Well, at least the losing streak is over, right?

Justifications aside, I don’t know if I’ve ever felt less excited about a blowout win then I did after watching last night’s effort against the Suns, who submitted a performance about as inspiring as Oliver Miller leading a weight-loss seminar (click here for player grades). This won’t be as long of a postgame as I’m accustomed to writing, mainly because this game was over just after halftime and could feasibly just be: “Raptors care, opponents don’t.”

Early on, it looked like we were in for an offensive shootout – not really due to either team playing particularly well, but generally lethargic defence on both ends. It’s really not a stretch to say that this game was comparable to an All-Star type game in terms of playing style – both teams seemed to walk up the floor in the first and run whatever play they felt like running, with little to no opposition from the other squad. For the Raptors, this meant DeMar, Rudy, and Andrea taking turns going one-on-one with their assigned defenders, with some success, and for Phoenix, this meant feeding Marcin Gortat on quick cuts and the pick and roll, who seemed to be getting to the rim at will against the Raptors’ thin front line of Jonas and AB.

Late in the first, though, Gortat went down with a foot injury on a seemingly innocuous play (x-rays were negative, but he did not return), sabotaging both his teams’ chances in the game, as well as my fantasy league title hopes, and the game slowly began to turn in the Raptors’ favor. Without a true defensive presence in the middle (we even saw Hamed Haddadi play for stretches), the Suns’ already lacking defence became D-league quality, and the Raptor bench took advantage to the tune of a 26-16 second quarter and a 14 point halftime lead.

Sebastian Telfair was the Raptors’ best player tonight. No, that is not a misprint. Bassy came in early in the second and was the catalyst for the second unit’s run that eventually blew this game open, playing stingy defence on Goran Dragic that seemed to settle the Raptors down on that end (though that may also be partly due to the stabilizing presence of Amir inside), as well as hitting an array of shots from both outside and inside, and providing the ball movement that seemed to be non-existant in the Raptor starters’ iso-heavy sets. Lowry didn’t play poorly by any stretch, yet Telfair was kept in for the duration of the second quarter, and finished the night playing 6 minutes more than his starting counterpart – totally justified given his play and the blowout nature of the game.

The second half of this game doesn’t deserve much of a write-up, so let’s just explain it with this little tidbit: the Raptors committed 17 turnovers in the half, a number they’ve exceeded only 7 times in a FULL GAME this season, yet still outscored the Suns by 13. Sloppy. Basketball. I really can’t overstate how disinterested the Suns looked tonight – every player on the team looked like they’d rather be somewhere else, particularly Shannon Brown, who was inexplicably passed over by Diante Garrett on the depth chart. In any case, sometimes, late in the season, effort is all it takes to win games against a mediocre team, and effort is something the Raptors have always had in spades, even though the execution has been flawed at times.

We’ve given a lot of space to criticisms of Dwayne Casey’s rotations in this space, and I don’t want to pile on after a 27-point blowout, but I did want to single out the use of Jonas Valanciunas in tonight’s game. Jonas had an excellent game while he was in, showcasing a versatile offensive game against Phoenix’s depleted front line and holding down the fort on D admirably after Gortat went down.

That said, the amount of touches – and minutes – he received last night was borderline criminal. I know 20 minutes seems like a reasonable amount, but in a game where the outcome is never really in doubt and the other team doesn’t have a real matchup threat, why not just let him play until he asks out? I’m also quite concerned about the effect that playing with so many one-on-one offensive players in the Raptor starting lineup can have on his offensive development – the guy works so hard for his touches, and just doesn’t get enough of them. If he’s really supposed to be the future of our franchise, FEED HIM WHEN YOU GET THE CHANCE. It’s not rocket science, people. I really wish he’d have gotten some burn with the second unit, who seemed far more interested in sharing the ball, particularly early in the game before things got Harlem Globetrotters-y.

In any case, a win’s a win, and one that was certainly good for team morale with games against the Lakers, Celtics, and Heat looming on the horizon. Keep calm, feed Jonas, and carry on.

  • Duncan

    i totally agree, jonas needs more touches, especially in a blow out! since playoffs are not really a thing anymore, we should focus on developing acy, ross and JV.

    • BCBargnaniFieldsCaseyGots2Go!

      I thought the Jay Traino era was for player development- or was that just for AB’s development aka coddling?

      Rogers/Bell needs to blow this whole franchise up from the front office on down tot he announcers and bring in a new era of Raptors basketball sans the bad karma of BC, AB and the like….

      Ladies & gentlemen your Toronto Bargnanis…..uhh, I mean your Andrea Raptors….

  • DumbassKicker

    So with the game still technically in doubt, you think Casey should have had Jonas out there covering Beasley or Morris at the 5? Agree or not, the Raptors are still chasing wins and a possible playoff spot. To do otherwise is to send the wrong quitter message to the players. Putting Jonas out there to cover those type of players, before the game is an official blowout, would be silly. May as well sic Ross on Scola too.

    PS> Telfair didn’t come in early in the 2nd, but with 2-3 minutes left in the 1st. 

    • The Truth

      The players quit on the season a week ago. We are now in the segment of the season where we win all the meaningless games and the Ben Uzoh’s of the world get triple doubles.

      • DumbassKicker

        Thank you for sharing your opinion. It’s not based on reality, but enjoy yourself feeling that.

    • [email protected]

      STFU mentioning playoffs and the Raptors in the same sentence for this season check your kool aid drinking self into rehab ASAP…..chap…

  • sleepz

    Couple of things I don’t understand about the need to put Andrea in the starting line-up and giving him minutes to “get him going”.

    The popular opinion is that to trade him we need to showcase him and get him scoring again. The media, team, fans all have been saying this for over a week now. Doesn’t the rest of the league know this then? Wouldn’t other teams be wary of what is happening and come the off-season understand that the strategy of the team was to try and boost his perceived value? Why would I now as a GM be interested in trading something of value based on some hollow stats at the end of the year? I would have far more reliable data (previous 7 years) to refer to when making a decision on whether or not to trade for AB. I think that the argument his value will be boosted with more playing time might not be as sound as everyone thinks it is.

    Second issue I have is no one seems to take issue with the fact that Amir has been fairly consistent at the 4 spot this year, is still only 25 and is the most productive frontcourt player on the team…….. but has lost his job. Is it right to try and get a player going who the team has readily acknowledged they want to get rid of but then promote him to a starting role over a player who has clearly been the teams top performer in the frontcourt?
    Doesn’t Amir care about his future, his contract, and establishing himself as a player? I hear a huge uproar as to why JV and Ross aren’t getting minutes they need but I feel much bigger issue should be taken with the fact that you have a young vet who has gotten better, earned minutes, typically plays banged up but yet is still playing 2nd fiddle to the ‘enigma’.

    I truly question if BC is actually even prepared to trade Andrea.  A decent offensive month and the narrative might change to “he only needed a chance to get acclimated to his new teammates”.

    • SR

      Completely agreed.  Amir is the absolute last guy on this team who deserves to lose his starting role.  All so they can accommodate the biggest headache on the roster?  Holy sh*t.

      • NyAlesund

         Do you think it is really important to be a starter or not? I don’t think Amir is hurt to be “demoted” as sixth man. The real think is how many minutes he is playing and when. If he plays down the stretch for more than 30 minutes, there no problem.

        • sleepz

          As a player if I’ve earned the minutes, I want to start.

          • NyAlesund

             This is your opinion, but Ginobili starts as sixth man………and we know that he is a legit starter…..

          • ghotte

            So if Amir says he doesn’t care (and wonder upon wonder, he may not actually care) whether he starts or not who are you to question that? Casey sat him down and explained things to him so at least he was shown a measure of respect. Most coaches wouldn’t even do that much…

      • Guest

        I think it makes more sense for Amir to come off the bench so that he can sub in for JV as centre… that way Bargnani doesn’t have to be the lone big at any time and can concentrate on blocking while JV or Amir are grabbing the boards or vice-versa.  

        You guys are getting too political about it and not thinking about the game.

    • Nilanka15

      I agree with almost everything you said.  But wanted to point out that although Amir has been demoted, he’s still averaging close to 30 mpg.  It seems like his demotion was in title only, not in playing time.

      • sleepz

        That is true, however if I’m a player I would want my minutes and if I’ve good enough I would want to start as well.

        How many players do you know would prefer to come off the bench then start?

        It can also possibly make a difference come contract time.

        • DumbassKicker

           Yeah, Ginobli has been upset for years. How stupid can Popovich be to use a talented and coveted player off the bench for big minutes?

          • sleepz

            You can bring up the example of Ginobili, which is fine and a valid one. Are you are comparing Casey to Popps in the rational behind both decisions? You think he’s playing Manu to boost his trade value? Nuff said. 

            How many other players would prefer to start then come off the bench if given the choice?

            Just look at Bargnani if you need an example! If it wasn’t an issue why not just let him continue to come off the bench for scoring? Up until this year the argument has always been “you can’t let Andrea come from off the bench because the role doesn’t suit him”.

            No one said Amir is angry about this. I just said that it’s wrong to play Andrea in that role when there is a more deserving player on the team who has done what the team has expected of him and should be rewarded for that.

            • skeptical

              “Wrong” isn’t the word to use here. If this is in the best interest of the team going forward, then Amir coming off the bench should happen and he should be ok with it.

              I just hope that Casey communicated with Amir about the change first, making sure that it’s not a situation that could cause hurt or disrespected feelings. If I had been the best big all year and then got demoted to see a struggling player take my place, I’d want to know why in no uncertain terms.

              • DumbassKicker

                All reports are that it was thoroughly discussed with Amir, and one can’t possibly say that they saw any ill effects on Amir’s performance or attitude these two games.

                • FLUXLAND

                  All reports? Even the fact that communication has occured, how exactly do you know what the demeanor of the conversation was? Are you in the locker room, or are you just wearing your THF tinfoil hat?

                  If you actually watched the games, there is plenty of evidence to support the argument Amir is being a crybaby. 

                • DumbassKicker

                  I never said I know anything about the demeanor, much less know exactly what it was, but I see you’re at your finest making shit up self today.

                  Though your TMZ/Inquirer style gossip you call “evidence” of Amir may be interesting to some, I prefer to “actually watch games” for the basketball play. That’s why I watch, anyway. But since we’re speaking of reactions to what some melodramatically are calling a “demotion”, I’ve seen Amir play two very good and typically energetic games.

                  In fact, what I saw was Amir playing 32 minutes, having the game of his life, going 10/10 for 23 points, grabbing 15 boards, 12 of them offensive ones, and a couple of blocks.,,,,,,, You see “plenty of evidence he’s a crybaby”. I have no clue what you’re talking about, but don’t mistake me for one of the people, or your teddy bears, that may enjoy your gossipy take on Amir playing great.

                • FLUXLAND

                  Don’t mistake Amir getting his for TEAM play. 

                  Stay blind, THF.

            • DumbassKicker

              “You think he’s playing Manu to boost his trade value? Nuff said.”

              I have no idea how you get that from what I said, so it ain’t nuff.

              “Are you are comparing Casey to Popps in the rational behind both decisions?”

              It wasn’t a comparison of two coaches per se, but an example that quality players that have earned great respect, are fine with coming off the bench for the purpose of providing a better rotation of the talents on the team, as the coach sees it. You are certainly within your rights to have an opinion that this rotation doesn’t work best, but some of your statements do imply that “Amir is angry about this”, or should be:

              -“Doesn’t Amir care about his future, his contract, and establishing himself as a player?”
              – “yet is still playing 2nd fiddle”
              -“As a player if I’ve earned the minutes, I want to start.” (Note: Ginobli is a player, Harden would still be coming off the bench of OKC had pad him what he wanted)
              -“How many players do you know would prefer to come off the bench then start?”

              Hey, disagree with the move all you want, but recognize that implying how Amir should or even does feel about it is based on what you think you would feel, not on any indication from him. All evidence is that he’s totally a TEAM guy and not some mediocre prima donna needing to be listed as a “starter” over getting minutes when it’s best for the team, including closing out games which is much more an indication of how he’s valued than who starts.

              • sleepz

                Oh I know Amir is a team guy. There is no questioning that. I just don’t see the installation of Bargnani into the starting line-up as something that is inherently good for the team.

                On the surface the argument can definitely be made, but the situation just doesn’t feel right.

              • FLUXLAND

                All evidence? What evidence? Do you have locker access to confirm these opinions?

                Anyway,  “thank you for sharing your opinion. It’s not based on reality, but enjoy yourself feeling that”

                • DumbassKicker

                  LOL, I love when a clown goes out of his way to try and be a smartass, but ends up demonstrating that he’s a dumbass. Thanks for the chuckle, sweet little troll.

              • ghostdini

                Well said!

    • daxel

      Since we are a few months away from the off-season, one would normally say that your statement on what BC might do is premature.  Unfortunately, we all can’t put it past BC to end up justifying for the umpteenth time why he finally won’t rid this franchise of Primo Pasta & Sauce.

      I would sincerely hope though that THIS time, there will be consequences from the Board if BC doesn’t follow-through (i.e. YOU’RE FIIIIIIIIIIIIIIRRREED!).  But again, BC is a corporate snake – he seems to have a knack for saving his ass with that silver tongue of his.  A man who knows how to present himself and a media conglomeration is a match made in heaven.

    • DumbassKicker

      I think it’s simplistic to see it as nothing more than showcasing, especially misguided in light of clear evidence that the coach and team have not quit on striving for a playoff spot, and it’s also clear that his teammates are cheering him on as he’s shown much better over the last couple of games. Accept it or not, it goes deeper than showcasing.

      That aside, GMs around the league certainly have 6 prior years to evaluate him, but that tells them that he was much better than what he showed in his games after coming back from a 2 month injury layoff. Coupled with the injury issue last year, GMs need to see that he’s not permanently damaged before you’re going to be able to move him for anything of value. Doing whatever they can to get him going is good for the Raps, however you look at it.

      • sleepz

        Ok.

        If they already know about him and GM’s have the data to evaluate him already, why start him and communicate to the fans that it’s for that purpose?

        I agree with you that he has been better in previous years (not good imo, but better than this year) but enough to want to trade for him with the new CBA rules forthcoming? We shall see soon enough.Injuries happen in sports. Why would he be permanently damaged? Can’t a normal physical dispell any future health problems in the event a team wants to trade for him?

        If it goes deeper than ‘showcasing’ then this is a bigger concern I have. Casey has said from day one that he will play the guys who earn their minutes. Accountability right? Sending the right messsage to the players that work hard no? All of that is just talk when in reality the opposite is being done. 

        • DumbassKicker

          “If they already know about him and GM’s have the data to evaluate him
          already, why start him and communicate to the fans that it’s for that
          purpose?”

          Where and when was the communicated to the fans? I’ve seen fans and media speculating that, but not the team.

          “Can’t a normal physical dispell any future health problems in the event a team wants to trade for him?”

          Teams don’t offer other teams to do a physical until a trade has already been consummated. That’s used as an insurance policy, and many teams would understandably be reluctant to announce a trade of one of their players unless there is reasonable certainty that they’ll not only pass a physical (Fields did too), but actually be able to play up to a certain standard, which could also be affected by psychological state. In simple terms, they need to see him play up to what they’re willing to pay for him, not just pass a physical.

          “If it goes deeper than ‘showcasing’ then this is a bigger concern I
          have. Casey has said from day one that he will play the guys who earn
          their minutes. Accountability right? Sending the right messsage to the
          players that work hard no? All of that is just talk when in reality the
          opposite is being done. ”

          Do you know what criteria Casey applies to “earning minutes” and “accountability”? I’m sure you have your idea of what that is, and that’s probably reasonable for a guy not involved in coaching an NBA team, but you have no idea what kind of effort any player has been putting in on the practice court and what he may be working through, physically or mentally. The rest of his teammates even going out of their way to cheer him on would seem to be a significant sign that those actually in the know feel he belongs out there, and questioning of both Casey and Amir seem to indicate that Amir doesn’t have a problem with it.

          • sleepz

            I don’t think that the team will come out and admit to it publically, but we already know that the Raps often ‘leak’ stuff into the media to indicate their intentions. You might disagree with this but if you’ve been a fan of this team for awhile you can’t say this notion is offbase.

            You are right that teams don’t allow physicals until a trade is made, however if a trade is made and he’s ‘broken’ then he can be sent back to his former team. Thats is what I meant in regards to a ‘simple physical’. Conversely, how could you look at him on the court and know if there is indeed something wrong until you examine him?

            Do you know what criteria Casey applies to earning minutes and accountability? I can ask you the exact same thing.
            You insinuate that because I am not an NBA coach or in these circles that my ideals are off base, however your proof of  why he should be out there is based on his teammates standing up to defend him from home fans booing? A bit of a stretch no?

            The past 6 years have seen a coach get fired for not playing him. Players moved out or down in the rotation to accomodate him (C to PF switch) and still up to this year bascially building the team around him and his skill set that has kept the team in the lottery as the results speak for themselves. To me it has been more of an agenda by the GM to try and make Andrea look good than his play demanding he be on the court. You might disagree with this but it’s how I feel.

            You are absolutely correct, in that I don’t know what is going on in the lockerroom, but either do you.

            • FLUXLAND

              Yes, but because his opinion is of the more optimistic/THF variety,  and because he believes everything he reads from the media, in his mind it is more valid.

              He ignores things like your last paragraph, because it doesn’t fit his reality.

              p00ka sheriff on the prowl, that’s all.

               

              • DumbassKicker

                LOL, I love when a clown goes out of his way to try and be a smartass,
                but ends up demonstrating that he’s a dumbass. Thanks for the chuckle,
                sweet little troll.

    • ghostdini

      Appreciate your opionion sleepz, but here is my take. Since AB has been in the league he has been a proven, if inefficient scorer. Everbody knows he can’t rebound and his help defense is weak but a lot of people would agree that when motivated his man defense is above average. Since his return from injury, he has been abysmal, maybe from lack of confidence and being demoted to the bench. When this happened, his stock plummeted to an all time low. Putting him back in the starting line-up, was an attempt to re-juvenate his scoring which seems to be working and he is also playing some solid D. Just like any player in the league who is going through a slump or returning from injury, a team who wants to trade a player much show that he  can still play, which is exactly what this Raps have done and it seems to have worked. BTW, every GM in the league knows AB is a scorer  and in this league that skillset is always in need somewhere.
      As for AJ, being demoted so to speak, I disagree with that assumption. A lot of really good players come off the bench for the benefit of their teams. Jamal Crawford, Ginobli, J.R. Smith, etc,etc. AJ was asked to come off the bench for the betterment of the team. AB in the starting line-up makes the team a little more dangerous offensively while AJ coming off the bench adds defense,energy and rebounding. Notice, AJ minutes aren’t being cut and we all know the saying ” It doesn’t matter who starts, its who on the floor at the end of the game.”  So I don’t really see the detriment of  AJ, a proven veteran coming off the bench since his play has been excellent.

  • NyAlesund

    This team as a lot ball hog. That is the problem.  For instance, if we had a lineup composed by Lucas III, Anderson, DeRozan, Gay and Valanciunas, you can be sure that Val didn’t touch ball for minutes……… but only to imbound the ball.
    Some players have to realize the concept that the ball movement is the key for success. Otherwise if you persist of doing this, you have to be more effective than James….Bryant……Durant…..I don’t see this guys here.

  • JuandelaCruz

    Does Bryan Colangelo have Italian descent? 

    If it is….then..too bad for Dwane Casey..great for Andrea Bargnani…awesome for the Primo Pasta franchise…

    and it will be a long years of suffering for Raptors fans…

    • DumbassKicker

      Offensive comment deleted; sorry I missed it earlier – sam

      • DumbassKicker

        imposter