“It’s very difficult because of the expectations but at the end of the day we’re professional athletes and we have to approach every night like it’s our last,” Kyle Lowry said. “That’s how I approach the game and I think that’s how everyone should approach the game, no matter what the circumstances are.” One of the circumstances to take into account is that the current core group — Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas — are fully expected to be together next year and the future of Andrea Bargnani is clouded at best.
David Lee had 29 points, Stephen Curry had 26 points and 13 assists and Klay Thompson had 22 points as the Warriors backcourt did whatever it wanted to, whenever it wanted to as Toronto suffered its fifth straight defeat. “Against shooters like this you’ve got to be step for step, body for body, continue to have contact and not lose contact because the second you lose contact against treat shooters like that, they’re too quick on the draw,” said Casey. And too many of the quick-draw shots were too uncontested. Toronto’s perimeter defence – except for a majority of the third quarter – varied from bad to atrocious. The Warriors shot 67 per cent in the first quarter, 64 per cent in the first half and 61 per cent in the fourth.
“The offence wasn’t the problem,” Bargnani said. “We had what we wanted. On defence we have to do a better job, especially against these kinds of teams. We tried to do what we can, but it wasn’t good enough.” After a frustrating 1-4 road trip, Golden State began a stretch of seven straight and 16 of its last 22 at home. The Warriors improved to 19-7 this season at Oracle Arena, where the ever-loyal fan base has sold out 17 straight games and is begging for a playoff berth. While the defensive deficiencies remain, Golden State’s offensive outpouring overwhelmed the Raptors in the end.
MVP: Amir Johnson. He wasn’t the club’s top scorer, but check this stat line: He had 23 points in only 32 minutes, and that was on perfect 10 of 10 shooting from the field. If that wasn’t enough for you, then how about 15 rebounds, TWELVE of these, on the OFFENSIVE END!! Throw in two blocks and he was the reason this one was as close as it was. His 12 offensive boards stemmed the tide of missed shots from the likes of Gay and Bargnani, and while he wasn’t perfect, he did enough inside to prevent the Warriors from completely dominating the painted area. (Both teams surprisingly finished with 48 points in the paint.)
As we discussed on today’s podcast, Bargnani is likely in the starting lineup for three reasons: 1. To inflate his trade value as much as possible before the offseason. 2. Because this offence was designed to have him in the high post. 3. Because the bench needs more ball movement and a quality big man to play defence. Andrea responded with his best game (or second best after the Pistons game in which he scored 34) of the season, finishing with 26 points and 7 rebounds. He made an effort to contest more shots than usual, his effort on the glass was good (for his standards) and his jump shot was on target (5-7 3PT FG). The only reason this is a positive, is because it will help his trade value. It’s not good news for the development of other players, but expect this Bargnani showcase to continue for the rest of the season.
Andrea Bargnani was a stud tonight. No matter what the Warriors sent his way, it just didn’t seem to matter. Bargs made shots outside, inside and from mid-range. He tortured Mark Jackson’s defense and opened up driving lanes for all of his teammates.
Ugly win versus a team going nowhere in the Toronto Raptors, I know. But there’s that fine line where you can’t stand a certain quirk about something or someone, versus just accepting it or him for what it, or he, is. If you’ve followed me on Twitter recently, you know that I can’t stand aspects of David Lee’s game. Like he should never dribble the ball or that he doesn’t box out. If you’ve followed any major NBA writer lately, you probably know about D.Lee getting ridiculed as being “The Golden Gate”.
The surprise though came in the game where for really the first time since November 23 of this season when he went off for 34 points, Bargnani dominated a game. “Of course I am always confident in my shot but definitely (Monday night) it felt good to make some three’s,” he said. “Coming back from an injury, I mean this wasn’t the luckiest season for me so it feels good to come through.”
Andrea Bargnani scored 26 points and tied a career high with five 3-pointers, and Amir Johnson added 23 points and 15 rebounds in Toronto’s fifth straight loss. Kyle Lowry finished with 11 points, 11 rebounds and nine assists, and Rudy Gay scored 26 points after missing the Raptors’ loss at Milwaukee on Saturday night with back spasms.
The overriding concern for the next six weeks is simple: win. With no draft pick to look forward to, there is no motivation for the club to tank games the rest of the way. The coaching staff should keep driving a winning mentality into its players, rather than let them take their foot off of the gas pedal to close out the season. There are still a lot of issues with the construction of this club, and it is far easier to evaluate those issues if the club is going full-bore right up to the end. That isn’t to say that player development should take a backseat, however. Jonas Valanciunas has looked like a changed player since returning from his broken finger and featuring him in the post the rest of the way is terribly important. The Raptors are aching for a player who can create high percentage shots consistently around the basket and Valanciunas has been flashing some confident and aggressive moves around the hoop of late.
“I’m not very happy with this win, other than the fact that we won,” Lee said. The biggest positive for the Warriors was the return of Bogut, who didn’t travel with the team during its East Coast road trip. He also missed 42 games earlier this season recovering from left ankle surgery and often looked hampered when he did play.
But in the fourth quarter, the Warriors rediscovered some long-lost mojo on both ends of the floor. Moving the ball sharply on the offensive end and locking down much better defensively, Golden State erased its seven-point deficit less than two minutes into the period. With the score tied at 100, rookie Harrison Barnes hit a 3-point shot with 5:40 left that launched the Warriors on their nine-point run. Klay Thompson hit two three throws with 3:53 left, Curry canned a pull-up jumper with 3:30 to go and David Lee hit two free throws with 3:03 to go. That, for all intents and purposes, was it. “I was really proud of the way we responded in the fourth quarter,” Jackson said. “(The Raptors) had everything going their way, and we were down seven. But we came out with a sense of urgency. We defended, we executed, we set screens, and Klay Thompson knocked down some shots.”
Some might say, why fire him now? Why not let Casey coach out the rest of the year and then let him go. There are two simple reasons to immediately relieve the coach of his duties. First of all, the team needs to come together and find its identity. That can’t be done with a lame duck coach. No one will respect a coach who they know won’t be around after this season. Also if you wait until the summer to fire Casey and then look for another coach, you will have already missed the boat on getting a quality replacement. All the good coaches go fast. So fire Casey now and replace him with the coach that will take the Raptors into the playoffs. If that coach can’t leave his current position yet, just agree to bring him on at the end of the season.