“We have to get back to that level of play where we have the respect of the league — everybody was talking about us — and get everybody talking about that Toronto Raptors team being an up-and-coming team for next year. We have to get the respect back that we had at that point, and that wasn’t that long ago.” The way to do that is to win, or at least be competitive the rest of the way. Even the players feel there can be a carryover effect from one season to the next.
Best game in a long time From Jonas Valanciunas, that is. Sure, he made some defensive mistakes but, big whoop, everyone does and the kid played hard and well and is showing some of the toughness this team simply lacks. He fights for position, plays hard and is really finishing the season strongly. One moment caught a lot of people’s eyes: In the second quarter, he gets the ball on the baseline about 15 feet away and everyone’s expecting to either get rid of it or turn around and try to back his man down. Nope, he squares up, surveys the situation and hits a jumper. Not all that huge in itself but if he can make that shot and bring guys out to guard him, imagine how effective he’ll be with a pump fake and drive? That’s going to really make him dangerous and I think he’s bright enough to know how special that can be.
Rudy Gay had probably the quietest “19 point quarter explosion” I’ve ever seen in an NBA game. He was great in that quarter and the fact that he was 3/4 from the 3pt line helped his efficiency tonight. The guy only needed 14 shots to get his 21 points. Go Efficiency!
The frontcourt of Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas continues to be one of the few bright spots in this final stretch of this season. Despite playing on a hurting leg, Amir put up the kinds of numbers we’ve come to expect from him with 20 points on 9-of-11 shooting to go with eight rebounds and two blocks in over 37 minutes of action. As for Valanciunas, the big fella had one of the most promising games of his rookie season thus far, going off for 14 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks (though he also committed four turnovers) while showing off his rapidly expanding offensive game. As a combo, Johnson and Valanciunas combined for 34 points on 72.7 per cent shooting, 21 rebounds and six blocks.
Monroe was solid on the glass and decent in the passing game, but he struggled with his shot and … well … let’s just not talk about the interior defense on Amir Johnson and Jonas Valanciunas tonight. Drummond’s defense wasn’t great, either, but he scored around the basket, he blocked shots, he rebounded and he didn’t look all that rusty considering he’s missed the last 22 games.
“I think it’s going to be a little more interesting in a few days,” Calderon said looking ahead to Monday’s Toronto homecoming. “I mean, here it’s going to be weird because I played a lot of years for (the Raptors) but being here in Detroit, when you get on the court, you are concentrating on what you are doing for your team and your teammates, so you’re not thinking too much. In Toronto, it could be a little bit different.”
“Whatever he drank at halftime, he needs to keep drinking it,” coach Dwane Casey said of Gay, who was 7 for 11 from the floor in the third. “Something clicked at halftime to get him going.” Gay had just two free throws in the first half, but heated up quickly once the teams returned to the floor. He scored eight of the Raptors’ first 10 second-half points and added two 3-pointers later in the period to help turn the game into a rout. “We’ve got a lot of young players and we’re playing for next year,” Gay said. “These young guys need to know what it feels like to win.”