Last night was one of the stranger basketball viewing experiences you’re likely to get. It was fitting that it went to 3 OT periods, because this felt like 3 completely different games in one. After a good opening series of possessions, the next 30 minutes of gameplay looked mostly like a game that the Raptors were on pace to lose. That was followed by 20 minutes of game-time that was dynamic on both ends, getting the fans completely into an exciting game that the Raptors looked poised to win. Then that was then somehow followed by another 9 minutes of game-time (somehow taking over half an hour of real time) that ended with a late-night, punch-drunk feel to it.

For me, last night’s game was an eye-opening experience. Unable to start the game in real time, I DVR’d the game, and steered clear of texts, twitter and anything that might spoil the outcome of the game for me. Turning the television on well after I thought it safe to assume the game was over; my screen came to life in the midst of a timeout, the Raptors down 116-118 in 2OT. So much for that plan.

So of course I watched out the overtime before starting the game. The first play I saw was DeMar’s game-tying bucket against a Washington defense that would have any reasonable head coach Boeheiming. “Wow,” I thought, “that is some of the sloppiest defense I’ve ever seen!” With 2.7 seconds left on the clock, and not to be outdone, the Raptors did everything they could to give up a good shot to Bradley Beal, which he dropped as time expired. But before I could even start writing the first word of another sarcastic, run-on rant about Casey’s curious rotations and the Raptors undisciplined defense breakdowns that nobody would have enjoyed, something crazy happened. It was the very end of a game and the Raptors actually got a call: the basket was waived off. For a moment, the grouchy writer in me was subdued, and the celebrating fan returned.

Triple overtime started, and the grouchy writer in me jumped right back out, complaining out loud about DeMar’s lazy defense on consecutive possessions. Normally my angry yelling at the TV is unable to garner a direct response from the broadcast crew, much less affect the game. But as if hearing my complaints, Matt Devlin immediately put me in my place by announcing that DeMar was currently at 56 minutes played. OK, my bad. 56 minutes into an NBA game where you’re the primary cog on offense, I can understand reaching in instead of shuffling your feet on defense. I would be on the ground hooked up to an oxygen tank at that point.

It was then that I realized something important. It was like a voice spoke to me, teaching me something obvious that’s been bogging me down all season. “This is 3OT!” Jiminy Cricket whispered into my ear, slapping me across the face, “Quit being such a wiener and ENJOY IT!”

Lowry fouled out, and reality pointed to a final conclusion. The Hansbrough-DeRozan-Vasquez-Novak-Fields 5-man unit would probably challenge for the worst defensive numbers in basketball-reference history if they played a full game together; they weren’t going to get stops. Yes, the defense was bad. REALLY bad. The Raptors lost. But so what? It was triple overtime, the Raptors had rolled 3 ankles, were without their two best defensive big men and their two best defensive perimeter players, DeMar had played almost 5 complete quarters of basketball and John Wall is really good with cheat code speed. Who could complain about this? Look, if you were at the game, then I get it. Raptors fans care about nothing else in the world the way they care about getting free pizza in a 100+ point win. For the Raptors to cross the hallowed 100 point pizza-chant mark, only to have that dream of free ‘za ripped from your fingers is devastating. Just devastating. But you know who probably isn’t that upset about losing that game? Everyone who was there: because they had an awesome time! I hate the argument that wanting your team to full-on tank during a re-build somehow questions the quality of your ‘fandom’. It’s idiotic. But man, if you weren’t entertained last night…

Things I enjoyed about the rest of the game:

1. Watching a Washington professional basketball team move the ball around smoothly and selflessly to produce good baskets on offense is really unsettling to watch. There’s a groundhog-day vibe to it that makes me question whether or not I’m experiencing reality.

2. Amir Johnson. His ankle buckled on him on two consecutive offensive possessions when he tried to drive to the basket. It clearly isn’t right. But that hardly kept him from being effective. The Raps were +9 with Amir on the court. Normally I’m suspect of single game +/- stats, but when you play 43 minutes and your team gets scored on at will without you in OT, I’m inclined to say that there’s something to it.

3. Professor Andre Miller, PhD.  He is one of those players you can’t help but subtly root for and enjoy, even when he’s playing against you.

4. Watching Al Harrington get a flagrant with the Cobra-Kai, sweep the leg move on Hansbrough.

Aside: Kyle Lowry and Tyler Hansbrough both have to be starters on the NBA ‘rubs guys the wrong way’ All-Stars. But who’s the captain? Hansbrough and Lowry are both sitting on dunk tank chairs over a pool of cold water at an imaginary NBA circus. There’s only one throw, and all of the NBA players, coaches and referees have to collectively decide whom to dunk. Who do you think they go for?

5. Terrence Ross becoming a key player on the team. He’s put up occasional stats (ahem, 50 point game) and highlights that are impossible to ignore. But his absence from last night’s game made it clear how valuable he has become to the Raptor’s rotation. General Greivis was a pivotal scorer in extended minutes off the bench, but Ross was clearly missed. That’s a good thing. I mean, it was a bad thing, but… you get the point.

6. Why couldn’t Valanciunas get back in this game when Casey was asking the swifter kids to put a jersey on and the Raptors couldn’t even pretend to guard the rim?
More on Valanciunas in a minute, I need to get to something important here. Last night I noticed that Vim is no longer the official sweatmop sponsor of the Toronto Raptors. We had a good run Vim. Staying on top of the sweat-mop game as long as you did is tough. There’s always someone gunning for your spot. Veterans like Mr. Clean and Pine Sol, up and comers like Tilex and the next generation with Mr. Clean-Mr. Net. Ultimately, Swiffer took the title. There’s no shame in that; the Swiffer line of floor-cleaning products is a powerhouse. Hell of a run, Vim, hell of a run.

Getting back to Valanciunas, I feel like it’s important to build some context around the increasingly hostile mood surrounding the man. Big men take time to develop. At Val’s age, Roy Hibbert was losing in the tournament to Davidson and being passed over in the draft, Marc Gasol was still 2 years away from the NBA, Tyson Chandler was barely getting 20 minutes a game and Amir Johnson was still averaging almost 7 personal fouls per 32 minutes played. Let’s give this some time to play out. Besides:
7. This season is turning out to be an awful lot of fun. How about we all try and enjoy it?

  • DandB

    Couldn’t really give a shit about JV’s struggles, or people getting frustrated with JV. Just more concerned about whether or not he’s getting the right coaching to aid his development and keep his confidence high. He seems like a really emotional guy but sometimes that could be a bad thing if things don’t go as they should.

    • morgan c

      A good point. I do feel that a lot of this is about coaching. At the same time, at a certain point, we have to stop making excuses for him. Drummond is WAY farther along than JV, being younger and with less professional bball experience. I think it’s time to admit that JV is probably not going to become the franchise star so many envisioned. Yes, it’s early, but his lack of bball IQ is something that seems to be innate. He is by far the weakest link on this team, and we simply can’t count on him. Disappointing at this point really.

      • Ghotte

        I think it’s a bit early to throw him under the bus and would rather see how he rebounds through the home stretch. Couple things:

        Early in the year, people were clamouring for him to be thrown to the wolves to get needed experience regardless of the outcome. Many wondered why Casey wasn’t putting him in during crunch time. Maybe it was because they were acutely aware of some of his limitations (in his current stage of growth.)

        Lastly, on one hand you are saying it’s coaching, then saying it’s “his lack of bball IQ”. I think it’s the latter but is fixable if he brings the right attitude.

        • ac1011990

          Earlier in the season everyone thought the raptors were in for a rebuild, but its totally different now, He probably would have been thrown in to the wolfs, and most likely he would have benefited from it,if we were rebuilding. Hes getting the quick hook now if hes not playing well, and if he doesn’t establish himself early hes looked off of for most the game because now the emphasis is to win, not so much in developing the younger guys. People expected way to much out of him way to early. Hes an emotional dude and right now things arnt going well for him, and that effects his whole game. Itl probably take a few years but i don’t think hes going to be the weakest link on the team for very long.

          • Ghotte

            Agree. He needs to get better winning habits so the coaching staff can gain trust. TRoss has done it – and as a wing it’s expected to happen sooner – so JV will figure it eventually. Again, it’s not coaching; it’s a natural learning curve.

          • morgan c

            Hope you’re right. I just don’t think we can pencil ourselves in for a playoff round win with him playing this way.

        • morgan c

          You may be right. To be totally honest, I don’t know for sure – most of us probably don’t. I think it can certainly be both. On the one hand, making the same simple mistakes over and over and his inability to correct them point to coaching. On the other, at a certain point, you have to stop making excuses for they guy – quite possibly, he just doesn’t get it. For example, I thought Grange was bang on about him in his interview with Blair this morning. On the Greivis turnover where he was trapped at halfcourt, JV just rolled all the way to the rim, instead of stopping and looking and realizing “hey, maybe this is stupid since I am removing myself from the play completely and my teammate needs and outlet.” I don’t really blame coaching for that. It’s almost like he robotically rolls to the rim because “that’s what you’re supposed (re: ‘coached’) to do, instead of making a basketball play and using his brain. The one-handed rebounds, continued inability to simply find a body and attempt to box out, and the lack of help defense understanding is just too much to watch at times. As Grange says, this guy isn’t a rookie anymore, and has been playing professionally for half a decade. Yes, it takes time, but if you look at the Noahs and the Horfords and where they were at the end of the second year, and compare them to JV, he’s just not there on the development curve. It’s going to take a significant leap to get him to their level, much less legit star level. He just may not be that great, and if that’s the case, it’s a huge disappointment.

          • Ghotte

            The only thing I disagree with is: “On the one hand, making the same simple mistakes over and over and his inability to correct them point to coaching.” If a player continues to be out of position or continues to foul unnecessarily, that isn’t coaching. That’s a limitation of the player to “get it.” He’s still young though.

            • morgan c

              Ya, I realized that after re-reading what I wrote… my only thing is maybe he’s not being coached properly on how to correct the mistakes. But yes, I think a lot falls on him. He is still young. Just frustrating to watch at times.

          • Steverino

            Noah was 22 as a rookie and Horford was 21, so when they were in their second year, they were more mature. Not really a true comparison. Age has to be factored in a bit, too.

            • morgan c

              Ok so Noah was two years older and Horford one. At same time, shouldn’t the fact that JV has been playing professional basketball much longer than those two at the same point compensate the other way?

              • Steverino

                No because you were comparing JV, in the middle of his second season, to Noah and Horford at the end of their second seasons. You keep bringing up the fact JV played professional basketball before that, as if it’s comparable to the NBA. There’s a reason why guys who can’t make the NBA are able to forge nice careers overseas, just as we see guys who were stars in NCAA not be able to cut it in the NBA. Different and lesser leagues. I don’t think it really matters that JV was playing professionally in Europe at the age of 18. Remember, they don’t have the college system over there, so it was essentially him playing college ball.

          • Abused Raptors Fan

            You seriously used Noah and Horford as comparisons? First, they both played 3 years of top tier NCAA basketball, including 2 tourny wins. They were both older as well, Noah = 23, Horford 22. For Noah, he only started 55 games and averaged 6.7pts and 7.6 rbs with 1.4 blks, though he did only play 25min a game. Horford though, played 33.5 a game and averaged comparable stats to JV at 11.5pts and 9.3rbs, with 1.4 blks, and unlike Noah has never been known as a great defender. So idk if those 2 are your best examples to show his lack of progression. Also, both were drafted to teams with low expectations, which allowed them the freedom to develop. Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t been happy with JVs development or recent play either, I just think its important to keep things in perspective here.

      • webfeat

        Drummond is a freak of nature, doe?

        • rapierraptor

          That was my thought too. Really not fair to compare him to Drummond since there are MAYBE only 2 other 7 footers on the planet with his size and athleticism.

          • morgan c

            I don’t necessarily think it’s unfair. They are both young NBA centers with high pedigree. Drummond apparently lacks the “motor” and “effort” that JV supposedly has, so shouldn’t JV be able to make some of that up? Tim Duncan didn’t have the athleticism of Shaq, but was the better player. My point is, we absolutely can and should compare them. Rebounding specifically is about fundamentals and effort, more than athleticism and skill.

            • FLUXLAND

              He has 42 double doubles in 58 games, 3 x 20 plus and 16 x 15 plus rebound games – the claims of him lacking a motor or effort are simply ignorant.

              • morgan c

                I know they are – just saying that was the word coming out of the draft, not saying it’s correct. My point is that it’s fair to compare highly drafted players who play the same position.

                • Guest

                  I also dislike the Drummond comparisons.
                  Drummond’s game is solely predicated on athleticism. It was either going to translate to the NBA level, or not. He’s just like Amare. So while he is damn impressive right now, he’s potentially some where and tear away from being literally nothing.

                  While Drummond ultimate ceiling is higher than JV, I don’t really believe it is, because I don’t believe that Drummond will ever acquire a massive skill set, because his athleticism will get him 15-12 a night…. until its gone.

                  JV on the other hand is a 7 footer with legit touch. He does have an array of post moves (as robotic as they are coming across at the moment) and solid shooting out to 15 feet. He looks painful and ugly out there at times, and the past month has been terrifying in some ways. However, “post players take longer to develop” has been a saying for a long time, because it is completely true. JV plays with emotion and heart, he’s just a little lost out there at times. I’m not especially worried.

                  Now yes, Drummond is producing quickly, but I think he’s honestly approaching his ceiling, and is one small surgery away from losing it all.

                • truth be told

                  You think his game is only predicated on athleticism? And JV has an array of post moves? Wow.

                  There are many good athletes in the NBA. Give Drummond his due.

                • Guest

                  It is solely predicated on athleticism. What else would it be? Skill? Touch? Awareness? He don’t shoot. Most of his points come from put backs. Which is awesome… it’s great to not have to run plays for people. But he’s near his peak. Straight up. Looks the EXACT same as when he was at UConn (expect he got less burn there because he was taken out for mistakes). Yes there are many great athletes in the NBA. However,in the past 15 years, I can only think of three with his strength, athleticism and explosiveness. Dwight, Amare and Him. Who else?

                  And yes, JV has very advanced post skill set compared to almost every other 21/22 year old in the league. Is he a better scorer at the moment than lots of them? No. Because he is still robotic and confused for the most part. Still, the skill set is there to excel. Just gotta get his mind right.

  • GoingBig

    JV – I respect the IDEA of patience – but was not feeling it then – maybe now
    Depth at centre, we need more

  • robertparish00

    seems like the coaching staff has asked JV for help defence sooo much he now is just playing a weird zone between the point of attack and his man. They need JV to play tough man to man with the opposing centre and send the 4 for help defence. That way he worries about just one thing.

    • Bendit

      Casey thinks he still has Tyson Chandler at C ala the Mavs run.

    • Ghotte

      it’s a system. If one cog in the system breaks down it all collapses. Case in point, when a PG fails to stop penetrations from the top, bigs fail to hedge, wing or Centre fails to anticipate and rotate over. Bargs was a fair to decent man-to-man defender. He was a terrible help defender and so the interior was always getting exposed. (Doubly so when Calderon was getting beat.)

      JV is normally slow to react which is causing the problem. Tough man to man is only one part of it.

      • Abused Raptors Fan

        Do you think Amir’s defensive tendencies overlap with JVs and cause additional confusion? Amir defense is definitely closer to those of a center than pf given his role with the team in the past, and I don’t think JVs played pf (if at all) for a longgg time. Maybe that in combination with the frustrations and confidence killers is causing his defensive lapses, because earlier this season he played much better than he has lately, and didn’t even look this bad last year at this time.

        • Ghotte

          No, they don’t overlap imo. JV is supposed to be the first line of defense on the block and the last line at the rim – think: Hibbert. He just needs more reps and that’s going to be a tall order as every mistake he makes will be amplified like in OT.

          Hate to say it but he just has to suck it up and execute. Stop flapping his arms and pouting and just man up. The Raptors have no choice – his role is not transferable to Hansbrough or 2Pat.

          • Lyall

            If he exhibited some of Brad Miller’s patience, it would do him wonders with the work ethic he already has.

  • MoPeteRules

    RICE.

  • Quest

    JV will get there, i have no doubt in that. still, psycho-T should have gotten his minutes in the 2nd ot. Also Ross is extremely valuable to our team now, as u said. his defence was missed, as well as his distance shooting. hopefully he is alright, seeing as he walked off the court on his own power and played a few possesions before coming out, it should not be so bad…

  • Edgar

    “Hell of a run, Vim, hell of a run.” *In tears*

  • Ion66

    “May those who love us, love us. And those who cannot love us, may God turn their hearts. And if he cannot turn their hearts, may he turn their ankles, so we may know them by their limping.”. (Old Irish prayer. Spoken last night by a member of the Wizards organization.)

  • jclaw

    Best.Review.In.A.While.

    • redrap

      thought so too.

  • mailman

    They dunk Lowry. Assuming all the centers and power fowards go with Hansborough and all the guards go with Lowry, the sf vote is the wild card and.. nope, changing my mind. They dunk Hansborough, because in limited minutes he’s probably elbowed more players than anyone else. Yep, definitely Tyler in the dunk tank chair.

    • webfeat

      Yeah, there’s no question about that. Everybody wants KLo on their team. Everybody just wants to kill Tyler.

  • Mike

    After watching the game I felt they went to Derozan 2OTs too late. They ran the high screen and roll to death, literally. Shades of Triano’s horns up offense. Once Washington solved that, the Raptors should have switched things up for DD. But the bigger issue I see is that once again we get killed in the paint and out “toughed” by other bigs. JV is regressing a bit on the defensive end, Patterson/Hansborough do not have the quicks to cover, Amir is not playing at full health and Hayes not sure what he does these days. Raptors should really consider signing a mobile big from anywhere for the rest of the season.

  • Mexiballer

    My concern with JV is his foot speed, quickness, and reaction time. His hands also seems suspect at times as he is often fumbling quick passes. Maybe he will still grow into his body and gain full control. But right now he seems a little on the slow clumsy side. Im not sure if time and learning can change that or thats just the way he is.

  • Tinman

    Right on about Ross. He’s surpassed all reasonable expectations.
    And right on about JV. Most know he’s a few years away from reaching his potential.
    Don’t forget that it still took a player like Hibbert or Noah about five years once they were in the NBA to develop into the players they are today.
    It might of been unfair to put Jonas out there in OT but the brief time he was resulted in two turnovers and an and one foul. Like it or not the Raptors organization has decided to go all in this season, Casey has to go for the win.

    • mountio

      Have to disagree on Ross. Ive been ranting and raving since the Rudy Gay trade (the first one) about Ross’ lack of playing time, especially down the stretch, when he clearly had the skillset of a very good NBA player. Sweet stroke? Check – best on the team and miles ahead of DD as an example. Elite athleticism? Check. Defensive instincts? Check.
      But, but, … he was getting lost on the odd defensive assignment! … he was taking the odd bad shot! Better given AA or JS his playing time.
      Did we know for a certainty that it would all come together? Of course not. Im very happy with his development for sure – but to say he has surpassed all reasonable expectations is … well .. unreasonable.