“We want to win,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “That’s the number one thing. But you’ve got to have healthy players. It’s a catch-22. You play DeMar [DeRozan] and Kyle for 38, 40, 42 minutes, and sooner or later it’s going to tell on them. It’s not a major revelation that we need to watch [their minutes], but at the same time, win. Winning trumps a lot.” It will be a tough line for Casey to walk, although the Raptors’ soft schedule down the stretch could help: Ten of their remaining 13 games are against teams outside of the playoff picture in the Eastern Conference — so, some of the worst teams in the league. That could allow Casey some more opportunity to rest the point guard, although he would never admit such a thing. Regardless, this guarantees that Greivis Vasquez will be playing more often, particularly without Lowry in a two-point guard lineup.
OFFENCE APLENTY The Cavs have been putting up the points of late, averaging 102 points in their last four games and shooting better than 50 per cent from the field in three of them. MISSING PIECE The Cavaliers will be without all-star point guard Kyrie Irving, who has missed the last four games and is out at least other week with a left biceps strain. FAMILIAR FACE With Irving on the shelf, the Cavs have turned to ex-Raptor Jarrett Jack as a starter. Jack showed he can still fill it up in a hurry with 31 points and 10 assists in a Sunday win over the New York Knicks.
Outwork, outrun, sprint [Set] great, legal screens Step to [your] man Block out. And it goes on like that. “He got really down on himself when he went through that tough stretch,” Bayno explained. “So we just really sat down and talked and [I] said, ‘look, it’s no secret, JV, these are the things you’ve got to do’.” “You’re going to have some ups and downs,” he told the second-year pro, “but I’m going to write it in your locker, so every day before the game you see, this is what you have to do on a nightly basis.” “Everything that’s on that sheet is what we work on.”
Where the playoffs are concerned, the following question has come up more than a few times over the years in Toronto: “What good is it to get into the final playoff spot only to get drilled by Miami or Indiana?” While it’s extremely unlikely the Raptors will draw the Heat or Pacers in the first round, Chicago and Brooklyn could both be added to the list of teams against which the Raptors, home-court advantage or not, would be considered underdogs. So, are the playoffs a waste of time if Toronto gets bumped—or even swept—in the first round? Definitely not. What’s important is the experience provided by a taste of post-season action.
In overtime games this season the Raptors are 1-6. They are 0-1 in triple overtime games, they are 0-2 in double overtime games, and they are 1-3 in single overtime games. The numbers are just as grim in late game results in regulation. In the final minute of games where the Raptors are down five points or less they are 2-18. In the final three minutes of games when they are down five points or less they are 5-20. In the final five minutes when they are down five points or less they are 7-22. In the final thirty seconds when they are plus/minus three points they are 4-14 and in the final ten seconds of games when they are plus/minus three points they are 2-14. What do these numbers mean? The Raptors win games by building enough of a lead so their lack of late game execution cannot hurt. The strange factor not shown in those numbers is that the Raptors are among the top teams in the league in fourth quarter efficiency.
Multimillionaire rapper Drake has been awarded a $300,000 government grant to stage his two-day OVO Fest in Toronto this summer. According to Ticketmaster, admission ranges from $66.50 to $750 for “platinum” two-day tickets. Meanwhile, Toronto’s Beaches International Jazz Festival — a free event — didn’t qualify for a grant under the same program, called Celebrate Ontario, even though it had received $75,000 a year for the past six years. Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, a sports giant estimated to be worth $2 billion, has requested $10 million from the province to upgrade a soccer field in Toronto. The company that owns the Toronto Maple Leafs, Toronto Raptors, and the city’s professional soccer team says it will put in $90 million for the upgrade of BMO Field, but only if it gets $30 million from the city, province and federal government.
As the Raptors loom closer to the playoffs, some of their potential matchups look challenging. The Chicago Bulls have playoff experience and are probably the grittiest team in the league. The Bobcats aren’t that far away from the sixth seed, and they’ve owned the Raptors in recent match-ups. Then of course there’s the Brooklyn Nets. They’re experienced, and getting things together at the right time. The name and location may have changed, but they’re still the same Nets that disposed of the Raptors in the first round of the 2006-2007 playoffs. If the Raptors were to face the Nets in the first round this year, besting them in the seven game series would be a big moment in Raptors history. It wouldn’t just mean another second round appearance; It would mean vengeance, and it would signify that the Raptors are and will be a legitimate threat in the league. It would be just one more thing that separates this team from the team that was nothing more than a one season wonder.