Amir Johnson, PF36 MIN | 4-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 6 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | +22Those 6 blocks were the only thing keeping the Hawks from running a lay-up line on the Raptor defence early on, and, by the time the rest of his teammates woke up and started playing D, the game was already close to out of reach. Another excellent performance from him tonight, as he dominated against Atlanta’s decimated front line. Also, he hit a three, which was fun.
Rudy Gay, SF27 MIN | 9-14 FG | 1-1 FT | 4 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 22 PTS | +15Tonight, he was DeMar lite, finishing with an extremely efficient 22 points on 9 of 14 shooting. The only reason he gets a lower grade than DeRozan is that his early defense on Korver left something to be desired, but when your team wins by 20 that’s just picking nits.
Jonas Valanciunas, C33 MIN | 4-5 FG | 5-6 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 4 TO | 13 PTS | +7Still needs to work a bit harder to protect the ball when he rolls toward the hoop, but tonight was a great statement game for Jonas on the national stage. He absolutely tore Johan Petro apart on both sides of the floor, as he should, and even finished with his left hand tonight, something I’ve criticized him for in the past. It was great to see him return (surprisingly) to finish out the season and not look like he’d missed a beat after sitting out all last week.
Kyle Lowry, PG27 MIN | 2-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 5 REB | 11 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 8 PTS | +17Those shooting stats aren’t great, but he was a major reason the Raptor offense worked so well tonight. He’s a much better player when the drive-and-kick becomes option 1 for him, and tonight, he ran it to perfection, finding his wing players anytime they were open and throwing up a few highlight-reel alley-oops for good measure.
DeMar DeRozan, SG28 MIN | 11-17 FG | 5-6 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 30 PTS | +13He’s been on fire lately, and his hot streak continued tonight. I loved his shot selection for the most part – he posted up Devin Harris early and didn’t force up nearly as many jumpers as he usually does, instead getting them through the flow of the offense. That might be partially due to a listless Hawks defense, and partially due to a suddenly rejuvenated Kyle Lowry, but, even so, it sure was nice to watch.
Quincy Acy, SF22 MIN | 2-5 FG | 1-2 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 5 PTS | +7I’m still loving the hustle and energy, though he clearly needs to work on his jump shot this offseason to keep defences honest. I’m not so sure that he won’t end up being one of Colangelo’s best draft picks, as he’s clearly proven that he’s got the ability to be a rotation-level NBA player as he continues to develop.
Landry Fields, SF9 MIN | 0-2 FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 1 PTS | -3Came in for garbage time and ran around without much of an end-game in mind. Unfortunately for him, he didn’t have a chance to do much else.
John Lucas, PG21 MIN | 4-8 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | 0So, if Anderson is the poor man’s Kobe, and Lucas is the poor man’s Anderson… Does that make Lucas the homeless man’s Kobe? In all seriousness, he played very well when the game was in doubt in the first half, running the second unit offense excellently – and then decided to try and shoot every time he touched the ball in garbage time. Yuck.
Alan Anderson, SG19 MIN | 1-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | +2Shots, shots, shots shots shots shots… EVERYBODY!
Terrence Ross, SG18 MIN | 3-7 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +5Here’s hoping that ankle injury isn’t serious, as he’s finally seemed to pick up his energy level and is looking much more like the promising talent we saw for stretches mid-season. If it does sideline him for tomorrow’s game (I’d assume it will), at least he got one last highlight-reel dunk in, on TNT no less, for good measure.
Dwane CaseyMade the right decisions with his lineup, got his guys up to play what was essentially a meaningless game, and showed up a playoff team on TNT. Tonight, I have no complaints. Well, I have one complaint: why the hell is Anderson playing over Fields? Am I missing something here?
Five Things We Saw
Tonight’s game was broadcast live across the U.S. on TNT (the first time for the Raptors since their playoff series against Orlando in 2008), and the young Raps clearly took this opportunity to showcase their talents to heart, playing some of their best offensive basketball of the year. The Hawks? Well, they sat Al Horford. So… yeah.
Because of Horford’s unexpected scratch, as well as Jonas Valanciunas’ unexpected return to action and Josh Smith only playing 13 minutes due to soreness, the Raptor frontline was far more loaded than the Hawks, and it showed – the Hawks had difficulties getting past the Raptor duo of Amir and Jonas all night (9 blocks combined), while the Raptors essentially ran their own offense through the lane, driving and kicking with reckless aplomb.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: ball movement is so key for this team, and tonight, the unselfishness was absolutely apparent. The Raptors finished with 24 assists on 40 made field goals, but that number doesn’t encompass the amount of beautiful first-passes that led to easy Raptor field goals. One in particular stands out: a beautiful Ross to Amir to Acy play on a fast break in the 3rd quarter that led to an easy dunk.
The biggest red flag tonight, if there was one, was the amount of turnovers committed by the Raptors (18 in total). Quite a few of these were on deflected drives (Jonas and Rudy) or passes that were just too crazy to be made (Lowry). It’s hard to ignore 18 turnovers, but the fact that the Raptors still managed to put up 113 points on 51% shooting (which was over 60% until garbage time) gives you some idea of just how efficient they were when they managed to run a play without giving up the ball.
With this win, the Raptors have at least tied Hollinger’s much maligned 33-win prediction to start the season, and have a chance to surpass that number (and cap a 7-2 April) tomorrow night against the Boston Celtics, who will certainly be playing with heavy hearts. I’ll be skipping a traditional post-game tomorrow morning to make room for the pre-game Celtic coverage, so, as my last word for the season, let me end with this: for all the sense it makes to tank, it sure is nice to see a group of guys who want to win – I mean, REALLY want to win – every game they play. We might not have the talent, not yet, but we certainly have the character. In other words: at least we’re not the Kings.