He’s taken the third-highest amount of “clutch” shots in the league at 57, behind only Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, both with 58. Evidently then, the Raptors view him as their top “closing option,” considering the next Raptor on the FGA list is Kyle Lowry, 35th, with 35 attempts. Unfortunately, as a closing option though, DeRozan’s been pretty horrific offensively.
We’ve learned over the years that those basic numbers can often paint just as misleading a portrait as an impressive one, and a big part of DeRozan’s impressive ranks in some of those areas have to do with his minutes and his overall opportunity to be one of the main offensive options on an underwhelming team. Once we dive into the advanced metrics, it quickly becomes evident that DeMar’s improvements aren’t as drastic as some Raptors fans want to believe (a lot of that has to do with his near month-long slump in January).
“I’ve been talking to DeMar about for the past couple weeks is about being assertive and in attack mode at all times and not settling for turnaround jump shots,” Casey said. “It’s something he did not do against Miami. But (Thursday) night, we talked to him about being aggressive, not settling for turnaround jumpers, which is a habit. He has to be able to recognize the alley to basket to drive and attack.”
A closed-door meeting helped turn things around for the Raptors when all looked bleak earlier this season. Will DeMar DeRozan’s memorable buzzer-beater and strong efforts against the champs and vaunted Los Angeles Lakers do the same for another portion of the schedule that appeared to be going off of the rails?
Johnson often leaves games to get his ankle re-taped after spraining or straining it. Many players would not return. But Johnson, who says he has rolled the ankle six times already this season, does not like sitting out. He willed himself into many games last season that others would have skipped. He ended up having off-season surgery on the ankle, which is not the one he is having problems with this year.
If you’re not convinced how good Irving is, consider he was just named to the all-star game as a sophomore, despite missing significant time due to injury this season. Irving is already a top 5 point guard and is only getting better. Defensively, he needs a lot of work, but he has improved since his rookie campaign on that end. Oddly, Irving struggled against Calderon and the Raptors as a rookie. If he does again, Toronto has a good chance at pulling off another win, but Irving performed better in the lone meeting between the clubs this season (23 points, seven assists, though the five turnovers were a concern).
The Cleveland Cavaliers come to the Air Canada Centre with several new faces, the result of a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies. The downtrodden Cavs have won three of their last four starts, the last being a comeback defeat of the Milwaukee Bucks. The Toronto Raptors beat the Cavs in Cleveland by 14 in December, but may not find this match as easy.
Casey is seeing improvement but isn’t surprised DeRozan has fallen into a common pattern that many inexperienced players go through early in their NBA careers. “No question. This happens so many times,“ he said. “I had Rashard Lewis as a young kid (in Seattle). All he wanted to do is shoot jumps shots. We put him in the post and got him used to the physicality of the NBA…Terrence Ross is going through the same thing right now. His next step is to pump fake and drive. Those things are experience factors that come into play. Unfortunately, getting that experience comes with growing pains. DeMar, last year, he did a better job and he got away from it this year.”
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