|Amir Johnson, PF 30 MIN | 6-11 FG | 2-3 FT | 8 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 3 TO | 14 PTS | +13Looked tired tonight (understandable given the torrid pace he’s been on lately), but worked his ass off, as usual, and had a big fourth quarter to turn in a respectable stat line. Watching him work with Vasquez on the pick and roll is a thing of beauty and should only get better as they become more comfortable with one another. Not sure how I feel about the “Doctor of Denial” nickname.|
|Jonas Valanciunas, C 31 MIN | 6-11 FG | 3-4 FT | 11 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 4 BLK | 1 TO | 15 PTS | +14One of his best games of the year, though it still came with a couple of things to improve. Fought hard to get his through an excellent scouting job by the Bulls, who were content to let him shoot from the free throw line. He also had difficulties at times containing Joachim Noah down low, mostly due to a strength disadvantage, and missed a couple chances to convert when he was hit in the hands with a pass and wasn’t ready for it. With all that said – he had four blocks and made his presence felt against the veteran Bulls on both ends of the court for most of the night. It’s clear that the more touches he gets, the more confident he becomes, and I hope the Raps continue to look for him in the block.|
|Kyle Lowry, PG 33 MIN | 7-14 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 6 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 16 PTS | +18Excellent game against a depleted Bulls backcourt – just a single turnover, and made excellent decisions with the ball. His stock continues to rise in the face of what most consider to be an inevitable trade, and you have to love the compete level with rumours swirling.|
|DeMar DeRozan, SG 39 MIN | 7-14 FG | 1-2 FT | 7 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 15 PTS | +22Not the most impressive stat line, but what stood out for me the most in this game is how he didn’t force any plays on the offensive end. With Gay gone, he’s got more confidence in moving the ball among his teammates, and it’s making him a far more efficient player. He also seems to always come through in the fourth to ice the game when the team needs him to. Had difficulties guarding Luol Deng in a smaller starting lineup, which you’d expect.|
|Terrence Ross, SG 24 MIN | 4-12 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 9 PTS | -6An up-and-down game – forced his shot a ton in the first quarter to the tune of a 1-for-8 start, but settled down nicely and affected the game in different ways as it went along. Was rightfully benched for Vasquez in the fourth quarter when the Raptors put the game away. A career high in assists, most of the highlight-reel variety – you have to like to see that in what has become a motion-heavy offence.|
|Tyler Hansbrough, PF 14 MIN | 1-2 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | +7Grind, baby, grind. Did what everyone expected of him in limited minutes and had a nice conversion of a Vasquez pick and roll early in the fourth. He’s not going to move the needle, but when he’s your fourth big, you’re in pretty good shape.|
|Patrick Patterson, PF 21 MIN | 4-5 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | +11Much, much better game than his first one in a Raptors uniform. Held his own defensively and hit every long range shot he took, including two threes (his lone miss was on a reverse layup following some excellent Raptor passing). His ability to stretch the floor was key tonight in the first half against the paint-clogging Bulls.|
|John Salmons, SF 28 MIN | 3-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | +19Eight shot attempts is too many for him, but he hit a three and played some excellent perimeter defence, which earned him his minutes. He’s really got a nose for the ball – it seems like he’s in passing lanes more often than not.|
|Landry Fields, SF 1 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -1Fields/Novak/Daye/Buycks all got in for a minute of garbage time with the game out of reach late. I’m not going to write this out for all four of them.|
|Greivis Vasquez, PG 17 MIN | 2-6 FG | 3-3 FT | 1 REB | 6 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | +16Invisible for most of the game until an excellent fourth, when DeRozan and Lowry rightly deferred to what had become an almost unstoppable pick-and-roll offence. His D looked pretty good tonight, too, though most of his minutes came against DJ Augustin.|
It’s ridiculous that it took Rudy Gay being moved for the offence to open up, but it did, and it has. Had the team playing hard defensively, the ball movement was excellent, picked the right five players (the starting lineup with Vasquez in for Ross) to ice the game, and even ran a few inbounds plays, which was about as surprising to type as I bet it was to read. It’s weird giving him an A, but tonight, I have no complaints.
Three Things We Saw
- I’ll expand on this in my column tomorrow, but these Raptors are definitely – definitely – a playoff team in the East. If the goal is to tank, more moves are necessary. A few more games of this, though, and Masai might be rethinking that.
- We’re becoming a bit of a broken record here at RR, but the Raptors really do look like a different team since the Gay trade. Tonight, they set a season-high in assists, with 26 on 40 made shots. What’s most exciting for those evaluating the team individually is how many of those are coming from DeMar, who’s really coming into his own as an offensive focal point.
- The Bulls will always be tough defensively, but they look listless and lost. Besides Luol Deng and Mike Dunleavy in spurts, nobody was able to get going tonight. A byproduct of some solid Raptor defence, to be sure, but they really miss having a facilitator at the point.