Needing a steal of an inbounds pass, the first pat on the back goes to the coaching staff, advance scout Brent Haskins and the Raptors video team that all work hand-in-hand of breaking down each night’s opposition. Coming out of the timeout, Patterson said it was evident the coaching staff was very confident in the play they thought Brooklyn would run to inbound the ball. According to Casey, it was going to be one of four plays. Based on the way Brooklyn lined up they had it down to two, but guessed it would be one and the guess was bang on.
Patterson started the game wearing a mask, thanks to the displaced nose he suffered on Saturday after the Clippers’ Blake Griffin hit him in the face with his forearm. Early on against the Nets, Patterson was struggling, missing his first few shots. So, teammate Chuck Hayes convinced him to take it off. “[Hayes] gave me the idea of, ‘Hey, since you’re getting it [re-set] tomorrow, what’s the point of wearing a mask today?’ “I was like, ‘You know what? As bad as that sounds, you’re right.’” Patterson went on to score 15 points on 6-for-11 shooting.
Hayes is a perfect example of how you can carve out a successful (and long) NBA career simply by knowing your role and being a professional. His free throw has a bigger hitch than Anthony Mason’s and he’s averaged less than four points per game for his career, yet he keeps ticking along. Here’s the crazy thing about Hayes: he’s only 30. Wouldn’t you have guessed 35 or 36? Maybe when he’s 65 some crazy NBA owner will sign him to a 10-day contract for the sole purpose of guarding the NBA’s last back-to-the-basket player. Of course, he’d need to pass his physical first.
“You can’t put your finger on it … it has just clicked,” says Amir Johnson. “We know what to expect from everybody. We’ve just been playing like a team [and] it’s just comfortable now. It’s been good.” Adds Valanciunas: “Everybody is supporting each other. That’s the key.” That mutual support and team play may be put to the ultimate test over the next handful of games. Though no timeline has been set for DeRozan’s return from the ankle injury his suffered last Saturday against the Clippers, it is expected that he’ll sit out Wednesday’s home game against Orlando and his status for Toronto’s upcoming five-game jaunt through the Western Conference is up in the air at this point. With their top scorer on the shelf, the Raptors will need to rely even more heavily on their chemistry and balance.
Unlike most European big men, Valanciunas loves to bang in the paint and plays very effectively with his back to the basket. A “true” center, he invites contact and can score with a variety of hook shots, up and unders, and spin moves. After drawing contact, Jonas makes his opponents pay by converting fail line shots at an impressive 77%. Valanciunas’s excellent footwork and nimble, yet powerful, body allows him to get by slower opponents and take them off the dribble in certain isolation situations. In addition, his improving mid-range jumper (from around 15-18 feet) keeps defenders honest who play off of him on the perimeter.
Who doesn’t like a rich kid from Forest Hill who “started from the bottom”?
Since the Raptors turned things around by making that big trade on Dec. 8, audiences on TSN are averaging 228,000 — a 56 per cent increase. They’re also averaging 255,000 viewers a game in January and are up 19 per cent over last season. If things continue this way, they should record the highest regular season average in four years — the last time they came close to making the playoffs.
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