“In his mind, [the injury is holding him back]. But for us, I’d rather have a three-quarter Amir because of his energy and when he’s giving us that energy and the mental part of it,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said on Sunday. “He’s letting the physical part affect his mental approach. There are so many things he can give us: his ball handling, his passing, his defensive approach. … He’s such a meticulous guy that he wants to be 100%. Like I told him, there’s nobody in this league right now that is 100%.”
“Just with the injuries we have, it was a tough month of January and especially for me,” Johnson said initially only hinting at the severity of his injury. “Guarding their bigs we just have to do a better job.” But prompted further, Johnson admitted he’s not only playing with just another injury, he’s playing with one that prevents him from doing the sort of things he needs to do to be effective. Johnson is smaller than most of the bigs he covers, giving away 20 and 30 pounds at times, but uses his energy and athleticism and sheer strength to overcome any shortcomings he might have because of that.
Battered, bruised, but still holding on in third place in the East, the walking wounded, of which there are many, are desperate for a rest. Understandable really, since Toronto’s schedule has been one of the most gruelling and difficult of any team’s so far this season. That’s all going to change following the all-star break, with things easing up significantly. But first, games with the New Orleans Hornets and Atlanta Hawks (just half a game back of Toronto) have to be taken care of. Amir Johnson will play, even though he’s battling a painful ankle bruise because he says he can go and because head coach Dwane Casey says: “I’d rather have a three-quarter Amir (than not have him at all).”
The Pelicans were 14-15 at the end of December, but started the New Year on a 1-9 run that took them out of the playoff picture in the tough Western Conference. Since then, they have gone 7-3, starting to figure out how to win without 3 of their best players. Looking past the Pelicans at this point would be a huge mistake.
Toronto has won six of the last seven meetings with New Orleans, which earned its only victory in that stretch on Jan. 17, 2011. Anthony Davis was held to two points on 1-of-6 shooting in the most recent matchup exactly a year ago, while Lowry finished with 14 points and 10 assists in the Raptors’ 102-89 home victory. The Pelicans (22-28) began a three-game trip with a 93-81 loss to Brooklyn on Sunday after winning six of their previous eight. Davis, averaging 25.7 points and shooting 61.2 percent over his last three, finished with 24 and nine rebounds.
Despite coming into Sunday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets having won six of their last eight, the Pelicans could not avoid problems. They trailed 29-14 after the first quarter and made just 36 percent of the shots for the game. The must do a better job getting Davis involved early and Gordon has to make shots. Gordon was held to seven points against the Nets. They will have to be active defenders like they were last week against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the fourth quarter.
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- Raptors Weekly Podcast (Feb 10) – Reset and Reload