Morning Coffee

Morning Coffee: Feb. 25th Edition

DeRozan much improved on dropping dimes | Amir held out of practice | Raptors in Cleveland to face the Cavs for 2nd time in a week

Toronto Raptors’ DeMar DeRozan making big strides as playmaker | National Post

DeRozan’s four assists on Sunday against the Magic give him 205 for the season, one more than his previous career-high, set last year. There are 26 games remaining for DeRozan to add to the total. And, wouldn’t you know it, DeRozan is starting to sound a lot like his coach, Dwane Casey, in explaining it. Experience is the key. “There’s not really too much new that you’ll see,” DeRozan said. “It’s all about the defender, how physical he’ll be with you, or if he likes to deny you the ball — little things like that, [player]-wise. But team-wise, there are not too many differences. You can’t do different stuff like [teams can] in college.”

Raptors’ DeRozan passing the test | Toronto Sun

Teammate Greivis Vasquez, who knows a thing or two about passing, having finished second in the NBA in assists per game last season, said DeRozan’s unselfishness has surprised him. When you’re the best player (on a team) and you’re getting your teammates better (opportunities), he’s giving everybody confidence,” Vasquez said. “That’s huge. No scoring guard in this league is really a great passer like that.” Toronto is 18-8 this season when DeRozan notches four or more assists. He managed five or more helpers only five times over his first three seasons. He’s done it 15 times so far during this campaign and already has set his single-season assist mark. Seven of those 15 five-plus assist games have been managed without committing a single turnover. His turnover percentage is just 9.4%, a career low.

Lewenberg: DeRozan sets new career mark in assists | TSN

“I want to make my teammates better,” said the Raptors’ guard, who continues to evolve as a distributer, averaging a career-best 3.8 dimes this season. “It just comes with experience and understanding. It’s something that I really enjoy doing, getting my teammates involved, looking for them.” The 24-year-old’s assist numbers have increased in each of his five seasons and his assist percentage this year (18.6) is more than three-times higher than it was in his rookie campaign (4.9). “He’s one of the best wings right now in the league as far as passing the ball out [of the double team] and he’s doing a great job of it,” Casey continued. “So that’s a big step in his growth process. It’s good to see and the more attention he gets the more he’s going to have to rely on that part of his game.”

Merilatt: Ex-Nuggets GM Ujiri left the team in terrible shape | The Coloradoan

No one, absolutely no one, lays any blame at Ujiri’s feet. The general manager who essentially laid the foundation for the Nuggets current roster, who put them in the position that they are today, waltzed out of town with his reputation intact and continues to be praised for the work he did in Denver. And it’s absolute nonsense. The reality is that Ujiri escaped to Toronto just in time, before his string of boneheaded decisions finally caught up with him.

Johnson misses Raptors practice after aggravating hurt ankle | TSN

Though the 26-year-old said he was able to participate, coach Dwane Casey kept Johnson out as a precaution. Johnson re-sprained his ankle in Sunday night’s 105-90 win over the Orlando Magic. He initially hurt the same ankle in a January 25 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers.

Toronto Raptors Visit Cleveland For A Cavaliers Rematch | Pro Bball Report

There should have been some suspicions that the Cavaliers may not have been full value for their recent success. The last 4 contests were against the Kings, Pistons, 76ers and Magic. The Raptors simply overpowered the Cavaliers in the second half on Friday, holding them to just 34 percent shooting from the field, while the Raptors got hot, hitting on 54.5 percent of their attempts for the 59-47 advantage. Raptors sophomore wing Terrence Ross giving Kyrie Irving fits all game as he held the All-Star to just 3-16 shooting from the field. The Cavaliers losing streak continued on Sunday with a loss at home to the fifth place Wizards 96-83. However, one trend has continued in the Cavaliers favor, they have now held their opponents under 100 points for 7 games in a row and that is a streak more in keeping with a Mike Brown coached team. The Cavaliers problems in their 2 losses have come at the other end of the court. Over the past 2 games, new center Spencer Hawes has averaged 12.5 points and 11 rebounds, Luol Deng 19 points and 9 boards and Kyrie Irving 16 points and 7 assists, but combined, they have shot 27-81 or 33.3 percent from the field. Cleveland isn’t winning many games with offense like that.

NBA Preview – Toronto Raptors at Cleveland Cavaliers – Feb 25, 2014 | CBSSports

The Raptors go for their sixth win in seven games as they try to beat the short-handed Cavaliers for the second time in less than a week Tuesday night in Cleveland. Atlantic Division-leading Toronto (31-25) has tightened things up defensively, allowing 90.2 points per game – 6.3 below its season average – in its last five. That’s a big reason the Raptors could climb seven games above .500 for the first time since being 32-25 on Feb. 29, 2008. They held the visiting Cavaliers to 39.0 percent from the field in a 98-91 victory Friday, then limited Orlando to 41.4 in a 105-90 home win Sunday. Toronto shot 52.3 percent Sunday, including 9 for 17 from 3-point range, as Kyle Lowry led the way with 28 points.

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