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Raptors fall behind early, but unlikely heroes bail them out down the stretch.


Toronto Raptors 107 FinalRecap | Box Score 100 New Orleans Pelicans
Amir Johnson, PF Shot Chart 35 MIN | 8-13 FG | 0-0 FT | 9 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 17 PTS | +14A step slow defensively, but he made up for it by scoring well on put-backs and pick-and-rolls. Found some rhythm in a lineup with de Colo. Given that he was the only defensively functional big on the roster tonight, I thought he did alright. He needs to get fully healthy for the playoffs.

Tyler Hansbrough, PF Shot Chart 36 MIN | 3-8 FG | 1-1 FT | 13 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 7 PTS | +8Brought the hustle, but not the defense. Abused by Alexis Ajinca and quite frankly, was outplayed by Jeff Withey. As compared to his counterparts, Hansbrough was giving up some height. but he could have fared better in defending the pick-and-roll. All in all, given the short rotation of bigs, he was adequate.

Terrence Ross, SF Shot Chart 17 MIN | 3-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -15Found himself in foul trouble in a game in which the Raptors really needed his contribution on either end of the floor. He was entasked to lead the second unit for a while, which provided some less-than-satisfactory results. Had one nice drive off-the-dribble. This is how development happens on a good team — he’s going to need to learn on the fly.

Kyle Lowry, PG Shot Chart 37 MIN | 6-18 FG | 8-10 FT | 8 REB | 5 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 6 TO | 23 PTS | +10Noticeably slow on defense, which makes sense given his plethora of injuries that he’s sustained of late, but how could you argue with that boxscore line? He and DeRozan were the only sources of consistent offense in tonight’s game, which makes tonight every other night this season.

DeMar DeRozan, SG Shot Chart 39 MIN | 9-19 FG | 11-13 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 31 PTS | +6Look what happens when you attack the basket! In the first half, he had 25 points on a great field goal percentage because he was aggressive, and tonight, his free-throw total was legitimate. Tailed off in the second half and started settling for jumpers, but overall he kept the Raptors within striking distance for much of the first three quarters.

Chuck Hayes, PF Shot Chart 18 MIN | 2-6 FG | 1-1 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | -2Really, really, really ineffective. See my blurb below.

John Salmons, SF Shot Chart 19 MIN | 1-5 FG | 1-2 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | -3On the second night of back-to-backs, Salmons cannot be counted upon to provide anything of value, and he didn’t. Again, he’s going to counted on as a consistent performer in the playoffs. Sigh.

Steve Novak, SF Shot Chart 4 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +1Weird that he didn’t get more minutes, especially when the Raptors were hurting for offense. I guess Withey and Ajinca would have eaten him alive on the glass, but it couldn’t hurt to stretch the floor when Hayes/Hansbrough is clogging things up on the inside. Incomplete because he wasn’t used.

Greivis Vasquez, PG Shot Chart 21 MIN | 4-7 FG | 4-5 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 14 PTS | +3He bailed us out tonight. With the game tied late in the fourth, Vasquez scored five straight points on back-to-back possessions and gave the Raps the lead for good. He took his fair share of YOLO (patented) shots, but this is a team represented by Drake, so what did you really expect?

Nando de Colo, PG Shot Chart 14 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +13He’s the new Landry Fields. Played solid defense, made smart (yet plenty risky) passes, and crashed the boards to help even up the rebounding disparity. I really wouldn’t mind if he played more minutes down the stretch. The Raptors could use somebody, anybody, to help out on back-to-backs when Salmons is out of commission.

Dwane Casey
Willingly shuffled the lineup when things weren’t working, and he eventually found some lineups that worked. It must have killed him to not have a functional defensive anchoring big in the lineup tonight. Good on him to try out de Colo, which helped the Raptors erase a huge deficit in the second quarter. Couldn’t find a big to stop the pick-and-roll tonight, but not for a lack of trying, as tried different looks and personnel. Nothing worked.

Five Things We Saw

  1. Without Jonas Valanciunas and Patrick Patterson, the Raptors wings made an effort to gang rebound, which kept the rebounding disparity even. The trade-off was giving up any easy baskets in transition, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing given how easily the Pelicans scored in the first half
  2. de Colo brings an element similar to Fields. He has good size for his position, and he has a good sense for making the right pass. He worked perfectly alongside Lowry, taking over ball-handling responsibilities, which allowed Lowry to run around off-ball. Perhaps Casey should look into this further.
  3. NBA defenses have basically become standardized for bigs. You’re either mobile, and hedge hard on pick-and-rolls, or you’re a rim defender and you drop back in coverage. Unfortunately, Hayes can’t do either, and opposing teams know it. I don’t mean to disparage the man, as his reputation for class and leadership precedes him, but the game has changed, and suddenly he has little to offer NBA teams.
  4. So…Masai Ujiri could have totally picked up Alexis Ajinca earlier on this season to bolster the depth at center, but he didn’t. On one hand, hindsight is 20/20. On the other hand, yours truly watched Ajinca dominate on behalf of Team France in the Eurobasket tournament, and he certainly looked NBA ready this time around. He showed it tonight, abusing Hayes over and over again on pick-and-rolls.
  5. I miss Patrick Patterson. I will keep noting his absence until he returns from injury. He’s a key cog for this team.