The Raptors battle back from an early deficit thanks in large part to Demar’s career high 40 points.

I always have way too much to say when I’m excited about a Raptors victory, so I’ll just partition this game summary into four parts — game recap, statistics and shot charts, some love for Demar and a pair of play breakdowns. Read one section or read them all. It’s all up to you. But before you do anything else, check out my quick recap for individual player analysis.

Game Recap

Let’s get this caveat out of the way — Dirk Nowitzki didn’t suit up for last night’s game. He’s getting up there in age and the Mavericks felt it would be best if he took the night off. I can’t blame them because the Raptors were coming off a loss to a Walker-less Bobcats team (the Walker Dead?). Needless to say, Jae Crowder — his replacement in the starting five — failed to fill his large German shoes. Shocker, I know. If you want to put an asterisk on this game, go right ahead.

That being said, despite the absence of the Dirkus Circus, the Mavericks stormed out of the gate and took a 19 point lead after the first. Calderon’s jumper was on (10 points on 4 of 5 shooting in the first) and Vince Carter threw down a monster one-handed jam in the lane. By the end of the quarter, every Raptors fan — myself included — seriously debated turning off the TV and calling it a night.

But then Vasquez and the bench unit opened the second quarter on a nice 8-2 run to cut into the deficit. As originally advertized at the time of the Gay trade, Vasquez relentlessly worked the pick-and-roll to great effect. He set up Amir with for an alley-oop and he drove into the paint. More importantly, Gravy (trying out a new nickname here, let’s see if it’ll stick) re-energized the team, and by the time the starters started filing back in, the lead had been whittled down to single digits. A reinvigorated Amir played the type of defense we’re accustomed to seeing — moving his feet, getting in position, challenging shots, protecting the basket — which was a sight for sore eyes. Granted, the Mavs didn’t really have any scoring in their front-court, but Amir’s help defense helped set the tone for the remainder of the game. Gravy punctuated the quarter with two three-pointers and the Raptors went into the half trailing by five.

The two teams traded baskets for most of the third. The Raptors refused to allow the Mavs to stretch their lead into the double-digits, and the Mavericks kept the the Raps at bay by not letting the Raps come any closer than five. Lowry’s shot was off all night (to be fair, he had the flu), so others around him stepped up, namely Derozan, who channeled his inner Durant (more on this later) and poured in 15 points in the third (on just 6 FGA). However, his efforts were offset by Monta Ellis’ 13. The see-saw titled back and forth, but the Mavs maintained their five point lead going into the final frame.

The Mavs’ lead held steady at five points until halfway through the fourth. Casey rolled the dice by putting Jonas in for Hayes and the gamble paid off. Jonas’ length and tenacity helped the Raptors corral rebounds and Jonas even chipped in with some free-throws and the occasional post-move. Derozan hit a crazy 360 layup for an and-one with four minutes left to put the Raptors ahead 85-82, and they never looked back. Lowry played some gritty defense and single-handedly caused three turnovers down the stretch, including two on back-to-back possessions. Lowry, Derozan and Vasquez played a huge part in the Raptors holding Dallas to a meager 12 points in the final frame. Johnson capped off the victory with a gentle dunk and that’s all she wrote. The Raptors won by a score of 93-85 and swept the season series over the Mavericks.

Statistics of Note and Shot Charts

  • 32 — Number of free-throws attempted by the Raptors. They rank 10th in the NBA at 24.4 FTA per game, but thanks to Dallas’ total lack of rim protection, the Raptors went to the line all game long.
  • 21 — Number of turnovers committed by the Dallas Mavericks. The guards’ quick hands and Amir’s excellent defense caused the normally steady-handed Mavericks (6th in NBA in fewest TO per game at 13.8) to turn it over on the regular, especially in the fourth.
  • 1 — Charges taken by Lowry, because of course. Yes, he still leads the league in charges taken.
  • 21 — Greivis Vasquez led all players in the game with a +21 rating. He was instrumental in the second and fourth quarters, especially when he was featured as the primary ball-handler in Casey’s two-PG lineups down the stretch
  • 40 — A new career high for Derozan in terms of points scored, and more impressively…
  • 22 — The number of field goal attempts Derozan took to get his 40, thanks in large part to…
  • 68% — Shooting from the field and…
  • 14 — Free throw attempts. That’s how you do it, young fella!

dd wowTake a bow

Crouching Derozan, Hidden Durant

So…awkward story: yesterday morning, I published a post in which I chastised Derozan for his over-reliance on the mid-range game. In the post, I criticized his tendency to settle, and I repeatedly stressed that his mid-range shots weren’t ideal because 1) he doesn’t hit them very often, and 2) they’re not doing much for his teammates. I didn’t put all of the blame on Demar — he’s got to work with what he’s given in terms of teammates and coaching tactics — but I did critique the biggest part of his game.

And then he drops a career high forty points the very same night. Thanks for backing me up, bud.

Was it any different from a normal game for Derozan? In form? Absolutely. His jumpers tickled the twine and his midrange game was on-point. He curled off pin-downs all night and nobody could stop him. It got so bad that the analytically inclined Mavericks stopped conceding the shot and opted to double him in the fourth to get the ball out of his hands. He was that good.

But in essence? It really wasn’t all that different from a regular game from Derozan. He did attack the basket more than he normally does, but he still settled for his fair share of jumpers, and hey, that’s my point — he just needed to shift around his attempts! I didn’t expect him to go off for forty, but I knew that if Demar drove more and pulled-up less, he’d probably see an uptick in efficiency. He doesn’t have to drive every time, he just needs to mix it up. There was too much pina colada mix and too little rum, that’s all I was saying.

And you want rum? How this to get you drunk? Look at that beautiful up-and-under:

Or this crazy spinning layup to put the Raptors up for good:

Great stuff Demar. You don’t have to pour in forty or shoot 68% every game, you just need to bring this type of aggressiveness game-in and game-out, and we’ll be happy.

A Brief “Breaking it Down”

I’ve already kept you around for 1200 words (hopefully) so I’ll try to keep this quick. This first play involves Ross and Amir colluding on a pick and roll. If that sentence surprised you, it should have because Ross is usually a train-wreck in these situations. Opposing defenses know that Ross’ is a very capable three-point shooter, so both Mavericks defenders key in on Ross. Wright steps up briefly to dissuade the drive into the lane, while Amir alertly slips the screen and short-rolls to the basket. Ross sees this play unfold and he threads a perfect bounce-pass over to Amir for the easy layup.

My hope is that this develops into a trend. Ross’ is very much a work in progress, and while he’s suddenly found his stroke from range, he’s little more than a spot-up shooter on offense at the moment. When defenses key in on Ross, or when his jumper is off, Ross lacks a second offensive dimension to complicate matters for the defense. If Ross could develop some adequate ball-handling and passing ability, it would represent a huge boon for the Raptors offense.

This second play simply makes sense. I made a note of this in my column about Derozan’s midrange game, but Demar is oftentimes forced into settling for the jumper because he rarely runs the pick and roll with a big who can shoot. This allows Derozan to be smothered by temporary double-teams, especially when he’s ICE’ed (not by a Smirnoff) along the sidelines. I like this play because A) Derozan catches the ball moving towards the middle, B) because he shoots it better from the left side of the floor, and C) Patterson’s shooting ability forces the big to make a difficult decision between impeding Demar’s progress or contesting Patterson’s shot.

Demar should run his pick-and-rolls with Patterson more regularly because it’s a tougher assignment for the defense. When Derozan is paired with a big like Jonas or Amir, he can’t exactly kick it out to either one of them for an open look. However, if Patterson is his screener, Patrick can simply pop-out, which gives Demar something more than a reset-button to work with. This should also conceivably open up more space for Derozan to operate. Hopefully the coaches concur and this becomes a trend.

Final Thoughts

Raise your hand if you expected the Raptors to get blown out tonight. My hand is straight in the air because he Raps have dropped some stinkers of late. The Boston game was a gutshot, the Lakers loss make me queasy and the game in Charlotte legitimately made me angry. It’s not that I thought the Raptors were far in-and-away superior to those teams, I just felt that things were clicking for the Raptors and it was a chance to feast on some fodder — an opportunity to put some distance between themselves and the rest of the pack. Alas, it was an opportunity wasted (thrice), and I didn’t like their chances against a legitimately superior team in the Mavericks.

Dirk sitting out obviously helped, but there were plenty of positives to take from the game. Vasquez came alive and flourished in the pick-and-roll. Amir looked like his usual self, which in turn meant the return of the Raptors’ dominant defense. Even Valanciunas turned it around for a game and provided some key contributions down the stretch.

That’s not to say that it was all rainbows and butterflies — Ross is still nowhere to be found on offense and they came out flatter than an unwound guitar string — but they showed grit amd tenacity, and if there’s one thing Torontonians love, it’s the scrappy, hardworking underdog coming out on top.

Call them the Scraptors.

  • Marz

    “yesterday morning, I published a post in which I chastised Derozan for his over-reliance on the mid-range game.”
    We need more sweeping generalizations as critiques of Raptors players and less “LOL C**tics” from you William. The more egg on your face, the better :)
    (There was absolutely no pun intended above)

    • DDayLewis

      You didn’t think my critique of DeRozan’s over reliance on the mid range game was fair?

      • Marz

        I think you brought up a good point when you talked about how there are 10 basketball players on the court, so having all your shots at the rim or 3 point line is pretty much an impossibility.
        So I believe that mid-range shots are a crucial component of NBA basketball. It’s just that other teams have players who hit that shot at a higher percentage than DeRozan, which is why he gets so much flak. But on this team, who would you rather be shooting those mid-range shots?

        Lowry: Prefers the perimeter
        Ross: Prefers the perimeter, and isn’t consistent
        Salmons: Please no
        Fields: Hasn’t been shooting well since he arrived in Toronto
        Vasquez: Hard to tell

        I don’t have time to look up stats, but I’d say DeRozan has the best pull-up jumper on the team. So the “over-reliance” on it comes down to what the defense is giving and what the offense is trying to create. And there is no objective way to say “We could have gotten a better shot than that.”

        P.S. But the article was good and you tried to show both sides, so yes, it was fair :)

        • DDayLewis

          If we operate on the assumption that there’s a fixed quota shots from the midrange, then yeah, I’d prefer Derozan to be the one shooting, but there are some clear examples of Derozan settling.

          But I agree about me becoming a jynx for the team. I’m going to test my powers by writing a post about how Jonas is struggling. He’ll probably drop 50 the next game

          • JayTeam

            If there is a fixed quota from midrange, why was DD taking a ton of mid range shots when Rudy was here, also taking a ton of midrange shots? DD is who he is.

        • Plus

          Isnt’ Patterson consistent on the mid range? I don’t have stats on that but from what I’ve watched he hits it pretty good.

      • SR

        I thought it was spot on, William.

        It’s true for any mid-range shooter. These are the most inefficient shots in basketball, even if you’re good at them.

        You can use them, but they need to be mixed with other types of offense – especially attacking the basket, which puts a lot of pressure on the D by forcing rotations and drawing fouls.

        DeMar’s overall game has been growing every season, imho. He needs to keep growing and not settle in. A lot of players settle in as jump shooters as they age.

        The fact that DD hit midrange shots at a high percentage for one night doesn’t mean anything. His career percentages do, however.

        Aside from reigning in a couple mid-range attempts per game, I’m a little uncomfortable with DD having a Kobe-esque approach. This team doesn’t need him to take 20 FGA or try to score 25+ points. This entire starting unit can shoot the ball, and there are several scorers on the bench. They need to go for the most efficient offensive options as a team.

    • asifyouknow

      LOL is part of being a blogger…lol..Got to love foot in mouth and scrambled eggs with a little bit of smoked crow…lol

  • SR

    WTF is “far in-and-away”? I’m familiar with “far and away,” but I can be wrong sometimes so I Googled your freshly coined phrase. Sure enough, 0 hits in the entire history of the internet. You’ve created something new and beautiful that’s still so young and vulnerable. Guard it with your life.

    • DDayLewis

      It’s going to become the next YOLO

      • JYFelony

        Please no.

      • SR

        We’re already done with YOLO? Does that mean I need to stop shouting “YOLO!” at work when I make double-strength coffee in the lunchroom?

        • DDayLewis

          Please tell me you actually do that?

    • What the

      Did you look in the New Shaqapiedia vol .117?

  • coachdave

    Don’t forget about JVal…who actually gave the lead and sealed the game at the end. Vasquez gave him some looks right at the end and it paid off. Gave him confidence to off rebound after that…they’re growing!!!!

  • Val Jasme

    you know what? let’s just support this team… encourage and cheer them when they play bad… enjoy when they play good!

    • raptorstand

      Val , what you are hoping for is impossible, the morose win hating tankers are lurking in every shadow. The three losses brought them up from the septic tank so they could spew their , blow it up , and trade everybody posts. This group is learning how to win . This group has to be up and play hard every night or they will not win against anyone. I am enjoying watching this team grow more then any other year, and yet I still have to read the negative Nancy’s rundown the team . Great post Val , I hear you.

      • GetLicks

        LOL @ lurking in the shadows and the septic tank reference.

        I’m with you on that. I really hate how tankers can throw it in another fan’s face that we’re supposed to be rooting for this team to lose and have a bunch of excuses when we win…and how we’re ‘gonna be sorry’. I bet most of them haven’t even watched much college ball this year. I’m not delusional, I know this team isn’t a title contender as currently constructed. But every young team has growing pains, and every youngteam has to go through necessary steps to reach contender status. A season above .500 and a taste of the playoffs is one of the steps. I don’t even come on this site when we lose because of all the negativity that’s spewed with it.

  • Bendit

    Good catch on the Ross/Amir play. For a while now I have thought that Ross’ pass capability has been understated….it tends to be crisp, on point and imaginative especially on the inside. He is developing well.

    • Danny Tam

      I don’t think Ross is a very good passer at this stage. I find he telegraphs his passes often, can remember a few plays where he was darting it cross court leading to fast break opportunities.

      • tweed8

        Telegraphed and sometimes lazy, giving a defender the easy steal. Nice little game last night though… But seeing some growth.

  • golden

    Gravy Vasquez when he’s hot. E-Gregious Vasquez when he’s not. lol.

    • asifyouknow

      When has he been hot ?…The guy just woke up guys! He was still recovering from surgery. I was thinking 30 to 40 games before he got back in form.
      If you want to make that judgment look at his NBA career, specially last year, he is very a steady player.
      When he is hot he gets triple doubles last year he had 1 and had about 3 or more that were 1 away from that…
      You really have not seen the guy healthy enough to make that judgment. Is unfair to pin that label on a guy with no basis…Don’t you think? I bet we can agree that he is slow? lol
      Point is that Vasquez you’ve seen the last 4 games is slowly becoming the NORMAL Vazquez..You will see..
      I still think he is not the kind of PG Casey wants so I don’t see him being here too long. Before the deadline someone will be calling.
      You guys got to sign Lowry, that would be a silly move if you don’t.
      Just saying.

      • tweed8

        I think last night was the fastest I’ve seen GV move. People said he was slow and watching him in the previous games, I couldn’t help but think, “wow, they aren’t lying”. But, last night was a nice surprise, he seemed less stiff.

      • What the

        Blah blah blah sure guy, i do the eye test on Vas and he make my head swells,he make me bite my lip, maybe if they had a couple of putback guys near the rim what a waste every night

        • http://www.facebook.com/asifyouknow Al Asifyouknow

          Hey I think you might be right but as I always say to folks like you:
          He is an NBA PG getting paid and living the dream and you are sitting in front of a computer in your dirty hole ridden panties living your dream…Who has the better dream?
          Maybe you do….lol

    • pran

      gazpacho vasquez when he’s cold.

  • afrocarter

    I’ve been calling this time the Scraptors for years! Good to see them finally starting to live up to that particular nickname.

    • GetLicks

      I’ve been calling them the Craptors for years. Only this season have they begun to earn the nickname Scraptors.

  • Steve Lam

    if you use animated gifs instead of flash video for those plays (so i can see them on my ipad/iphone/etc), i’ll happily use the gravy nickname.

  • Mark

    General Grievous

  • cb

    “By the end of the quarter, every Raptors fan — myself included — seriously debated turning off the TV and calling it a night.”

    ???

    um no.

  • ibleedpurple

    Last night was a small sample of what it must be like to be a fan of a team like OKC or Miami (before the great migration) when DWade would put on a show or Kobe’s prime Laker days. The icing on the cake was late in the fourth when DD was a on a break and he did this glorious spin on Jose to get a circus layup + 1. I for one was up and out of my seat for that action. Still I can’t say I don’t cringe when DD decides to settle for the mid range rather than get closer to the rim. I have absolutely no issue with him take a rhythm jumper, my issue comes in when I see him taking off balance mid range jumpers that are out of rhythm and almost always unnecessary. DD is an excellent mid range shooter but taking them out of rhythm and off balance will result in a clang of the back iron and a wasted possession.

    One thing I know for sure is that he will improve on this facet of his game. DD is a worker and although he’s not the fastest to adjust to change he will make the change eventually and the Raptors will benefit from it. Here’s to hoping he makes the change before playoff time and we see a Paul George’esque rising.

  • Hassan Mehmood Khan

    our number one goal should be to get in a vetran big thats better then hayes

    • JayTeam

      Hayes with the Raptors has a slightly better WS/48 than Demar, quite a bit better than JV and a lot better than TR. I have no issue with Hayes on the floor. Hayes biggest problem is his contract.

  • Andrey

    LOL Durant called Greivis “Gravy” in High School Will

  • tweed8

    BTW Best title to an article ever. Hours later and it’s still making me laugh… It’s the little things.