Phoenix 121, Toronto 113 – Box

“It’s not like it’s the end of the world.”

That was Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey (via Koreen of the Post) following Sunday’s 121-113 loss at home to the Phoenix Suns. And, well, he’s right, but it’s tough not to feel the sting from this one. The team has still won eight of its past 11, and Casey is certainly right that “we weren’t going to go undefeated the rest of the way,” but it’s disappointing nonetheless.

On home court, with fair rest, against a team that’s been struggling on the defensive end, and with a handful of opportunities to close the gap in the second half, the Raptors just didn’t have enough in the tank to pull victory from the jaws of defeat.

Blame the defense, foremost, because even against a team with this much firepower in a game that was played at breakneck pace, surrendering 121 points when you’re a defensive-minded playoff team is terrible. The Suns had 101 possessions, meaning they scored 120 points per 100. That’s 12 percent more than the Suns’ eighth-ranked offense normally scores, and 18 percent more than the seventh-ranked Raptors’ defense normally allows. A bad game, sure, but it’s tough to point to any outing except perhaps the pair against the Los Angeles Clippers where the defense struggled for so long to figure out the opponent’s attack. Only in the last 4:54 of the game, where the Raptors got seven stops in 11 trips, did the defense really kick in.

And, of course, it was too little, too late at that point.

I noticed some on Twitter or in comments that were critical of Casey’s lineups in this one, and I think it goes to show how badly this team needs Patrick Patterson to be effective. P-Pat isn’t exactly an all-world defender, but his absence means an awful lot of Steve Novak, a proposition that only helps on one end of the floor (Novak has, on occasion, acquitted himself well on defense, but the Suns are simply too athletic and rangy at the four). With Tyler Hansbrough also seemingly in the doghouse (and playing like he deserved to stay there on Sunday), the frontcourt rotation is woefully thin without Patterson.

What’s Casey to do? With Hansbrough struggling and Novak a general liability on one end, his options become Chuck Hayes, who doesn’t exactly fit this style of play, going mega-small with John Salmons as a third wing (and man, did he play like trash on Sunday), or dusting off Landry Fields. Fields hasn’t played in five straight and has earned just three minutes since his promising outing against the Warriors, so maybe it’s time to check in with Mr. Alden once again.

At the very least, Patterson is set to be re-evaluated on Monday, and hopefully he’ll be back in the lineup in short order. As rotations tighten up in the playoffs, he’s a crucial piece as the team’s third big.

In any case, the Raptors had chances and squandered them.

Trailing just 61-59 at half, the Raptors stumbled out of the break and found themselves down 84-70 midway through the third quarter. From there, it was mini-run after mini-run, only for each to stop a little short. To wit:

3rd, 5:46 – 70-84 – The Raptors go on 16-4 run over 4:08 before Amir Johnson fouls Markieff Morris. Novak and Salmons enter for the usual “rest Johnson and DeMar DeRozan for late third and early fourth” subs. At that point, Lowry had that incredible sequence where he missed a layup and saved his own board going out of bounds, only for Salmons to miss a wide-open three. Back the other way, Bledsoe gets fouled in transition – the Raptors actually held the Suns to 14 fast break points, which feels low but that’s what the box score tells us – and the Suns start a mini 14-4 run that takes us into the fourth.

4th, 10:32 – 90-102 – Once again trailing by double-digits, the Raptors come up with several stops in a row, holding Phoenix scoreless for 2:25. Unfortunately, the Raptors go 0-for-4 with a turnover themselves, completely wasting the surprising defensive run.

4th, 8:07 – 90-104 – The team can’t stop Gerald Green during this stretch, as he scores eight points in a minute. The Raptors hit four straight shots plus a technical free throw but make up just a single point. Kind of like with the previous chunk of time, it appears only one end of the floor works at a time.

4th, 5:58 – 99-112 – Once again, the Suns go nearly three minutes getting shut down, with a lone Goran Dragic floater falling. The Raptors trim the lead to seven over this stretch, but Jeff Hornacek’s timeout completely kills the flow.

4th, 4:07 – 107-114 – You just can’t go 3:33 in crunch time making a single bucket, sorry. Turnover, basket, missed jumper on an ISO mismatch, turnover (more on this one in a second), missed three (rushed pull-up), missed jumper (early clock pull-up with a man open in the corner). The defense may have been alright (though they missed a Morris box-out assignment, costing two points), but the offense was rushed and sloppy.

At that point, you’re down nine with 37 seconds left, and there’s not much you can do from there.

It’s an unfortunate loss, and one that felt winnable all through the fourth. Phoenix has a terrific offense, better than anything the Raptors will see in the first round of the playoffs, but the inability to defend for more than three-minute stretches was frustrating. DeRozan taking the night off on both ends was frustrating, too, though at least Terrence Ross made decent use of the cross-matching advantage. A 19-rebound deficit is also inexcusable against a completely average rebounding team, and only grabbing four offensive boards certainly makes things more difficult on the offensive end.

As usual, Lowry was the best Raptor on the floor (though all non-DeRozan starters played well offensively), which leads me to my biggest gripe about this game.

With 1:37 left to play, Lowry grabbed a defensive rebound and fell after getting tangled. P.J. Tucker then did this:

I get that it was a loose ball and maybe hard to see, but that definitely should have been a foul, not two points for the Suns, as it turned out to be. But that’s not the gripe.

After taking a knee to the head and laying on the ground for minutes, Lowry stayed in the game.

Not to sound soft, but there is simply no explaining this to me. He took a knee to the head and was clearly hurt. I don’t care if it was still a nine-point game with 97 seconds left, get him the hell off the court and properly evaluated. I’d say something like “he’s your best player and you need him healthy for the playoffs, and you were unlikely to win anyway” but it’s even simpler than that – he took a blow to the head and was hurt. Get him off the damn court and get him properly evaluated. I don’t care how tough you are, concussions are serious stuff (trust me). No single game is worth risking a player’s health, especially when it comes to the brain.

Think Lowry was fine? Once again, Koreen provides the quote, this time from Lowry:

“I got kneed in the head, bad. I got a headache right now. This [camera] light’s killing me right now. But I’m all right, though.”

It wrinkles the brain that in 2014 a player can take a knee to the head, require several minutes to shake it off and remain in a game. Maybe Lowry can talk to James Reimer about how to play through a concussion. Cue the comments about me not being tough or not understanding Lowry’s desire to win or whatever, but it makes zero sense to me that you would leave Lowry in the game after that.

Regardless, the Raptors lost and they’ll now head out on a quick road back-to-back Tuesday (Atlanta) and Wednesday (New Orleans). Both winnable games, even with the travel and quick turnaround, and they’ll need it with Chicago now just a half-game back for third (and the five-six situation not clear enough yet to prefer one spot to the other).

  • AxlT

    Completely agree, I just assumed Lowry would sit as a precaution. I guess Casey’s old school that way…

    • CJT

      I think Kyle is also his own worst enemy in times like this. I can’t imagine that he would have made it easy for the coaches or the trainers to take the appropriate action, but they still should have despite is protests.

    • asifyouknow

      Yes he is

  • Guest

    Agree totally on Lowry. It’s not the player’s job to diagnose, it’s the job of this team’s doctors, coaches and management. And they failed him.

    • afrocarter

      Failed him how? They checked him multiple times. If he had a concussion, they would have diagnosed him accordingly.

      • Guest

        See Blake’s comment above, among other things.
        He was not even given 10 minutes to see if symptoms would manifest.
        Oh wait. They did. During post-game interviews.
        That is not protecting your best player. For what? And for what? A couple of minutes of garbage time. Straight-up poor decision.

        • DanH

          Yeah, except headache and bright lights are not symptoms you look for. Concussion symptoms are “confusion, loss of
          consciousness, disorientation, lack of coordination, nausea, etc.” He exhibited none of that during the game, so it was decided it was not a suspected concussion. Then he exhibited none of it later.

          • Guest

            Really? How do you know what he suffered? And how can you possibly say that his headache cannot be a concussion symptom?
            At least some sources would disagree with you: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001802/

            • DanH

              Going by the press release per the NBA’s concussion policy, which is the pertinent information here.

              • DDayLewis

                Because the NBA’s concussion policy, or the concussion policy for any sporting league’s, for that matter, is to be taken over the word of peer reviewed medical studies or the DSM

                • DanH

                  Since the question was “Did the Raptors follow the NBA concussion policy?”, I thought it might be relevant. But I’m sure you are better able to read those medical studies than the actual team doctors that cleared him.

                • DDayLewis

                  Given that we’re all Raptors fans here, the question is more “did the Raptors training staff act in the best interest of Lowry’s well-being by letting him play out the rest of the game”.

                  Protocols set by the league are one thing, but they’re not a perfect standard by any means.

                  And of course I’m not as well-versed in medical sciences as the Raptors training staff, nor did I claim otherwise, but you can be sassy and turn this into a pissing contest if you like.

                • DanH

                  Hey, don’t sass the sass.

                  Of course, if you want the doctors to always act in the best interest of the player long term, after every hard play all the players involved should be sent to get MRI’s and spend time in the quiet room. Of course that’s ridiculous, that’s why they leave the situation up to the doctors to decide. I see no reason to question the doctors’ decision here.

                • DDayLewis

                  There’s certainly a place for discretion, which is particularly applicable in our conversation. We really disagree on the impact of a knee to the head from a 200 lb player.

                • DanH

                  I think where we disagree is on the impact of those other plays, rather than the impact of the knee.

                • DDayLewis

                  As I stated earlier, any serious impact to the head should be investigated.

                • asifyouknow

                  agree

                • DanH

                  Completely agree – and the doctors did investigate in-game, and found no reason to further investigate in the quiet room. If you can’t accept the doctors’ decision, that’s fine, but don’t pretend they didn’t examine him and make a determination based on his symptoms (or lack thereof).

                • asifyouknow

                  Look that hit had to cause at least a mild one. Take a 3 eggs , put them in a glass, cover it and hit the glass and see how the eggs move around, that is what your brain does, it bounces around in your head.
                  It does not take much to make it do that, that was a hard hit, I don’t buy the company line. Here is a fair question:
                  Is somebody trying to protect their ass ?

                • Guest

                  I don’t really care about the NBA concussion policy, to be honest. I want what is best for this team. What is best for the team is a healthy K-Low going forward. Leaving him in for garbage time after a blow to the head like that was not in Lowry’s best interests, regardless of whether it complied with policies or not. Would it have been so bad to err on the side of caution?
                  I’m guessing none of us (including Raptors trainers on the court at the time) know the real extent of the injury. So again, would it have been so bad to pull arguably your best player, who just got kneed in the head, for 90 worthless seconds?
                  I say “no”, and that’s why it is failing Lowry. IMO, putting him back in is certainly not protecting him.

                • Tim

                  Agree with Guest. Tough break with the non 3 and non foul on the hit to the head. But longer near term thoughts should have been on sitting Kyle whether he wanted it or not.

                • GLF

                  At the end of the day the doctor checked Lowry after the game and this morning and he doesn’t have a concussion, so to me all this arguing is doing nothing. If you think the raptors medical staff made a mistake write a letter to them or something because arguing with DanH isn’t going to make any improvements. But the medical staff technically was correct since Lowry does not have a concussion.

          • asifyouknow

            From the Cleveland clinic web site. As you may or may not know this is a top 5 clinic in the world.
            What are the symptoms of a concussion?
            The most common symptom of a concussion is a headache. This is an especially serious symptom if the headache gets worse over time, which might mean that there is bleeding in the skull.
            Other symptoms include:
            Nausea
            balance problems/dizziness
            double or blurry vision
            sensitivity to light and noise
            fatigue or drowsiness
            changes in sleep patterns

            As you can see Headache and bright light sensitivity are symptoms , in Kyle’s it might of been a mild one but I don’t buy the flu stuff…

  • Tanpon

    Raps medical staff evaluated him during the game and after. Both times, they determined he did not have a concussion. Get your facts straight.

    • BlakeMurphy

      Umm, what diagnosis did they do in-game? “You OK?” “Yup.” Here’s the proper protocol, from the league’s website:

      “If a player is suspected of having a concussion, or exhibits the signs or symptoms of concussion, they will be removed from participation and undergo evaluation by the medical staff in a quiet, distraction-free environment conducive to conducting a neurological evaluation.”

      So, by not taking him to a darkroom, the team deemed he was “not suspected of having a concussion,” which is ridiculous. Even if he doesn’t, ultimately, you have to do your due diligence.

      • CJT

        I always admire Kyle’s will to win at all costs, but in this case I have to agree with you. His long term health is far more important to both him and the health of the team to screw around with something like this for 30 more seconds in a lost game.

      • DanH

        They followed protocol – it was determined by the doctors in-game that concussion was unlikely, due to the lack of any symptoms whatsoever. The diagnosis in-game would have involved looking for symptoms such as “confusion, loss of
        consciousness, disorientation, lack of coordination, nausea, etc” – lacking those, or the player believing they are hurt, there’s no reason to assume a concussion.

        • DDayLewis

          No reason beyond, y’know, getting kneed in the head by a 200 lb dude.

          Also, as per your comment below, light sensitivity is a common symptom of post-concussion syndrome.

          http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0033318205700827

          • DanH

            Um, these are a bunch of 200 lb dudes that bounce off each other and the floor pretty much all game long. You don’t hear people screaming that every player should be removed from the game every time there’s a hard foul and someone hits the floor. The doctors checked him for the symptoms, he didn’t show them and didn’t complain of any problem. Not much more you can do unless you make it a priority to remove players after ANY hard contact.

            • DDayLewis

              Key point here is that players are rarely kneed square in the head.

              • DanH

                Oh, so getting kneed is worse than falling and hitting the floor? I suppose you’ve done studies on this, yes? Head-to-floor contact is not rare at all, and I see little difference in terms of impact, certainly not so obvious a difference to be harping over this incident like it is so different from the rest. Players get elbowed in the head fairly often in rebound battles. Where’s the outcry then?

                • DDayLewis

                  So instead of addressing what actually happened, you’re going to deflect and discuss other injuries.

                  For that matter, I am very concerned whenever any head injury occurs. The safety of athletes, especially when it comes to head injuries is something that is often overlooked.

                • DanH

                  Agreed – the concussion policy should be improved. However, in a scenario like this (and similar to this) I find it surprising that there’s such an outcry when there are situations like this all the time, and not a peep. The doctors followed the policy, Lowry didn’t complain of any symptoms, and somehow there’s a problem? If there’s a problem with the policy, let it be known, but don’t let’s all pretend the Raps doctors didn’t do their job.

                • DDayLewis

                  Protocol calls for an examination in the quiet room.

                • DanH

                  IF the doctors determine the player is at risk for a concussion. They determined he was not.

                • DDayLewis

                  We’re going in circles. We both agree the protocol is weak. We disagree on whether being kneed in the head constitutes grounds for a proper test.

                • DanH

                  We disagree on whether the doctors are qualified to make that decision, rather than us.

                • Roarque

                  In the next year or two somebody ( probably the company making the broken nose masks) is going to come up with a cool looking piece of head gear for players who have been diagnosed with concussions and for players who are self conscious about their male pattern baldness ( LBJ, Melo) and the league will gradually adopt this really good idea.

  • afrocarter

    I was alarmed when Lowry mentioned the headache, but I trust the team’s medical staff. They’re professionals after all.

  • AnthonyF

    Think about this for a second…. This and a loss in LA to the Clippers was their worst loss (to a good team, where we were in the game) in almost two months. Heck take a look at the best teams in the NBA and bad losses they’ve suffered and scary to think how competitive Toronto is in every single game. Only worry is the 3-4 more wins the Raptors could have……

    Yep we were outplayed and beaten, but also were victims of some bad calls (including Tucker’s knee in a 5 point game and Lowry has the ball).

    • noname

      if the rudy gay trade happened before the season, i honestly think they would be at 45 wins already because they were losing to teams they now straight up beat. then there would be no doubt about who is getting the division and the 3rd seed.

  • Pong

    Suns have a much better bench than us. You got the morris brothers who can play positions 3-5, ish smith who’s an underrated pg, and then Green who’s more athletic and better at shooting than DD (though not as good overall). The only gripe I have is DC should really consider using Fields when Salmons’ shots are dropping. Fields rebounding at the guard/forward position would have been useful yesterday. And overall, while he can’t shoot for beans, he’s probably one of our best players at moving without the ball. A couple of good baseline cuts to the basket would add to our offence.

    • Roarque

      The Suns did have a much better bench than the Raps on Sunday. Gerald Green went hero ball on us in the third. But that was Sunday and we need to remember that one game does not a season make. The Raps have some good players on the bench that stayed there on Sunday and probably for good reason. I just don’t know that reason and it’s frustrating to lose.

    • higdale

      Fields is your best player moving without the ball period. Probably one of the best in the league. You raptor fans value jump shooters so much that you fail to see what an all around good player can add to a team. Go back and look at the Golden state game and look at all the things Fields did that didn’t show up on the stat sheet like playing defense on Thompson making him miss and getting the rebound, and the very next play on defense taking a charge against Curry or setting a screen so Lowry could get off a shot that he made, He rebounded and read the defense which enabled him to make two back door cuts for easy baskets he’s the only one that does that but the DNA in Casey’s system is not geared for diagonal cuts but pick and rolls and mainly jumpers just look at where the assist come from in the offense. Those two assist to Fields only happen when or if he’s in the game and longer than 12-30 sec which is just about how long your coach seems to gives him. Fields also didn’t take shots he had no chance of making. While the rap on Fields seems to be he can’t shoot for beans he did shoot 4-5 the only miss was a dunk attempt but the very next play down the floor he lost Curry on a back door cut and scored. He also made a 3 after a Val travel that didn’t count because the play was stopped. I still don’t expect your coach to play him but stick with what has worked so far. Remember the raptors are not in a position they expected to be in and nobody wants to rock the boat right now.

      • GLF

        Couldn’t agree more with everything you said. But you’re right, Casey most likely won’t give Fields Salmons minutes so we better just get used to it. Sad but true reality.

      • Pong

        Yea exactly. We’re pnr heavy so we rarely run back door cuts. I always liked Fields as a player, it’s a shame he’s stuck in the current situation he’s in. I think he would make a great addition to the Heat given the type of ‘freestyle’ offence they play.

        • Pong

          Or Spurs for that matter…

          • higdale

            True both teams have high IQ players that read the defense and take advantage of it. Fields has a high basketball IQ and is a movement kind of player and at his best when play is chaotic or at a fast pace so he can make decisions on the fly.

    • TheSpiceTyrant

      #FreeFields

  • Minks77

    This game was 1 quarter of feeding Jonas, who dominated the Suns frontcourt, and then just straight lazy wing play. The D was only shown in spurts and they went away from anything resembling a post game. THAT is the unacceptable part.

  • james

    Ross and Kyle got killed on defense. Amir was a non factor. Everyone on the bench was awful. Demar is on a slump. Casey made some really bad decision. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. But its very rare that all this happen all in game. Ross and Kyle will go back playing great defense they always play. Amir will be fine. The bench will get 2pat back.Demar will figure think out and adjust. Nothing to be worried about.

  • Roarque

    I could not agree more about the head shot. Listening to him talk after the game about the glare off the lights sent chills down my spine. A concussion could end his season – heck, it could end his career. Not our finest hour training staffers.

  • Roarque

    So what is it with Landry and Tyler? I know they never played for the Kings and I know they aren’t perfect but they were needed on Sunday and for the coaching staff to not even consider them just doesn’t make sense. I’m one of those stubbornly stupid guys who remembers the good stuff these two guys have contributed to the team, not the bad. If you want to focus on the bad then I can give you a highlight reel of DDR and TRoss playing sloppy defense.

    • robertparish00

      Agreed, Landry had his best game as a Raptor and has sat since. My feeling is if you play Novak, you specifically design plays for him, otherwise give Landry a try at that position.

    • higgdale

      Go back and look at the Golden State game and you decide. Also see reply to Pong below

    • noname

      landry came over from the knicks not the kings

      • Nerius

        The comment was made regarding the other Kings players seeing how easily they get floor time.

        • noname

          just realised…thanks.

    • TheSpiceTyrant

      #FreeFields

  • redrap

    DeMar moves a little slow at times. His steady improvement thus far has been mentioned often — and it’s been impressive — but to get to the NEXT level so that he doesn’t have to rely on just shooting better (which he does beautifully more games than not), as he trains himself this summer to improve his dribbling and ball handling (gotta figure that’s next, right?), I really hope he plans to work hard on quicker decision-making and faster execution. I think it could be learned and I think he’s a player who could learn it; to speed much of his game up. It’d get him closer to the player I think he wants to be and that we need him to be.

  • Bryan Colangelo

    Not only is this the best Raptors’ blog, it has the most Community references.

    • DDayLewis

      #SixSeasonsAndAMovie!

      #BringBackTroyBarnes

  • http://peterd.mp Beagle17

    I sort of wonder if DC told the team to go out and play run-and-gun just to prove a point to them that it’s not their optimal style.

  • http://www.idolizingclowns.com/ IdolizingClowns

    According to the comments thus far, concussions appear to be the most controversial topic in Raptorland. That is until I say that Kevin O’Neil is THE GREATEST COACH in Raptors history.

  • tank

    Can’t understand how Tuckers knee too Lowry’s head isn’t being reviewed by the league. That was the hardest blow to a players head I’ve seen all year. I thought the league is suppose to be protecting players from head injuries. Tuckers punch to Blake wasn’t even close to as dangerous. Again the NBA only protects its superstars. A hard working guy like Lowry who is in a compromising position on the ground was kneed multiple times to the head and doesn’t even get a foul call. NBA start acting responsibly to all your players not just your superstars.

  • JCREX

    thats true every loss everyone is looking for answers to improve the team which there is lots but sometimes we just get outplayed. the suns deserved the win hopefully we come back strong next game

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