal, but he’s the best option we’ve got, and it was refreshing to see the team deferring to the guy who’s supposed to be their offensive leader late in the game for once. Criticize his shot selection all you want, but the guy generally cares about this team and making himself the best player he can be, and I was happy to see him hit the game-winner.

The first half of this game was dominated by a few storylines: the Raptors’ inability to defend the pick and roll, the Magic’s hot 3 point shooting, and Amir Johnson. With most of the Raptors struggling on the offensive end, Amir found himself cast as the team’s focal point on that end, and he responded with an impressively varied game that’s quickly becoming the rule rather than the exception. His ability to hit that patented 16 footer was key, as both Glen Davis and Nikola Vucevic, as well as Gustavo Ayon, were making life rough for the Raps in the lane. It seemed the defensive game plan early for the Magic was to stay home and force the Raptors to shoot, and it worked reasonably effectively, with the Raptors shooting just well enough (47% at the half) to stay up a point at the break.

On defence, the inability of the Raptor wings to effectively switch marks on the pick-and-roll reared its ugly head once again, as both Vucevic and Big Baby found themselves open for mid-range jumpers time and time again. I’m hesitant to put too much blame on the Raptor bigs, who rightly switched off their mark onto the speedy Jameer Nelson, but the least the wing players can do in return for the numerous times they’re bailed out by Ed and Amir is contest elbow jumpers, even if they’re undersized. Look at Glen Davis and Nikola Vucevic’s shot chart for the first quarter:

VucevicDavis

That’s 5 for 7 from outside the restricted zone, and 1 for 3 from inside (and the make was from a tip-in off a missed jump shot) – a good graphical indicator that the Raptors’ defensive issues with the Magic bigs weren’t in one-on-one situations, but when they found themselves open off the pick and roll. I don’t know exactly what the solution for this is, save for a renewed commitment to team defence (and to be fair, the wings were likely exhausted tonight after playing against one of the league’s best wing rotations last night), but that, as well as the Magic’s 3 point shooting (some of which were also results of poor switches) were what kept Orlando in the game early.

The Raptors blew the game open somewhat in the third quarter thanks to some strong shooting from Jose, Amir, and even Landry Fields (since he hasn’t hit a 3 this year, that has to have been the longest jumper he’s hit this season, right?), as well as a bit more pep in their step on defence. In his post-halftime interview, Casey preached effort and said he was hoping his charges would get out and run, and this strategy seemed to manifest itself most on defence as our guards constantly hawked for turnovers – leaving the Magic open from the 3 point line, but also keeping the ball out of the lane (due to the open looks from outside). When the ball did get into the lane, it was sent back more than once by Amir, who did what a seven footer should do when challenged by a backup point guard. Amir finished with 3 blocks tonight, though he altered far more shots than that in the 3rd quarter when the Raps were basically daring the Magic to either shoot or take their chances with him at the hoop. The Raptors ended the quarter up 9 and seemingly in control in what was mostly a dull game to that point – though, as Raptor fans, we know that the way these games typically end is anything but dull.

The fourth quarter began Casey choosing to run his offense through Kyle Lowry and Ed Davis, the two Raptor regulars arguably having the worst offensive games to that point, and, predictably, the first play of the quarter had Lowry throwing an uncatchable pass to Davis in the post that resulted in a turnover. It certainly wasn’t Lowry’s night tonight – he looked tired on defence and out of sorts on offense, playing far more passively than he should be against a Magic lineup whose only big on the floor that point was Glen Davis (tangent: why the heck wasn’t Nikola Vucevic – only the Magic’s most effective player – not on the floor in the fourth quarter?). I’m a staunch of a Lowry defender as anyone, and I think his value to this team hasn’t come close to being realized yet, but his play tonight (and last night) is going to make it harder for the Raptors to win many games when the bench doesn’t have a consistent scoring option (and no, I’m not counting Anderson, who gets his on the back of taking an inordinate amount of shot attempts). If the role you’ve been given is bench sparkplug, then you’d best spark the team, and it seemed like tonight Kyle was disinterested in doing that (though he did seem very upset at himself on the bench – far be it from me to question his heart).

The Magic’s comeback was largely a product of a stagnant Raptor offense brought on by the ineffective Lowry and Anderson chucking up a couple of ill-advised three point attempts which led to Orlando fast-breaks, and, before you know it, J.J. Redick was knocking down a four point play and the game was tied. It was only with 5 minutes left in the game and the Magic completely back that Casey replaced Lowry and Davis with Calderon and Amir – yet another case of Dwane making the right move, at the wrong time.

Luckily, for the Raptors, the script was a bit different tonight than it’s been over the past few months, and that can be attributed to one DeMar DeRozan, who’s clearly been reading all the helpful suggestions the RR writing staff has given him over the past month. DeMar had 14 points in the quarter and 22 for the game on 10 of 17 shooting (not to mention a career-high-tying 7 assists), and finally showcased the variation in his game that can make him such an effective offensive player, hitting jumpers when open and throwing down a thunderous dunk in traffic after some early hesitation in the lane. For reference, here’s an “ideal” DD shot chart from a game in November that Blake referenced in his column earlier this week:

derozan shotchart nets nov

And here’s his shot chart from last night:

DD shot chartNot perfect, no – but certainly a step in the right direction.

This all led up to the aforementioned DeMar shot, which, in addition to giving the Raptors the game, gave their fans a sense of relief in knowing that yes, this team can pull out a close one every once in a while, even given all our flaws. Sure, it might only be one of 10, 12, hell, even 15 of these games this season, but it’s a start.

  • BallaBalla

    I honestly believe that Devlin should be slapped in the face for his comments about Demar being the best SG shooter inside 15 ft in the league….there are so many reasons why that’s a stupid comment, not the least of which is that as fans we’re not dumb enough to think that what he was saying was relevant

    he sucks

    • pran

      devlin made me face palm when he initially said something along the lines of “demar is the only SG that can make that shot”, he needs to stop having those dumb blonde moments.

    • 2damkule

      ‘as fans we’re not dumb enough to think that what he was saying was relevant’

      you sure?

    • Statement

      I just tweeted Matt, calling him out on his stupidity. 

      • BCBargnaniJoseGots2Go!!!

        Just like when the Raptors beat the Lakers Matt was all hyping it up at the end of the game then said the Raptors are now 15-26…dead ass.

        What do you really expect from empty corporate suits I mean both Matt & Jack were promoting BP’s Corexit contaminated New Orleans seafood to consume to viewers during a Raptors/Hornets broadcast a couple of years ago…really lost any respect I had for them back then…smh 

  • Canadian Paul

    Stats without Bargnani (record 12-9):

    Defensive Efficiency: 108.0 (would be 26th)
    Offensive Efficiency: 112.4 (would be 2nd)

    Defence is still slipping badly. The Raps now have almost the same DRTG with Bargnani as without him (108.0 vs. 108.6) – Mind you, with Bargnani ON THE COURT, defence slips even more to 111.0. Don’t know where the defence went, but at least the offence is high-octane, despite the hiccups from this or that player on a given night.

  • sleepz

    So Raps have 25% of their wins this year against the Orlando Magic.

    BC your vision is starting to materialize. lol

  • Gregast

    You could not only hear the silence in the arena but you could sense the indifference from the small crowd. Something’s wrong in Orlando, that’s for sure. Their team knows it too – lethargic play away from the ball. Cutting corners on all the details needed to close out a play.

    Yikes! That’s were the Raptors would be without the Toronto fan base and without Dwane Casey’s professionalism.

    • Matt52

       Starting a multiyear rebuild.  In a bad slump spanning over a month.  No bonafide superstar.  A team of role players.

      Sound familiar?

      And that is what drives me nuts about any talk of relocation of the Raptors.  Rabid fanbase and a rocking arena even on a night like last night.

  • KJ-B

    The Beginning of a New Era: DD…Now I don’t meant just DeMar DeRozan but DeRozan & Davis being the franchise linchpins.  The future duo to takeover from Calderon (leaving for a Playoff team-BryCo: trade HI) Bargnani (seeking a bigger Pasta deal south of the border)… That shot crystallized the new schools Raps who don’t want to play in the US but are happy making their bones “up here”…

    Way to go Deebo!!!

    • What the

      this is not going to sit well with Super fan Cesco

  • 2damkule

    if they play every game like they did against the heat, they’d likely win what? 60-70% of their games? 

    play like they did last night, and that % drops to something in the 30-40% range, or thereabouts.

    i simply find it interesting how much the idea of what constitutes a ‘good’ game vs. a ‘bad’ game hinges solely on the outcome.  or that a shot is only ‘good’ or ‘bad’ if it goes in (good) or it doesn’t (bad). 

    whether the outcome is positive or not should be independent of whether it was a good/the right decision.

    • 511

      Ya but … we have enough nights when we lose, play-well-or-not, to analyze the bad play/bad shot/bad decision/bad fans/bad GM/bad players … or the upside of the above … … to not take a minute to savor the irony of almost blowing a game that would’ve been agonizing, only to have pulled it out at the buzzer in an against-the-odds kind of way. 

      Sometimes ya just gotta laugh. 

      • 2damkule

        true…i’m more bothered by the reaction to the heat game, where they played really, really well – good enough to beat the fully healthy & rested champs, on their court (and yes, i’m aware that the heat were likely looking past them, yada yada yada…but that’s their flaw to deal with) – and yet all that many care about is that end result (a L). 

        when you’re competing for a chip, yes, W’s & L’s are paramount…but when you’re building a team, developing a foundation of young players, etc…you care  more (or should) about the process than the results.

        playing poorly and backing into a win against an even shittier team on a shit-sandwich play – and worse shot (make no mistake, had DD missed, and they’d gone on to lose in OT, he – and casey – would be vilified here) doesn’t mean nearly as much as playing well against a (far) superior oponent, even if they didn’t get the W.

        • Nilanka15

          The win in Indiana earlier this season (where we scored just 7 fourth quarter points), is a prime example of this.  Played horribly, but still managed to win…but it felt like anything but a “victory”.

        • 511

          Ya, I get it. We wring our hands – because we lose – after playing some terrific ball against the league champions … and then, the next night, celebrate after almost losing to a far inferior (to the champs) team … because we fluked out a win. 

          A little big-picture ass-backwards, it could be said. But as it’s just a here-and-gone moment in the on-going saga of the Raps, I’ll just hope that it’s one of those little ironies that go full circle somehow and ends up teaching them all a lesson that proves to be valuable one day. Or … even Saturday against the Cavs, who knows? 

          • 511

            Sometimes, stupid things bug me. Like saying ‘fluked out a win’. Had DeMar NOT made that shot, in the ensuing OT, TRoss would’ve hit a couple of threes, DeMar would’ve had a massive dunk to make up for not hitting that last second shot and Anderson would’ve made a couple nice passes to make up for his crazed late shooting the night before, as well as driven for a layup and then hitting his own three. And the D would’ve locked it down enough to get a couple of key stops. So … ya. We would’ve won anyway. 

        • Destro

          At some point you have to want to win those games and not get by on moral victories…even tho i know what this team is i still hate moral victories…I dont like to complicate this with too much analysis,i still would like to see wins against elite and bad teams because as much as i know the seasons over i still fool myself periodically into thinking a few of these wins could them back into the playoff picture *shrugs* 

        • 511

          Chewing still, on this old bone a bit more … it’s like a lot of what we see in sports of all different kinds. 

          Watching the Australian Open Women’s Final this morning (recorded from early a.m.), there’ve been some very nice points won with long, hard-fought rallies – as is usually seen in high-level championship tennis – only to, a moment later, see the same player give the point right back on a silly unforced error after no rally at all. 

          Ya know? 

          Something about it all evening out in the end … with the better player – or team – usually ending up where they should, after all is said and done … with it being quite rare that a perfect script is ever seemingly written and played out the way someone close to it would’ve hoped or expected. 

          Something like along those lines. 

  • Cinga

    is it just me or did anyone else notice Demar throw up gang signs immediately after making the shot? just watched it on tv. 
    hard to see here but 0:15 
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGqbHlMPXV8

  • Nilanka15
    • what the

      are their clutching ratings for your boy gary forbes?

    • raptorspoo

      just to add to that and comment on the last part of the article:

      I’m sorry but this is not ‘a start’… this is ‘about it’ as for what were going to get in terms of clutch percentages. Gonna chuck up a hundred to get one in. The ‘shot’ was one of the worst looking (prayer shot) out of all his clutch time shots and it actually goes in – go figure.

      Don’t be expecting him to get much better than this like we’ve been doing with Bargs.

      You either have it in you or you don’t.