Amir Johnson, PF23 MIN | 2-4 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +18AMIR JOHNSON AVERY BRADLIED AVERY BRADLEY! I can honestly say that tonight was the first time I saw a big man steal the ball off of a point guard in a full court press. The timing on his help defense is so nuanced; his veteran play makes it easy to forget that he’s still only 25 years old. Valanciunas and DeMar have given Raptors fans a reason to feel optimistic over the last few weeks, but Amir has been doing it all season long. It’s been a tremendously underrated year for Amir Johnson, who has easily become my favorite Raptor since He-who-shall-not-be-named.
Rudy Gay, SF26 MIN | 6-14 FG | 3-3 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 19 PTS | +15“Get ready for next year. Hope to see you next year.” That was Rudy’s address to the crowd on fan appreciation night tonight. I’m going to leave that one alone. As long as we’re just talking about tonight though, there is no reason not to praise Mr. Gay’s very solid performance. Gay had 19 points and 9 rebounds with relative ease, and if he can do that while being efficient in his shot selection next year, I promise to be his biggest fan. Rudy Gay continues to show how valuable he can be in an offense in which he is a cog instead of the key to.
Jonas Valanciunas, C29 MIN | 6-10 FG | 6-8 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 3 BLK | 4 TO | 18 PTS | +20Jonas hammered the early offensive boards and controlled the first quarter of the game, showing why big men have such a value in this league. Jonas drew a foul with a rarely seen pump fake at the 8:06 mark of the first quarter. He busted out that pump fake another couple of times afterwards looking very agile for a man his size and getting fouled, or a good shot as a result. I understand that it’s silly to be excited about an NBA player demonstrating that they can do a pump fake. I don’t care. Dominating Chris Wilcox, Shavlik Randolph and Fab Melo doesn’t make you the second coming of Shaquille O’Neal; but man, it is an absolute joy to watch. Boston gave Valanciunas a few open mid-range jumpers, and he looked confident and comfortable in taking them. Jonas was working his hook shot tonight. His release on it is stiff and overthought. But the ease with which he steps into and creates space for that shot shows that he’s only a few hundred hours of practice away from being very good at a shot that is impossible to defend.
Kyle Lowry, PG22 MIN | 3-9 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 8 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 9 PTS | +17Two weeks ago, I summed up Lowry’s performance by addressing an open letter to him asking where Kyle Lowry, bona-fide NBA starting point guard, had gone. We watched him play tonight. In these last 2 weeks since, Lowry has averaged 8.9 assists, 9.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals in just 32 minutes per game. Point well made Kyle; I’ll shut up and go away now. Lowry acknowledged his own disappointment in his play this season and what needs to and will change for next year. I very much respect and believe that.
DeMar DeRozan, SG29 MIN | 8-13 FG | 5-5 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 24 PTS | +23DeMar has undergone a visible change in demeanor over the last few months. A more relaxed DeMar took a step up after the arrival of Gay removed the weight of the franchise from his shoulders, and he’s been nothing short of fantastic since the Raptors were eliminated from the playoffs. I would love to see if DeMar could be this player again next year when the pressure is back on. The continued freedom from double-teams, increased post-up opportunities in next year’s offense and a summer he’s promised to spend finding his range from 3 (he’s shot 75% from 3 over the last 3 games, no big deal) is reason to believe that good things lie ahead for DeMar and, by extension, the Raptors.
Quincy Acy, SF25 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-2 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | +9I see you Quincy Acy. If Landry Fields and Amir Johnson hadn’t already demonstrated the possible value of a second round pick to you, surely Quincy Acy’s late season stretch of improved play made the point. Toronto has traded away their second round pick for 3 of the next 4 years. (Pardon me for a moment while my head explodes.)
Landry Fields, SF28 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 11 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | +10Landry Fields has shown us in games like these why we’re happy to start fresh with him next year. Of course, this deal is predicated upon the understanding that his PlayStation Vita commercials that were so inescapable during Raptors games this year will be less painfully unwatchable in the future. I’m not blaming Landry here; it’s the awkward gimmick, not Landry that’s the problem. But he needs to understand how impatient and irritable a fan base can be when they’ve been tortured by “Primo pasta and sauce” for years.
Aaron Gray, C14 MIN | 1-1 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | 0Aaron gay shot 100% from the floor tonight, proving once again that you simply cannot stop Aaron Gray. You can only hope to contain him.
John Lucas, PG26 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | +7I continue to throw things in anger whenever I think about how we traded a second round pick so that Sebastian Telfair could substitute John Lucas as a backup point guard for 185 meaningless minutes. In Lucas’ defense, while his often ill fated drives to the basket really like to get blocked, his right corner 3-point shots really, really like to go in.
Alan Anderson, SG19 MIN | 5-10 FG | 4-4 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 16 PTS | +1The Alan Anderson experience has been a hell of a ride. He’s proven to be a valuable irrational confidence guy at times, winning a pair of mid season games on his own. He’s also the captain of the ‘I-refuse-to-even-look-at-the-wide-open-roll-man’ all-stars. Anderson took every possible shot that he could tonight, but he salvaged his bad selection by grabbing his own rebound and putting it back in on multiple occasions in a game where Boston wasn’t particularly concerned about doing much of anything. It’s been swell Alan, I feel confident in speaking for Raptors fans who wish you nothing but the best, and will fondly remember those 4th quarters you owned.
Dwane CaseyCasey has gotten his team to play hard, embrace their short-comings, demonstrate a team mentality and develop confidence in themselves. The team’s front court defence has been impressive down the stretch, and adding a focused and determined Kyle Lowry and Rudy Gay to that team defence next season could finally be the unit that validates Casey’s reputation as a great defensive mind. It’s a tough sell to get your team to perform in a manner that gives your fans reason for optimism after you’ve been eliminated from the season. Whether or not that was a good idea in terms of all but ensuring that the team will now miss it’s first round lottery pick, it’s an impressive feat, and one that I’ve enjoyed watching.
Five Things We Saw
As Herb Coon stated on behalf of the Raptors: Tonight, we are all Boston fans.
Jonas Valanciunas has Toronto fans almost even more excited than when they get 100-point game free pizza. —Almost.
Paul Pierce is immune to travelling calls. Whether or not this is the result of some sort of charm, spell, cloak, amulet, incantation or rare Magic card, I’m not sure. But the ref’s are clearly not aloud to call him on it.
Kevin Garnett got the night off for rest. While everyone hoping to watch his cagey defense and slick mid-range jumper were disappointed, I’m sure that the towel kids and Vim mop-up guys were happy to not to be sworn and yelled at just for standing there by the ‘veteran’.