Playoff basketball for the first time in 6 years!
|Amir Johnson, PF Shot Chart 28 MIN | 4-8 FG | 0-0 FT | 8 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | -13Battled all game long, breathed life into the second-unit in the second quarter, fought hard for rebounds and HIT THE GAME WINNING BASKET TO SEND THE RAPTORS INTO THE PLAYOFFS! It was meant to be. We love you, Amir!|
|Terrence Ross, SF Shot Chart 28 MIN | 6-13 FG | 4-4 FT | 4 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 17 PTS | -3Scorching hot shooting to start the game. When DeMar subbed out early in the first due to foul trouble, he stepped up on offense and held the fort down. Glued to the bench down the stretch for no reason whatsoever, and Dwane Casey elected to play Salmons over Ross in a defense-for-offense situation, which is questionable. His length and athleticism netted him two steals in the third quarter.|
|Jonas Valanciunas, C Shot Chart 35 MIN | 3-6 FG | 7-8 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 13 PTS | +9Dominated early, faded down the stretch. Provided a steady source of offense, rebounding and defense. Against a relatively height-challenged Celtics front-line, he held his own. Some key blocks on Rajon Rondo. Good stuff from the youngster.|
|Kyle Lowry, PG Shot Chart 34 MIN | 4-13 FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 5 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 9 PTS | +5Every Raptors fan shit a brick when he went to the locker room late in the second after tweaking his right ankle, but he managed to come back after halftime, and finished the game strong. His low statistical output was attributable to him taking it easy in the third quarter, but he stepped up when needed, scoring on a key drive down the stretch, and driving hard to the rim on the second-last possession of the game where Amir Johnson managed to collect the rebound.|
|DeMar DeRozan, SG Shot Chart 35 MIN | 12-27 FG | 6-6 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 30 PTS | -16Battled early foul trouble which held him to just 3 minutes played in the first quarter, but then he came back with a vengeance (and a LOT of shots). His mano-a-mano shootout with Jerryd Bayless ended in a draw, but DeRozan’s team ended up with the victory, and DeMar was the one who put the Raptors up 2 with a rainbow arching jumper over Jeff Green late in the fourth. He’s come a very long way.|
|Tyler Hansbrough, PF Shot Chart 6 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | -9Crashed the glass for a buzzer-beating putback to end the first half. I don’t have anything else in my notes about him, so I’ll assume he did the usual energy + rebounding thing.|
|Chuck Hayes, PF Shot Chart 27 MIN | 3-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTS | +15Chuck Hayes has leap-frogged Tyler Hansbrough as the first big off the bench, and he’s surpassed Jonas Valanciunas as Dwane Casey choice big de jour for defensive possessions down the stretch. Why? I’m not entirely sure, but he did make a number of good plays tonight, including some solid put-backs, and a pair of slap-away steals on dudes in the post. Good stuff from the Chuckster.|
|John Salmons, SF Shot Chart 23 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 5 PTS | +15He hit his first two shots and Toronto Raptors basketball Twitter exploded. He was entrusted to guard Rondo in the final minute, which was extremely questionable. Ended up doing a good job, fouling Rondo with 3 seconds left (he had a foul to give). See, he can do something positive when he gets enough rest. Maybe it’s time to put the pitchforks away (for now…)|
|Steve Novak, SF Shot Chart 0 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +2He was a decoy for a possession, but at least a strategically used one. Casey elected to run the high screen-and-roll with Lowry and Amir to end the game, and Novak provided floor-stretch. Cool beans. Incomplete because he didn’t actually do anything.|
|Greivis Vasquez, PG Shot Chart 24 MIN | 5-11 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 5 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 15 PTS | +5Played within himself all game long, and submitted one of his finest performances as a Raptor. Totally let Rondo blow by him on the Celtics’ penultimate possession, but that’s on Casey to for failing to sub him out when he had the chance to play OFF/DEF. Worked well with Amir Johnson in the pick-and-roll, and he hit his spot-up three-pointers. As I’ve preached many times with Gravy, less YOLO is more.|
Forget his questionable offensive/defensive switches (or lack thereof) near the end of the game. Rather, focus on his play call to put the ball in Lowry’s hands with the game on the line. It was smart of him to run the high screen and roll with Lowry (best ball handler) and Amir (best screener). The Celtics panicked, switched on the play, Lowry got to the rim and drew Sullinger out of position on the contest. This left Amir wide open for the put-back. Smart play call there.
Five Things We Saw
- A healthy Amir Johnson makes all the difference. As fans, we tend to have a rather short memory (it typically spans the duration of one-game; we’re all recording on floppy discs, basically), but there’s a reason why everyone lavishes Amir with so much praise — he deserves it! When healthy, he can make the pick-and-roll work. When healthy, he’s active enough to shut down the pick-and-roll. When healthy, he can crash the offensive glass because he’s not too slow to get back in transition. I mean, he was able to make the second unit functional today. That’s a tall order.
- If Terrence Ross were able to dribble-drive on a consistent basis, the Raptors’ offense will instantly move from “slow, predictable, and average” to “slow, mostly predictable, and above average.” Right now, Ross only hurts the defense when he’s open on the three-point line. However, if he’s able to get past the flying defender on the closeout with any level of consistency, then he forces a big to step up and contain his drive, which opens up cutting lanes for everyone else. In short, this should be his next area of focus in his development. Or not. What do I know, I’m just a blogger.
- Does every interview with Chuck Hayes have to begin with a disclaimer from the interviewer that goes something along the lines of: “Hey Chuck, you really shouldn’t be any good whatsoever, but you actually did some positive things on the court. How did you manage to not suck?” Come on guys, he’s no superstar, and he has some obvious shortcomings, but he’s an NBA calibre player. There’s no need to diss the man every single damn time. Your artificial “Rudy” storylines are tired, and aren’t worth it.
- I’m not entirely sure why Leo Rautins and Matt Devlin insist on making Jared Sullinger out to be some sort of Frankenstein cross between Dirk and Shaq. Truth be told, he’s Big Baby v2.0 with a little more offense, and a little less defense. That’s all he is. Also, he shoots 25% on three-pointers, which is why the Raptors bigs aren’t closing out hard on his attempts.
- PLAYOFFS BABY! PLAYOFFS! FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 6 DAMN YEARS. PLAYOFFS! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! (also: I miss Patterson, but he’s slated to return. According to Nene doppelganger (and all-around good guy) Eric Koreen, he’s due back either on Sunday (vs the Magic), or Monday (vs Heat). Hooray!