Raptors battle back from a slow start and defeat the short-handed Cavs
|Amir Johnson, PF Shot Chart 25 MIN | 2-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | +1Amir is still rounding back into form and the box score might not showcase gaudy numbers but his presence on the floor improves the defense (even when it’s not functioning at it’s best). His screens and help defense are still team best. Score may seem high but I attribute our better defensive efforts to his solid defense.|
|Terrence Ross, SF Shot Chart 37 MIN | 9-18 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 20 PTS | +4Only player hitting with any consistency in first half (12 points) though he missed a spectacular dunk that could have added some much needed energy to offense. His defense on Irving was stymieing his every move and frustrating him at every turn. Best player on both ends this evening.|
|Jonas Valanciunas, C Shot Chart 29 MIN | 8-12 FG | 2-3 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | 18 PTS | +11Lowry made concerted effort to involve the big man early, but for the second consecutive game he failed to understand he needs to take the ball up with force until Lowry spoon fed him a gimme near the end of second quarter. Got the hook early (6 mins in) as he spent more time watching others grab rebounds instead of fighting for position. Casey must have found the perfect mix of cajoling and yelling as he reappeared in the third quarter a man possessed on both ends leaving only after he picked up a fourth personal foul (maybe one day Roy Hibbert can tell the zebra’s Jonas understands verticality!).|
|Kyle Lowry, PG Shot Chart 35 MIN | 5-13 FG | 3-4 FT | 6 REB | 9 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 14 PTS | +2Not a stellar first half offense-wise, but as we’ve come to expect he does the intangibles at critical times such as key assists, steals or defense to stop runs. Overall team defense lead to a 28-10 run but Kyle was often the catalyst on both ends. I’m sure his middle name is Clutch.|
|DeMar DeRozan, SG Shot Chart 39 MIN | 5-14 FG | 4-4 FT | 4 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 14 PTS | +2Luol Deng demonstrated why he’ll be a key free agent come summer with his shut down defense on DeRozan in the first half. During the same time frame DeMar seemed to settle far too often for field goals instead of dribbling away from Deng or passing. This was all rectified following the half when it appeared he either chose to listen to Casey or change his approach. Wondering if he’s still suffering from a New Orleans’ hang over or if it was just the Deng effect.|
|Tyler Hansbrough, PF Shot Chart 17 MIN | 3-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -1For the second consecutive game Mr. Energy brought exactly that off the bench while instilling toughness and hustle especially in minutes played with Amir. Aside from Ross he kept his team mates in the game in that abysmal first half|
|Patrick Patterson, PF Shot Chart 20 MIN | 3-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | +1It was a tale of two halves for Patterson who seemed slow and outmatched in the first half but energized and committed in the second. It wasn’t his best outing but the final 24 minutes definitely made me forgive and forget his first 24.|
|John Salmons, SF Shot Chart 19 MIN | 3-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +4Had his hands full on defense guarding Deng and Irving however he performed better in the second half. His veteran leadership and ball handling late in the fourth beside Lowry allowed Toronto to maintain their lead and get the subsequent victory.|
|Steve Novak, SF Shot Chart 6 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +3Hmm, well he was a +3 in his 6 minutes of playing time in first half and he managed to spread the floor with his presence shooting a rusty 0 of 2|
|Greivis Vasquez, PG Shot Chart 15 MIN | 2-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | +8I’ll never be in love with the chippy in the lane; I cringe every time he attempts it. He continues to float between moments of brilliance for me followed by moments of: Of no he didn’t. Dare I say he seems to be finding his niche?|
Best move he made in the game was an early yank of a disinterested Valanciunas and based on Jonas’ play in the third quarter it was followed with an earful in the locker room. Obvious half time adjustments were made which led to immediate dividends as the Raptors took over in the third. I am pondering if a coach who has improved defense this much still isn’t getting the zebra’s whistle vs. inferior teams if he’ll ever get the call; which leads me to believe he’ll need to blow a gasket in a game that matters at some point.
Five Things We Saw
- Seeing Anthony Bennett more svelte and connecting on his first shot attempt brought a smile to my face especially with all the ridicule the young Canadian has had to endure. Tristan Thompson remains a player I follow the progress of and appreciate for his minutes in a Canadian jersey this past summer. Hey, I’m not pulling for them to beat the Raptors, but it does demonstrate the emergence of young Canadians into the NBA which has me looking forward to future summers of International play.
- The first few possessions of the game I scratched my head wondering if Duane Casey has been reading Raptors Republic as plays were run specifically for Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas. Of note: many have said involvement early appears to lead to better efforts on both ends from our sophomores. For his part Ross immediately responded and maintained his prowess throughout the game. Jonas on the other hand needed an early yank and I suspect an major scolding at half time, but he responded in a big way.
- The third quarter defense shut down Cleveland’s offense and simultaneously ignited Toronto’s offense when they went on a 28-10 run. More importantly the Raps lowered the Cavaliers’ field goal percentage from 45.7% at half to 30.4% in the third quarter. I continue to hope a steady diet of basement dwellers in their final 27 games will provide the Raptors with the opportunity to apply this type of defense for a full 48 minutes.
- Amir Johnson even at less than 100% still makes the squad better on both ends with his screens and help defense. His awe inspiring block on Zeller in the third seemed to energize the entire team and ACC audience.
- Can I just finish by saying a big thank you to Masai for not trading Kyle Lowry. Regardless of stats and analytics Lowry has something you cannot teach or learn; a will to compete and an ability to sense the occasion. Time and again this year he is the Raptor who rises up to make a key steal, make a critical bucket to score a run or take a charge at exactly the moment it’s required. Maybe, just maybe Coach is reading us and he’ll think to put the ball in this young man’s hands the next time we’re in a 3 point or less game. Personally, I wouldn’t bet against him making the right decision.