Raptors 95, Hawks 102 – Box
I don’t want to sound alarm bells after losing the second game of the season on the road, one which we were underdogs in to begin with.  The reality is that the Hawks, even on paper, are the better team and it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Raptors suffered defeat.

The problem one might have with what transpired on Friday night is that it could potentially speak to systemic issues: they Raptors appeared to have no offense and the coaching didn’t exactly inspire confidence.  This manifested itself in lack of touches for Jonas Valanciunas, Terrence Ross’ weird playing time (13 random minutes including a very quick pull), an overly late timeout (down 16 in the third), lack of inbound plays (to the point where the Hawks commentators were pointing it out), and worst of all, completely static offensive sets that further confirm that barely anything was covered in training camp (or so we hope because that would at least explain the lack of movement).

The first play of the game Jonas Valanciunas pulling off a beautiful spin move (GIF) on the baseline for a lay-in.  The rest of the quarter was an up-and-down, open affair where the Raptors did well to try and get to the rim.  It wasn’t pretty and even Rudy Gay (6-23 FG, 14 pts – insert eye surgery joke), struggling mightily as he was, tried to drive and slice his way rather than pull-up for that oh-so convenient jumper.  They shot 45% in the first quarter, one which was wide open enough for Dwane Casey to trot out Austin Daye as a sniper in a smallish lineup.

The second quarter was a total disaster as the Raptors abandoned their affinity towards the rim in favor of going 1-9 from three.  The lone make came from Amir Johnson which raises its own set of uncomfortable questions.  In the second is when you began to notice that there is little to no overall offensive game plan, let alone a matchup-specific one.  There’s no visible effort to work inside-out by getting the ball in to Valanciunas (or anyone else for that matter), and there is little East-West movement when the play is being initiated from the top.

[See Also: Reaction: Raptors 95 @ Hawks 102]

The engine of offense seems to be to give it to DeMar DeRozan (14-23 FG, 31 pts, 4 reb) and let him try to score, not create shots for others through some thought-out plan (2 assists on the night).  The other source of offense is Kyle Lowry or D.J. Augustin driving from the top and kicking out, which isn’t a terrible plan as both are capable of it, except that those drives are happening at the whim of the PG and not through some defined construct that supports the cause.  Still, it’s early so no need to panic.

The Hawks ended the half on a big run as the Raptors helped their transition cause by shooting a very perimeter-oriented 24%.  The difference in attacking mentality is reflected by the shot charts of the first two quarters:


The chief culprits in the jumper-heavy second were Rudy Gay and Austin Daye.  Kyle Korver (5-8 3FG) was left inexplicably open by DeRozan, and rotations to the sharp-shooter were a secondary thought in the Raptors paint-protecting defense which was increasingly conceding penetration.  The first/second quarters also included the weirdest sub of Terrence Ross who entered with 1:15 left in the first and departed with 9:11 left in the second, seemingly without any reason.  So, familiar story with the Raptors down 10 at the half with the third quarter waiting to test their resolve.

The Hawks started the third with a plan of putting the game to bed and executed with a purpose, where as the Raptors aimlessly wandered around with Lowry trying to create offense out of nothing, and nary a touch for Valanciunas, who on last check remains the only big who can actually do something down there.  Instead, there was a play with Tyler Hansbrough dribbled his way into a turnover, which although is hilarious to watch, is painful at a deeper level.  Casey remained silent as the lead climbed to 12, 13, 14 and finally decided to call a timeout down 16 with 4:31 left.

Contrast Casey’s timeout decision with the Hawks’ rookie coach: the Hawks were on an 8-2 run when their defense broke down and DeRozan fed Johnson for a lay-in underneath.  Timeout.  I thought it was a great decision because they came out of it with a play for Korver who nailed the three.  Great stuff.

As this game teetered on the cusp of being a blowout, DeRozan decided that he was going to take advantage of the shorter and talented-challenged Atlanta shooting guards.  Some “in the zone” stuff followed and although it was basically me-ball coming at the expense of any and all team play, it helped the Raptors stay within a shout. Hey, it’s like not like we were playing as a team to begin with so I saw DeRozan taking the game over as a net-positive.

This trend continued in the fourth where Casey made a successfully substitution of having Augustin and Buycks play alongside DeRozan to some success.  Unfortunately, he brought Gay back putting my Twitter contest into play:

Two things happened which killed the game for the Raptors.  Rudy Gay missed an 8-foot jumper with the Raptors down 6, which was converted into a Hawks score.  With the Raptors down six again with 54 seconds left, DeRozan stepped out of bounds.  I cannot, in good conscience, blame that last play on DeRozan because Casey’s “play calls” in the last two minutes were non-existent to the point where there wasn’t even proper screening for the receiver to catch the ball in a safe area off of an inbound pass!

As this is the first road game (and the home-opener for the Hawks) I’m going to opt out of discussion regarding Amir’s threes, the unfortunate and avoidable abuse of Valanciunas at the hands of Horford, the suppressed use of D.J Augustin despite his effectiveness, and look ahead to tonight in Milwaukee.

So far we’re on course.

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  • Ds

    I’ve watched 1.5 games so far, and so far, the offence has been the most disappointing aspect. Either it’s the lack of proper PGs or this is as good as it’s going to get with Casey’s teams: my turn (Gay), now it’s your turn (DeRozan), now it’s his turn (Lowry).

  • Milesboyer

    One thing I’ve noticed with Valanciunas is that he’s got to take some of those 15 foot jumpers he always uses as a pump fake otherwise his one move becomes incredibly predictable. The guy has a very good shot judging by his free throws. Now of course someone would have to pass it to him for that to happen.

  • Allan

    Every time

  • Allan

    Every time I see Amir Johnson attempt a 3, it makes me think that the coach wants the team to tank.

  • cdub

    I see Casey’s bizarre subs continue. Does he have some sort of infatuation with playing scrubs? Terrible game plan as usual though I’ve never seen a team lacking ball movement like this before if Casey keeps this up he will be the first one gone.

  • The Mega Sage

    It is becoming painfully apparent this is a poorly constructed, very poorly coached team.

    I sincerely think it’s time to let go of Casey (PLEASE), and desperately try to make trades that bring in pieces that actually work well together.

    This is an 11th to 13th seed team with Casey coahing. They are a low playoff team with a decent coach (SVG anyone?).

    If the course is stayed, this season is already a write off.


      You can’t build a “team” when you are relying on SportsVU cameras and stat-heads to do so;like your’re in some kind of fantasy league.

      • Well, the SportsVU cameras are more to help the coaching staff, and if Ujiri was relying on “stat-heads” then he would have traded Gay and DeRozan the moment he took over the team. And in today’s NBA, you need to understand advanced stats, otherwise you end up trading for “dynamic” players who can’t actually help your team win.

        • FLUXLAND

          I’m not saying they are not tools to be used in the process. It just seems that’s what is relied upon more so than actual player evaluation skills. And MU seems to be trying to trade them now, soo.. plus you can’t trade players people don’t want or if they are offering to fleece you.

  • Amigo

    – Players with Swag, check
    – Best GM, check
    – T Leiweke championship parade, check
    – Drake, check
    – No BC, check
    – No Calderon shitty D, check
    – No pasta and sauce, check
    – Team still sucks, check

    • FAQ

      Wiggins? Checkmate?!

  • robertparrish00

    The other troubling thing on a coaching standpoint is they got into a 3 pt contest and left Novak in street clothes.

    • FAQ

      A MU tanking decision?

    • Bendit

      Apparently he had back spasms.


    How can you have an offense or anything resembling team play when you just (voluntarily or not) announced the roster is available for trades? Why would anyone be surprised guys are showcasing?

    • FAQ

      I predict…. this “team” will never “gel”…. because it’s “not” a team! This has got to be the worst bunch of Raptor players in their history…. it’s nauseating to watch them! Every one of them has peaked and no further improvement can be expected. No wonder MU is planning a complete roster turnover starting with Gay and DD… both of whom know they are trade bait and reacting accordingly. What is puzzling is the loyalty of Rap fans… just like the Leaf fans… starved but coming back for less!!

      • FLUXLAND

        LOL. Is this the real FAQ?

        The real FAQ wouldn’t be puzzled by the THF. (Should have traded JV for Harden when they had the chance. Now they are just using him to sell Kool Aid.)

        • FAQ

          Ooooops…. and I had to think about “THF” acronym and then I realized …!!!! Maybe I’m getting on in years/seasons and old age despair is setting in …. sheesh

          p.s. … I see yer posting on the Big Forum… and getting roundly chastized and even castrated by the Real THF’s …lol

      • Minks77

        If this is the worst bunch of raps u seen u ain’t been watching long.

        • FAQ

          From the beginning… a long long time ago… in a galaxy far far away… and maybe I’m getting a tad jaded by the Raptor Promise of Better Things to Come…. oh, well there’s always next season and the one after that and then the next one….. … .. .

  • DDD

    casey needs to go. bring in karl or van gundy. someone who can actually make plays and coach a team!

  • Jamshid

    Is this really coaching problem or is this a personnel problem ? I am not sure if I place the total blame on Casey as I think this team is not constructed the right way. This season is an evaluation season and time for our new GM to see if there is anything to salvage from BC era. Personally, I think BC has left us with a team that is totally broken and full of holes and pieces that don’t match well with one another.
    At this point chaining the coach is pointless. First lets see who we have as a player and what is our identity and where we really want to go. Are we a total rebuild team or a team that wants to compete for 6-8 spot of the play offs for next x number of years. When we answer those questions then we can choose a coach that fit our philosophy for upcoming years.

    • The Mega Sage

      Casey routinely gets out coached. He doesn’t hold people accountable, doesn’t reward good play or punish bad, and he often seems to be lost. Now it’s easy for me the be an armchair coach – it’s easy for me to talk big – but it is also evident he is out of his depth when compared to his peers in the coaching profession.

      He is definitely a better coach than me, but I feel it’s pretty obvious he’s one of the worst NBA head coaches right now.

    • MMBL10

      I agree that it is unclear how much a new coach could change the offense. Looks to me that Rudy Gay is basically so full of himself that the concept of team play is just not in his DNA. No wonder Memphis dumped him. Now we have a problem. Masai no doubt would love to trade him, but first Gay has to start playing well. Sounds like the Bargs problem of last year. Casey cannot bench him or else how could we trade him. Yikes. Best we can hope is that this was just a really bad day at the office for Gay and he at least hits a higher percentage of his shots going forward.

    • mountio

      The problem is casey has it wrong either way. He cant win by riding our best players even if they are sucking it up (ie Gay last night), but he wont give our young talent (JV, TR) the extensive minutes to see what we have for the future.
      Id be fine with winning with our vets, losing with our young guys (or winning with our young guys) – but losing with our vets (and scrubs like Daye) is 100% unacceptable.

  • drg

    Why sub Daye in place of Amir? Defense? The guy has the foot speed and defensive insticts of Bargs… His offense is not worth it… Why did Buycks get any playing time? he needs to settle into this league.

    I remember Casey;s player evaluation lasting all season last year… it appears he is evaluating again.

    It is fairly clear who are best players are and Casey will be shocked to realize our bench players don’t have the ability to cause match up nightmares against anyone

  • WhiteVegas

    Very frustrating to watch. We looked good in the 1st, and then things got bad. I know this team isn’t perfectly constructed but that’s not why we lost. It was poor coaching, plain and simple. Atlanta is pretty damn poorly constructed right now too. Korver is their best wing and he’s barely starter worthy due to his defense. Casey just gets outclassed every night by the opposing coach. First move Masai makes should be canning Casey and promoting one of the assistant coaches to interim coach. Let Nurse or Bayno use the rest of the season to audition for the job. They don’t even need to win games, just show that their not brainless like Casey.


      Looked good in the 1st? 12 minutes, 1 assist. I think the ATL PG has 6 by himself in the same time frame.

  • Reed

    Fire Casey if you want to win. Don’t what else to add that everyone else has said.

  • ppellico

    wasn’t this the second night when our casey was out coached by a rookie????

    • FAQ

      Casey did a good coaching job given that his objective is to tank on orders from MU. WTH do you expect?!

  • robertparrish00

    Leo doesn’t help make the game enjoyable. His teaching points on every play kill the broadcast. Come on Drake I think this is your department….sigh.

  • nyStef

    Anyone else wonder if maybe Dwane’s just in on the tank? Not sure anything else makes any sense. The guy’s been around top level hoops enough that it’s got to be unlikely-in-the-extreme that he doesn’t know about offensive sets or what he could do to get his offensive talent working together, at least a little. After these first two I don’t know, but I seriously doubt he’s this bad a coach.

    • mountio

      100% no chance. If he was, hed be playing young guys. Fact is, he just doesnt know anything about offensive sets and his only real strength is as a solid “team guy” who is convinced that vets lead to wins. (which is btw true, especially in good teams). He just cant get over that is the wrong way to coach this team, which still has a looooooong way to go.

  • hateslosing

    While offense was pretty bad in this game I’m a lot more worried about the defense at this point. Apparently they worked hard on defense all training camp, yet the Hawks continually got wide open looks from three while we looked tired and disorganized. In the fourth they repeatedly scored on us when we needed stops.
    There are some positives to this game though:
    -Derozan 2/5 from three is a good line for him and I’ll take it every night. It was also good to see him try to take it over in the third and every shot someone else took after he started going off killed us.
    -Rudy Gay will shoot better than this, say what you will about him but this kind of terrible offense is not the norm. I like seeing two blocks in his statline.
    -This was a game we almost won despite a horrendous shooting night and what looked like a very disorganized offense. I think that says some positive things about how well this team could play with a bit more of a system.

    • FAQ

      No use playing hard defence when you are on the trade block. DD went all offence and no defence because he obviously wants to be traded asap…. soooo obvious.

      • Professionals play hard at both ends whether there are trade rumours or not. There are trade rumours about the majority of players, at times, but the professionals don’t let it affect them.

        Of course, let’s give Gay more than two games before we rush to judgement.

        • FAQ

          How the Raptors create “professionals” when they have played their option year…. give them a 4 year $40M contracts …. et voila, you have a genuine “DD” professional who seemingly hasn’t “peaked” yet … i.e. he’s still “developing” his game but he’s now a “professional”…!!!

    • GLF

      I couldn’t agree more with everything you said. The defense is definitely the more alarming thing. Yes the offensive sets are horrendous but if we played defense like in the first year Casey got here it would make up for the bad offense. We supposedly focused on defense for most of training camp, so for it to look like this isn’t a good thing. But the positives you said are true. Even though we played really bad we were still in this game at the end.

  • Brandon Ellis

    Despite the offense being broken, and the one on one play, the thing that really shocks me is the lack of pick and rolls they use. They have two very effective pick and roll bigs. Yet, they run almost NO pick and rolls. Also, JV isn’t getting any touches whatsoever…and weakside rotations, and defense at the point of attack is poor. Except for Amir, and JV in some cases.

    I love Amir, he’s the raptors best player at this point. But I hope they trade him, because he deserves better.

    I am interested to see how the season plays out, its pretty glaringly obvious they’re going to make at least one trade. Figure it will be gay or lowry to go first. Or Derozan if he can get enough.

    • Chuck Johnson

      I bet Amir missing Jose. The had great chemistry and the pick and rolls

    • GLF

      I’ve BEEN saying this! Both Amir and Jonas’ strengths are pick roll but they NEVER run it. Where is Jose when you need him? Jonas came into the league with that being his strength and he has so much success with it when he plays for his national team. I’m so confused by Casey man. He definitely needs to go. Trust me this team is A LOT better than this. If the defense isn’t going to be great this season then what’s the point of keeping Casey. He does nothing else well anyway.

    • One relaxed fella

      Yes, Lowry rarely plays PnR’s with bigs. It is pretty awkward to see a PG who doesn’t do that. Maybe it’s Casey who doesn’t want offense to go like this but when Calderon was still here, he (Calderon) was doing PnR’s with Davis, JV and Amir all the time. And it worked well. I’m not saying that Lowry is worse than Calderon, but this aspect of Lowry’s game is one of his biggest weaknesses. For example, J. Teague made 12 assists and had some nice PnR plays with Horford. Very efficient offense from a PG. Lowry isn’t a pass first, creative playmaker type of PG and I think it’s pretty obvious that in this stage of his career he can’t change the way he plays. He is what he is. I think that overall Lowry is a decent starting PG, who can provide good D and some points. Personally I would be very happy to see a PG like that (creative, pass first, playmaker) come to Raptors. But the truth is that this type of PG are pretty rare around the league and it’s really difficult to acquire one. For now, Raptors coaching staff should concentrate on demanding more ball movement and sharing between all players on the floor (especially when Rudy and Demar are playing).

  • mike

    Our team isnt the most talented but I like the players we have, mainly our starting lineup. Unfortunately when they step on the court they seem very disinterested and lost. That is all the coach’s responsibility. Casey better change this quickly or he’s seeing the door

  • rtz

    I was convinced by some that BC was pulling the strings last year and so DC couldn’t do what he wanted but I am convinced now that DC cannot coach at this level. Running ISO all game is not an offence and the time outs and subs make no sense…Fire his ass and bring in george karl.

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  • FAQ

    Is it time to start a “fantasy trades” topic thread? Bosh for Gay?!

  • KJ-B

    I get it wih Assistant Coach Casey, he’s emptying his bench waiting for Alan Anderson to show up… Not this year! The Fat Lady’s is sitting in his spot, warming up her chops Duane for a special rendition of “Bye, Bye, Bye!”

  • Andrius

    At this point I don’t think Casey is the problem, apart from Daye playing instead of Acy I don’t have too many complaints, I think they will bounce back. My biggest concern is PG, Kyle hasn’t lived up to expectations and I hate myself for still having that long term memory of those 3 or 4 games he had at the start of last season prior to the injury. It’s a tough situation because he’s been injured all the time, but I think he will still have to go. This early in the season, players are still getting used to sets and rotations, and a good floor general who is calm and collected would take off the pressure off the team, run the team, disrupt the defense by being able to run circles around it, try to make space and find open players in that way. But maybe this is a fantasy. Right now we have a guy who I notice most for arguing with the refs after he messes up a play or jacking up shots to match his scoring output with somebody else. Sad thing he doesn’t run the team, DJ is a better pointguard in that regard in my eyes, and to be honest I don’t really know what Kyle’s strength is. He does everything and the same time nothing for the team. The points he scored yesterday did nothing for the team, the worst is that teams seem satisfied with him taking shots, because he takes away higher % shots from guys like JV or Rudy who can score with the best of them, when they are put in good position. Now JV is powerless, I don’t know why he doesn’t shoot anymore, everyone knows he’s gonna fake the shot, he could rather just make it, by shooting it. The pick n roll JV kept talking about coming into the league which was his favourite weapon hasn’t been used since departure of Calderon. Lowry simply does not run the team, he never sees when JV or anybody else is open, nor he seems to look for them or try to create, at the end the possesion ends with a drive of desperation or a late kickout to a guarded man, the other 3/4 of a possesion he stands on top of the key while wings try to make cuts around Amir’s screens and you see JV in the background under the hoop behind everypossible player nearly out off bounds (that GTFO move) just trying to make space to already static offense, props for DeMar last night and for Rudy the night before having strong games shooting the ball, but all those shots were real hard points to get, if they will be guarded better or will have an off night, the ending will be like in ATL. We didn’t get any easy points last night, even LeBron gets most of his points around the rim…
    Lowry is a good dude, but he’s not good enough for this team, to get someone good and not lose a key piece at this point seems impossible, but with him running the show, we might just have to go back to the real Raptor land, where spring and summer look playoffless and cold.

    • johnn_19_2000

      Completely agree the difference was at PG. Lowry is not as yet an offense manager like Calderon was. He was taken to the cleaners by Teague who had 12ast, 1 to, 17pts and 8/9fts to Lowry’s 4ast, 4 to’s and 16pts and 3/6ft’s, giving the effect that the Hawks had a much more effective offensive flow than the Rap’s.

    • GLF

      I agree with you about Kyle but I do think that a lot of the things you’re saying is Casey’s fault as well. A lot of it is the sets Casey runs which are horrendous. If you are a point guard and and run the sets the coach tells you to run and those sets are terrible you would look bad. I think Casey used to let Jose take control because of how good of a floor general he was. But oh well if this continues Casey won’t be here much longer so there is no need to worry.

  • Everyone should take solace that we’re not Miami Heat Fans. They have an even worse record than the Raptors!

  • Phat AlberG

    Rudy Gay should’ve been bench played no D, and his decisions on the offence side of court were brutal! I don’t understand


      Yes, bench the guy they are shopping around. Sure.

      • Phat AlberG

        Dude I think everyone knows what he can do, it’s not secret

        • FLUXLAND

          So the message DC is sending out to other vets in the L will be that he benches the best player on the team? Yeah, no.

          • While I don’t agree with benching Gay because they are probably shopping him, I think the message it would send out to the league is that Casey holds players accountable, like most good coaches do.

            • FLUXLAND

              This is not HS ball. To wit, can you name an instance where this has occurred? Where the top or one of the top to players were benched for a poor performance? (AND while he’s on the block?)

              Not to mention, if you are resorting to benching players as your coaching tactic at the pro level, it speaks far more about your ability to get through to a player than the player himself. It is up to the coach to get the most out of his players, no? I realize this is a delicate balance, especially at the pro level, but I am hard pressed to believe benching your top player will attract others to team because the coach “holds the players accountable”.

              • Coaches benching star players is more common than you seem to think. Not sure why you think it never happens in the NBA. And benching a player is one way TO get through to a more stubborn player.

                And I already said I don’t think it’s a good idea to bench a player you’re trying to trade. It’s a little counterproductive.

                • FLUXLAND

                  I cannot recall one occurrence of this and or where it yielded a positive result. You have any examples for me? The players run the L, not the coaches.

                • The top players rarely HAVE to be benched, because they are top players for a reason. But it happens. Do I have specific examples? Not off the top of my head, but I don’t have specific examples of my kids not doing what they were asked despite it happening all the time.

                  Last night, Dion Waiters was benched….

                  I know that Popovich thinks nothing of benching anyone who doesn’t do what he wants. A lot of coaches who are afraid for their job won’t bench any of the star players, but those are usually the bad teams and are bad for a reason.

                  On the good teams, the coaches have some power. On the bad teams, the inmates run the asylum and that’s one of the reason they’re bad.

          • Phat AlberG

            So theory is, If your vet and your playing like crap keep him out there no matter what!… Dude it teaches the team bad habits and brings down the morale of the team as well. Because if I busting my ass in practice, and the vet can play like crap and still get minutes why should I practice hard.

            • FLUXLAND

              This is not HS ball. Dude.

              • Phat AlberG


      • Yeah

        Yet he keeps on decreasing his value by playing more, because of his terrible effectiveness…

  • Phat AlberG

    If there is shot to get Wiggins or Exum, I will trade Amir, Demar, Kyle & Rudy Gay!

  • mike

    i’m used to us missing the playoffs anyway, so missing it again this season wont make a difference. I want Wiggins and we need to rebuild this whole roster.

  • Paul

    Lakers – Rudy Gay, Kyle Lowry

    Raptors – Steve Nash, Steve Blake, Jordan Hill, (Filler.. plenty of options once Dec 15th passes), protected 1st rounder (1 or 2)

    Raptors do this because we get value for two expiring contracts without taking on any salary for next season, other than Nash, who gets to finish his career in Toronto. We get a mid to late first rounder this year and possibly a future pick as well.

    Lakers do this because a starting line of Pau, Gay, Kobe and Lowry puts them in the playoffs. Rebuilding is not an option for LA unless they are planning to trade Kobe.

    • I can see why the Lakers would do the deal, but not the Raptors. I’d hope they can get a little more than a couple of over the hill PGs, a mediocre big man and a low pick. Besides, their next two first round picks have already been traded away, so it would have to be a pick far in the future.

      • Paul

        I would hope for more too but I don’t think we’ll get it given Gay and Lowry’s contract situations.
        I think protected first rounders and expiring deals are the best we will get.
        But you’re right, the Lakers 2015 1st goes to Phoenix which I believe means this years pick is not on the table. Whoops.

        • A first round pick 5 years, and probably a low one, and a 39 year old PG making $19 million over the next two years, is less than what I think they should get for almost a full season of two productive players. Phoenix got what is likely a 2014 mid-first round pick and an expiring contract (and a player who won’t actually help them at all- good for tanking) for Gortat.

          I think packaging one or both with other players (like DeRozan, for example) will increase the value they will get back, which is what I think they should do.

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