DeRozan iced the game within the last minute. With the shot clock winding down, DeRozan got Curry to bite with a pump fake, watched him sail by, and hit the long two-pointer to give the Raptors an eight-point lead. DeRozan thumped his chest with his fist, a rare emotional display. DeRozan said that in the moment, he thought of the criticism he had received in the past and the failure his team had endured. “Sometimes the emotions just get to you when you know you are doing something right that you have not been doing previously,” said DeRozan, who scored 32 points. “But you all know me. I’m quiet. That was just one of my blue moons. Curry had 34, although he struggled holding on to the ball late in the game. The Warriors had three gruesome turnovers in the final minutes.
Playing some of the best basketball of his career over the last couple of weeks, DeRozan needed just 16 shots – hitting 10 – to collect his 32 points, facing an elite wing defender in Andre Iguodala. For the third straight game, the fifth-year guard made at least 12 trips to the free throw line, knocking down 11. He’s also recorded six assists in three consecutive contests, the first time he’s done that in his career. “Coming in, I knew he was a good player,” said John Salmons, one of DeRozan’s newest teammates. “I knew he could really score the ball. I knew he was athletic, but from afar, you never know how tough a guy is. He gets the best defensive guy guarding him every night. Guys that are known just for their defence. He still plays at a very high level, so I give him a lot of credit because he does it night in and night out. That’s not easy to do.”
The defense is excellent, but on nights when DeMar Derozan dominates the perimeter and the opposing team is finding open shooters and nailing threes (8-22, 36.4%) and free throws (20-23, 87%), and turning the ball a total of nine times, it’s tough to combat that with a middling offensive attack. It all leads back to Curry. He’s played about four minutes less since the All-Star Break but Jackson apparently didn’t want the game slipping away and left him run the team the entire second half. A short-legged three around the three-minute mark epitomized what the sheer amount of minutes can and are doing to Curry’s slight frame. It didn’t help that it appeared he re-aggravated a shoulder injury on a drive to the basket late in the third quarter.
Landry Fields: Bad contract or not, if Landry Fields continues playing this way, he can carve out a niche for himself on this team as the playoffs near. He was at his opportunistic best offensively, didn’t take any shots he couldn’t make (i.e. jumpshots), and did a good job defensively on Curry/Thompson when asked. 8 points, 6 boards on 4 of 5 shooting. Good to see him again. Patrick Patterson: Dude just gets it done somehow. He was struggling shooting the ball 3 quarters into the game, but his shot came around and really came through for the Raptors in the 4th quarter. Hit some timely 3 pointers and as always, his mobility as a big man makes him a good defender of pick and rolls. 12 points and 5 boards off the bench. Solid as always.
In a bit of a surprise before the game, Casey chose to replace Terrence Ross, who was out with an ankle sprain, in the starting lineup with Landry Fields. Fields hasn’t played a whole lot this year. In fact the start Sunday was just his second of the year, his first coming that night in Los Angeles when Ujiri turned the team on its head with the Gay trade. Fields was a non-factor in that Lakers game but had an impact early with some solid defence on Klay Thompson and six first-half points. By using Fields instead of a John Salmons or a Vasquez, Casey kept his bench rotation intact.
Indeed, the Warriors started just 1-of-6 on threes, and their inability to hit from downtown made it difficult to go on consistent runs throughout the game. Even so, despite a cold 7-of-21 performance from downtown, the Dubs showed they could still have a solid offensive showing even with an inefficient performance form beyond the arc. Bogut also showed a surprising ability to stay out of foul trouble, committing zero personal fouls in Jermaine O’Neal’s absence. (Really, Warriors? A passport issue?). In short, the Dubs collapsed at the end of a close game, but they also demonstrated several promising signs upon which they can certainly build going forward.
It was a rough end to a day that had an odd beginning. Before he answered the first question of his pregame news conference, Jackson informed the assembled media that backup big man Jermaine O’Neal was not with the team because of a passport issue. The Warriors certainly could have used O’Neal, who has averaged 13 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.4 blocked shots in his past five games. Aside from Curry, Lee and Harrison Barnes, who combined for 65 points on 25-for-53 shooting, the Warriors had trouble finding offense against Toronto as the rest of the team scored 33 points on 12-for-35 shooting. The Raptors (33-26) have been playing that type of defense for a while now, having won seven of their past nine games and going without consecutive home losses since losing three straight from Nov. 26 through Dec. 1.
“You feel for him against a guy like Bogut but I thought he let the game come to him more, got some rebounds, didn’t get tied up as much with Bogut under the bucket, and that’s the key with him. I don’t want him totally relaxed like he’s on vacation, but it’ll ease his mind, take the pressure off, learn, have fun, run the floor.” Casey said he is giving his sophomore three areas to focus on. “Run and rebound. He can do those. Don’t worry about scoring. Maybe add screening into that mix. I think he can handle that. And I promise you his offence is gonna come … He’s gonna be a good player in the league for a long time and he’s just gotta take the steps.”
Golden State Warriors power forward Jermaine O’Neal missed his side’s clash against the Toronto Raptors on Sunday because he misplaced his passport. The 35-year-old could not travel with his teammates to Canada on Saturday and had to stay back in California. “Misunderstanding,” ESPN quotes Warriors head coach Mark Jackson said as saying. “We thought we had it.
Fields had played a grand total of 15 minutes in Toronto’s previous 29 games — he’d been injured and inactive and an afterthought. But when his number was called in a big game against an impressive Warrior backcourt of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, Fields figured, “oh, what the heck.” “Would you have it any other way?” Fields asked rhetorically after the game. “Just go out there and be somebody.” Fields, who ended up playing 25 minutes with eight points and six rebounds, wasn’t the sole reason the Raptors emerged with an impressive 104-98 win at the Air Canada Centre, but his attitude spoke volumes. “I’m a defensive guy and guys that are willing to play defence are going to have a big advantage over guys that are not defensive minded, and Landry’s done that for us,” said coach Dwane Casey. “I just commended him on his professionalism, not playing at all (but) being ready when his number is called and that’s what the NBA is all about.”
“I don’t think we’ve beat him [Curry] since I’ve been here,” DeRozan said and with good reason: the Raptors were 0-for-7 against the Warriors with Curry in the lineup. Curry was hurt on March 4, 2012, when the Raptors won. Casey had much to be happy about after Sunday’s game. Landry Fields made his second start of the reason, finding out during pregame video work that Terrence Ross’s sprained ankle made him a no-go. Casey said he thought Fields’s length would present an issue defensively for the Warriors. It did.