Unlike the Leafs, these Raptors refuse to wilt late in the season.
|Amir Johnson, PF Shot Chart 3 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -4
Left the game early on with a sore ankle or knee, which looked to spell the end for the Raptors, but as they’ve done so often this season, unlikely heroes emerged, and made up for his absence. Get well soon, Amir!
|Terrence Ross, SF Shot Chart 35 MIN | 6-12 FG | 1-2 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 14 PTS | +8
Did a solid job guarding Harden, which is one of the most difficult defensive assignments in the NBA. With Lowry out, Ross was afforded a little more latitude on offense, and showed some creativity off the dribble. Hit his daily triple from the corner. Really helped out on the glass which allowed the small-ball unit to sustain itself.
|Jonas Valanciunas, C Shot Chart 30 MIN | 4-7 FG | 7-9 FT | 6 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 15 PTS | +12
Started slow, but finished strong. Flourished in the second half as the lone-big in small-ball lineups, which is something he has struggled with in the past. On the whole, his offensive rebounding and scoring provided a much needed interior threat. He also worked well in the pick-and-roll, which helped carry Amir’s slack. Threw a beautiful high-low pass to Patrick Patterson that literally made me squeal in happiness.
|Greivis Vasquez, PG Shot Chart 40 MIN | 4-12 FG | 3-4 FT | 4 REB | 8 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 15 PTS | +6
Poor shot-seection aside, he did a good job in Lowry’s place, and steadied the offense. He was exploited on defense, but that’s to be expected. Not turning the ball over in 40 minutes of play, while chipping in with 8 assists is very impressive. It’s almost as if someone knew that he could perform like this. Credit to that guy.
|DeMar DeRozan, SG Shot Chart 40 MIN | 10-19 FG | 8-10 FT | 6 REB | 4 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 29 PTS | 0
He played James Harden to a draw, which is yet another landmark on his ascent this season. He was literally unstoppable in the second quarter as he dropped 15 points, including a 30-ft pull-up triple to beat the halftime buzzer. Really lackadaisical transition defense on Parsons in the first quarter as he conceded 4 dunks and a layup to the man they call “Handsome”, but he tightened it up later in the game.
|Tyler Hansbrough, PF Shot Chart 18 MIN | 2-2 FG | 3-5 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 7 PTS | -6
Provided energy, had a huge block, committed a foul before he even clocked a second in the game. Just another leaf in the Whomping Willow that is Tyler Hansbrough.
|Patrick Patterson, PF Shot Chart 26 MIN | 3-7 FG | 1-3 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 8 PTS | +2
He’s back! He dropped a triple from the left corner early in the first quarter, and helped turnaround the Raptors’ weak start. His presence really means a world of difference for the second unit. In addition to his shooting, he also consistently makes high-IQ plays that contributes to a solid win overall. He would have played more minutes, but Casey wisely limited his minutes as this is just his second game back from injury.
|John Salmons, SF Shot Chart 22 MIN | 3-8 FG | 4-4 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 12 PTS | -6
You see? He’s not always a horrible NBA player. He just needs lots of rest, some luck, a sacrificial lambasting from the RR community, and bam, he contributes. He did a solid job guarding James Harden, hit his open kick-out threes, and even created off-the-bounce. The Raptors need this Salmons to show up in the playoffs.
|Steve Novak, SF Shot Chart 14 MIN | 1-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | +6
Hit a triple like it’s his only job.
|Nando de Colo, PG Shot Chart 13 MIN | 1-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 1 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 4 PTS | +2
He started off well, helping to facilitate ball-movement in the early going, but as soon as Vasquez left the floor, and he became the primary PG, he morphed into Nando de YOLO. The Raptors need to treat him like Cyclops treats eyewear — use protection.
You gotta hand it to the man. He might not have the sparkliest of X’s and O’s, but when has his team ever quit this season? The Raptors could have easily packed up their bags in the first quarter after conceding a 12-pt lead, but what did they do? They battled back. Why? Because Dwane Casey made the ballsy move to go small, which helped the Raptors build up a 20 point cushion. He has his made his fair share of bad decisions, but he’s also done a lot of good this year.
Five Things We Saw
- This is just an opinion based on observation alone, but Jonas Valanciunas seems to struggle at times when he’s the only big in a small-ball scenario. On offense, he doesn’t pick the right spots to crash for the rebounds, and on defense, he’s confused between knowing when to step up to contest shots, and when to hang back to protect the rim. With the NBA moving to embrace the “positionless revolution”, and its inclusive amalgamated positions philosophy, Jonas needs to work on being quicker, and smarter, especially in small-ball lineups. He adapted in the second half and fared well, which is a promising sign.
- Nando de Colo’s extremely questionable decision making makes him ill-suited to be the primary ball-handler in a lineup. However, when he serves as a secondary ball-handler, the opportunity to make mistakes is curtailed, and he greatly improves ball-movement. In a sense, he’s better at making the extra pass, than he is the initial pass.
- Houston’s defense really struggles without Dwight Howard and Patrick Beverley. Aside from Chandler Parsons, there wasn’t a single functional defender in their starting lineup.
- Playing “Gangnam Style” in celebration of Chinese Heritage Night is, quite frankly, racist. With 5, 000 proud years of history to its name, there is plenty of heritage, other than a pop-song by a Korean artist, to celebrate. As an Chinese-Canadian, I am thoroughly disappointed with the Raptors’ poor decisions on this matter. I get that Jeremy Lin only comes to Canada once per year, so the opportunity to cash-grab is limited, but it doesn’t have to be billed in a racist and ignorant way. Shame on you, Raptors game-ops. Ordinarily, I applaud your work, but tonight was a regrettable mistake.
- Fingers crossed for Lowry and Amir’s health.