|Amir Johnson, PF Shot Chart 35 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | -2Regardless of his stats, he gives effort every game and does the little things like setting screens and providing help defense. His offensive rebound late in the 4th was huge. If the bench can produce like they did early tonight, then Casey should rest Amir as much as possible so he can get those ankles right for the post season. I have a hard time giving him a poor score (even if he wasn’t at his best tonight) because I’m still picturing THAT offensive rebound and game winning put back from Friday which cemented the Raptors playoff berth.|
|Terrence Ross, SF Shot Chart 22 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | -2Raptors trend of getting the sophomores involved early continued: by the first commercial break Ross already had 7 points and a rebound. Problem was he disappeared after that early onslaught. Granted, he didn’t get a ton of minutes in the second half, but that bodes well for him being well rested for Miami game tomorrow.|
|Jonas Valanciunas, C Shot Chart 37 MIN | 6-8 FG | 8-8 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 20 PTS | +1As per above, the team is engaging Jonas on offense from the onset. It results in a full effort on both ends. Using these last few games to continue that trend will reap benefits to take into the playoffs. He finished first quarter with 10 points, 2 rebounds and a block.Of note: in the past few games he’s getting frequent trips to the line which merits asking the question: has he finally earned the refs respect or is he simply playing better? Leo highlighted how much Chuck Hayes is helping him with positioning on court so perhaps that’s why.|
|Kyle Lowry, PG Shot Chart 36 MIN | 6-18 FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 6 TO | 16 PTS | 0 Lowry must love playing the Magic as he tends to have huge games against them. He’s scored 33 and 28 points in previous games this season. Tonight he appeared content to focus on getting everyone else involved early. That was until the Magic made a big run and then he put on his closer hat and took over the game.|
|DeMar DeRozan, SG Shot Chart 38 MIN | 6-14 FG | 15-16 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 28 PTS | -1Had a thunderous dunk in the second quarter while he was on the floor with the bench crew. Utilized his left hand a lot tonight successfully. Maybe it was just me, but it seemed like he was working on trying things out vs. the Magic.|
|Tyler Hansbrough, PF Shot Chart 5 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +9Got an elbow to the throat and was his usual scrappy self, but stat sheet showed how ineffective he was.|
|Chuck Hayes, PF Shot Chart 10 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -5It’s easy to highlight his negatives: height, foot speed etc, but his mentorship of Jonas is worth it’s weight in gold. He might not have the skill of Zach Randolph or Al Jefferson but he has the same intelligence and old man game as those guys. In the past few games there is at least one play per game we see him use this knowledge to out smart a younger foe.|
|John Salmons, SF Shot Chart 8 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 2 PTS | -1I’m wondering how much his back issues were playing into his results (or lack there of) the past two weeks. Last game he played much better and his mobility seemed improved tonight.Remember his defense and play in Chicago New Year’s Eve? Well one or two games like that could make the difference in wins this post season, so with Fields available I’m hoping Casey gives him the rest.|
|Landry Fields, SF Shot Chart 17 MIN | 2-3 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | +12Vasquez took an elbow to the face requiring medical attention so Casey turned to Fields. He entered the game with 37-seconds remaining in the first quarter and promptly got a steal, a block and scored two points. Had a highlight dunk in second quarter.Last time he got multiple minutes was against Golden State when he provided a similar effort. It highlights the need to ask the question why he’s not getting more minutes especially in games requiring effort on defense.|
|Steve Novak, SF Shot Chart 10 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +5Not sure if it was the Orlando sun or if he just enjoys playing with de Colo and Fields but it was one of his better efforts.|
|Greivis Vasquez, PG Shot Chart 15 MIN | 2-6 FG | 1-1 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 5 PTS | -2When Magic cut the game to single digits and Raps went cold it was Vasquez who stopped the bleeding. Made some bad turn overs late in the game.|
|Nando de Colo, PG Shot Chart 8 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | +11Got a rare showing of de Colo as the only point guard on court early second quarter and he didn’t disappoint. He took a hard foul to stop an easy Harris dunk, hit the floor hard and bounced right back up. I enjoy the way he moves the ball up court quickly, his crisp passes and his focus on getting the ball in the paint.|
With Vasquez in the locker room getting 5-stitches for a Dedman elbow, Casey went with an unusual line-up of de Colo, DeRozan, Fields, Hansbrough and Novak. It was an odd mix but they went on an early 6-1 run. Perhaps we’ll see more of this going down the stretch especially if they can maintain/sustain a lead because it affords rest for key starters.Got his 99th win as Raptor Head Coach.
Four Things We Saw
- Is it possible the Raptors are playing with less stress now that they are ensured of a playoff berth? They certainly seemed to be clicking on all cylinders and carried a certain swag on the court. Even when the Magic fought back the game never seemed in question. Let’s see if they can take that into Miami where a win would psychologically do wonders for their confidence.
- It’s indisputable the Raptor’s leaders are Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson. When games get close you can count on one or all three to make a huge play.
- At season start I picked Nicola Vucevic as one of my top three players to win Most Improved. A myriad of injuries kept him off the court but he’s been showing lately why he merits that type of attention.
- Odds are Kevin Durant will win MVP but how Kyle Lowry isn’t even on the top 10 list considered is beyond me.
- In pre-game tonight Casey said Patterson MAY be back tomorrow… Hallelujah! Check out the Raptors Weekly podcast which is fresh out of the recording studio.