|Amir Johnson, PF 38 MIN | 9-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 20 PTS | +27
Efficiency is thy name. In a season where little has gone according to plan, Johnson’s chronicles remain the reason to be optimistic. His shot-making after a catch anywhere up until the 8-feet range is simply impeccable, and when the defense pays him no thought, he naturally becomes more effective. The catch-22 here is that Amir Johnson shouldn’t be the best player on the roster, yet he currently is.
|Rudy Gay, SF 26 MIN | 7-14 FG | 4-6 FT | 4 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 21 PTS | +17
Sleepwalked through the first half, likely because Kyle Singler was boring him and this was a game anyone would have trouble getting up for, let alone Gay. Made amends with a third quarter of the like we haven’t seen since he torched the Knicks at the ACC: 7-11 FG, 18 pts, 2 ast. That quarter effectively decided the game, since the Pistons played defense with hands in pockets.
|Jonas Valanciunas, C 39 MIN | 7-11 FG | 0-0 FT | 13 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 4 BLK | 4 TO | 14 PTS | 0
Was shown no respect by Drummond or Monroe as they left him unattended from the perimeter, and weren’t focusing on him when he did have the ball. Valanciunas made them all pay by using post-ups effectively, hitting the short jumpers (including ones where he catches the ball high and shoots high), and getting offensive rebounds he has no business getting. The line speaks for itself and given the size of the opposition, it’s impressive.
|Kyle Lowry, PG 30 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 11 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 4 PTS | +15
Too many poor decisions for my liking, especially on some of the passes he makes when even under moderate pressure. His second-half performance, notably in transition, made up for some of the mistakes, but looking ahead to next season he needs to drastically improve the consistency at which he impacts the game. Right now, he can’t be counted on for much.
|DeMar DeRozan, SG 33 MIN | 10-20 FG | 1-1 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 21 PTS | +21
Started off with an airball and getting his shot swatted into the first row. Very perimeter oriented to begin, but got a feel for the game in the second when was posting up Knight. Once the Pistons gave up in the third quarter, he found his movements and scoring come much easier.
|Landry Fields, SF 20 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | +7
The brightest spot in the first half and the only Raptor who looked totally into the game. Got a couple offensive rebounds and even nailed some catch-and-shoots, including one in transition. Of course, these games don’t mean anything but from a health perspective, it appears that he isn’t as useless as he appeared earlier in the year.
|John Lucas, PG 18 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +2
Got the call as the backup tonight and did little to even deserve a mention. Looked for Valanciunas on the PnRs which was good.
|Alan Anderson, SG 22 MIN | 3-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | 0
Hoisted up five quick shots in the first half, making one. Didn’t do much of anything in the second in limited minutes. He looks to get his everytime he touches the ball, it’s so obvious that I’m shocked he’s even getting a single minute of playing time.
|Terrence Ross, SG 15 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | -4
Limited minutes on account of the Raptors playing with two bigs to counter Monroe and Drummond, which means that the four-guard lineup was nowhere to be seen, with Casey opting to go with Gay/DeRozan/Lowry for when this game was in question. Still, though, whatever is given to Anderson should be funnelled here, regardless of performance.
Good job for not trotting out that ridiculous four-guard lineup which could’ve gotten us slaughtered. Rudy Gay’s great third quarter meant a big lead for the Raptors, and more importantly for Casey, meant that he didn’t have to make any real decision in the fourth. That’s a great feeling for a coach.
Five Things We Saw
- It’s rare the Raptors face a team that’s actually worse than them, but tonight was the case. They looked to have made things tough for themselves, but that third quarter sealed the deal. The Raptors were +2 (35-15) in the third quarter, in which they shot 60% to the Pistons’ 35%. Ten of their 15 field goals were assisted, as Detroit failed to come out for the second half.
- There’s a lot of commentator talk about how Casey wants this team to “go go go”, meaning they should run the ball. Easier said than done, I say, since pure athleticism isn’t enough. The guys who force the issue on running teams are the wings who can rebound, have the ball at the start of the possession, have superior ball-handling skills, and are committed and focused enough to push consistently. I can see Lowry getting there, but I just don’t see it with DeRozan and Gay.
- The Pistons don’t seem to raise their hands on shot-contests with their bigs being the guiltiest parties. Their defense is so easy to break down that I’m surprised Lawrence Frank has a job (25th in the league). They seem to have the talent on paper but don’t seem to sustain on defense at all.
- The confidence at which Valanciunas is playing is great. He’s also getting the ball immediately on the pick ‘n rolls, with both Lowry and Lucas both looking for him instead of just dribbling to the other side after a screen. The form on his jumper needs improvement but its actually already somewhat effective and will only get better. You have to like how he mixes it up but keeping the defense honest with a drive every time. Now, if he could only go left, and spin back to the middle. That would be sweet.
- Raps snap a five-game losing streak. Jose Calderon returns to the ACC on Monday. Give him a big hand if you do see him. Those of you calling for his return next year should ease up though.