|Amir Johnson, PF Shot Chart 29 MIN | 3-6 FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | -15His role tonight was somewhat limited – I’d imagine part of that was due to his various ailments, as he went to the locker room in the 3rd quarter to have his back worked on. However, the Raps can’t forget him on offence. Along with Jonas, his skill on pick and rolls is a big advantage against the Nets’ challenged frontcourt.|
|Terrence Ross, SF Shot Chart 22 MIN | 1-4 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 5 PTS | -15His confidence is shot, and it’s starting to bleed into his defence. I’d hoped that the 3 he hit in the first half would rejuvenate him a bit, but every other look he had he missed, including an open lay-up. He was tasked with Joe Johnson and Williams tonight at times, and both had their way with him – Johnson down low, and Williams laterally on the outside. The scariest thing about his slump is that it likely means we’ll be seeing a healthy dose of Jandry Salmields for the rest of the series, which really impacts the Raptor offence on a team level. I realize the stakes are very high, but I’d really like to see Casey and the coaching staff run a few plays for him early on next game. Without him, our wing offence is really predictable.|
|Jonas Valanciunas, C Shot Chart 30 MIN | 4-4 FG | 2-4 FT | 10 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 10 PTS | 0Another night, another double double. He’s absolutely dominant when he’s on the court – tonight, his issue was staying out there as he was saddled with early foul trouble. Like Amir, I think the Raptor coaching staff needs to make a concerted effort to feature him in the offence. Him over Garnett is the biggest advantage we have.|
|Kyle Lowry, PG Shot Chart 38 MIN | 4-9 FG | 6-6 FT | 2 REB | 4 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 15 PTS | +3God, the guy wants it so bad. Tonight, that meant hobbling around on one leg for half the game after leaving in the 2nd quarter with a knee injury. The injury clearly affected him on both ends of the court – he was reduced to a minus-defender, which was part of the reason the Nets’ guards went off in the 3rd – but he still managed to hit some big shots (2 and-1s in the fourth quarter) and draw a couple charges. We all knew it before tonight, but the guy is the epitome of the word warrior. Hopefully the injury isn’t too serious, because he’s going to need to be a game-changer if we want to win this series.|
|DeMar DeRozan, SG Shot Chart 39 MIN | 8-22 FG | 13-15 FT | 5 REB | 5 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 30 PTS | +1Fantastic offensive effort. In the second quarter, there were a few too many isos for my liking, but that seemed to be either by design or a byproduct of having Hansbrough and Fields on the court at the same time. For the most part, I thought he made really smart decisions with the ball – his 5 assists are proof positive of that – and he did everything he needed to to keep the Raps within striking distance, including getting to the line when the team needed a bucket and hitting some seriously tough jumpers, including an end of the shot clock 3 in the first half. Defensively, he (and all the other Raptor wings) has a few things to work out. Offensively, tonight, he looked superstar-esque.|
|Tyler Hansbrough, PF Shot Chart 9 MIN | 1-3 FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 3 PTS | 0Found his way into the lineup after being benched in game 2, and did his usual Psycho T act: running hard, grabbing rebounds in traffic, and fouling everything that moved. Got ripped apart by Andray Blatche a couple times, which probably tells you why he didn’t play in game 2.|
|Patrick Patterson, PF Shot Chart 29 MIN | 6-7 FG | 2-4 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 17 PTS | +7Everyone’s going to remember him missing those two free throws at the end of the game, which is unfortunate, because if it weren’t for him, the Raptors wouldn’t have even been close. Blisteringly effective on the offensive end – Paul Pierce couldn’t slow him down, no matter what he did. He makes the right decision with the ball all the time, and when his shot is falling, he’s a real X-factor. Awesome game.|
|John Salmons, SF Shot Chart 12 MIN | 2-4 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 4 PTS | -7Inserted into the game with less than a minute left in the first half, presumably to give DeMar DeRozan an extended break. Hit a hail mary jumper with the clock winding down, which apparently gave Dwayne Casey all the justification he needed to play him heavily in the second half. He’s not killing the team out there, but he’s basically Landry Fields with a trigger finger. You’d have to think that even a slumping Ross would be more effective in his minutes.|
|Landry Fields, SF Shot Chart 8 MIN | 0-2 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -4Got into the game in the first half, where he played his usual energetic brand of unselfish-defence first basketball. His two shot attempts were both around the hoop and defensible. Buried in the second half for John Salmons for god knows what reason, until he was reinserted with less than a minute left in the fourth for defensive purposes.|
|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 | 0He came, he saw. That’s really it.|
|Greivis Vasquez, PG Shot Chart 26 MIN | 2-6 FG | 2-2 FT | 2 REB | 6 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 7 PTS | +10His shot didn’t fall tonight, but he’s been a major key to the Raptors’ wing scoring so far this series, particularly with Ross struggling mightily. You just feel like whenever he has the ball he makes the right decisions more often than not. Did a passable job guarding Deron at times in the 3rd, though once the Nets’ guards caught fire, he was no more effective than anyone else. Called for a technical late in the game that was absolutely indefensible, even if the ref made a bad call that led to him complaining.|
Ugh. That’s directed to the second quarter in particular, where he experimented with weird lineups in order to give his starters more rest and was burnt for it. I can understand the sentiment, but at the same time, it should have been obvious that a lineup featuring both Landry Fields and Tyler Hansbrough would have some difficulties creating shots. His decision to re-insert Salmons into the rotation over Fields was perplexing, as well. Some major adjustments need to be made if the Raps want to win this series, and I hope he and his staff bounce back. Did a good job getting his guys up to play in the first quarter, which was an issue in games 1 and 2.
Five Things We Saw
- Seventeen more turnovers to add to the total, which is, shockingly, the least the Raps have had in the first three games. The Nets’ big wing lineups and high-pressure defence is seriously affecting the Raptors, and the team needs to have their heads on swivels to make sure they take care of the ball. Part of that might come from speeding up pace of play, in order to not give the Nets time to sneak in and poke the ball loose.
- The reffing tonight was absolutely atrocious. No, I don’t buy into the conspiracy theories, but the Raptors were burnt twice in the last couple minutes – first, on the Vasquez “foul,” and then on a very well defended inbound trap that would have led to a Nets turnover. Yes, the Raptors got their fair share of ticky-tack calls, but when the stakes are this high, the referees simply have to do a better job. It can change the course of a team’s season.
- ACC crowd > Barclay’s Centre crowd. I don’t care how many bras Rihanna doesn’t wear. It honestly felt like a lightly-attended regular season game until the second half, where KG decided that game 3 of the playoffs was when he’d decide to care about the fact that he was a Net. Ah well.
- I realize I made this point in my player reactions, but the Raptors need to focus on getting their other starters (besides DeRozan and Lowry) involved in the offence early. Things are devolving to iso-ball far too often, and although DeRozan has stepped up the last two games, the Nets are too savvy for an offence that predictable to be sustainable. If Terrence Ross can bounce back, this series changes dramatically.
- Raptor fans: yes, the team hasn’t played particularly well in any of the first 3 games. However, give it up to these guys, who have absolutely no quit in them. It’s, quite frankly, amazing that the Raptors have played as poorly as they have and managed to come away with two very close losses and a win, and it really speaks to the immense character of this team. A couple coaching adjustments (hey, we can dream), and this series is ours for the taking. Game 4 Sunday.