Last 200 articles shown.

Date Title Author
Nov 27, 15 Raptors Weekly Extra Podcast, Nov 27: Johnson’s minutes, Valanciunas’ injury fallout Blake Murphy
Nov 27, 15 Morning Coffee – Fri, Nov 27 Sam Holako
Nov 26, 15 Audio Special: Blake Murphy In-Studio Talking Raptors on Sportsnet 590 Zarar Siddiqi
Nov 26, 15 James Johnson apologizes for “under-utilized” tweet Blake Murphy
Nov 26, 15 Views from Drake Night 3 Blake Murphy
Nov 26, 15 VIDEO: Delon Wright speaks after ‘perfect’ D-League debut Blake Murphy
Nov 26, 15 James Johnson’s mood? “Under-utilized” Blake Murphy
Nov 26, 15 4th Quarter Offensive Execution? 4th Quarter Offensive Execution! Andrew Thompson
Nov 26, 15 Morning Coffee – Thu, Nov 26 Sam Holako
Nov 26, 15 Talking Raptors Podcast, S3 E5 – Drake Night Nick Reynoldson
Nov 25, 15 Quick Reaction: Raptors 103 – 99 Cavaliers Kiyan Sobhani
Nov 25, 15 Grandstand Highlight of the Night: Carroll plays perfect defense, LeBron still scores Blake Murphy
Nov 25, 15 Raptors905 escape with win against Idaho Stampede Shyam Baskaran
Nov 25, 15 Audio – Drake In-Game Interview with Matt Devlin and Jack Armstrong Zarar Siddiqi
Nov 25, 15 Audio – Drake Media Scrum as Masai Ujiri Announces Rapper on #DrakeNight Zarar Siddiqi
Nov 25, 15 Pre-game news & notes: Dellavedova sits, Cunningham starts, Drake entertains Blake Murphy
Nov 25, 15 VIDEO: Jack and Strombo crush it in the Hotline Bling Booth Blake Murphy
Nov 25, 15 Ronald Roberts ready to make impact with Raptors 905, as long as he’s there Blake Murphy
Nov 25, 15 Toronto Raptors Early Schedule Difficulty Could Pay Dividends Tamberlyn Richardson
Nov 25, 15 Mo Williams returning for Cavs, Dellavedova a game-time call Blake Murphy
Nov 25, 15 Gameday: Cavaliers @ Raptors, Nov. 25 Blake Murphy
Nov 25, 15 VIDEO: Norm Kelly in the ‘Hotline Bling Booth’ at ACC Blake Murphy
Nov 25, 15 Morning Coffee – Wed, Nov 25 Sam Holako
Nov 24, 15 VIDEO: DeMarre Carroll in funny Humane Society PSA Blake Murphy
Nov 24, 15 Line-up Issues: It May Be Time To Get Weird Matt Shantz
Nov 24, 15 RR Roundtable: How secure is Dwane Casey’s job? Blake Murphy
Nov 24, 15 Raptors assign Delon Wright to D-League Blake Murphy
Nov 24, 15 Injury Duty: The journey ahead with JV on the shelf Michael Holian
Nov 24, 15 Morning Coffee – Tue, Nov 24 Sam Holako
Nov 23, 15 PHOTO: Raptors ‘holiday sweaters’ are on point Blake Murphy
Nov 23, 15 PHOTO: Here’s your free Drake Night swag for Wednesday Blake Murphy
Nov 23, 15 What the Raptors looked like with Jonas Valanciunas out Blake Murphy
Nov 23, 15 How the West Was Won and Lost Shyam Baskaran
Nov 23, 15 Raptors sneak by Clippers, 91-80, behind big first-half lead Joshua Priemski
Nov 23, 15 Raptors Weekly Podcast, Nov 22 – Biyombo’s Worst Nightmare Zarar Siddiqi
Nov 23, 15 Morning Coffee – Mon, Nov 23 Sam Holako
Nov 22, 15 Quick Reaction: Clippers 80, Raptors 91 Zarar Siddiqi
Nov 22, 15 Grandstand Highlight of the Night: The Versatile Luis Scola Zarar Siddiqi
Nov 22, 15 Raptors 905 pick up their first win in franchise history, beat Red Claws 96-87 Kiyan Sobhani
Nov 22, 15 Bismack Biyombo Starts vs DeAndre Jordan and Clippers Zarar Siddiqi
Nov 22, 15 Report: Valanciunas to miss 6 weeks Blake Murphy
Nov 22, 15 Gameday: Raptors @ Clippers, Nov. 22 Blake Murphy
Nov 21, 15 Raptors Recall Center Lucas Nogueira from Raptors 905 Zarar Siddiqi
Nov 21, 15 Report: Jonas Valanciunas Opts for Rehab Over Surgery Zarar Siddiqi
Nov 21, 15 Valanciunas injury a call for lineup creativity Blake Murphy
Nov 21, 15 This Week on Raptors Republic – Nov 21 Zarar Siddiqi
Nov 21, 15 VIDEO: Jonas Valanciunas talks injury Blake Murphy
Nov 21, 15 Pyrrhic victory snaps Raptors losing streak in L.A. Blake Murphy
Nov 21, 15 Quick Reaction: Raptors 102, Lakers 91 Blake Murphy
Nov 21, 15 Grandstand Highlight of the Night: Kyle Lowry catches fire in 1st half Blake Murphy
Nov 20, 15 Jonas Valanciunas leaves game with fractured metacarpal Blake Murphy
Nov 20, 15 Raptors 905 fall to 0-4 with 112-93 loss to Maine Blake Murphy
Nov 20, 15 Terrence Ross returns for Raptors vs. Lakers Blake Murphy
Nov 20, 15 Pre-game news & notes: Kobe’s final meeting with the Raptors? Blake Murphy
Nov 20, 15 Kobe Bryant will play Friday vs. Raptors Blake Murphy
Nov 20, 15 Great Scotts: Suggs and Shannon shepherding Raptors 905 Blake Murphy
Nov 20, 15 VIDEO: Open Gym episode 4 follows Carroll in new home, season opener Blake Murphy
Nov 20, 15 DeMar DeRozan’s Contract Looms Large Over This Season Tim Chisholm
Nov 20, 15 Gameday: Raptors @ Lakers, Nov. 20 Andrew Thompson
Nov 20, 15 World Not Crashing Around Raptors Matt Shantz
Nov 20, 15 Talking Raptors Podcast, S3 E4 – Dog Days of November Nick Reynoldson
Nov 20, 15 Morning Coffee – Fri, Nov 20 Sam Holako
Nov 20, 15 Raptors 905 drop really fun home opener Blake Murphy
Nov 19, 15 Where Does JV Rank Among Centers After Game 13? forumcrew
Nov 19, 15 Breaking it Down: Failing to inbound out of timeouts Blake Murphy
Nov 19, 15 Raptors-Jazz post-game debriefing with the enemy Blake Murphy
Nov 19, 15 Raptors once again snatch defeat from the jaws of victory Blake Murphy
Nov 19, 15 Morning Coffee – Thu, Nov 19 Sam Holako
Nov 18, 15 Quick Reaction: Raptors 89, Jazz 93 Blake Murphy
Nov 18, 15 Grandstand Highlight of the Night: Favors gets 50/50 and-1 call against Scola Blake Murphy
Nov 18, 15 VIDEO: DeMar DeRozan dunks all over Rudy Gobert Blake Murphy
Nov 18, 15 Pre-game news & notes: What to do about Rudy Gobert Blake Murphy
Nov 18, 15 ‘Quick’ thoughts on lineup usage from Raptors-Warriors Blake Murphy
Nov 18, 15 NBA: Curry traveled late, call on Lowry was correct Blake Murphy
Nov 18, 15 Gameday: Raptors @ Jazz, Nov. 18 Tamberlyn Richardson
Nov 18, 15 Plenty to second-guess in would-be moral victory against Warriors Blake Murphy
Nov 18, 15 Morning Coffee – Wed, Nov 18 Sam Holako
Nov 18, 15 Quick Reaction: Raptors 110, Warriors 115 Sam Holako
Nov 18, 15 Grandstand Highlight of the Night: Steph Curry with the shot Blake Murphy
Nov 17, 15 Pre-game news & notes: ‘They can’t do great things if they don’t have the ball’ Blake Murphy
Nov 17, 15 Draymond Green, Klay Thompson playing Tuesday vs. Raptors Blake Murphy
Nov 17, 15 Raptors 905 waive 1st ever draft pick Mike Anderson, reacquire Ashton Smith Blake Murphy
Nov 17, 15 Raptors can’t explain slow starts, hot third quarters Blake Murphy
Nov 17, 15 Raptors 905 to broadcast 9 games on NBA TV Blake Murphy
Nov 17, 15 The Toronto Raptors need to look forward at power forward Joshua Priemski
Nov 17, 15 Gameday: Raptors @ Warriors, Nov. 17 Blake Murphy
Nov 17, 15 Morning Coffee – Tue, Nov 17 Sam Holako
Nov 16, 15 NBA admits incorrect late foul call on Cory Joseph vs. Kings Blake Murphy
Nov 16, 15 Drake Night 3 set for LeBron visit on Nov. 25 Blake Murphy
Nov 16, 15 Draymond Green has flu, Warriors proceeding as if he won’t play vs. Raptors Blake Murphy
Nov 16, 15 Trend Spotting Andrew Thompson
Nov 16, 15 Let’s not do this 4th quarter Valanciunas thing again Blake Murphy
Nov 16, 15 Raptors Fail to Finish, Lose to Kings Matt Shantz
Nov 16, 15 Raptors Weekly Podcast, Nov 16 – DeRozan Giveth, DeRozan Taketh Zarar Siddiqi
Nov 16, 15 Morning Coffee – Mon, Nov 16 Sam Holako
Nov 15, 15 Quick Reaction: Raptors 101, Kings 107 Sam Holako
Nov 15, 15 Grandstand Highlight of the Night: DeMarcus Cousins gets T’d up Blake Murphy
Nov 15, 15 Sim Bhullar will only play in Raptors 905 home games to start season Blake Murphy
Nov 15, 15 Pre-game news & notes: Gay in, Collison still out for Kings Blake Murphy
Nov 15, 15 Raptors 905 fall to 0-2 with 112-92 loss to Mad Ants Blake Murphy
Nov 15, 15 Gameday: Raptors @ Kings, Nov. 15 Shyam Baskaran
Nov 14, 15 Raptors 905 Lose Heartbreaker at the Buzzer; Positive Things Were Seen Zarar Siddiqi
Nov 14, 15 This Week on Raptors Republic – Nov 14 Zarar Siddiqi
Nov 14, 15 Raptors 905 waive Ashton Smith Blake Murphy
Nov 14, 15 VIDEO – DeMar DeRozan’s 11 assists vs Pelicans; “It’s about getting my teammates going’ Zarar Siddiqi
Nov 14, 15 Valanciunas shoulders early load, Raptors heat up in win over Pelicans Blake Murphy
Nov 14, 15 Morning Coffee – Sat, Nov 14 Zarar Siddiqi
Nov 13, 15 Post-Game Audio: Dwane Casey and Patrick Patterson Zarar Siddiqi
Nov 13, 15 Quick Reaction: Pelicans 81, Raptors 100 Zarar Siddiqi
Nov 13, 15 Grandstand Highlight of the Night: Inflatable Raptor is a treasure Blake Murphy
Nov 13, 15 VIDEO – Jonas Valanciunas Comments on New Look with Cotton Stuffed in his Nose Zarar Siddiqi
Nov 13, 15 VIDEO – JV Blocks Shot; Jack Armstrong Does Dikembe Mutombo Impression Zarar Siddiqi
Nov 13, 15 DeMarre Carroll back vs. Pelicans Blake Murphy
Nov 13, 15 Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis out vs. Raptors Blake Murphy
Nov 13, 15 Pre-Game Audio: Dwane Casey vs Pelicans Zarar Siddiqi
Nov 13, 15 Raptors 905 acquire Nick Wiggins, Ronald Roberts Blake Murphy
Nov 13, 15 VIDEO: Open Gym episode 3 follows training camp, Bennett signing Blake Murphy
Nov 13, 15 Toronto Raptors: 9 Games In – Separating Fact From Fiction Tamberlyn Richardson
Nov 13, 15 Raptors assign Caboclo, Nogueira to 905; Roberts to join soon Blake Murphy
Nov 13, 15 Raptors practice facility gets a name, OVO gear on sale Blake Murphy
Nov 13, 15 Gameday: Pelicans @ Raptors, Nov. 13 Blake Murphy
Nov 13, 15 Morning Coffee – Fri, Nov 13 Zarar Siddiqi
Nov 12, 15 Looking For Shooters forumcrew
Nov 12, 15 Raptors’ outside shooting slump an early concern Blake Murphy
Nov 12, 15 Raptors do what they’re supposed to, roll 76ers Blake Murphy
Nov 12, 15 Morning Coffee – Thu, Nov 12 Sam Holako
Nov 11, 15 VIDEO – Norman Powell’s Dunk vs Philadelphia 76ers Zarar Siddiqi
Nov 11, 15 Quick Reaction: Raptors 119 – 103 76ers Kiyan Sobhani
Nov 11, 15 Grandstand Highlight of the Night: Jahlil Okafor is a bad man Blake Murphy
Nov 11, 15 Masai Ujiri wanted fans to fill Maple Leaf Square for LaMarcus Aldridge Blake Murphy
Nov 11, 15 76ers down to 9 bodies as Richaun Holmes now out, too Blake Murphy
Nov 11, 15 DeMarre Carroll out vs. 76ers Blake Murphy
Nov 11, 15 Raptors 905 announce 11-man roster out of camp Blake Murphy
Nov 11, 15 Death to all-bench units Blake Murphy
Nov 11, 15 Sixers without Noel, Covington vs. Raptors Blake Murphy
Nov 11, 15 Game Day: Raptors vs 76ers Matt Shantz
Nov 11, 15 Raps Fall to No-Longer-Hapless Knicks, 111-109 Greg Mason
Nov 11, 15 #356 – Talking Raptors Podcast, S3 E3 – Don’t Panic Nick Reynoldson
Nov 11, 15 Morning Coffee – Wed, Nov 11 Sam Holako
Nov 10, 15 Referees admit error on Carmelo Anthony out of bounds no-call Blake Murphy
Nov 10, 15 Post-Game Audio: Dwane Casey, DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross on Injury Zarar Siddiqi
Nov 10, 15 Quick Reaction: Raptors 109 – Knicks 111 Tamberlyn Richardson
Nov 10, 15 Grandstand Highlight of the Night: Cory Joseph gets friendly bounce on and-1 Blake Murphy
Nov 10, 15 Terrence Ross out at least 2 weeks with thumb ligament injury Blake Murphy
Nov 10, 15 VIDEO: Robin Lopez gets into it with The Raptor again Blake Murphy
Nov 10, 15 DeMarre Carroll, Terrence Ross out vs. Knicks Blake Murphy
Nov 10, 15 Answering some questions about trading Terrence Ross Blake Murphy
Nov 10, 15 Carroll questionable vs. Knicks; Joseph could see more time Blake Murphy
Nov 10, 15 Pumpin’ the Brakes: Examining the Raptors’ New Roadblocks Michael Holian
Nov 10, 15 Gameday: Raptors vs Knicks Kiyan Sobhani
Nov 10, 15 Morning Coffee – Tue, Nov 10 Sam Holako
Nov 9, 15 The Raptors Lineup Stock Game Andrew Thompson
Nov 9, 15 What to do about Terrence Ross Blake Murphy
Nov 9, 15 PHOTO: Raptors reveal new OVO gear for Nov. 13 release Blake Murphy
Nov 9, 15 Raptors mail one in against the Heat and lose, 96-76 Joshua Priemski
Nov 9, 15 Raptors Weekly Podcast, Nov 9 – On Course for 59 Wins Zarar Siddiqi
Nov 9, 15 Morning Coffee – Mon, Nov 9 Sam Holako
Nov 8, 15 Quick Reaction: Raptors 76, Heat 96 Blake Murphy
Nov 8, 15 Grandstand Highlight of the Night: I don’t know, maybe box out Hassan Whiteside Blake Murphy
Nov 8, 15 VIDEO – James Johnson Halftime Interview vs Miami Zarar Siddiqi
Nov 8, 15 James Johnson draws start with DeMarre Carroll out Blake Murphy
Nov 8, 15 Pre-game news & notes: DeMarre Carroll out Sunday vs. Heat Blake Murphy
Nov 8, 15 Raptors 905 drop exhibition opener 102-83 to Erie Blake Murphy
Nov 8, 15 Gameday: Toronto @ Miami, Nov. 8 Greg Mason
Nov 7, 15 DeMarre Carroll questionable Sunday with plantar fasciitis Blake Murphy
Nov 7, 15 Breaking it Down: Where were these late in the 4th? Blake Murphy
Nov 7, 15 Regression to the Mean in Orlando Andrew Thompson
Nov 6, 15 Quick Reaction: Raptors 87, Magic 92 Blake Murphy
Nov 6, 15 VIDEO – Final Play vs Magic and the Questions it Poses Zarar Siddiqi
Nov 6, 15 Grandstand Highlight of the Night: DeRozan opens game by blocking Dedmon Blake Murphy
Nov 6, 15 VIDEO – Tracy McGrady Reminiscing About His Time in Toronto Zarar Siddiqi
Nov 6, 15 Jonas Valanciunas sets Raptors record with 11 rebounds in a quarter Blake Murphy
Nov 6, 15 Pre-game news & notes: Dedmon starting for Magic, Lowry talks being ‘big boned’ Blake Murphy
Nov 6, 15 Should we look at the triangle offense? forumcrew
Nov 6, 15 Gameday: Raptors @ Magic, Nov. 6 Blake Murphy
Nov 6, 15 Masai Ujiri Is Looking Smart For Backing Dwane Casey Tim Chisholm
Nov 6, 15 VIDEO: Latest Open Gym episode follows Raptors at Summer League Blake Murphy
Nov 6, 15 Has DeMar Improved his Shot Selection? Greg Mason
Nov 6, 15 Morning Coffee – Fri, Nov 6 Zarar Siddiqi
Nov 5, 15 Nikola Vucevic ruled out vs. Raptors Blake Murphy
Nov 5, 15 Breaking it Down: Raptors lock down Thunder late Blake Murphy
Nov 5, 15 PHOTO: Kyle Lowry has his own line of Roots gear Blake Murphy
Nov 5, 15 The Arrival of Jonas Valanciunas? Andrew Thompson
Nov 5, 15 Biyombo: ‘Nobody is going to punk me;’ Raptors ‘not going to back off anybody’ Blake Murphy
Nov 5, 15 Morning Coffee – Thu, Nov 5 Sam Holako
Nov 4, 15 Run away with me Blake Murphy
Nov 4, 15 Quick Reaction: Raptors 103 – Thunder 98 Tamberlyn Richardson
Nov 4, 15 Grandstand Highlight of the Night: How is Durant this open? Blake Murphy
Nov 4, 15 Pre-game news & notes: Making the most of the night Blake Murphy
Nov 4, 15 PHOTO: Raptors 905 reveal jerseys Blake Murphy
Nov 4, 15 Gameday: Raptors @ Thunder, Nov. 4 Blake Murphy
Nov 4, 15 Light up a Cuban: Raptors prevail (survive) in Big D Michael Holian
Nov 4, 15 #354 – Talking Raptors, S3 E2 – Making History Nick Reynoldson
Nov 4, 15 Morning Coffee – Wed, Nov 4 Sam Holako
Nov 3, 15 VIDEO: Valanciunas survives Williams’ arm-bar takedown Blake Murphy
Nov 3, 15 Quick Reaction: Raptors 102 – Mavericks 91 Kiyan Sobhani
Nov 3, 15 Raptors start 4-0 for 1st time in franchise history Blake Murphy
Nov 3, 15 Grandstand Highlight of the Night: Fouling Biyombo leaves Mavs fan perplexed Blake Murphy
Nov 3, 15 Weltman: Raptors ‘betting on the person’ with Ross extension Blake Murphy
Nov 3, 15 Pre-game news & notes: Pending UFA DeRozan wants to continue to build with Raptors Blake Murphy

Blake and Will run down the week’s topics for the Friday pod.


Toronto Raptors are still Kyle Lowry’s team and will only go as far as he can take them | National Post

Coach Dwane Casey still doesn’t trust Valanciunas late in games, though that’s not an immediate issue now that he’s out with a broken hand. DeRozan, one of the franchise pillars, still takes a lot of shots and misses a lot of shots; the Raptors’ ceiling might stay where it is as long as he remains one of the two best players. But the bright spot to the young season is Lowry, who looks, again, like he could drag Toronto to its second-ever playoff series win all on his own. He started strong last year before fading, and the hope is that his newly svelte form and help from Joseph and Carrol will keep him fresh through a full season.

Lowry ‘carrying’ Raptors: Casey | Toronto Sun

Besides his production, Lowry also impacts games simply by how hard and determined he plays. “He does that, sets the tone. Let’s the other team know that, ‘hey, these guys are scrapping, it’s not going to be an easy night,’” Casey said of Lowry diving to the floor after loose balls. “When you see your best player going on the floor diving for the ball, it makes the other four guys out there thinking we have to do something extreme as well to keep this going,” added DeMar DeRozan, who was an all-star two seasons ago. DeMarre Carroll spoke afterward of how it feels almost like Lowry can simply turn it on and off at will.

Raptors’ James Johnson uses Twitter to vent frustrations | Toronto Star

“(Valanciunas’ absence) does cause an issue with our bigs’ situation,” Casey said earlier this week. “It’s going to be big-by-committee. Everybody has to be ready. It’s a disaster on one side, but it’s an opportunity for someone on the other side.” Heading into Wednesday’s game, Casey figured Johnson would be involved, going from power forward to centre in certain situations. “(It’s) not really a role change but the position will change. I think (Johnson is) going to be doing some things: one is defending, one is rebounding, one is making sure he plays within himself. “The responsibility will not change, just the position.”

James Johnson Watch Week 5: A humble reminder that Twitter is public | Raptors HQ

Pursuant to the reality-avoiding bender we’re on, maybe Johnson’s “under-utilized” mood is in regards to something besides basketball. Have we ever considered that? Have we? Think about it. Maybe the Johnsons were cooking up Thanksgiving dinner today and young James didn’t feel like his family was getting him involved enough. Maybe Johnson wanted to be given a fair chance to carve the turkey, or prepare some stuffing, or candy some yams. Maybe he would love it if someone asked him to pass a dish instead of just reaching over his plate. Dammit, maybe James wants to slice the pumpkin pie this year! Just some food for thought.

Toronto Raptors’ defensive specialist Bismack Biyombo proving his worth in place of injured Jonas Valanciunas | National Post

“Vocalness. Athleticism. Understanding where to be. Timing, he has great timing,” Kyle Lowry said, when asked what Biyombo brings to the team. “And just being able to affect shots without fouling, and clean up the defensive rebounds.” Biyombo is known for his rim protecting — Casey has said it’s “off the charts.” Critics have claimed he can do little else. But the six-foot-nine centre came up big on the offensive end Wednesday when Lowry fed him for back-to-back uncontested dunks in the dying minutes to put the game out of reach. “Those last couple of buckets were big for us. We needed them,” Lowry said. “And a guy like Bis, he doesn’t really worry about scoring …”

Toronto Raptors: 3 Ways To Survive Jonas Valanciunas’ Injury | Hoops Habit

Overall, it’s unfortunate that Jonas Valanciunas could end up missing six weeks with a fractured left hand. After inking a big money deal, this injury is the last thing the Raptors wanted from their star of the future. But for Jonas and his agency, they will feel slightly relieved that the injury came after the signing and not before the contract negotiations. The Raptors could very well contend for a top four in the East and overcome their first-round playoff exit hurdle. The defense is much improved, and the offense seems to have a better flow than the isolation-heavy one from last season. There is still room for improvement, and consistency is still an issue for this team.

Toronto Raptors: The implications from the West-coast swing | Raptors Cage

Now, the key to winning on the road is composure. Momentum can change in the blink of an eye due to the home team’s home-court advantage and their ability to feed off of the energy from their home fans. As demonstrated in all three road losses, the Raptors had a hard time of holding onto a lead late in the game (which is the opposite of earlier in the season when the Raptors got off to bad starts, but good finishes). Why is composure important? Because of the what happened to the Raptors in the first round of the 2015 NBA Playoffs. Not only did the Raptors lose the series, but they got swept, which demonstrates a significant lack of will and determination to succeed. Now sure, last year’s playoffs were a little imbalanced with some teams being unfairly seeded and others should not have been in the playoffs in the first place. However, with the new seeding system, composure becomes all the more important for every playoff-bound NBA team. The most clutch players in the league are those with the most composure. These guys have ice-cold water in their veins and they always seem to come up in big moments. While I doubt the Wizards would have beat the Raptors without Paul Pierce, it does not take a single player to lift a team in the playoffs, but rather the play of the team as a whole. Each and every player on the roster needs to have the confidence, desire and commitment to success. Playing on the road in the opposite conference for a significant amount of time is a good way to test whether or not a team has these attributes, but winning these games show that a team is at that level.

Kelly: Drake’s dedication to the Raptors may be conditional | The Globe and Mail

Then Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment president Tim Leiweke needed someone to take the heat off while they tore the basketball team apart and rebuilt it. Toronto’s No. 1 citizen had been trying to get on board with the Raptors for a while. He’d been ignored by all the suits before Leiweke. Now he was offered a central role as consultant and youth-culture wise man. He was told he could lead a planned rebrand. But instead of tanking, the Raptors got good. Even they were surprised. As a result, Drake’s one-man marketing smokescreen slipped off the radar. By the time he got around to presenting his vision for the new Raptors – the main change being the colour palette – he was ignored. That happened a year ago. Since then, Drake’s been an absentee cheerleader. He doesn’t talk about the team as much. He doesn’t come to games as much. He’s checked out. On Wednesday, he returned for the third annual Drake Night, acting as though nothing had changed.

Send me any Raptors-related articles/videos/pics/etc: [email protected]

Our man Blake was in-studio on Sportsnet 590 talking Raptors for the full-hour, check it out below as they cover everything Raptors. It’s a great listen and your drive in to work tomorrow should be fully covered.

Credit to Sportsnet 590 for the audio.

We’ve all been there: You wake up, remember what you tweeted the night before, and are filled with regret. That may have happened to James Johnson today, though to his credit he’s entirely owning up to his over-share instead of deleting the original tweet like I would.

Around midnight last night, Johnson tweeted “#Mood Under-utilized.” He has a legitimate point, as we discussed in greater detail here, but social media probably isn’t the best forum for such discussions. Recognizing that, Johnson apologized with a follow-up tweet Thursday, explaining that it came from a place of wanting to contribute, not general self-pity or unhappiness.

For as much as he shouldn’t have made the first tweet, I have a great deal of respect for him owning up to it, leaving the original up, and trying to move on from it. The original showed poor judgment, but the response shows maturity and a willingness to be accountable.

Again, a full discussion of the merits of his comments are linked above, and William Lou and I will discuss the matter further in the first episode of a new Friday morning Raptors Republic podcast. (Help us name that, by the way.) And shameless plug – I’ll be on Sportsnet Tonight (Fan 590) from 7-8 tonight, and I’m sure it will come up. There’s a good comment thread going in the earlier post, too, so it may make sense to join the discussion there rather than start a new one. But I’m not your Dad.

How many times can a professional basketball team host a night themed around a local rapper with a vaguely defined affiliation with the franchise and still have people care? The answer, we learned Wednesday, is “at least three.”

In what stands as a major credit to the public relations team of MLSE, the Raptors, Drake, OVO, and even city councillor Norm Kelly, Drake Night 3 absorbed an entire calendar day. Somehow, three years into a tradition that doesn’t actually celebrate anything, it doesn’t yet seem tired or redundant.

Wednesday saw the Hotline Bling Booth dominate the Toronto media conversation from sun-up to tip-off, with fans and local pseudo-celebrities able to film themselves dancing a la the former Degrassi star (or with their own moves) in the actual booth from Hotline Bling, folded up, driven down the road from a downtown studio, and reconstructed outside Gate 1 of the Air Canada Centre. Kelly got things started with an 8:15 dance in the booth with The Raptor, the latest in a long list of minor, mostly meaningless victories for Kelly’s team, who deserve some kind of award when 2015 is through. From there, Jack Armstrong, Strombo, the Dance Pak, and even Masai Ujiri stepped into the booth for at least a brief move or two.

It was all incredibly silly, but I think that’s kind of the point. Unlike the previous two instalments of Drake Night, Drake Night 3 had a deprecating self-awareness about it. Instead of being asked journalistic questions about what his role as global ambassador would mean for the Raptors franchise (Drake Night 1) or being tasked with pushing a Brooklyn-Toronto feud only one side saw as a rivalry (Drake Night 2), Drake Night 3 saw Drake field mostly tongue-in-cheek questions. Will Norm Kelly have a mix tape? (It’s a priority over Views From the Six.) Did you rehearse your dance moves for Hotline Bling? (They were all impromptu.) Would you do a remix with Adele? (He’d do her laundry, if she asked.)

Drake Night 3

A photo posted by Blake Murphy (@eblakemurphy) on

It may be over-reaching to assume, but the Hotline Bling video itself and Drake Night 3 suggest, to me, a growing self-cognizance of the Drake brand. It’s always been there in part, as it’s tough not to be at least a little willing to laugh at yourself when you’re a serious recording artist who used to play a wheelchair-restricted teen on a cult Canadian television show. Drake entered the game a meme waiting to happen, and he’s done incredibly well to maintain that air of accessibility while also establishing himself as one of the preeminent pop culture figures of his generation. Drake isn’t “cool,” necessarily, but he’s immensely talented and largely affable, not to mention incredibly well-managed from a brand perspective. (There’s strong evidence, not the least of which is Ujiri speaking openly about Drake’s vision as a marketer and obvious intelligence, that Drake has a large hand in dictating the brand strategy himself, as he should.) Every move he makes, including the affiliation with the Raptors, which helps to keep a strong connection to his roots in the city and the city’s younger demographic despite spending less time here by necessity and luxury, is well-calculated and serves a purpose.

The Hotline Bling video almost seems like a heat check in that sense. He’s a rapper, a profession that demands those in its ranks to be cool above all else. Drake has dabbled in the odd studio gangster line, and maybe there is toughness and bad-assery at his core. But Drake isn’t at his best when he’s doing what most other rappers do. It’s part of the reason why What a Time to be Alive isn’t very good; Future is an ideal partner in popularity, for marketing, and perhaps even stylistically (that’s debatable based on taste), but not in terms of personality or spirit. Drake dominates the mixtape, but the two lack a certain chemistry, in part because they seem to be dramatically different people. Instead, Drake’s at his best in two modes: Painfully raw, emotional, and wistful (Heartbreak Drake), or genuine and kind of goofy.

In the Hotline Bling video, Drake throws all attention to image out the window. Or seems to. I shouldn’t presume to know his intention, and maybe he thinks the moves he busts out are all-timers. Personally, I thank him for recalibrating what the bar for acceptable dancing is – Drake’s moves aren’t objectionably bad, but they’re cheesy and easy, serving to make me, at worst, a replacement-level dancer. The video seems like a very meta exercise. He’s not really all that cool by traditional definitions, but he’s become so immensely popular that he can become entirely comfortable in his own skin. He can post gym selfies (he is looking quite swole, to be fair), he can say goofy things about doing Adele’s laundry, and he can step into a weird booth and just dance for three minutes, even if it has nothing to do with the song.

(A song that is terrible lyrically, by the way, something that gets overlooked because of the quality of the beat and hook, until game operations plays it 100 times in one night and you’re forced to face the reality that Drake is expressing ownership over an ex and essentially slut-shaming someone for moving on. I digress.)

Three minutes of unrehearsed, mostly uncool dancing is an incredible expression that “I’m untouchable.” The guy who was a crippled nerd on Canadian TV and got no reaction at the ACC when opening for Lil Wayne and T-Pain one January blew up the Molson Ampitheatre with a surprise appearance just a few months later and has been rising in popularity since. He has detractors, as all artists do, but the quality of his catalogue and the near unassailability of his image are independently remarkable, and interdependently unstoppable right now. Drake can seemingly do no wrong, the ultimate made man, and so he’s now just doing literally whatever he wants, because when everyone will accept whatever character you decided to portray, why not portray yourself, even if you’re more Carlton Banks than Usher Raymond?

So Wednesday seemed like an extension of that. Drake did this goofy video and has this somewhat silly annual Drake Night with the Raptors, and in this case the timing matched up perfectly to make for a really fun day around the ACC. There was the booth, there was immense TV and radio coverage (I was even on CBC Here and Now talking about Drake…seriously), there were new jerseys, free shirts and headbands, a ton of new merchandise to push, a freestyle verse specific to the Raptors thrown down by a “random fan,” and a ton of other goofy stuff. There was no veil of seriousness about Drake’s presence or role in luring Kevin Durant or anything like that, he was just there because he loves the team and the city loves him and he’s got enough bangers to play throughout an entire game without it getting stale. It was just Drake Night because an 82-game season is very long, Drake had some new merchandise to sell, and LeBron James was in town.

When he first signed on as global ambassador, he talked a lot about the city’s “momentum.” Following Pan-Am and a Blue Jays summer most will never forget, the Leafs hiring Mike Babcock, Toronto FC making the playoffs, Raptors 905 coming into existence, and the NBA All-Star Game coming here in February, Drake’s goal seems prophetic in retrospect, if not achieved. Toronto is an awesome place to be right now, especially for sports fans.

Drake Night 3 had nothing to do with that, really, but like Drake, maybe we’re all growing secure enough that we can embrace levity for a night and just have some cheap, silly fun. It doesn’t hurt that the Raptors won an awesome game and remain undefeated on Drake Night. As does Drake, and as does the MLSE organization. As intangible as the relationship is, it’s pretty clearly serving it’s purpose in adding value to the ACC experience, the MLSE bottom line, and Drake’s overall profile in the city.

Let’s do it again next year.

Delon Wright had about as good a debut as anyone could hope with Raptors 905 on Wednesday.

Assigned to the D-League on Tuesday to get additional run after playing just 10 at the NBA level so far, Wright made the most of his 37 minutes as the 905 hosted the Idaho Stampede. The No. 20 overall pick shot 9-of-9 from the floor, hit his lone three, and went 5-of-5 at the line, finishing with 24 points on perfect shooting. He also added two rebounds, three assists, and two steals.

Here’s Wright after the game:

Head coach Jesse Murmuys told Raptors Republic on Tuesday that Wright wasn’t being assigned to work on any specific part of his game, but primarily to get minutes. Murmuys pointed out that Wright contributes in so many ways and on both ends of the floor, so the 905 weren’t necessarily looking for him to carry a scoring load. The D-League’s worst offense so far this season, the 905 instead leaned heavily on Wright, particularly early in the game as they built a 20-point half-time lead.

I just finished watching the game about half an hour ago, and the second-half near-collapse looked a lot like the 905 have for long stretches in the early parts of the season. Turnovers crept back in, which let Idaho get out and run a bit in the other direction, despite the speed and athleticism lineups without Sim Bhullar possessed. The lead dwindled to as small as a single point, but Ronald Roberts split a pair at the line and the miss bounced around long enough that the Stampede had no real chance at a game-tying or game-winning heave at the buzzer.

The 905 hung on for the 93-91 win to improve to 2-4 – read the recap here – but the story is Wright.

As Murmuys is quick to point out, the 905 exist foremost because of and for the development of the team’s NBA prospects, and Wright made the most of that opportunity. His forays to the rim are so unique and creative that he opens up baskets and lanes for himself that most players wouldn’t find, and his amoebic dribbling makes him a regular at the charity stripe as defenders struggle to figure out his path and timing. Wright didn’t distribute quite as much as expected, but the assist total was deflated some by teammates missing shots (non-Wright 905ers shot 42.6 percent and were 5-of-18 from outside). It was a great performance, an encouraging one, and one that Norman Powell was quick to ask about in the locker room after the Raptors’ own victory (he was really pumped for Wright).

It’s unclear if Wright will stay with the 905 through Sunday’s home game, as the Raptors play a Saturday-Sunday back-to-back and may prefer to have the additional body.

Ronald Roberts also made his 905 debut, finishing with 11 points, 13 rebounds, and two blocks. He stands to make a huge impact this season, which you can read more about here.

James Johnson wasn’t feeling the fun energy of Drake Night 3, and he didn’t seem particularly thankful ahead of Thanksgiving on Thursday.

Just after midnight, Johnson, who is always a fairly open book on social media, tweeted that his mood was “under-utilized.”

Ignoring that “under-utilized” probably can’t be considered a “mood,” it’s easy to understand why Johnson would feel that way. After DeMarre Carroll, he’s probably the Raptors’ next best bet to check LeBron James, but Johnson saw just 5:28 of action against the Cavaliers on Wednesday. He only played 6:50 on Sunday against the Clippers, too, a continuation of a somewhat strange usage pattern head coach Dwane Casey has employed for Johnson.

The logic behind Johnson’s role uncertainty makes some sense. He was sparsely used to begin the year but then started in place of an injured Carroll, as Casey wanted to disrupt as few roles as possible. It stood that asking a veteran who has experience with his role being fluid, like Johnson, was more palatable than slightly altering the roles of several younger players. When Carroll returned, Johnson was mostly back to the bench, until Jonas Valanciunas was hurt. When Casey wants to go with center-less lineups, Johnson, and particularly the Johnson-Patrick Patterson pairing, makes for a reasonable look in the frontcourt. Once again, asking Johnson to adjust is easier than, say, tasking Lucas Nogueira with big minutes right away, or thrusting Anthony Bennett into duty he’s not ready for.

But in the last two games, Johnson has stayed mostly on the bench, with Casey opting to shorten his rotations in Valanciunas’ absence. The result is that Johnson’s minutes logs read like a pharmaceutical stock: 3, 8, 2, 0, 0, 0, 26, 29, 30, 0, 12, 9, 15, 15, 7, 5. Johnson has played well enough, averaging 3.3 points and 2.3 rebounds in 13.5 minutes while shooting 55.6 percent, but it’s clear Casey prefers other options; Johnson is essentially the third-string small forward, power forward, and center right now, and he’s getting the cumulative minutes of each role rather than “ninth man” minutes.

Johnson’s somewhat of a strange player to evaluate, and whether correct or incorrect, it’s understandable why Casey might be uncomfortable with him at times. The Wake Forest product brings a lot to the table, but he’s often guilty of bumping into said table and knocking things over as he tries to set his dish down. He possesses great passing vision for a forward, can function as a secondary ball-handler, crashes the glass well, and is generally a strong man-to-man defender, at least on the ball. At the same time, his lack of outside shooting can cramp an already tight floor for the Raptors, he doesn’t always play within his skill set and role with the ball in his hands, and he’s frustratingly absent-minded when guarding someone off the ball, often losing his man on cuts and found wandering no-man’s land for steals. Whether it’s an attention thing or a challenge thing or just an oddity of his play, Johnson owns one of the biggest gaps between on-ball defense quality and off-ball defense quality.

Still, given the roster limitations Casey faces right now – he’s playing with nine proven, capable NBA players – Johnson figures to see more minutes at some point during Valanciunas’ Kobe-forced vacation. His impact has also generally been a positive one on the court, with many of the things he does not showing up in the box score. He has the best net rating on the team, with the Raptors outscoring opponents by 13.7 points per-100 possessions when he’s on the floor, although that’s aided some by playing primarily against bench units. It was the same story last year, when the Raptors outscored opponents by seven points per-100 possessions with Johnson, second among regulars to Tyler Hansbrough (again, the bench effect). In any case, Johnson is probably deserving of more than five or six minutes a night, especially within this team context, spacing fit be damned.

It’s difficult and cliched, but the better approach would be to stay ready and try to keep positive and hungry rather than tweeting displeasure on social media. There were reportedly locker-room issues with Johnson in his first stay with the Raptors, but he generally kept a cool head despite a similarly, albeit larger, fluctuating role a season ago.

The 28-year-old is a free agent after the season.


A big part of me would have been equally happy with last night’s win whether it was over Philadelphia or Cleveland. That the Raps beat Lebron James and the reigning Eastern Conference champions is fantastic, don’t get it twisted, but the fact that they did so by executing smart, cohesive team offense down the stretch is far more satisfying to me. Gone were the limp-ins to long DeMar isolations off of slow-starting perimeter dribble hand-offs. Instead we saw drive and kick penetration that broke down the defense before presenting a good shot, pick and roll that actually utilized the roll man and the ball working it’s way around to the third or fourth pass to the open shooter in the corner. It’s a sign that the Raptors are capable of beating a very good team when they play intelligent team basketball.

Kyle Lowry was the best player on the court last night. Skinny Kyle Lowry has been a whole new revelation this year, looking like an offensively polished version of the blur that burned the league with speed back in his earlier Houston Rockets days. He showed why he’s leading the league in steals per game right now, adding 4 steals last night and turning several of those into fast break points. Lowry has become a weapon in transition this season, and he burned the Cavaliers last night for a pull-up 3 when he was left unguarded and broke down the defense immediately on his way to the hoop whenever they left the door open. Tenacious defensive Kyle Lowry is back too, and that dude is a lot of fun. He scored a bucket in the 4th at one point, and then immediately made it clear on defense that there was no way he was going to allow Jared Cunningham to get to play. He was simply all over him, as if offended that the Cavs would actually allow Cunningham to try and handle the ball against him. He made about four attempts to steal the ball without fouling or giving up position before eventually poking it loose and rushing the team up for a transition score. Lowry’s execution working the high pick and roll with Biyombo sealed the game for the Raptors in the final minutes as Cleveland was able to score, but unable to stop Lowry and Biyombo from doing the same to chip into the Raptor’s lead.

Bismack Biyombo made huge offensive contributions late? No, seriously, he totally did! Despite recent speculation that Biyombo may have undergone elective surgery to have his hands replaced with his feet and vice-versa, Biyombo scored 6 of his 11 points in the decisive moments of the 4th quarter. He got to the line 7 times over the course of the game, mostly via his tenacious effort on the offensive glass. He screened effectively for Lowry, opening up driving lanes, and hammered home a dunk to help seal the win when the Cavaliers decided to abandon guarding him whatsoever in selling out to all out double the ball handler instead. This is a strategy opposing teams have used successfully at times this year, knowing how reluctant Raptors ball handlers can often be in the pick and roll to utilize the rolling big man. Lowry made great passes to Biyombo who simply had to slam the ball home, a shot he proved particularly more efficient in than woeful lay-up attempts so far this year. Biyombo also did a great job of affecting shots. It makes a world of difference to have a legitimate rim protector to force Lebron to kick out passes instead of lay-in his drives. Lebron created a wealth of open perimeter looks for his teammates still, but you’re more confident making Jared Cunningham or Mo Williams shoot from outside than you are with Lebron at the rim. Biyombo helped force the former of the two and was a lone defensive rebounding force in a game that really lacked considerable minutes from another true center on either team. Mozgov and Valanciunas both missed this game and both teams spent a lot of time essentially playing small or two power forward lineups.

I’d be remiss not to mention Luis Scola, the savvy veteran who continues to seem to have the ability to buoy the team offensively when they need him to. Scola was 7 for 9 in the first quarter alone, scoring all 15 of his points in the opening frame. Scola’s ability to post-up, find open shots for himself, cut to the basket and even spot-up from 3 stretch the floor has made him a far more valuable offensive option at the starting 4 spot than most of us predicted he would be.

The game was won by Toronto much more than it was lost by Cleveland, but Cleveland also did not look like a championship level squad last night either. Cleveland is going to be a bad defense a lot of the time when they’re relying on Williams, J.R. Smith and Kevin Love. That showed late last night, badly. The Cavaliers were either too tired or too lazy to make their rotations and it got Biyombo, DeRozan and Lowry easy baskets. I’m not taking anything away from the Raptors, they executed, but the Cavaliers either simply didn’t have it in the gas tank, or kind of just gave up late too. The result was passive aggressive Lebron James, who has sometimes seemed content to check out offensively late in games when his team is playing lazy or stupid as an attempt to try and prove a point to his teammates. As if to say, “fine, you’re not going to try, then I’m not going to carry you on my back and we’ll see what happens. Oh, you can’t do it without me? Maybe you need to listen to me and give a crap then!” The Cavaliers held a players-only meeting after the game where maybe some of that frustration was addressed directly. Regardless, the Raptors looked like a team last night that had it’s ish together and was heading in the right direction. Much more so than the Cleveland Cavaliers, and if you had of suggested that to me at any point during the latter half of the West Coast road trip the Raps just finished I would have scoffed at you, so that’s great to see. Yay, go Dinos!

Kyle Lowry leads Raptors to victory over Cavaliers | Toronto Star

So the Raptors’ 103-99 win over the Cavs on Drake Night in front of 20,140 fans at the Air Canada Centre should yield a good result on Casey’s litmus test. It could just be an affirmation of what was learned through the first two months of last season: That when Lowry is on his game, when he’s aggressive and scoring and when he looks MVP-worthy, he and the Raptors are a tough team to beat. Lowry scored 20 of his game-high 27 points in the second half and added six assists to take his team to its third win in a row, improving them to 10-6 and toppling the Eastern Conference-leading Cavs. Their three-game win streak was snapped and they fell to 11-4. James had 24 points, eights assists and six rebounds in the loss. Casey said Lowry handled the game well in that second half. “It’s always a concern when he gives you that look sometimes and it’s trouble,” he said. “But he did a good job of closing out. “He kept the pace and he kept the tempo and made stops, which was big. Closing out the game is something we didn’t do in a couple games last week. We had a couple of lapses but they weren’t very long. We have to shorten those gaps or lulls, whether it’s on the defensive end or offensive end.”

Raptors take down the King on home court | TSN

Toronto doesn’t win that game without Kyle Lowry – the lifeblood of this team. The simplest explanation for the Raptors’ success, when they’re succeeding, is Lowry. When he’s at his best, which has been the case for most of the season’s opening month, they’re capable of reaching a level that would be impossible otherwise. On Wednesday, he was the best player on a court that included James. Toronto’s all-star point guard shot 9-for-12 in the second half, when he scored 20 of his game-high 27 points and recorded five of his six assists. Lowry just so happens to lead the NBA in steals but the four he was credited for against the Cavaliers actually do him a disservice. He generated at least three or four more possessions for his team, out of nothing. One of them came towards the end of a dominant third-quarter. Lowry, the smallest player on the floor, dove into a crowd of Cavaliers to secure a loose ball and call a timeout. Coming out of the huddle, the 6-foot guard barrelled his way into the lane, got Cavs forward Tristan Thompson to bite on a pump fake and completed the play with a lay-up. “That’s what he do,” DeRozan said of his teammate. “That’s what he do. When you are that type of player that is your job. He is going to get everyone involved in the game and he’s going to score. We all do a great job of reading that and understanding [that] when he has it going we are going to ride him.”

Game Rap: Raptors 103, Cavaliers 99 | Toronto Raptors

Kyle Lowry finished with 27 points, six assists, three rebounds, four steals and a blocked shot in 38 minutes of action. He shot 11-for-17 from the floor, and went 9-for-12 in the second half, scoring 20 of his points after the break. In addition to scoring, Lowry sparked the team in the third quarter. Whether diving on the floor to get his hand on a loose ball, or tossing the ball up immediately after getting fouled in hopes of being awarded free throws, Lowry’s intensity was infectious.

Raptors edge out 103-99 win against Cavaliers as Drake looks on | Raptors HQ

On the Raptors side of things, it was a more disconcerting affair. By the end of the first half, two things were clear: Luis Scola can get things going when he wants to. He had 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting by the end of the half, and had his way from anywhere. And the second: The Raptors miss Jonas Valanciunas’ relatively easy to produce offense. Without him, the team relies on, yes, one-on-one play and timely three point shooting to make things work. It looks great when it works – as it did to keep the game close – but for the tight first half, and stretches of the second, the Raptors fell back to some disquieting habits. Now, maybe it’s because he’s only six feet tall, but we often forget that Kyle Lowry is a force of nature, too. While he’ll never compete with Drake’s charm, or LeBron’s otherworldly aura, Lowry can take over a game just as easily. Well, maybe not as easily since it’s clear Lowry has to work extremely hard to make it happen, but tonight was one of those nights. “I was concerned getting that look [in his eye] sometimes means trouble,” said coach Dwane Casey of Lowry after the game. “But he did a good job of closing it out, he kept the pace, he kept the tempo after stops which was big.”

Cleveland Cavaliers lose 103-99 to the Toronto Raptors on Drake Night | Fear The Sword

Turnovers were one of the biggest stories of the first half. The Cavs turned the ball over seven times to the Raptors two, largely in part to the occasionally erratic play of Jared Cunningham and the rust of Mo Williams returning from an ankle injury. It was a little surprising to see the Cavs not post up more in the first half, especially with the absence of Jonas Valanciunas. Luis Scola or Patrick Patterson can’t handle Kevin Love in the post and it felt like a little bit of a missed opportunity. Although I can see how the team would gravitate to the perimeter with the number of open looks they were able to generate. The second half the Raptors continued to make a living at the free throw line. They continued to attack the basket and get the whistle. A combination of and ones, big threes and a couple bail out calls were ultimately too much for the Cavs to overcome as they eventually ran out of steam. A career night out of Bismack Biyombo was an unforeseen development. Overall the Cavs bigs performed poorly in protecting the paint and the amount of easy buckets Toronto got created too large of a mountain for Cleveland to climb, especially when they weren’t frequently rewarded for their own takes to the basket.

Recap: Toronto 103, Cleveland 99 (or, That Point Guard is Ripped) | Cavs: The Blog

52-28. That was the paint scoring advantage for the Raptors. It allowed them to overcome their horrible free throw shooting and inconsistent three point defense. The Cavs couldn’t stop Kyle Lowry from getting into the paint. Lowry bullied and stutter-stepped his way into the lane for 27 points and six assists. When it comes to Kyle Lowry, the stats are secondary. His physicality is consistently amazing. He takes on much taller players with force. He attacks opposing ball-handlers with a fury. Lowry is one of my favorite players to watch because it is clear that he is misery for the opposition. It’s a shame Delly wasn’t good to go for this contest. Lowry versus Delly should be required viewing. In fact, the Raptors provide many intriguing matchups for the Cavs. We saw what Carroll versus LeBron looks like last spring. The first quarter of this matchup featured a battle between Luis Scola and Kevin Love. Biyombo vs Tristan is interesting for contractual reasons as well. The Raptors could be a pain for the Cavs come playoff time. Ah yes, Bismack Biyombo. I love the guy. Many of us here at C:tB have pushed for his acquisition in some way or another over the past few years. He showed his value in this contest. Taking over for the injured Jonas Valanciunas, Biyombo provided great rim protection on defense and active rebounding and rolling on offense. He and Lowry provided the punch to close out the game. I know the ship has sailed, but how much does he make again? How many drives to the hole did Tristan allow? Ok, I’m done. No need to go there.

Cleveland Cavaliers’ road woes continue as Toronto Raptors win 103-99 |

Raptors head coach Dwane Casey acknowledged he’d been struggling with how to scheme the Cavaliers’ offense. Do they double James and leave their defense exposed, or do they attempt to play him straight up. “That’s been a thought the last couple of days,” Casey said. “You got to live with something. So, you try to stop everything, and you end up stopping nothing.” It was a mixture of doubles and single coverage, but primarily defensive specialist DeMarre Carroll took the assignment on his own and did an admirable job. James scored a team-high 24 points and was 11-of-12 from the line, but he was 6-of-16 from the field.

Raptors 103, Cavaliers 99: Raptors pull away in fourth quarter to hand Cavs their fourth loss of the season |

Cunningham struggled most of the night against the former All-Star Lowry. Cunningham finished the night just 2-of-10 from the floor and frustrations bubbled over late in the third when Lowry and Cunningham began jawing under the basket after Cunningham missed a couple of lay­ups. Lowry, a known trash talker, gave Cunningham a little elbow and Cunningham responded with a one-armed shove.

Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan power Toronto Raptors past Cleveland Cavaliers: DMan’s Report, Game 15 (photos) |

The Cavs’ performance was encapsulated by a sequence late in the fourth quarter. With 3:45 remaining and the Cavs trailing, 91-85, Tristan Thompson powered into the paint against DeMarre Carroll and missed an ugly jump-hook. Thompson looked to a referee for a call, but he was begging: Carroll played solid defense. Carroll rebounded and flipped to Lowry, who bolted over the timeline with Thompson alongside. Lowry kept going, leaned into Thompson and made a layup and drew the foul. Lowry sank the free throw for a 94-85 lead with 3:38 left.

Delon Wright finds Scott Suggs to seal the deal. #WeTheNorth

A video posted by Raptors 905 (@raptors905) on

What transpired in Cleveland Cavaliers’ locker room following disturbing loss to Toronto Raptors |

Before the media was granted postgame locker room access, the Cavalier players were addressing the team’s lack of toughness, heart and defensive awareness that was displayed in the fourth quarter. LeBron James and James Jones demanded more. “It wasn’t a team meeting. It’s just another game,” Mo Williams said of the postgame team chat. “When you lose games, we just discuss things we could have done better and we need to do going forward. That was basically it.” The Cavaliers were neck and neck with the Raptors for three and a half quarters before Toronto went on a 9-0 run to create separation to eventually pull off the victory. Head coach David Blatt said he felt fatigue and their numerous injures played a factor in the loss. “I thought that we got tired for obvious reason,” he said. “We are very shorthanded. I thought our guys played hard. I thought we ran out of gas.”

Delon Wright giving us his best Demar Derozan impression. #WeTheNorth

A video posted by Raptors 905 (@raptors905) on

Toronto Raptors conquer 1st place Cavs on Drake night | Raptors Cage

DeMarre Carroll had the job on the self proclaimed “world’s best player” and boy did he make that statement look silly. David Blatt did as usual and rested James in the late 3rd, early 4th part of the game but when he was brought on to make the difference Carroll among others shut it down. The Cavs combined to shoot just 44% from the field this game with the Raptors making them work for just about every possession. The Raps did a solid job defending the rim with Biyombo in the middle holding James to just 5 fourth quarter points. What matters is the Raptors got key stops when it mattered and rode to victory.

Not much left for Drake to do other than become the Toronto Raptors’ Jack Nicholson | National Post

Before we get too cynical about the whole enterprise, Drake brought his mom to sit beside him in his courtside seats. You cannot stay mad at that. Still, we are getting to the point, following the Raptors’ 103-99 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers, where we have to wonder where this marriage of convenience is going. It is easy to anticipate Drake will have a significant role during all-star weekend in February; that sort of event is made for his presence. The uniform alternates will also be a staple for years to come. What else is there for Drake to do in this role with the team, whatever there is? It was widely reported that the Raptors pulled back from a gold-happy colour scheme for the rebrand, and that nonplussed Drake. Regardless, the redesign is done. And we can now safely say that Drake’s light tampering that targeted Kevin Durant a few summers ago at a concert — remember that? — is not going to pay off. The notion that Drake’s involvement would seriously influence free agents was always a silly one.

Raptors continue to embrace relationship with music icon Drake | Toronto Sun

While Drake is not omnipresent or hands-on, the Raptors organization remains thrilled with the association nonetheless, knowing it does nothing but help grow the team’s exposure, marketability and the way it is viewed by players around the league. “He’s a special person. There’s no doubt. For somebody in the industry, whether it’s our industry or music, to stay on top all the time, it’s hard,” said Raptors president and general manager Masai Ujiri, pointing out that creativity in both fields is essential. Drake is a big fan who keeps himself up to date with what is going on on the court for the club, but he’s not going to be involved in basketball decisions anytime soon, despite his enthusiasm.

Raptors edge out 103-99 win against Cavaliers as Drake looks on | Raptors HQ

On the Raptors side of things, it was a more disconcerting affair. By the end of the first half, two things were clear: Luis Scola can get things going when he wants to. He had 15 points on 7-of-10 shooting by the end of the half, and had his way from anywhere. And the second: The Raptors miss Jonas Valanciunas’ relatively easy to produce offense. Without him, the team relies on, yes, one-on-one play and timely three point shooting to make things work. It looks great when it works – as it did to keep the game close – but for the tight first half, and stretches of the second, the Raptors fell back to some disquieting habits. Now, maybe it’s because he’s only six feet tall, but we often forget that Kyle Lowry is a force of nature, too. While he’ll never compete with Drake’s charm, or LeBron’s otherworldly aura, Lowry can take over a game just as easily. Well, maybe not as easily since it’s clear Lowry has to work extremely hard to make it happen, but tonight was one of those nights. “I was concerned getting that look [in his eye] sometimes means trouble,” said coach Dwane Casey of Lowry after the game. “But he did a good job of closing it out, he kept the pace, he kept the tempo after stops which was big.”

Drake leaving his mark in role with Raptors |

When the Raptor-Drake marriage was formalized by (now) outgoing MLSE president and chief executive officer Tim Leiweke there were all kinds of connect-the-dots scenarios that tickled the fancy of Raptors fans. Wasn’t Oklahoma City superstar Kevin Durant a Raptors fan when he was a kid? Wasn’t he a Drake fan now? Hey, maybe, just maybe, Drake could convince Durant to sign with the Raptors when he becomes a free agent in the summer of 2016. If only it were that simple. The odds of Durant coming to Toronto are slightly better than me getting a shoutout in Drake’s next single, but not all that much. There are limits to what Drake can do, as a team “employee” when it comes to interacting with players under contract with other clubs. Drake found out the hard way when his playful appeal to Durant from the stage at OVO fest last summer earned the Raptors a tampering fine. In practical terms what Drake provides Ujiri is another tool in his toolbox when it comes to connecting with the NBA’s elite. He moves in the same circles they do. They’re as impressed with his success as a worldwide musical phenomenon as he is with theirs as masters of the athletic universe.

Wright gives glimpse into future in dominant 905 debut |

“I just tried to use the ball screen into the paint because I was going to shoot at the last second but I kind of saw him open and I’m trying to make the right play,” Wright said after the game. “He made the shot, so I’m happy about that.” With the exception of that game-defining dime he dropped, just about the only negative to be found from Wright’s performance was his meagre three total assists on the night. However, for the majority of the game he was so effortlessly getting to the basket that the best shot was the wide-open lay-up he gifted himself nearly every time he decided to drive to the hole. Additionally, there’s still an adjustment period on his part with his new team and where his new teammates like the ball. “That’s a hard position [point guard] to play in the NBA and the D-League,” Mermuys said. “Running a team, being an extension of the coach on the floor and kind of running the show out there.”

Toronto Raptors: Using The D-League The Wright Way | Hoops Habit

Wright, for example, has played in just four games with Toronto. He’s played about 10 minutes total, which is barely enough time to do anything but get his feet wet. There is only so much you can learn sitting on the bench of an NBA team. Yes, there are important things you can learn while on the bench. You still get to practice with the team, you can talk to veterans, you have constant access to your head coach and the like, but ultimately, the only way to improve yourself is to keep working. And that means being able to play. Young bucks like Wright have nothing to lose and everything to gain from being sent down to the D-League. It’s not a punishment and it shouldn’t be considered one. It’s an opportunity to play, grow, and then come back stronger and better the next time you’re called back to play on your NBA team.

Carroll keeps his shoe game strong on and off the court | TSN

“I got these one designer shoes,” said Carroll. “I want to say they’re Louis Leemans. They’ve got rhinestones. I ordered them in from Paris. It took me like four weeks to get those shoes.” For Carroll, a deal with Adidas is a move closer of achieving the goal of having his own signature shoe. Following seeing their likeness in a video game or on a trading card, a personalized shoe is the next goal in line for many athletes. “I feel like the next step for me is probably – if I can’t get my own shoe – getting my logo on my shoes,” said Carroll. “So I feel like getting the logo on my shoes is the next thing in line.”

Fantasy Weekly: Lowry continues to excel |

The Raptors’ point guard has dominated opponents to begin 2015-16 with averages of 20.1 points, 2.7 3-pointers, 4.6 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 2.7 steals in 35.4 minutes. He’s shooting a career-best 40.8 percent from 3-point land and 89.6 percent from the free throw line. After being selected on average with the 26th pick, he ranks fifth in Yahoo! fantasy ahead of James Harden, Anthony Davis, LeBron James and other superstars.

NBA RUMOR: Raptors Trade for Taj Gibson? | Outrageous NBA Predictions

The proposed trade will send Gibson to Toronto in exchange for power forward, Patrick Patterson, and possibly some draft picks.

Send me any Raptors-related article/picture/video: [email protected]

Home, sweet home. Drake and his mom seemed to bring out the best of the Raps and everybody is feeling good. Especially Nick and Barry, who have dedicated an entire episode to the evening. In the fifth episode of Talking Raptors, the guys break down their thoughts on a victorious “Drake Night”.

They discuss:

  • Drake introducing the starting line up.
  • The shirt and headband giveaway.
  • The OVO uniforms
  • The Hotline Bling Box
  • Tom Cochrane sitting courtside?
  • Iman Shumpert and his Hotline Bling Remix…
  • The guys also take a quick look at social media madness and some nonsense happening around the league. All this and a bunch more.

We hoped you all enjoyed Drake Night. And we hope you enjoy this episode.

As always thanks for listening!

Grab the iTunes feed or check us out on Stitcher on Android. There is also the plain old feed. You can also download the file. Or just listen below:

Cleveland Cavaliers 99 Final
Recap | Box Score
103 Toronto Raptors
Luis Scola, PF 30 MIN | 7-11 FG | 1-1 3FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 15 PTS | -3 +/-

His grading would’ve been higher had he maintained his hot start. He cooled off after the first quarter and Kevin Love scored on him with relative ease.

But in turn, Scola exposed Love’s inept defense and really set the tone to a solid start for the team.

Bismack Biyombo, PF 33 MIN | 4-5 FG | 0-0 3FG | 3-7 FT | 12 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | +6 +/-

Bismack you are a freakin’ monster.

He is really thriving on the defensive end. In a sense, he brings the same kind of toughness that Charles Barkley once brought – always rallying the troops, getting under the opponents’ skin, and taking no prisoners defensively.

Really strong game on the glass tonight too, and anytime there was a switch defensively on the perimeter, he did well to stay in front of LeBron.

DeMarre Carroll, SF 41 MIN | 4-11 FG | 3-6 3FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 12 PTS | +1 +/-

Overall, phenomenal. Not because he was a monster offensively, but because he guarded ‘BronVember about as well as anyone can guard ‘BronVember.

Kyle Lowry, PG 38 MIN | 11-17 FG | 2-6 3FG | 3-5 FT | 3 REB | 6 AST | 4 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 27 PTS | +10 +/-

Put this dude on the #nbaballot.

I’m becoming a huge fan of his transition threes which serve as timely back-breakers for the opposition. His huge offensive output in the third quarter (14 points) really set the tone heading into the final frame.

DeMar DeRozan, SG 40 MIN | 7-16 FG | 1-1 3FG | 5-7 FT | 3 REB | 4 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 20 PTS | -2 +/-

He’s growing on me with his improved shot selection. His drive-and-kick game is on point, and he can pretty well get an awesome look every time he gets inside.

Patrick Patterson, PF 26 MIN | 3-8 FG | 2-6 3FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | +14 +/-

He was relatively quiet, but hit some really timely threes which were huge not only for the team – but for his confidence.

Terrence Ross, SF 10 MIN | 2-4 FG | 2-3 3FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 2 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | -7 +/-

… Did he play?

Cory Joseph, PG 17 MIN | 2-7 FG | 0-2 3FG | 0-1 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 4 PTS | -1 +/-

Relatively quiet but so conducive. He came in to this game at a time where the Raptors were playing iso-ball and immediately dished out two dimes and changed the flow of the game.

Like always, he’s an incredible slasher.

Dwane Casey

He’s pretty well doing everything right to compensate for JV’s absence. His plays out of timeouts actually look like plays, and the Raptors are taking good shots while being defensively sound.

Two Things We Saw

  1. The Raptors without Jonas have been super fun, which raises questions about how Dwane Casey will get the best out of this team when the Lithuanian returns as Biyombo has emerged, and the small-ball line-up seems to really work.

    Also of note: Raptors scored in the paint with relative ease, so inside scoring hasn’t been an issue without JV.

  2. Had some comments on Twitter that this game would’ve been iced earlier had the Raptors hit their free-throws (12-22 from the FT line). But just a note to combat that: The Cavs missed 13 free-throws themselves.

Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to an opponent for making a great play. When the opponent is LeBron James, that happens far more often.

James was terrific Wednesday against the Raptors, as he almost always is. DeMarre Carroll is better equipped than most anyone to guard James, but even then the job description is making life difficult for – not stopping – James. To wit, Carroll played one particular possession perfectly, only to walk away having been scored on. It’s hard to tell how Carroll could have done a better job, save for stripping the ball.

Check out the fan-made highlight of the play on Grandstand here.

Sigh. Sometimes you just tip your cap. And hey, the Raptors won and kept James relatively quiet late, so no big deal, right?

James finished the game with 24 points, six rebounds, and eight assists.

Grandstand –  Sports Highlights from Fans in the Stands

On the new sports app, you can share your own Raptors highlights, and watch other fans’ videos straight from the crowd.

Download Grandstand on the App Store or at

GTA Stand up. For the second time in a row, Toronto and Mississauga win on the same night.

The Raptors905 squeaked by the Idaho Stampede with a final score of 93-91, thanks to a clutch game-clinching 3-pointer from Scott Suggs. After leading for most of the contest, the 905 went cold in the fourth quarter, but after a Delon Wright drive and dish to Suggs, who drained the three, the Raptors905 now join the Toronto Raptors with 2 straight wins.

Rookie point guard Delon Wright had a dazzling debut with the 905, scoring 24 points on a perfect 9/9 from the field, with 3 assists, including the game-winning assist to Suggs.

Delon Wright Watch:

  • 24 Points
  • 2 Rebounds
  • 3 Assists
  • 9/9 FG
  • 1/1 3PT
  • 5/5 FT
  • Minutes: 37

Bruno Caboclo Watch:

  • 12 Points
  • 5 Rebounds
  • 1 Assist
  • 5/9 FG
  • 1/3 3PT
  • 1/2 FT
  • Minutes: 19

For the complete box-score, game highlights and a full game replay, stay tuned to

The 905 look to make it 3 in a row against the Delaware 87ers on Sunday. Game time is 2pm.

As always, we cover the hard-hitting stories here at RR. Drake joined Jack Armstrong and Matt Devlin and spoke about a bunch of topics:

– OVO jerseys
– How it’s so awesome that the city came together on this glorious night
– How Kobe Bryant is kind of not so good anymore but is still great overall
– His new album
– Raptors cohesion this year
– As a bonus, you get Jack Armstrong and Matt Devlin drooling all over him

Masai Ujiri introduced Drake to the #DrakeNight crowd as teenage girls screamed in the background.

It’s all part of the King being in town and the hype has been tripled because of a booth. Check the pre-game notes to get yourself ready for tonight.

The Cleveland Cavaliers will be without Matthew Dellavedova when they take on the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night.

Dellavedova is dealing with a calf injury, one that hadn’t cost him any time yet. The loss isn’t disastrous for the Cavs, who will get Mo Williams back from a three-game absence, though Jared Cunningham will draw the start.

The biggest part of the Dellavedova loss is that the Cavs lose their second-most used lineup (Dellavedova-Smith-James-Love-Thompson), one that has melted opponent faces so far this season. Dellavedova is averaging 7.9 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 5.9 assists in nearly 27 minutes a night, knocking down 38.5 percent of his threes in the process. He’s taken pretty major strides from a season ago, expanding his game beyond open triples and annoying hustle plays.

The Raptors have moved from 1.5-point underdogs to three-point underdogs since this morning, settling in at the line I expected in the pre-game. You can check out the full game preview here.

Sorry for the delayed update, but it’s because it’s Drake Night 3 and Drake’s media availability, while entertaining, ran late. Drake fielded several questions, revealing there are plans for a Norm Kelly mix tape ahead of Views From the Six, that he considers LeBron James “like a brother” but his focus is on the Raptors tonight, and that he would do Adele’s laundry if she wanted. Drake also said he called general manager Masai Ujiri – who even did a little Hotline Bling dancing – to see how Jonas Valanciunas was doing the night he was hurt.

It was all quite weird but fun, which is kind of the point tonight.

It’s Drake Night 3 at the Air Canada Centre. It’s a beautiful, wonderful, amazing occasion.

As much as there’s a basketball game between a good and a very good team tipping off at 7:30, one that many of us will take seriously once it begins, there’s always room for levity. That’s what tonight is mostly about, I think: Sports are supposed to be fun and entertaining, and over the course of an 82-game season, we can lose sight of that.

So for as silly as the idea of Drake Night might strike you, or as ridiculous as the Hotline Bling Booth might appear (and is, to be clear), just embrace it. We can get serious once Drake’s player introductions are done.

So take a cue from city councillor Norm Kelly – I saw you at CBC an hour ago, give a homie love next time – and hit up the booth. Just don’t try to top the best Hotline Bling Booth appearance yet, courtesy of Jack Armstrong and George Stroumboulopoulos:

All of tonight’s Hotline Bling Booth Vines are being curated by the Raptors and can be found here (dap to bearded brother Dan Reynolds for pointing that out). If you participate tonight, tweet your video at the Raptors Republic account and I’ll retweet it.

Sadly, you won’t be seeing your boy in one. I rolled by at 4:30 and they wouldn’t let me participate. “Can’t have someone shutting it down so early,” they said.

After a long wait, Ronald Roberts is ready to begin his Raptors 905 tenure. If things play out like he hopes, it will be a short one.

“Oh, I’m playing,” a beaming Roberts told Raptors Republic about his status for Wednesday’s home game against Idaho.

He’s yet to appear in any of the team’s five games due to an ankle sprain. Prior to that, he missed training camp with the team because he declared for the D-League player pool too late. The 905 had acquired his rights, but Roberts was still deciding whether he’d spend the season in the D-League or take an opportunity abroad. He went the D-League route last season after nearly signing in France and ultimately left the D-League early for a brief stint of dominance in the Filipino PBA.

It’s a tough decision for many players on the fringes of the NBA. Overseas options can be far more lucrative – D-League salaries are capped at $25,500 – but the D-League offers a very quick path to the NBA. Roberts learned that first-hand last season when he was called up by the Philadelphia 76ers in December, though he wouldn’t get into a game during his three-day stint. Faced with more overseas options again this season, Roberts made a last-minute choice to stay stateside, where he’ll always be a phone call away for an NBA team in need of athleticism and energy in the frontcourt.

“I feel like I have a foot and a half in the door,” Roberts said.

He’s not wrong. NBA teams have shown plenty of interest in Roberts since he went undrafted out of Saint Joseph’s in 2014. The 76ers and Heat gave him summer league looks last year, with the Sixers opting to bring him into camp on a partially-guaranteed deal and make him a D-League affiliate player in Delaware, then giving him that brief in-season cup of coffee. The Warriors may have liked him, too, as Santa Cruz acquired his D-League rights at midseason.

This summer, the Raptors brought him to Las Vegas and liked what they saw enough that they gave him a reported $75,000 guarantee on a one-year deal. At the time, head coach Dwane Casey said Roberts had “a shot” to break camp with the team, but the late signing of Anthony Bennett took up the team’s 15th roster spot. Instead, that guarantee will act as a sort of supplement to his D-League salary, though he was not contractually bound to stay with the 905.

Now that he’s ready to play, he stands to provide a major two-way boost for the 1-4 baby Raptors. Head coach Jesse Murmuys seemed excited at getting Roberts into his rotation, even suggesting the 6-foot-7 forward could see time at center now that Lucas Nogueira has been recalled to the NBA. The 905 want to play a defensively versatile system predicated on pushing the transition game off of stops, and the hyper-athletic Roberts fits that mould perfectly. There’s a reason they surrendered a 2015 second-round pick, a 2016 first-round pick, and the rights to Kevin Jones to acquire Roberts’ rights (and a 2016 third-round pick) from Santa Cruz this offseason.

Last season, Roberts averaged 17.5 points and 11.9 rebounds while shooting 68.9 percent from the floor in the D-League. (“Eighteen and 12,” he was sure to correct me when I mentioned his “18 and 10” averages.) He’s also averaged 9.2 points and 6.9 rebounds with a 61.2-percent mark from the floor in three summer league tournaments over the last two years, and he’s shot 70 percent over seven brief preseason appearances. To be frank, he’s probably one of the top five players in the D-League once he’s back on the floor, and he’ll be on a very short list of the most likely recipients of a 10-day contract when teams can sign them come Jan. 5.

The oddity of the D-League is that the best-case scenario for the 905 might be that they lose Roberts to an NBA team in short order. Graduating players to the NBA is a mark of strong scouting and player development, and it can reflect well on the organization, even if it means losing an asset in the process. The parent club Raptors have no claim to Roberts and don’t have an open roster spot, so he’s left to audition for 29 other teams while also operating within the context of what the 905 are trying to do. (Should Roberts sign with a team and then be waived, the 905 would maintain his D-League rights.)

Roberts said he’s been trying to help lead a very young team, something he’ll be able to do much more once he’s on the court, and Murmuys is likely to lean on him for easy offense, something this team has been lacking so far. Despite being 24, Roberts is perhaps the most established player on the roster, and he’s one of the few on the team who have done a tour of duty in the league already. That experience as a key contributor and the maturity it brings will be important to the personality of the team, and he’ll help with a few team weaknesses between the lines. His secondary bounce as a helper and rebounder around the rim will help clean up a troublesome area while also aiding the transition offense, and his prodigious offensive rebounding will help secure easy extra opportunities for the league’s worst offense.

Coming out of college, Roberts was given the dreaded “tweener” label, but positional versatility is becoming incredibly important. While he measured 6-foot-7 without shoes at the 2014 Portsmouth Invitational (where he was excellent), he also measured with a 7-foot-0.5 wingspan and an 8-foot-9.5 standing reach. What he lacks in height he makes up for in functional size, and his 40-plus inch vertical makes him one of the most explosive bigs out there. It’s entirely reasonable for Murmuys to see him as a part-time center, especially given the lack of true, traditional pivots in the feeder league.

(Sadly, Roberts told Raptors Republic that he will not participate in the D-League dunk contest this year, even if it accompanies NBA All-Star weekend in Toronto, as expected. “I told myself the next dunk contest I do will be the NBA dunk contest,” he said.)

His game isn’t entirely predicated on out-jumping other players, either. He has great hands and is an adept, if not always willing passer, and he has a bit of a face-up game that he flashed in Vegas, roasting Doug McDermott on several possessions. It will be interesting to see how his jump shot – which can occasionally extend to 18 feet – and his footwork in the post have improved with an offseason of work and two weeks with the 905 staff. He’s added a bit of size that should help him defend the post, and his athleticism and length make him a disruptive face-up or help defender.

The 905 stand to give him the opportunity to showcase whatever he has to offer, as he’ll be one of their primary weapons moving forward. His ultimate NBA role is likely a smaller one as an energy big and rebounder off the bench, but Roberts is focused on helping the 905 win games more than showing off a specific skill for scouts. A rising tide lifts all boats, after all.

If he makes the impact he’s expected to make, he may not be long for The 5ive.

At the launch of the season the Toronto Raptors embarked on the toughest schedule in the Association. Many pundits (myself included) felt if Toronto could be close to .500 or better through their first 15 games it would position the Raptors well with a more balanced schedule to finish the season.

Barring some sketchy whistles and poor clutch time offensive execution the Raptors record could easily be 12-3 instead of 9-6 which would place them atop the Eastern Conference. Given how the team jumped out of the gates last season and faded down the stretch the additional 3 losses may be a blessing in disguise as it will keep the squad hungry and focused.

You’ll often hear you can’t win a playoff berth in November, but you sure can hurt your chances by a slow start. Case in point, the Houston Rockets, New Orleans Pelicans and Sacramento Kings all face an uphill battle based on their poor starts. More accurately, two of those squads also face some serious off court chemistry issues. This last point highlights another plus for this newly reformatted Raptors squad who has seemingly avoided those issues despite replacing 40% of their roster.

If anything the 2015-16 version of the Raptors appears even more cohesive on and off court than last year. And, with 8 of their next 10 games at home, (including a 6 game home stand) there is ample practice time to focus on fixing offensive issues. Of note, as much as fans may want to complain about the ridiculous 11 of 15 road games and 3 back to back sets to start the season the Raptors are one of the few teams with long home stands. The team has two 6-game and one 7-game home stand.  In contrast the Houston Rockets longest home stand is 3-games.

Closer to home a look at the Eastern Conference highlights some interesting schedule disparities to the teams Toronto will compete with to garner home court playoff seeding. Currently the Raptors sit in the sixth position. Examination of the squads schedules who rank ahead of Toronto provides some insight as to why Toronto’s 9-6 start might be under valued.

Schedule Thru Nov 25 Top 6

What the Schedule Says:

  • The Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks have played very few road games to date
  • Of the 6 teams Cleveland and Atlanta have the most back to back sets (19) with the Cavaliers yet to play 17 sets
  • Chicago and Miami have played only one set of back to backs to date
  • Indiana and Cleveland have played the fewest games against the West to date
  • Atlanta, Miami and Cleveland have played the easiest schedules based on their opponent win-loss record to date
  • Miami had the longest home stand with 7 games
  • Chicago has the longest road trip remaining (7 games) with Cleveland, Miami and Toronto all with a 6-game road trip remaining
  • In review of teams who made the playoffs last season Indiana and Miami play these squads the most in total and Miami has the most games left to play against this faction.

Some other interesting facts to note:

Miami: The Heat have traveled West once this season for a single game in Minnesota. The next time they go West is December 29th for another single game versus Memphis. They don’t embark on a Western road trip until January 8th. The trip is a 6-game road trip to Phoenix, Utah, Golden State, Los Angeles (Clippers), Denver and finishes in Oklahoma City.

Cleveland: Like Miami, the Cavaliers had traveled West once also for a single game (Memphis). They travel to New Orleans December 4th for a single game. The Cavaliers first Western road trip doesn’t occur until Christmas Day starting in Golden State prior to games in Portland, Phoenix and Denver.

Atlanta: Though it’s early, the fact the Hawks have played the second fewest road games in this group coupled with the fact they’ve had the easiest schedule may end up being a factor later on. I still maintain the loss of DeMarre Carroll is an issue and we are seeing it specifically on the defensive end of the court. Though Atlanta boasts the 8th best offense they are in the middle of the pack defensively and rank 29th in rebounding. What isn’t clear is how the team’s game will translate on the road with 15 back to back sets yet to play, 25 games versus the West and 35 versus last season’s playoff teams.

Indiana: An interesting side note on the Pacers revolves around the opponents they have beat versus who they have lost to. Other than Memphis, the Pacers losses are to top defensive teams. Even the Memphis loss is easily explained given the Pacers allow the 8th most points in the paint. Since Indy has the second most games to be played versus the West as well as the second most games against last season’s playoff teams, this could factor into their record over the long term.

Chicago: The Bulls are the oddity in the group since they have beat top offense and defensive squads. They began the season looking to push pace and their defense suffered as a result. Through the last 2 weeks the Bulls have refocused their defensive efforts, returning to a top 10 defense (6th), but slid to 23rd on offense. This squad seems to get up for the big games and takes teams they should beat for granted. Of the teams on the board they have the longest road trip remaining.

In Review:

Whether you buy into strength of schedule mattering or not it does bode well for Toronto since they have completed the hardest part of their schedule this early. The fact they still have three lengthy home stands is beneficial since it theoretically should offer an in game advantage. Furthermore, coaches often lament on the lack of practice time, so lengthy home stands provide that in spades.

For the current 8 games in 10 stand, I suspect the team will work on their offensive issues and look specifically at how to address the loss of Jonas Valanciunas. Notably in the first half of the Clippers game, his absence resulted in better ball and player movement. DeAndre Jordan however was the exception not the rule of the match-ups Bismack Biyombo will face, so there are real issues to be addressed up front.

Recent player interviews specifically from DeMarre Carroll, Luis Scola and Cory Joseph all point to the need to increase ball/player movement and the team being aware of that fact.  Cross your fingers their voices carry some weight with the team as any improvement in this area could translate into the team taking another step up the ladder. In hindsight Valanciunas injury may serve as a blessing in disguise if the squad can reduce iso-ball especially in clutch minutes and it will serve as a visual example of “how to” for JV on the sidelines.

For now, the Raptors can be satisfied with their early season results and take note of another stat which tends to separate the top teams. At the start of week 5 only three teams ranked top ten for all three major categories of offense, defense and net differential: the Golden State Warriors, the San Antonio Spurs and the Toronto Raptors!

Terrence Ross may have a contemporary to match up with Wednesday, as fellow 50-point scorer Mo Williams will be suiting up for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Williams missed the last three games with a right ankle injury but is ready to return, as he told Chris Haynes at shoot around.

It’s not immediately clear if Williams will take his spot back as the team’s interim starting point guard, as Matthew Dellavedova has played well with the starters in his stead. As discussed in our game preview, the lineup of Dellavedova, J.R. Smith, LeBron James, Kevin Love, and Tristan Thompson has been liquid hot magma over 51 minutes together, outscoring opponents by 34.2 points per-100 possessions. Williams, meanwhile, has only played eight minutes with that group, as it wasn’t a common four-some when Timofey Mozgov was healthy. Given how well Dellavedova’s played and Williams’ natural fit as a bench scorer, it wouldn’t be shocking for the Australian to hang on to the starting gig from here.

Except that Dellavedova is now a game-time decision due to a calf injury, as head coach David Blatt told Jason Lloyd on Wednesday. Dellavedova is averaging 7.9 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 5.9 assists in nearly 27 minutes a night, knocking down 38.5 percent of his threes in the process. He’s taken pretty major strides from a season ago, expanding his game beyond open triples and annoying hustle plays.

In any case, getting Williams back is big for the Cavs, who otherwise would have been leaning on Jared Cunningham for backup point guard minutes. Cunningham is a fine third guard but he plays a bit out of control and has struggled from the floor. Williams is a proven scorer who can spot up around James attacks or Love post-ups, and he can help alleviate the pressure on James by running the offense, even if he is more of a natural two-guard (by style) than distributor.

In 11 games, Williams is averaging 15.5 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 5.3 assists while shooting 47.7 percent from the floor and 35.7 percent from long-range. He’s proving one of the best bargains of the offseason and allows the Cavs to take things slow with Kyrie Irving’s return from a fractured kneecap. Once Irving is back, Williams will slide to a complementary bench role, leading the team’s second-unit offense and playing in two-point guard lineups as a serious outside threat.

Drake Night 3, OVO headbands, a Hotline Bling activation booth, the 9-6 Toronto Raptors back home, and LeBron James. What a time to be alive, indeed.

Tonight should be a lot of fun, with James and the 11-3 Cleveland Cavaliers visiting the ACC. James is always appointment viewing, and the Cavs come in somewhat shorthanded, leaving room for optimism. The Raptors, meanwhile, should finally be well rested after their five-game west coast road trip. That’s not to say anything will be easy, because the Cavs sit atop the East and own the league’s third-best point differential, albeit they’ve faced one of the easier schedules to date. Even banged up, they’re remarkably good, and it’s scary to look at where they are now, still without Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert, compared to where they were a season ago.

The game tips off at 7:30 on TSN 1 and TSN 4.

To help set the stage, we reached out to Justin Rowan of Fear the Sword, who really seemed to lament not being able to make the trip from Manitoba for Drake Night and the Cavs.

Blake Murphy: So, uhh, the Cavs are quite good. And out of the gate this season instead of stumbling first. It’s terrifying from the perspective of a second-tier Eastern Conference competitor. Just how high is confidence that the Cavs can roll through to the NBA Finals once again, and what could conceivably stop them?

Justin Rowan: I’ll say my confidence is pretty high currently. The Cavaliers are currently at the top of the East without Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert while also having Timofey Mozgov, J.R. Smith and Mo Williams also missing significant amounts of time. The depth this year is significantly better than it was last season with the growth Matthew Dellavedova has shown, the additions of Richard Jefferson and the return of longtime starter and now third string center, Anderson Varejao. Injuries are obviously the biggest concern, and if I had to identify an Eastern team with the most potential to test the Cavs it would likely be the Miami Heat. But outside of a major injury to LeBron James a second consecutive Finals berth seems likely.

Blake Murphy: Kevin Love looks far more comfortable than a year ago, and now that his shooting has regressed to his normal levels after a cold start, his numbers are striking. I’ve noticed the Cavs are using Love a lot more creatively, moving him around the floor rather than having him spot up. What are some specific ways they’re getting Love involved, and is there much that can be done to stop it?

Justin Rowan: Love is finally playing at a level that people are used to seeing him at. Last year was a combination of him being out of shape, hurt as a result, being used poorly and him taking time to buy into what the Cavs are doing. Physically he’s in the best shape of his career and that has had a dramatic positive impact on his mobility, defense and rebounding. Right now he has been the most productive post scorer in the NBA by a wide margin, but the most important thing is the number of touches he receives a game. His shot attempts are only up about two from last season, but with the Cavs new ball movement offense he gets the rock in his hands way more times than last year. He’s a brilliant passer for a big man so getting him lots of touches has opened up playmaking opportunities and he doesn’t feel he needs to force his offense like he did last season, because he knows more touches are coming. The Cavs have dramatically reduced the number of isolation possessions they use a game, so if you want to stop any one player you’d need to play defense on a string, reduce the number of breakdowns and play solid one on one defense. Otherwise you’ll surrender a lot of open threes to a team that doesn’t hesitate to launch away.

Blake Murphy: The Cavs play one of the slowest paces in the league and force nearly the fewest turnovers. Is that a schematic thing on the defensive end, and can we expect it to change some with Mozgov out of the lineup?

Justin Rowan: The Cavs will always play at a slower pace. It might increase a bit once Kyrie Irving returns and whenever Tristan Thompson is in for Timofey Mozgov. But LeBron teams typically play at a slow pace and are very focused on generating good offense in the half-court. They look to run whenever they get stops or turnovers and their efficiency in those situations is why they’re one of the better fastbreak teams in the NBA. But the number of post ups the Cavs run and how committed they are to getting good shots rather than rushing their offense will always result in a slow pace. A slow pace is one of the reasons the Cavs were able to give Golden State trouble in the regular season and in the playoffs shorthanded. Limiting the amount of easy transition baskets they get is essential to trying to slow down one of the most terrifying offenses the league has ever seen. So it’s a part of the Cavs identity I can’t really foresee them changing.

Justin pointing out the need to stop the Cavs in transition is interesting considering where the Raptors find themselves right now. Transition defense has been a bit of an issue for them despite not turning the ball over a great deal, in part because the Raptors are crashing the offensive glass more than any team in the NBA. That’s not something head coach Dwane Casey preaches – much the opposite, usually – and he’s expressed a need to eschew some of those opportunities to get back and get set.

That could be a tough sell Wednesday given both sides are missing their starting center. The Raptors may feel they have more occasion for crashing without Mozgov inside, as the Cavs are a top-five defensive rebounding team but take a bit of a hit on the glass when Mozgov isn’t sharing the floor with Love or Thompson. Meanwhile, the absence of Jonas Valanciunas means the Raptors are deploying either Bismack Biyombo, a strong offensive rebounder, or James Johnson, who loves to hunt for long second chance opportunities.

I’d imagine Casey emphasizes a quick retreat against the league’s No. 3 offense, especially when the Cavs have a single big or the Love-Thompson duo on the floor.

That duo is just difficult in general, and Mozgov’s absence may actually make the Cavs tougher to match up against. They’re 11 points per-100 possessions better with him off the floor so far this year, and tonight’s starting unit (if Mo Williams can’t go; Dellavedova-Smith-James-Love-Thompson) has eviscerated teams by 34.2 points per-100 possessions over 51 minutes together.

Without their own preferred small lineup, the Raptors have some tough match-up choices to make. DeMarre Carroll playing the four is certainly an option, but that either takes him away from James or tasks DeMar DeRozan with checking a big, something that won’t fly against Love (post-ups) or Thompson (rebounds). The smaller group is palatable when James or James Jones are at the four, which may be the case for small stretches. Instead, the match-up calls for Patrick Patterson to step up, as he may be the team’s best option to check Love when Carroll is on James. Coming off of two days off and with two more after tonight (Thanksgiving and Black Friday, how lucky), expect Carroll to basically draw James-shadowing duty and play 40 of the toughest minutes imaginable.

James, of course, is probably the best player in the world, or very close to it depending on how you rank some singularly talented players in the west. He’s averaging 25.8 points, 7.1 rebounds, 6.7 assists, and 1.5 steals while shooting 51.7 percent from the floor. The Cavs are an obscene 29.3 points per-100 possessions better with him on the floor, a number that may somehow understate his importance. For as good and as deep as the Cavs are this time around, everything starts and ends with James. Carroll’s done a nice job on James in the past, particularly in the regular season the last two years, but shutting him down is always a near-impossible task. God speed.

The pressure on the offensive end falls on the heads of the Raptors’ starting backcourt. Kyle Lowry will have a pest on him in Dellavedova and DeRozan could see some James coverage, but the Raptors may not get much in the way of second chance opportunities or interior scoring. On the bright side, James switching on to DeRozan late may prevent him from the end-of-game hero-ball we’ve all been rolling our eyes at of late.

Really, tonight comes down to DeMarre Carroll all over LeBron James and Kyle Lowry Over Everything.

Raptors: Bruno Caboclo (D-League), Delon Wright (D-League), Jonas Valanciunas (hand) are all unavailable
Cavaliers: Kyrie Irving (knee), Timofey Mozgov (shoulder), Iman Shumpert (wrist) are all unavailable; Mo Williams (leg) is questionable

The Line
The Raptors are 1.5-point underdogs at home. That surprised me a bit, as I had it penciled for three points and it hasn’t shifted at all. Perhaps I’m more terrified of James and the LOV3 GUN than the market, or the market is pricing in a Drake Night bump (the Raptors have never lost on Drake Night). The over-under feels a shade high at 198.5. I’ll take the Cavs (sorry) and the under.

Cavaliers 97, Raptors 93

Tonight is Drake Night 3 at the Air Canada Centre. The global ambassador himself will be on hand, fans will receive some sharp OVO-Raptors gear, and there will be a Hotline Bling activation booth. Yes, you can go and do your best Hotline Bling dance.

Toronto city councilman, twitter star, and Drake pal Norm Kelly was on hand Wednesday morning to kick off Drake Night by stepping into the booth with The Raptor.

This is all very silly, but silly is good. Fun is fun.

And ever since he left the city Lou, Lou started making less but putting up more…

Why the Toronto Raptors are paying DeMarre Carroll all that money | National Post

Much has been made about the Raptors’ seemingly eternal search for a small forward, but positional designation is more or less meaningless in today’s NBA. Carroll will be sliding over to power forward often during Valanciunas’s absence, and he was doing so even before the centre’s injury. What the Raptors have really been looking for is a sturdier, bulkier swingman who can passably guard the league’s bully wings, of which James is the best. (He also qualifies as “the best” in several other categories.) While there is no expectation that Carroll will shut down James by himself, Dwane Casey can at least hope that having Carroll means he does not have to cycle through an endless stream of options for James’ primary defender. There will be no, or at least not much, cycling between DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, James Johnson and Patrick Patterson.

Raptors’ Carroll won’t roll out the red carpet for King James | Toronto Sun

“Best player in the world, can do it on both ends, gets his teammates involved,” Carroll said of James after practice at the ACC on Tuesday afternoon. “The key thing is just to make it difficult for him. Get out there, make it difficult for him.” Sounds easy. It isn’t, though there are a few things Carroll will try to do when the East’s best team hits town on Wednesday for Drake Night. “First and foremost you just take away him scoring, taking away from those easy dish passes to guys for three-pointers. He can do it all, so we just make it difficult for him, always be up on him, being physical,” Carroll said. “He’s not going to have his best game, he’s going to score points, but he’s not going to have his best game.”

Carroll embraces challenge of guarding LeBron | TSN

With Jonas Valanciunas, the team’s most efficient scorer, out indefinitely rehabbing a broken bone in his non-shooting hand, their offence should continue to be a work in progress over the coming weeks. Carroll is one player who could see an uptick in scoring opportunities. In the first half of Sunday’s 91-80 win over the Clippers, he hit all eight of his shots and matched a season-high with 21 points to lead Toronto. Although his priority remains on the defensive end, his offensive game has expanded over the years – adding a three-point shot and mid-range floater, specifically – so, you shouldn’t be surprised to see him put points on the board. “I can score when I want to,” he insisted. “it’s just trying to get acclimated, understanding the offence. I’m a defensive-minded [player] first. As long as we’re doing well on defence, I’m happy. Offence is always going to be secondary. We’ve got a lot of scorers, we’ve got a lot of guys who can score the ball, so offence will come and go.”

Smith: Unselfish, defensive-minded basketball key with absence of Valanciunas |

To Casey’s point, that’s what happened on Sunday. After moving the ball so fluidly and unselfishly in the first half, Toronto looked like a completely different team in the second. The third and fourth quarters were plagued by a stagnant offence featuring little-to-no ball movement and almost zero communication. No one player can— or should— be singled out for the Raptors’ lack of chatter, but Kyle Lowry will need to be the one to keep Toronto on track in Valanciunas’ absence. Unselfishness from each player is paramount right now— not ‘hero ball’. Lowry can establish that selfless tone and style, just as he seemed to be doing with his big man during the first couple of weeks of the season. “It’s a synergy,” said assistant coach Jamaal Magloire of Lowry and Valanciunas’ on-court relationship this season. “They need each other in order to become successful. The more attention that Jonas commands makes Kyle’s life easier and the same thing vice-versa. They [understood] that it’s important that they play well together.”

Quick Stat Hits: With Valanciunas out, let’s look for a silver lining | Raptors HQ

If Biyombo is starting, who backs up the 5-spot? Well, judging by the first game and a half with Valanciunas out, we have our first big silver lining. Apparently, it will be James Johnson. Now, I’m of the opinion that Johnson is best as a wing defender, but he’s pretty great no matter what you ask him to do. Let’s take a look at his performance this year without Biyombo or Valanciunas on the floor with him.

Why The Toronto Raptors Need Kristaps Porzingis To Cool Off | The Runner Sports

t’s still early in the season and there’s plenty of time for the Knicks and Nuggets to really stink up the joint, but it would be hard to play worse than the Lakers and Sixers, so they have their work cut out for them.  The Raptors may not end up getting a Top 5 pick out of the Bargnani trade, but it’s still something to keep your eye on over the course of this season.  If you ever get tired of watching a DeMar DeRozan isolation play or wonder why Bismack Biyombo is getting 4th quarter minutes instead of Jonas Valanciunas, at least you can smile when a Knicks or Nuggets loss crawls across the ticker on the bottom of your screen.  Zing!

James, Cavaliers will test Raptors’ off-season rebuild | Toronto Star

Back in Toronto with a two-game win streak that gave a five-game western swing a better hue at its end, Raptors coach Dwane Casey didn’t want the conversation to devolve into one-on-one match-ups. Still, Carroll highlights the changes that were made to this team in the off-season. He is the Raptors’ stopper, the guy who draws those mission impossible assignments when they roll through town. “It helps tremendously and that’s one reason why we have DeMarre here,” Casey said. “But again, with him, it’s still a team defence. “We’re not playing against the LeBron Cavaliers, we’re playing against the Cleveland Cavaliers, and so we’ve got a whole team to defend. (James is) a huge part of what they do . . . but we have a whole lot of people to contend with, with their unit. Kevin Love is playing at a high level, (Matthew) Dellavedova is playing really well. J.R. Smith is shooting the ball extremely well. We have to make sure we understand what we’re doing in every situation versus their ball club.” The Cavs will come in looking for their fourth win in a row, but have the bigger picture on the horizon, even if the quarter-mark of the season isn’t even yet upon us.

Movie night with @pdpatt, @cineplexmovies & @elevation_pics #PatPresents #Legend

A video posted by Toronto Raptors (@raptors) on

Kyle Lowry’s current value (Franchise player, will let us forget VCs legacy) | RealGM

Kyle Lowry is definitely in his prime, playing at a high level, and will be an all star for sure if he keeps it up. Hes making 12mll a year but tbh, he could easily be a max player out there. You might realize, looking at his stats, that he is an all around player, and also draws several offensive fouls. You could argue that Russell Westbrook or Damian Lillard are more explosive, but Lowry is more intelligent, hes a no me-first player, and takes smart decisions the majority of time, he plays for the team, and his leadership is outstanding. My point is Kevin Durant would be the perfect fit to him, since Lowry is not like Westbrook. Lowry could easily be the PG of a championship team. Hes now the face of this team. Do you think he could get a max contract that way hes been playing? And my other point is it seems like he actually found himself in this team, and if he keeps it up, his legacy will be stronger than Vince Carter’s. Have you noticed how opponent commentators respect him? Yes guys, its happening again.

Toronto Raptors will need to find a way to score without Jonas Valanciunas: The Post-Up podcast | National Post

In our 22nd episode, Koreen and MacKenzie discuss what the Raptors will look like without Jonas Valanciunas, if the Golden State Warriors will ever lose again and preview the third annual Drake Night.

Ep. 11: Raptors vs Cavaliers, Jonas Valancuinas Injury W/ Zarar Siddiqi | Joshua Santos Report

It’s a new episode of Coast 2 Coast! On this podcast I talked with Zarar Siddiqi. Siddiqi is a writer and podcaster at ESPN Truehoop Network’s Toronto Raptors blog,

Cavaliers at Toronto Raptors – November 25, 2015 | Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavaliers have made at least 11 three-pointers in six of the last seven games and is averaging 10.2 three-pointers per game this season (3rd in NBA). The Wine and Gold closed out their homestand with a 117-103 win over Orlando on Monday, connecting on a season-high 18-35 (.514) shots from three-point territory, just one triple shy of tying their franchise record of 19 (11/15/14 vs. ATL). In Monday’s win over Orlando, the Cavs dished out a season-high 34 assists on 43 field made field goals, while having just 10 turnovers. On the season, the Cavaliers are averaging 25.1 assists per contest (4th in NBA).

Cavaliers-Raptors Preview | Yahoo Sports

The onus to score for the Raptors is now even more on the backcourt of Lowry and DeMar DeRozan after Jonas Valanciunas fractured his left hand in the second-to-last game of the trip. But it was Carroll (21 points) and Luis Scola (20) who stepped up in Sunday’s 91-80 win over the Clippers, while Bismack Biyombo started at center and finished with 14 rebounds. Casey said he anticipates playing small more frequently with Valanciunas out, which will likely include James Johnson getting time at center. That shouldn’t be too much of a hindrance against Cleveland, which is splitting its center minutes between Tristan Thompson and Anderson Varejao with Timofey Mozgov out with a shoulder injury. James has a personal nine-game winning streak in Toronto dating to his first stint with the Cavaliers.

Road To The Six: Week 1 Recap | Toronto Raptors

Raptor fans will be curious on the play of Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira. It’s been a roller coaster ride for the two Brazilians – Caboclo started off the year looking great, showing the potential of why he was selected 20th overall more than a year ago. Through two games, the young forward averaged 20.5 points per game along with 9.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists. Caboclo struggled in the next three games, struggling with foul trouble and being held to just 11 points per game on 28% from the field. Minutes are the key to Caboclo’s development early on, and he’ll need to stay out of foul trouble to get meaningful minutes in the NBA D-League. Nogueira has also seen inconsistent minutes mostly due to foul trouble. Despite this, the 7’1 centre has looked very solid, blocking shots and setting up his teammates, a skill not many people knew he had. In just 22 minutes a game, “Bebe” has averaged 8.3 rebounds to go along with 3.8 assists and 2.8 blocks per game. His best game came in the squad’s home opener, flirting with a triple double with 13 points, 9 rebounds, 9 assists and 4 blocks. Nogueira will not be with Raptors 905 in the immediate future after being recalled to the Toronto Raptors.

Send me any Raptors-related articles/videos/images/podcasts: [email protected]

The Toronto Raptors’ marquee offseason acquisition counts himself a dog man. That shouldn’t be surprising given his name is Junkyard Dog 2.0 and because, well, dogs are great. They’re better than humans in many cases, and unquestionably better than cats, who want to control and kill you.

Anyway, DeMarre Carroll appears in a new promotional video for the Toronto Humane Society that was released Tuesday. It’s pretty funny, as Carroll gets his dunk attempt blocked when he’s distracted by a group of puppies. The spot is a part of the THS’s Adopt a Teammate campaign.

You can read more about Adopt a Teammate here. I highly recommend it. After never having a dog my entire life, I had one for a little over two years a while back and it was awesome (he wasn’t a rescue/adoption, but still). This is Jose, who was named after Calderon/Bautista and would be the best rim protector the Raptors have ever had.
I strongly recommend adopting if you can, and I’ll (hopefully) be doing the same in the spring.

And if you HAVE to go cat over dog, make sure it’s a junkyard cat born in gasoline and resistant to all fire.

Sometimes things are going really well, then you break your hand and have to get surgery.  And sometimes basketball is a metaphor for life…but I’ll leave that for each of you to apply to yourselves.

With Jonas Valanciunas on the shelf after foregoing surgery to repair his broken hand (opting for rehab instead), the Raptors will be without their starting centre for at least the next six weeks.  In reality, I have my fears that he could be out for a good deal longer.  This opinion isn’t based on anything factual, but only in my doubt in all injury timelines provided by teams.  They aim for the absolute best case scenario and reevaluate as time passes.

It doesn’t matter at this time though, as that’s a problem to face in six (or so) weeks, but it does give the Raptors plenty of questions to answer in the meantime.

Who takes Valanciunas’ spot in the starting line-up?

What’s it like to play significant minutes with an NBA centre that doesn’t have hands?

Can Lucas Nogueira earn any minutes after a successful D-League run?

What impact, if any, does Jonas’ absence have on the long-term outlook of the franchise?

And these are just a few.  The majority of the questions moving forward are related to line-ups.  Jonas leaves a big hole (literally and metaphorically) in the Raptors line-up, using nearly 30 percent of the team’s front court minutes.

Valanciunas is the team’s fourth highest scorer, he’s the second best shot blocker, and the top rebounder.  On top of that, he is second only to cult hero James Johnson in terms of net rating (+9.4).  He is a massive loss for a team that is short on options at centre.

To date on the season the Raptors have used 50 different line-ups, the vast majority of which simply do not matter.  Only five of these line-ups have played more than 20 minutes together.

Let’s start right there: we are a mere 15 games into the season which provides an incredibly small sample size in regards to line-up data.  For this reason it’s almost impossible to take anything from line-up data at this point.

The one group that you can possibly use data to understand would be the starting line-up that has already played a total of 175 minutes together.  After all, the Raptors current starting unit would already be the third most used Raptors line-up for all of last season, behind only the following units:

  • Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, Amir Johnson, and Jonas Valanciunas (390 minutes)
  • Greivis Vasquez, Lou Williams, James Johnson, Patrick Patterson, and Tyler Hansbrough (229 minutes)

Man…remember those hockey line-up changes?  Painful times indeed…

This year’s starters are on a near identically minutes track compared to last year’s group.  In fact, even if Valanciunas misses the expected 6 weeks (roughly 20 games), assuming further health (and no trades) moving forward it is entirely possible that they will still surpass last year’s starters in minutes together.

And yes, as stated earlier, line-up data at this point in the season is almost useless, but that case may be even more magnified when it comes to Valanciunas’ absence.  The most used line-up not featuring Jonas is simply the starting unit with Biyombo in his place.  This group has played a total of just 33 minutes together, 24 of which came in the last two games (including 18 minutes against the Clippers on Sunday).

Of the line-ups who have play a minimum of 20 minutes together to date, every line-up without Valanciunas has a negative net rating, the best of which (the 33 minute line-up mentioned above) has a -4.3 net rating.

(Ironically enough, Lowry, DeRozan, Carroll, and Scola have an identical -4.3 net rating with either Valanciunas or Biyombo playing centre).

For the next six weeks the Raptors will have to experiment to find any line-up that could lead to success, which means that the fate of Toronto moving forward is even more so in the hands of Dwane Casey’s rotation choices…a thought that I’m sure scares many Raptors fans who are reading this.

The Raptors also play at a slightly slower pace with Bismack (96.08 possessions per 48 minutes) on the floor than with Jonas (97.21 possessions per 40 minutes).  Increasing pace may be the team’s best option during Valanciunas’ absence, which could lead to some strange looking line-ups.  In a time of need like now though, I’m fully on board with this.

My personal favourite would be trying James Johnson at centre for at least a few minutes a game in an ultra-small line-up.  If you’re looking for fun with small sample sizes, a group featuring Lowry, Joseph, DeRozan, Carroll, and Johnson has played a grand total of one minute together this season (also on Sunday against the Clippers).

The ultimate small sample size here: this lineup has an offensive rating of 227.3, with a defensive rating of 0.0.  I’m willing to bet this isn’t sustainable (please read the sarcasm here…), but I’d at least be curious to see what Johnson could do with some additional minutes at centre.  It could limit the issues caused by his lack of floor spacing, while also providing him with a speed advantage on almost everyone at the position, while also having the weight (250lbs) and size to match other small-ball centres.

It wouldn’t be a solution for heavy minutes, but could be a good unit to experiment with.  Whatever the solution is, in my opinion it’s time to get weird.

More or less since the moment he was hired, Dwane Casey’s job security has been a popular topic of conversation on the Raptors Republics forums and in comments on articles. When general manager Masai Ujiri opted to retain Casey after an embarrassing four-game sweep at the hands of the Washington Wizards last spring, the discourse around Casey got louder, more polarizing, and far less open to dissenting opinions.

It reached a crescendo last week, as the Raptors dropped a third consecutive narrow defeat on the road to a Western Conference team. Even Monday, following back-to-back victories, articles generated comments about Casey that had nothing to do with the content of the piece. Along with the comments and forums, we receive regular tweets from a handful of followers demanding Casey’s job. We’ve even received multiple emails asking why we haven’t written a Casey hit piece.

The reasons are two-fold: Not all of us who write here feel Casey needs to go, and those who do have long expressed that belief and probably don’t feel the need to republish after every two-game losing streak.

Nevertheless, because it’s a popular topic for readers, I thought we should take the pulse of our staff and at least provide high-level answers about Casey, the job he’s doing, and how hot his seat is. I asked our writers five questions, suggesting a word limit that I probably should have “suggested” more firmly. Their answers are provided here (Sam, a noted anti-Casey voice, was unable to contribute), and I urge anyone who feels one way or the other about the Raptors’ head coach to answer them in the comments, too.

Note: William Lou is no longer with RR other than the podcast, but he recently wrote at length about Casey. You should read that.

1. Do you think Dwane Casey should be fired? Why or why not?

Blake Murphy: I don’t. When Ujiri opted to keep him this offseason, it meant keeping him for the entire year unless the season was a disaster. You don’t retain a coach, overhaul his staff, ask him to change his defensive system, and bring in three players suited specifically to his style of play and then turn around and fire that coach in November. Casey’s five-year tenure has been somewhat of a mixed bag and the playoff losses naturally stand out as the primary memories, but he hasn’t been objectionably bad. He’s been slow to adjust systemic issues and has under-performed relative to defensive expectations, but he’s also over-performed offensively despite having stars well-suited to uncreative iso-ball. The last point is on him, too, but if handing the ball to your offensive stars in crunch time was a fireable offense, half the league would be out of a job.

Casey has his flaws, to be sure. But he’s working four new players into his nine-man rotation, playing with five players on the roster who are essentially garbage time-only options as they develop, and asking those who are playing to employ a new defensive scheme. The Raptors also lead the league in road games and have faced almost a league-average quality of competition (one I’d bet looks tougher in retrospect once the East-West balance comes back in order some).

And despite all of that, the Raptors are 9-6, seventh in offense, and 10th in defense. They are a good team, performing to expectations. I don’t understand how people can look at all of the evidence and suggest that the optimal strategy is to can the coach mid-season. This is a discussion for a 10-game losing streak or the offseason, when Casey’s contract is up. The fact that we’re doing this post today astounds me.

Tim Chisholm: I do not. At least, not less than a month into the season. Casey has been handed a largely new rotation, the holdovers carry large flaws that he has to account for, and there are significant holes that he is trying to overcome (he doesn’t even have a legit starting power forward yet). If the team had started 2-13 then you can start to have that conversation about his suitability as head coach, but they are still at .500, they are mostly losing close games and they are doing it despite Patrick Patterson being a no-show, Terrence Ross being injured and ol’ stone-hands Biyombo leaving them 4-on-5 on offence for 17 minutes per game.

I don’t really know what fans expected out of this season. We’re still talking about a team without a legitimate superstar that employs three high-usage, isolation-happy players at the top of their rotation (Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas). Casey may not be the perfect coach, and this may be a conversation to have in the offseason when they’re not contractually compelled to bring him back, but firing him fifteen games into the season seems ridiculously quick. Heck, even Sam Mitchell got until the seventeen-game mark before he was fired in 2008.

Andrew Thompson: Count me among those who were more than a little flummoxed when Casey was brought back in this past summer. That was the time to change course. I don’t think that the average fan understands just how precious little practice time these teams get once the season has started. Having loud voices or key players who are resistant to change makes it even more difficult to effect the style of play or implement completely new ideas or philosophies on the fly. Some things have gotten better this year, while other things (see fourth quarter offense, rotations and ATO plays) have stayed stagnant in the abyss. You can’t keep on making the same crippling mistakes and expect me to think that you’ll get better at those now. It’s been too long. Is DeMar selfishly responsible for forcing the ball into his hands for iso’s that consume entire shot clocks and lead to turnovers or heaves more often than good basketball plays in big moments? Or does Casey keep calling for those? Either way he takes some fault, but if he calls for them, then I’d love to see what DeMar looks like in a better-coached system before deciding on a contract. I can’t say the Raptors will be better off without Casey overall without knowing who comes in, and even then, it’s a serious uphill battle. Having said that, I don’t think he should be the coach moving forward next year, and I don’t think the Raptors win the title this year, so really, what does it matter if he goes now or in June? Should Casey be fired? Sure.

Shyam Baskaran: When the Toronto Raptors began the season 5-0, fans pointed to the boldness of Masai Ujiri in sticking to his guns with Dwane Casey and opting for stability, a defensive focus, and with a plethora of players now conducive to playing that style, all things seemed swell in Raptor land. Wins against the Mavericks and Thunder on the road were convincing and indicative of something truly special with this squad. Now, with losses against the Magic, Knicks, Heat, Kings, and Jazz, all teams we thought we could easily beat after that 5-0 start, the fan consensus has changed. Mediocre defense and lack of crunch time execution probably makes most of those fickle Raptor fans believe that after four and a half years here in Toronto, Casey’s time has come.

The reality is that while Dwane Casey can probably shoulder the blame for a lot of the Raptors’ early season struggles, keep the following things in mind:

• This is a pretty new team, with eight new faces and a completely new bench. I would think Casey needs at least 20-30 games for us to really get an idea as to whether it’s truly his fault (not to mention whether removing him alone will solve anything).

• The team has started the season with 11/15 games on the road. And despite what it seems like recently, we’re still a respectable 6-5 on the road so far, with wins against OKC, Dallas, and now the Clips. And don’t forget a near victory against the seemingly invincible Golden State Warriors. Yes, it was a loss, but it was impressive nonetheless.

• Coming into the season, the Raptors weren’t exactly expected to be world beaters. We were expected to be in the 44-50 win range, division winners, and likely a 3-6 seed in the Eastern Conference. Those targets, while not exactly easy, still seem very achievable given the relatively easier part of the schedule is yet to come. If it’s another first round exit come April, maybe we’ve got bigger questions to ask than just coaching.

Tamberlyn Richardson: I’m not a proponent of firing coaches mid season unless there is no other option. Casey has shown growth in some areas this year and I like the effect the new assistant coaches have brought to the mix.

Barry Taylor: Casey should be fired. He was never Ujiri’s guy and was supposed to go down with the tank after the Rudy Gay trade. On this most recent road trip his inability to call plays resulted in the team having to call back to back timeouts or turning the ball over to an expiring shot clock. Last year it was the isolation plays with Lou Williams and this year it’s DeRozan. His refusal to play JV late in games last year and James Johnson in the playoffs was beyond frustrating not only because of the moves themselves but his inability to provide a legitimate reason for them. He never explains anything. His press conferences and media scrums are constantly filled with cliches about pounding rocks, sticking to game plans and defensive execution. No real specifics, just some giant broad strokes. There’s no clear game plan or team identity.

Zarar Siddiqi: Yes, but only if you already have the next coach lined up and you intend to stick with that coach for the next five years. The next coach for the Raptors has to be the person that takes this team from playoff fodder to playoff contender, while developing the youth. If Masai Ujiri doesn’t have that person ready in waiting, there’s no point getting rid of Casey and handing the reins to one of his assistants. If Ujiri had full faith in Casey, he would’ve been extended by now and him being out of contract at this point says a lot about Ujiri’s mindset regarding Casey, which can be summed up as undecided.

Unlike last season, Casey’s been given his ‘type’ of players to work with so it’s only fair that Ujiri gives him a fair shot at working things out. Unless the Raptors have a disastrous regular season, that fair shot includes seeing how the team performs in the playoffs and whether lessons learned from failures past can be applied in a meaningful context.

2. Assuming Casey stays, what are the areas you’d like to see improvement in?

Murphy: Late-game execution is huge. The Raptors’ offense actually doesn’t grade out that poorly on crunch-time numbers, but putting the playbook away late kills me. Prior to the Valanciunas’ injury, I would have said creativity in his rotations, but he’s done well in that regard of late. So yeah, maybe keep the whiteboard in hand late instead of deferring to talented but imperfect one-on-one options.

Chisholm: I don’t know how he does it, but he has to stop DeRozan from isolating so much. DeRozan is wired to isolate, and you can tell it frustrates his teammates, and Casey has permitted it for years so it would be hard to rein him in now. Still, the team requires more ball movement and player movement on offence to become less predictable and DeRozan just can’t seem to find a way to buy-in to that structure, and Casey has to find a way to make that connection.

The rest of the problems with the club right now strike me as rooted more in unfamiliarity and the limitations of the roster. I am also not someone that limits the scope of the job to the 48 minutes of game time that coach is on public display for.

Thompson: The offense, especially late in games, can not be the same. The Raptors are wasting six seconds limping into a dribble hand off to get DeMar the ball on the perimeter and then hoping he can get to the line from there. Even out of time-outs. There is no creativity and no help. If you insist on a DeMar iso, at least run some actions to get him the ball in a more favorable position and bend the defense around him so the whole team isn’t ready to help.

Baskaran: One of the clear weaknesses we’ve seen is a lack of offensive execution and creativity down the stretch, with mostly isolation plays and no real plan to attack with other weapons on the floor like Cory Joseph, who has proven himself to be an efficient and reliable scorer. This was exemplified in the win against the Clippers, who despite our poor offense in the second half, refused to snatch the game away from the Raptors. While we could make the argument that Casey should be fired today for those reasons alone, why not give him another 15-20 games for the factors mentioned in question one, and if this continues to be an issue thereafter, then address the coaching situation seriously at that point. This could be likened to Sam Mitchell firing of 08/09 when the Raptors started 8-9 and after an embarrassing west coast road trip featuring a 39-point loss to the Nuggets, the Raptors quickly reacted with a firing and ended up nowhere with Triano filling in as interim.

Richardson: I was talking to a Houston blogger who loves Casey’s end-game management. Color me shocked as I thought he needs to improve the most in that area. Specifically player time management, reading and adjusting to match-ups and out of time-out plays. Assuming Casey is tasked (or has the ultimate say) in player development that’s the other key area I feel the Raptors have lagged in comparison to their opponents.

Taylor: Design a play. Create a play that involves some ball movement out of a timeout and doesn’t end with DeRozan taking a twenty foot jumper or the ball clanking off of Biyombo’s hands.

Siddiqi: Trust your offense and don’t succumb to the temptation of having your stars go one-on-one when it counts. You’ll lose a few games because of that, but you’ll be better off in the long run. We know that iso-ball doesn’t work when it counts, not when you have third-tier NBA players as your best players. We know he has some good offensive designs in that playbook of his, and it’s better to stick with them and better them so that by year’s end you have an offense that plays like the post-Gay trade unit. We’ll be a few games worse when it comes to the record, but that’s OK.

3. How much impact do you think a coach can have on a team’s W-L record over the course of a season? A playoff series?

Murphy: This is a tough one to answer. Why did I ask it then? Good question, but I doubt there’s a way to quantify it. A coach has an impact on so much outside of the 48 minutes of play, impact that I wonder if sometimes we underestimate. Conversely, I think we tend to overestimate a coach’s impact on individual games and possessions. That would be an understandable error given the primacy of late-game scenarios. In this case, I’d venture Casey’s contributions come primarily in the macro, whereas he struggles at times in the micro. A better micro coach isn’t necessarily going to add more wins if the larger-picture stuff isn’t there, too.

Chisholm: I think a heavy impact, but it’s about more than just strategy. How does he balance work and rest? How does he relate to his players? How does he manage expectations? How does he handle internal strife? Like just about every head coach talks about, the sets that teams run are largely the same, and you tailor your approach to the players you have. The other stuff counts just as much, and can have a massive impact on on-court success.

Thompson: Over the course of an entire season, starting in training camp, a coach can mean the difference between a completely dysfunctional team and 40 wins. Look at SVG in Detroit, Coach Bud in Atlanta or Kerr in GS. In a playoff series it matters even more. How many people think Scott Brooks needed to get fired simply because of how he handled lineups and adjustments in playoff series? There is a reason the vast majority of titles over the last 25 years belong to Riley, Jackson and Pop.

Baskaran: The coaches coach, but the players put the ball in the hole. It’s up to guys like Lowry, DeRozan and Carroll to take a heightened leadership role and bring the mental fortitude it takes to close out games. The talent-based NBA today is based mostly on players, and save for the exceptional cases (Popovich, Stevens, and Carlisle come to mind), the players make or break ball games. Just ask Luke Walton. The Raptors don’t exactly have the Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant (pre-2013), Anthony Davis, etc. to carry the load single-handedly down the stretch – so if close games are lost, can it be purely on the coach to be better? Probably not. Over the course of a season, could we see may be 1 or 2 more wins through “better” designed plays and X’s and O’s? Maybe. Coaches guide and organize, but players on most occasions win or lose ball games. Top notch talent wins in the NBA – that’s the bottom line.

Richardson: LOTS! Going back to the Western Conference Finals between OKC and the Spurs, the changes Scott Brooks made won OKC the WCF and sent them to their first finals. Steve Kerr starting Iguodala was huge this year. In my opinion Rick Carlisle, Brad Stevens and Gregg Popovich are the best at game strategy and adapting in game. Erik Spoelstra is underrated and Mike Malone is a coach I see great potential in.

Taylor: The coach sets the tone. He implements a system and it’s up to the players to execute it. 90% of the outcome is determined by what the players do but it’s up to the coach to create the best opportunity to succeed. The Raptors aren’t an elite team yet and even if they had Popovich they wouldn’t win the title this year but at the very least they’d be able to organize a clean shot out of a timeout.

Siddiqi: Significant. Only because I think DeMar DeRozan, Terrence Ross, James Johnson, Patrick Patterson, and Jonas Valanciunas have more to offer than what they’re currently doing. I don’t think the Raptors have a system that caters to the strengths of these players, and that’s why you’re seeing spotty performances from a majority of these players, with fans begging for consistency.

4. Are there any specific (and available) candidates that you feel would make a good successor?

Murphy: Shrug. Ujiri knows a lot better than we would as complete outsiders, and I’d imagine if he kept Casey on without an extension, he may have eyes for someone who either isn’t available yet or isn’t quite ready yet. The staff of assistants has several potential future head coaches (Nurse was an early Ujiir hire, Kalamian and Greer are well-regarded) and there may be other first-timers worth interviewing at length. The only people we have information on are retreads, which I’m generally going to be unenthused about.

Chisholm: There is no one I’d be chomping at the bit to hire. Again people point to Jeff Van Gundy, who hasn’t coached in nine seasons, or Tom Thibodeau, who took forever to get hired and then physically broke his whole roster, but they don’t excite me. And guys without NBA experience might be good, but I’m not taking that to the bank. That doesn’t mean you just keep Casey forever, I’m just not going to pretend like I know with any certainty that a particular available candidate will be assuredly better. This is one of those areas where a GM has reams of information that the public will never have access to.

Thompson: Jeff Van Gundy or crazy Tommy Thibs are both very good coaches. The important thing is not to hire a re-tread that was fired because he was bad. In sports, teams keep on hiring and re-hiring bad coaches just because they’ve had the job before. Worry less about the name, you know the names of most long-time NBA coaches simply because they’ve existed, not because they’re good.

Baskaran: Realistically, there aren’t a ton of guys out there that could easily step in and take on the Raptors head coaching role. Unless Masai has Tom Thibodeau or a select few others on speed dial and ready to go, it’s not exactly going to be a piece of cake bringing in a new guy mid-season. An interim assistant coach may be the way to go, and well…quite simply that’s probably just not going to do much – a temporary shakeup maybe, but not the long term answer. Other candidates include Mark Jackson, Scott Brooks, Monty Williams, or Mike D’Antoni – all guys who have a completely different philosophy than Casey and after a full training camp and early season under Casey’s system, what could those candidates really do at this point? From a pure win-loss perspective, it’s really tough to say.

Richardson: I’ve enjoyed watching Brad Stevens adapt to the NBA and new ideas he incorporates. Something simple like using your entire bench so players give 100% and your stars aren’t over taxed is working in bean town. To that end, my choice (if) the Raptors were to make a change (and again, I don’t think that would happen until season end) would be someone not already in the NBA.

Option 1: Kevin Ollie – Like Stevens, Ollie would be coming from the NCAA environment and has won a Final Four Championship. Moreover, he was an NBA player so he understands the differences in the professional game. And, it doesn’t hurt he’s closely associated with Kevin Durant, who’ll be a free agent either this summer or sign one more year in OKC and then be available in the summer of 2017.

Option 2: Find the next Steve Kerr – As far as game knowledge I lean toward Brent Barry or Kenny “the Jet” Smith as options of former players who would make good coaches.

Option 3: If MLSE won’t go for the above options – Luke Walton (hey his team is 15-0) and the Warriors aren’t suffering without Kerr, so he’s proven himself in my book and knows all the tricks of the Warriors offense/defense.

Option 4: Pilfer the best organization and make history – hire Becky Hammon from the Spurs, making her the first female coach in the NBA. (Gee, I wonder why I would suggest that option).

Taylor: Spurs assistant James Borrego. He’s learned from the master in Popovich and can bring that Spurs pedigree to the team. It worked for the Hawks on a coaching front and seeing how well schooled Cory Joseph is suggests the Raptors are wise to take whatever San Antonio will give up.

Siddiqi: Go the Brad Stevens route and get someone like Shake Smart from VCU. He’s a defense-first guy who’ll come in without any presumptions, could relate to the players on account of his age, and will grow with the team. There’ll be some growing pains, which will be completely acceptable if the team plays with enthusiasm and purity.

5. Any additional thoughts on the matter?

Murphy: Can we please stop talking about firing Casey after every single loss? Let’s at least pocket it until the Raptors have had a sustained period of poor play. Mid-season coaching hires rarely do much other than reward the wrong person for regression to the mean.

Chisholm: Casey has just overseen two of the most successful regular seasons in Raptors history. They weren’t perfect, but very few teams have perfect seasons. He has to improve in some areas, especially in the postseason, but since this is a team that should really only be judged in the postseason I’m willing to give Casey until then to prove his worthiness of continued employment. If he face-plants again, time to go, but I want to give him that shot.

Baskaran: This is probably not the best situation to be in, and don’t get me wrong, yes Dwane Casey can clearly be better – especially on the offensive end. But simply firing the guy, while providing some instant gratification and excitement for fans, really isn’t going to have the impact that a well-designed trade, a players-only meeting, or perhaps just a few lucky bounces leading to some consecutive wins, could have on the rest of our season. Let’s see where we’re at after Christmas.

Taylor: Dwayne Casey sat behind me at a Jays game last year. The fan in me wanted to rip him for his lacklustre coaching but I was drunk and pussied out. He seemed like a really good guy too.

Siddiqi: “There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.” – JFK

The Toronto Raptors have assigned point guard Delon Wright to Raptors 905 of the D-League, the team announced Tuesday.

The No. 20 overall pick in the 2015 draft, Wright has played sparingly with the parent club as the team’s third point guard. With Kyle Lowry and Cory Joseph proving healthy and effective, Wright has been relegated to mop-up duty, playing 10 minutes over four appearances. In those minutes, he grabbed four rebounds, committed one turnover, and missed all four of his field goal attempts.

Head coach Dwane Casey suggested before the team’s west coast road trip that players on the main roster other than Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira could see short stints with the 905 in order to get expanded playing time. With Nogueira recalled to cover for the Jonas Valanciunas injury and the Raptors playing one game in a five-day stretch, now is as good a time as any to get Wright some run. The 905 are at home for the bulk of the next few weeks, so brief assignments for Wright, Norman Powell, and even Anthony Bennett may be in the cards. It’s a good way for these players to keep their conditioning up at a full-game level while also providing the organization with a chance to see how their development in practice is translating to game situations.

At 6-foot-5, Wright has the requisite length to fit in two-point guard lineups, a must with the current Raptors’ roster construction. He needs to add strength to be able to capably guard twos, but his length and defensive acumen both suggest it’s something he’ll be able to do. His defense was one of the primary strengths entering the draft, with the two-time Pac-12 All-Defensive Team player standing as “NBA ready” as it pertains to guarding opposing ones. (Note: There is rarely such a thing as “NBA ready” for rookies.) We haven’t seen enough of Wright to know if his defense is carrying over to the NBA yet – guarding Lowry and Joseph in practice should certainly help – but he should be able to help lift head coach Jesse Murmuys’ squad at that end.

Offensively, Wright is a dribbling amoeba, never attacking the same way twice. His outside shot needs refinement if he’s ever going to play off the ball in the NBA, but he has the driving and distributing instincts you look for in a backup point guard. His style of play is fun to watch and his forays into traffic a treat, and he should be able to carve up most D-League defenses at the point of attack. That will help create easier points for teammates in an offense that has struggled through four games.

Wright impressed in two summer league appearances, and we did a full scouting report on him here back in mid-July. He averaged 9.5 points and 5.5 assists in those games and averaged three points and one assist in seven preseason games. He was a more robust stat-stuffer at Utah, where he averaged 15 points, 5.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists, and 2.3 steals over two seasons in a more substantial role, showing a good comfort level operating a more pro-style pick-and-roll offense.

The 905 expect Wright to be in uniform when they host Idaho on Wednesday. His assignment is yet another example of the value of having a D-League team nearby, as he’ll be able to get 30 minutes on short notice and, if necessary, return to the Raptors quickly.

(Ron Turenne/Getty)

Alongside that sickening feeling of déjà vu, where flashbacks of DeRozan sliding to the floor in agony early last season came back with a vengeance, I can safely assume we all experienced a wide range of emotions the very second Jonas Valanciunas seemed to have suffered a serious injury.

Whether it was thoughts of impending (or immediate) doom that quickly elevated to the realm of tank mode, or even if you had positive visions of what the Raptors can possibly achieve with a lineup of different looks, you’re not alone, I rode that roller-coaster as well.

Coming into the L.A. trip, Valanciunas had only missed three out of the Raps’ previous 177 games, so thinking at both ends of the spectrum was to be expected, as nobody really knows how life without Valanciunas will unfold over a prolonged period of time.

I can understand the temptation of Jamal Murray, or even the pipe-dream of Ben Simmons, but as we’ve had time to collect our breath, surviving this current predicament and salvaging the path the Raps were on to begin with remains a feasible task.

Though like Toronto clockwork, a wrench in the program always wants to fight back. I used to think the Raps starting the year with 11 of their first 15 games on the road was a blessing in disguise, not to mention being comfortable with any early season struggles. With the former lending itself to team chemistry, and the latter allowing for a sense of urgency down the stretch; one of last season’s missing ingredients.

Both still reinforce optimism, but what I didn’t account for was a major injury. And in a sense, a month and a half without the services of Jonas is like an extended road trip all over again. The timing couldn’t have been worse. Just think, what happens if DeMarre Carroll’s plantar fasciitis starts acting up again?

So, now that JV’s fractured ring-finger (left hand) has been officially diagnosed as a 6-week affliction, is this club up to the challenge? Well, that depends on whether or not they’re ready to evolve.

An insult to injury side note: Anyone else wonder why Valanciunas stayed in the game after getting hurt? I understand there was less than a minute to go in the first-half, but one has to question why a substitution wasn’t made. It would’ve resulted in the opposing coach getting to choose who shot JV’s free-throws along with him being unable to re-enter the game, but considering he was in obvious pain and then ultimately ruled out for the second-half, it should have been a no-brainer. Why put him at further risk?

Actually, wait, it all makes sense now. Terrence Ross returns, and the confusion runs rampant. Sounds about right.

But enough about Terry, let’s get back to evolving.


The Three-Man Weave

The business side of coaching only lends itself to a fan’s frustration. But to be fair, for as many times as this fan base has knocked Dwane Casey (myself included), we often fail to take into account his job security, or lack thereof.

A successful win-now coach is one who gets his contract renewed, particularly when that coach was a leftover employee of an old regime. If you keep making the playoffs, an organization will keep reaping the profit. Well, unless we’re talking about this town’s hockey squad, but that’s a story for another time.

With that said, Casey didn’t exactly need to make the development of JV a top priority in years past. Nevertheless, that doesn’t negate the fact that his maturation process was held in check for far too long.

And that’s what makes JV’s trip to shelf much more infuriating. The shift was underway. A trust was beginning to be established. Not only from Casey, but from his teammates as well. Specifically Lowry and DeRozan. So much so that I might be willing to overlook the fact that he still hovered around 28 minutes per game and his annual fourth-quarter neglect was creeping back into the picture.

However, it won’t take long to take that statement back. It speaks volumes when the winningest coach in Raptors’ history still has to earn the benefit of the doubt. But Casey’s chance to prove he deserves that recognition is at his next-six-weeks doorstep.

If there was ever a time to see Casey’s chops in action, it has arrived. His rotations will not only have to get creative, but timely to say the least. While offering up plenty of storylines in the process.

Will Scola’s playing time continue to seep into the Center spot? As well as the crunch time five? Is this the time we finally see JJ and Patterson gain back the productive rep they’ve previously earned?

I’ve always thought of them as Carroll clones, only problem being you’d have to morph them into one player. Though with what each brings to the table, we could see more of them switching in and out, or even playing together to help weather the storm. Especially if Casey commits to experimenting. His track record suggests otherwise, but the moment is forcing his hand.

Many preseason wishes called for DC, PP, and JJ to be allotted time in the frontcourt at the same time. And even though rebounding issues undoubtedly dissolved that trio from any kind of sustainability, along with Carroll making the latter two somewhat expendable afterthoughts with a healthy JV on the floor, it’s now worth a look. Besides, Bismack Biyombo won’t get one-dimensional matchups every night. I’d probably hold off on his role vs. the Clippers becoming the norm.

Perhaps the most intriguing factor in all of this chaos is a chance to see Bebe Nogueira get some meaningful run. Nobody is expecting his near triple-doubles for the 905ers to translate, but what can be expected is an extremely active skill-set.

With such a void now entrenched on the glass, that’s exactly the help this team can use. Yes, he’s still raw and semi-awkward, and will be taken advantage of, but here’s a chance to gain confidence at the next level. His improved passing and touch from the outside is garnering plenty of attention, enough for Raps to at least see where he’s at when brought into the spotlight.

I haven’t forgotten about the aforementioned three-man weave, however, and all of the above ultimately falls on the shoulders of this squad’s captains.

This could go one of two ways: refreshingly smooth (for a change), or completely haywire. The hope is that K-Low and DD realize what the mission should be. Getting everyone involved and aiding this re-adjustment period is not just key, it’s a necessity. The fear resides in the fact that both will ignore what’s in front of them and begin to overcompensate feeling they need to simply take over games. We’ve seen that movie before, and each sequel keeps damaging the integrity of the original.

Just like Fan duel commercials, or studio shows sponsored by Draft Kings, DeRozan’s selfish isolations may never stop. The same goes for Lowry’s inexplicable need to facilitate them, and even Casey’s habit for allowing them to happen (or better yet, urging them on). Still, an effort to decrease the amount of attempts is sorely needed, while encouraging a different approach at the same time.

The answer? How about increasing CoJo’s responsibilities for starters. 25 minutes a night will surely go up in JV’s absence, but it should have already taken place. Joseph, Lowry, and DeRozan together has worked wonders while alleviating DeMar’s perimeter duties. Well, that might change if Ross eventually cures his multiple personality disorder. Translation: Joseph, Lowry, and DeRozan together has worked wonders while alleviating DeMar’s perimeter duties. They should be deployed far more than they already are.

Though at this point, it really is ALL HANDS ON DECK!

Toronto Raptors can’t rely on Kyle Lowry to carry huge offensive load with Jonas Valanciunas sidelined | National Post

While the loss to Valanciunas will undeniably hurt — the Raptors just do not have a replacement for what he provides in terms of post scoring — the loss of DeRozan last year necessitated that Lowry take on the bulk of the perimeter creation on the team, with Lou Williams helping out. This year, DeRozan is still healthy, and Cory Joseph provides a sturdier understudy for Lowry than the team had on the roster last year. Still, the Raptors will struggle to score without Valanciunas, and that is when it becomes necessary to remember what happened when Lowry was overburdened last season. Biyombo, who started in place of Valanciunas on Sunday, generally kills the Raptors’ attack. Watching opponents simply ignore him on pick-and-rolls, because they know Biyombo cannot catch a pass on the move in traffic, will get painful for Raptors fans. Of course, Biyombo will not simply eat up Valanciunas’s 27 minutes per night. The Raptors will also use smaller lineups more often, with Carroll or James Johnson playing forward, and Luis Scola or Patrick Patterson at centre.

Taking the good and bad from Raptors’ road trip | Toronto Sun

“We should be better,” Lowry said when asked to assess the team after 15 games. “We are a little bit upset about that. But I guess you take the good with the bad and you look at it and say, ‘OK, we can live with it.’ But we really should be better than that.” This past road trip alone there are at least two and possibly three games Lowry is probably referring to that were there for the taking, although he didn’t specify. The just-completed five-game, eight day road trip that began and ended in California saw both the good and the bad in this team. The good was the fight the Raptors showed throughout, even coughing up winnable games in Sacramento and Utah and having one taken from them down the stretch by some questionable calls. You will never convince me the offensive foul call on Kyle Lowry in a one-point game with 15 seconds remaining in Golden State was the correct one.

Fantasy Basketball 2015-16: A Dozen Dimes, Volume 4 | numbeFire

Six weeks takes us into January, and that’s a long time for fantasy owners to sit on Valanciunas. If you’re in a league with a short bench and no injured reserve slot, this will be a tough pill to swallow, and you might have to cut the big guy loose. Do what you have to do, of course, but Jonas Valanciunas should be held wherever it’s possible to do so. He’s not getting the minutes that fantasy owners would like (27.3 per contest), but he’s still putting up top-100 value. If he ever gets the time on the floor that he deserves, his 12.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, and 0.7 blocks (a career low and down from last year’s 1.2) would have a chance to creep closer to his 15.1-point, 11.0-rebound, 1.5-block career per-36-minute rates. Toss in the solid 55.3% from the field and 77.7% from the line for his career, and he’s always a threat to post early-round value. If JV’s absence causes Toronto to slip down the standings or if they ever part ways with coach Dwane Casey, there’s even a chance that Valanciunas returns to a more favorable situation for his value than when he left.

Fantasy Impact of Jonas Valanciunas and Marcus Smart | Today’s Fastbreak

During his absence, it appears the most significant beneficiary will be Bismack Biyombo (10.2-percent owned in ESPN leagues). In Toronto’s first game without Valanciunas, Biyombo slid into the starting lineup and logged 31 minutes, tallying six points and 14 rebounds. It seems that the fifth-year big man could have some decent value for the upcoming month or two. Biyombo has for years been a block-specialist who has never really earned the minutes to showcase much else. He could now have an opportunity to post double-figure rebounds consistently while also flirting with two blocks per game. But don’t expect much else. He’s not a scorer, and his career free-throw percentage is 54.1-percent (although he’s shooting 74.2-percent from the line this season). Basically, I’d only recommend adding Biyombo if you’re looking for a short-term solution to your rebounding and shot-blocking struggles.

Kyle Lowry’s current value (Franchise player, will let us forget VCs legacy) | RealGM

Kyle Lowry is definitely in his prime, playing at a high level, and will be an all star for sure if he keeps it up. Hes making 12mll a year but tbh, he could easily be a max player out there. You might realize, looking at his stats, that he is an all around player, and also draws several offensive fouls. You could argue that Russell Westbrook or Damian Lillard are more explosive, but Lowry is more intelligent, hes a no me-first player, and takes smart decisions the majority of time, he plays for the team, and his leadership is outstanding. My point is Kevin Durant would be the perfect fit to him, since Lowry is not like Westbrook. Lowry could easily be the PG of a championship team. Hes now the face of this team. Do you think he could get a max contract that way hes been playing? And my other point is it seems like he actually found himself in this team, and if he keeps it up, his legacy will be stronger than Vince Carter’s. Have you noticed how opponent commentators respect him? Yes guys, its happening again.

Can the Toronto Raptors survive without Jonas Valanciunas? | Raptors Cage

2Pat has quickly gone from a fan favorite to a frustrating player. It’s so sad to see because he is such an awesome guy. There’s something missing this year – perhaps he isn’t as engaged because he lost the starting job. Patterson is averaging 20 minutes a game and is contributing just over 5 points a game – last year his scoring output was nearly double paired with much more efficient numbers. Regardless, now would certainly be a convenient time to break out of his slump as Patterson should see an increase in minutes. A Scola – Patterson frontcourt isn’t the worst sounding thing in the world.

Missing Jonas Valanciunas Will Test Raptors Improved Depth | Pro Bball Report

“We’re going to start Bismack to start out with to give him the first opportunity to play,” Casey said before Sunday’s game. “There are going to be different people in that position. Luis (Scola) will be there, Lucas (Nogueira) will be there some so it will be manned by committee, but the experience that Biz gives us and his understanding or our defensive schemes, his ability to protect the rim, is what we need.” This is depth that the team has not had and should be able to keep things in check at the center position until Jonas can get back.

Is It Time For The Raptors To Panic In Toronto? | Raptors Rapture

The loss of Lou Williams, coupled with inconsistency of Terence Ross along with the early season struggles of Patrick Patterson is extremely telling. Ross just recently came back from a thumb injury (more on that) and Patman can’t find his shooting touch, averaging 37.3 percent from the field, 32.1 from 3-point range and a paltry 5.8 PPG on the season thus far. With very few options off the bench outside of Cory Joseph, we can’t expect much else until they get things back on track.

Ujiri, Raptors To Celebrate The Life Of Nelson Mandela At 2nd Annual All-Star Benefit Event | Toronto Raptors

‘The Giant of Africa’ tribute will celebrate Mandela’s life, legacy and ability to inspire positive change. Special guest participants will share stories and remarks on the impact that Mandela has on the world and how it transcends borders, cultures and time. The event will feature a panel discussion inside the Toronto Raptors’ practice court following the Raptors’ game against the 2015 NBA Champion Golden State Warriors. Special guests currently slated to attend include sports legend Didier Drogba, as well as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, Tokyo Sexwale from the Nelson Mandela Foundation and international models Alek Wek and Winnie Harlow. ‘The Giant of Africa’ event will raise funds for the Nelson Mandela Foundation as well as Ujiri’s Giants of Africa charity with the goal of continuing to create growth and development opportunities for African youth. The tribute to Mandela’s life will be honoured in-game as the Raptors take on the Warriors. To honour Mandela, the full Raptors and Warrior teams will wear special, limited edition, Adidas shooting shirts and the coaching staff and front office of both teams will don commemorative Giant of Africa lapel pins.

Will the Eastern Conference continue to out-play the West? | Nylong Calculus

The Diss’ Jacob Greenberg wrote about his feelings with the decline of the West’s non-Golden State Warriors powers on Sunday night. Certainly, entering the year, there were very high hopes for the Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Houston Rockets, New Orleans Pelicans, et al. None of those four 2014-15 Western Conference playoff teams are currently over .500. In fact, the oddly good Dallas Mavericks are the West’s current No. 3 seed at 9-5. Out East, the No. 2 seed Miami Heat are 5-1 against the West. The No. 8 seed New York Knicks are 4-1. Even the impressively offensive-minded Charlotte Hornets have a 3-1 record against the West. It’s been an all-across-the-board showing from the NBA’s usually (L)Eastern Conference thus far.

All your Raptors-related articles/videos/images/stuff are belong to me: [email protected]

I am 29 years old. As such, I no longer get to submit a “Christmas list,” and my letters to Santa go unanswered (probably because the DMs to Mrs. Claus don’t).

If I still got such a list, the new Toronto Raptors holiday sweater would be somewhere near the top. The term “ugly Christmas sweater” gets thrown around a lot at this time of year, but there’s really not much ugly about the new sweaters in the Real Sports holiday line. Not to be a corporate shill – trust that there is no free cardigan coming my way – but these are really sharp.


You can check out the entire holiday line here (photo also courtesy that link), but these are the stars of the booklet right here.

Plenty of sports franchises have been jumping on the “ugly holiday sweater” trend in the last few years. The Drake Hotline Bling sweater is of the same vein (and is awesome). What’s your favorite holiday gear, sports or otherwise?

Fans attending Wednesday’s home game against the Cleveland Cavaliers will be decked out in black and gold.

The Raptors will be hosting Drake Night 3 on Wednesday, which you can read a little more about here. Following up on two years of solid gear giveaways that led to ludicrous secondary market prices, OVO is promising a return to black-and-gold shirts and – wait hold up. Head bands? Helllll yes. Free t-shirts are a dime a dozen (or, like, $150 each for prior Drake nights), but OVO bands? It’s lit.

Is Drake copping my style from high school by asking 19,000 civilians to wear sweatbands when they’re not participating in athletic activities? Maybe. Your boy’s an innovator, after all (nobody rocked a jersey+lulu lemon pants before the kid).

In any case, Wednesday should be a ton of fun with LeBron James and Drake in the house, plus all the free gear. Because the first home game in two weeks, with The King in town, wouldn’t have been hyped enough.

The Toronto Raptors began life without Jonas Valanciunas on Sunday, and it went better than they could have reasonably hoped.

While the Los Angeles Clippers played terribly opposite them and they nearly blew a 29-point lead, the Raptors still beat a presumed Western Conference playoff team and second-tier title contender on the fifth game of a west coast road trip. Apply whatever caveats you need to about how the Clippers are playing right now – not great, Bob – but a shorthanded Raptors team got it done under difficult circumstances.

Valanciunas is set to miss six weeks as he rehabilitates a fractured fourth metacarpal in his left hand, so it’s worth taking a closer look at how the Raptors’ rotation looked Sunday without him. The Clippers are under-performing on the defensive end and on the glass given their personnel, but their starting frontcourt stands as one of the most challenging the Raptors will run into. As expected, head coach Dwane Casey opted to start Bismack Biyombo in place of Valanciunas, playing him 31 minutes.

I suggested Saturday that outside of Biyombo and Lucas Nogueira, Valanciunas’ injury was a call for lineup creativity. Here’s how thing shook down Sunday.

Biyombo starts, plays too much
Here’s what I wrote about Biyombo over the weekend:

The primary fallout of the injury is that Biyombo is probably now the team’s starting center. That’s fine, and head coach Dwane Casey will probably want the defense he provides early in games rather than going with more offensively oriented lineups early. So long as it’s only the specifics, and not the scope of Biyombo’s role changing, this is an acceptable adjustment.

What the Raptors can’t do is shift the bulk of Valanciunas’ minutes to Biyombo.

In response, Casey played Biyombo for 31 minutes, which extends past the upper limit of his utility. He had the worst plus-minus of anyone on the team (-4). I am Bruno’s complete lack of surprise. A substantial chunk of those minutes saw him weigh down the starting lineup, as that group was outscored by four points in 18 minutes with him and turned around and outscored the Clippers by nine in six minutes without him.

That’s not necessarily a common trend with that foursome – they had performed roughly the same with Valanciunas or Biyombo so far this season, albeit in a small sample for the latter (sample size warnings abound for all lineup data so early in the year). Other lineups, however, have suffered a great deal with Biyombo, particularly the team’s closing unit (Cory Joseph in place of Luis Scola). Biyombo has laid waste to the awesomeness of that unit and did so again Sunday, though Casey quickly opted for a change after two minutes and a 1-of-7 shooting mark. In that 2:27 of play, the Raptors were outscored 3-2 and all Biyombo managed was a foul (he didn’t have any of the team’s three offensive rebounds or, shockingly, their turnover).

Biyombo has a place in the rotation, to be sure. He’s a strong defender on the block, he can capably switch on to guards and, if Casey shifted schemes, hedge well in the pick-and-roll with the agility to recover. And there’s the rim protection, something he’s elite at coming as the weak-side help.

With the team’s worst net-rating of any regular rotation player, Casey can’t lean on Biyombo for 30-plus minutes a night. He just takes too many other things off the table.

Nogueira non grata
That’s mixing languages, but Nogueira was nowhere to be found on the floor Sunday, a moderate surprise since he was the second and final traditional center on the active roster. This could be a case of Nogueira having flown in from Maine on short notice, without the benefit of practice and video sessions in preparation for the Clippers, or Casey wanting to experiment with creative lineups in a larger sample. There are a number of reasons Nogueira may not have played.

There’s also a chance Casey doesn’t trust him to play right now. That will almost surely have to change over the next six weeks, and the Raptors playing once over a five-day stretch should afford Nogueira plenty of practice time with which to get up to speed.

Here’s some of what I wrote about him Saturday:

There’s a lot of Nogueira in our post-game breakdowns from Thursday (a near triple-double performance) and Friday (a lesser outing with some encouraging signs), so check those out.

Nogueira’s inconsistencies are liable to frustrate Casey. An obscenely long defender with quick feet, Nogueira, like Biyombo, is capable of hedging hard on the pick-and-roll and even switching on to guards for brief stretches. He’s still having some trouble adjusting to this year’s more conservative scheme that asks him to drop back, and he’s too often on his heels as the dribble-attack arpporaches. Pick-and-roll defense was a major point of emphasis for his trip to the D-League, so expect NBA teams to attack him to see if his awareness has improved. Offensively, Nogueira’s a gifted player with terrific passing vision and a solid mid-range jump shot, but he’ll need to play within himself. He can be a clumsy screener and his dribble is a little loose. At the same time, he’ll make a couple of plays that few 7-footers have any business making and he’s a major threat for a high-low feed from the elbow to a cutter.

Casey would have good reason to be hesitant with Nogueira, but he has to be given some leash to prove himself with. He’s already 23 and played in the Spanish ACB league, so the team needs to measure his development against NBA talent at some point. The ideal time is when there’s only one other center healthy.

Let’s get weird
Again from the weekend, on playing without positions:

That same logic applies now. Valanciunas is hurt, and that’s something the Raptors can’t change; center depth was always going to be an issue if he got injured. That doesn’t mean the Raptors have to bow to convention and just shift everyone up a spot in the depth chart. Instead, Casey can get creative with center-less lineups that lean on the team’s athleticism and defensive versatility. It’s not the ideal way to run a team, particularly on defense, but ideal went out the window on Valanciunas’ second-quarter drive to the hoop. Get your best players on the floor and figure it out as you go.

Like he did in the second half against the Lakers on Friday, Casey opted to give center-less groups plenty of run Sunday. The Raptors played 17 minutes without a true center on the court, outscoring the Clippers by 15 points in that time. Again, this is a team against which that should be difficult, even if Blake Griffin turned in one of his worst games in recent memory. The Clippers don’t have strong frontcourt depth and Casey did well to stagger his substitutions such that he was playing his no-pivot look opposite similarly structured Clippers lineups. For as much as this won’t sit well with some readers, Casey has managed the six quarters without Valanciunas about as creatively as could be hoped, save for a few too many minutes for Biyombo.

Of the smaller groups, there are three particular things worth focusing in on.

*Luis Scola played 13 minutes as the team’s center. I suggested he may work as the de facto backup center now if Casey staggers his subs properly, as he’s an exceedingly strong 240-pounder. He’s on the shorter side and not particularly agile, but he’s a decent enough post defender and the Raptors don’t require agility from their center in their pick-and-roll coverages. Offensively, his Old Man’s Finest back-to-the-basket game is solid and he can help stretch a defense with his new-found outside shot.

The net result Sunday was favorable, with the Raptors outscoring L.A. by seven points with Scola at the five. The closing unit with Scola in place of Valanciunas (instead of Biyombo) was also effective, winning a five-minute stretch 12-8. That’s likely to be the team’s closing unit with Valanciunas out, and it will be interesting to see if they find the same chemistry the group had with the Lithaunian.

Scola as the team’s center isn’t a long-term or major-minutes fix, but it’s a reasonable look that you can probably get used to for at least a few minutes a game. It’s a good way to give the offense a jump when Biyombo’s off the floor and Casey can be selective about the defensive matchups he deploys it for.

*Patrick Patterson and James Johnson as a frontcourt. These two have had a nice chemistry all season long as complementary forwards, and sliding them up a position to share the frontcourt worked well against both L.A. squads. Patterson helps keep spacing in tact and Johnson provides offensive rebounding and secondary ball-handling. On defense, these two (and DeMarre Carroll when he’s on) can switch assignments seamlessly given their similarity in size. Johnson is a better on-ball defender and can take the tougher match-up, while Patterson is an intelligent system defender who’s rarely found out of position or making a bad read. The ability to pick up any of two or three men in transition should help what’s been a leaky defense off of misses, too.

The Raptors ditched Biyombo and Scola for five minutes against the Clippers and subsequently outscored L.A. 12-4. Johnson and Patterson played with Carroll only for a moment, but an all-bench-plus-DeMar DeRozan unit showed potential. Going without a center or Scola is a tough option defensively but it’s one that can really push the tempo and the transition game.

Lineups with Patterson and Johnson as the center have been very effective in 19 minutes this season, even though all but three of those minutes came with at least three reserves on the floor. It’s worth exploring more.

*More two-PG time. In news that should surprise nobody at this point, the Kyle Lowry-Cory Joseph pairing continued to prove effective. The Raptors outscored the Clippers by five in their 15 minutes together and by six in just nine minutes when the Raptors went with two point guards and no true center. The pairing made sense on paper as a small-minute deployment to goose the offense, but Joseph’s defense at either guard position has impressed more than expected, as has Lowry’s adjustment to playing off-ball more.

The duo have now played 189 minutes together on the year, outscoring opponents by 16.8 points per-100 possessions. Twenty minutes is probably about the upper limit of how much Casey can play together without over-taxing both, and putting too much of a burden on Lowry with Valanciunas out is a concern. Hopefully, Joseph’s presence mitigates Casey’s inclination to do so, especially since he’s run the second unit well enough when Biyombo’s not on the floor.

That last point is a trend worth watching more closely in the next few games. The Raptors may wind up better off giving Biyombo his minutes primarily with the starters, even though he may bring their performance down some, as the second unit is the one best served by going position-less. Bench scoring has been an issue this season, and freeing the bench group from having to work around Biyombo’s anti-gravity on offense could help them a great deal.

All eyes or on Casey’s rotations with Valanciunas out, and the early returns are encouraging. The Cavaliers will prove a mighty test Wednesday.

NBAE/Getty Images

The Toronto Raptors have now completed the first 15 games of the season, with 11 games coming on the road, and have done so with an overall record of 9-6. With a decent 6-5 record on the road, the typical fan reaction may be that the road record could have easily been 8-3 (or even 9-2 if you consider the Golden State loss), and hence that we’ve gotten off to a poor start. Right?

Well my friends, welcome to the NBA. The reality is that unless you’re Golden State, San Antonio, or the 2010-2014 Miami Heat, you’re not going to win every game you’re supposed to, and once in a while, you’ll win a few games that you shouldn’t have (I’ll remind you that we scored a total of 28 points in the second half yesterday and still won against the Clippers – on any other night against an elite Western Conference squad, that’s a guaranteed L).

So, here we are. After a tumultuous 5 games, the Raptors are set to come back home to face off against King James and the Cavs on Wednesday in what will be another tough contest. Since we saw a bit of everything on the road trip, the important questions to ask would be – what were the factors that helped us win the 2 games against the Clippers and Lakers? And why did we lose 3 against the Kings, Warriors and Jazz? Here are some aspects we can take away:

Key Factors in the Wins

  • Team Defense: Save for a few moments in some of the games, the Raptors were mostly woeful on offense. So how did we squeak out victories against the Clippers and Lakers? Aside from a true lack of talent in the Lakers squad and dismal shooting from the Clippers, some credit has to go the Raptors defense that rotated hard, rotated quickly, and played opponents tight at the point of attack and along the 3-point line. On Friday, the Lakers were held to only 41 second half points, and the Clippers shot a combined 39% for the game on Sunday, and did not have a single quarter with over 25 points. Team defense travels, and will bail you out on most nights. Though the offense is probably more concerning at this point, the defense continues to be the saving grace for the Raptors in their wins. Prior to the Clips game yesterday, the Raptors moved from the bottom third of the defensive efficiency rankings into 13th. Keep it coming, Casey.
  • Luis Scola – put him in the HOF: Remember in pre-season when Patrick Patterson was christened to be the next starting power forward? Before he could get too excited, Luis Scola snatched that spot away like it was nobody’s business. And boy are we glad. Scola has been a no-nonsense, low-maintenance player that has consistently delivered for the Raptors with efficient scoring, and a surprisingly crisp three-point stroke. When the Raptors seemed down-and-out against the Clippers on the verge of losing their 29-point lead, it was Scola who provided 3 key baskets down the stretch to stop the bleeding. And sure, JJ Redick missing a few open threes certainly helped. This under-the-radar pickup by Masai may end up paying enormous dividends for the squad going forward.
  • CoJo – consistenly consistent: While the bench continues to struggle, another consistent glimmer of hope for the Raptors has been the play of Cory Joseph. While he didn’t necessarily shoot it well against the Clippers, Cory has been shooting lights out at nearly 55% this season, and is one of the leaders from the field at his position in the league. With a key basket late against the Clippers, tight defense, and overall stability at the point guard spot when the Raps go small with Joseph and Lowry in the back court to finish ball games (expect to see this way more with JV out), Cory Joseph was a key reason for the wins against the Lakers and Clippers. Talk about a steal at $7M a year. Once again, thank you Masai. Thank you.

Key Factors in the Losses

  • Extremely poor offensive execution: There weren’t exactly plenty of reasons the Raptors lost 3 games on this road trip, but one reason was pretty much the biggest factor. The lack of offensive creativity and execution down the stretch of games was almost depressing to watch. The 3 pointers weren’t falling in crunch time, turnovers were a huge issue, and simple isolation plays run for DeMar were not enough to consistently keep the Jazz and Kings at bay. To put it quite simply, DeMar DeRozan, while a solid scoring threat and reliable free-throw shooter and scorer, is simply not good enough (purely talent-wise) to be able to swallow all offensive possessions late in games. As a fan of DeMar myself (I’ll make it very clear that I’m not ripping on the guy alone), I cheer for the guy every time, but simply giving him the ball and forgetting about it is the not the solution. The Raptors have to find ways to run smooth offensive sets late in games early in the clock utilizing other weapons like Cory Joseph or DeMarre Carroll, instead of relying on just DeMar or sometimes Kyle to bail them out with tough shots or getting fouled – it’s simply not going to work. To compound matters, Jonas was adding nothing offensively to keep the defense honest and away from the three point line. Some of the blame should also fall on Coach Casey – perhaps a little too much time spent on defense in training camp? Who knows. But one thing is for sure – against the best of the best and in the playoffs, isolations in late-game situations for DeMar and/or Kyle are not going to be a consistent answer.
  • Refs: While I wouldn’t normally blame the zebras for single-handedly losing or winning a game, I can’t help but put some of the “blame” on the referees for the late-game whistle against Kyle in Oakland. After watching the replay probably 15 times, technically speaking, it was a foul (he was clearly grabbing an arm), but to call that kind of a foul in that juncture of the game (when almost no team in the NBA would get that called against them), was somewhat ridiculous. But hey, we were down by 1, so even without the call, we still had the task of scoring the ball to win the game. Not a guarantee.

Oh and in case you wanted to see that disgusting dunk on Gobert one more time, here you go. If dunks alone could earn you wins, this would be on the list.

Look Ahead for the Week

The Raptors hope to take their lessons learned from their 5-game road trip and get back at it against the LeBron’s Cavaliers on Wednesday night at 7 pm after 2 nights of well-deserved rest. They then head out to DC to face the Wizards on Saturday night (the first regular season re-match of their playoff series last spring), before completing a back-to-back against the Phoenix Suns at home on Sunday evening. Playing without JV is going to be a challenge – but if Sunday was any indication, expect the Raptors to play small, continue playing tough team defense, and run a balanced team offense.

It’s a bit of a cliché at this point, but did the Toronto Raptors win last night’s game, or did the Los Angeles Clippers lose it?

The Raptors showed up to play, sort of, in the first half. They made 51.2 percent of their shot attempts, outrebounded the Clippers 26-17, and dished out 11 assists with only three turnovers. That was good.

The Clippers, on the other hand, shot 38.2 percent in the first half and dished out 10 assists with 13 turnovers.

At the half, the Raptors led 63-34. Great, right? It depends on how you look at it.

In the first half, the Clippers were a mess. There was essentially zero communication on defense, no urgency on cuts or screens, and plenty of hasty, questionable decisions on both ends of the floor. The Clippers haven’t been good lately. They’ve won just three of their last 10 games, with some of their losses to good teams but most to average or bad teams. Why they’re in this slump is anyone’s guess, but it’s real. Something’s going on.

From just after last night’s game:

You could certainly make the argument that the Raptors capitalized on whatever’s going on with the Clippers, or that they came to play with Jonas Valanciunas, or even that they held on when the Clippers made a run in the second half. And you’d be right. But there’s so much more to this game than that.

If you watched the Clippers’ game against the Golden State Warriors a few nights ago, you saw a completely different team. They were active, aggressive, and incredibly polished. That game alone reaffirmed that the Western Conference is much, much better than the Eastern Conference. Teams in the west play with an intensity you simply don’t see in the east.

So to see the Clippers as lackadaisical, unengaged and careless as they were in the first half was a surprise. Thankfully, the Raptors took advantage of that with good but not great basketball.

They relied heavily on Luis Scola, who finished the first half with 12 points, four rebounds and a sweet assist to Bismack Biyombo for a reverse dunky-layup thing. He even dove to the floor and fought for loose balls a couple of times. Scola’s 35, by the way. Kudos to him for a fantastic game.

Something must have happened in the Clippers’ locker room at the half, however, because the second half was a completely different game.

The Raptors seemed content to coast, relying on their seemingly insurmountable 29-point led. The Clippers, on the other hand, looked much more like the team that took it to the Warriors. They were focused and energetic, a far cry from whatever they were in the first half.

The Raptors scored just eight points in the third quarter, where they shot 18.2 percent from the field. Only DeMar DeRozan shot better than 50 percent in the third quarter, but he only took four shots. The Raptors were also out-rebounded by the Clippers, 17-11, in the third.

In the fourth, the tone of the game changed dramatically. Honestly, it looked a lot like playoff basketball in the Eastern Conference. Or Western Conference basketball in the regular season. Same thing, really.

Both teams played with an intensity not seen in the first three quarters. Cuts were crisp and efficient. Jump shots were jump shots, not set shots. All passes were bullet passes.

And when that happened, the Raptors were the inferior team.

Luckily, their 29-point lead from the first half was enough to keep them afloat, as the Clippers were only able to cut the lead to six when Wesley Johnson hit a 3-pointer in the corner off of an Austin Rivers pass. The Clippers outscored the Raptors 26-20 in the fourth quarter, and 46-28 in the second half as a whole. The Raptors ultimately came away with the win, 91-80.

This is what concerns people about the Raptors. Sure, they’re a good regular season team. They’re a talented bunch with depth at every position. But when push comes to shove, when the game is on the line, when your opponent is, well, good, can they win?

The answer is probably no, though we’re only 15 games into the season and the Raptors have a winning record of 9-6.

There were certainly some highlights in last night’s game. Three Raptors – DeRozan, Scola, and DeMarre Carroll – finished with 20 or more points, Biyombo snagged 15 rebounds, and Carroll scored in every way imaginable, finishing the game on 8-13 shooting (he actually made his first eight shots and missed his next five, but let’s stay positive).

We hear it a lot: the Western Conference is better than the East. Perhaps we don’t take that as seriously as we used to. The gap is still there, and it’s huge. The top Western Conference teams are considerably better than the top Eastern Conference teams.

The Raptors weren’t bad last night. They just weren’t as good as they need to be if they expect to make a deep run in the playoffs.

Still, a win is a win, and we’re one step closer to our third consecutive playoff berth.

Go Raptors.

Will and Zarar review a week that was salvaged by two wins at the Staples Cente. It’s an hour-plus pod so there are too many topics to summarize, though let it be said that the Raptors iso-heavy offense has not gone unnoticed.

Part 1:

  • Roadtrip salvaged
  • Surprise win against Clippers – nervous with a 30 point lead
  • Luis Scola dominating Griffin
  • Cory Joseph’d Ding up everyone
  • Smaller lineup dominating Lakers until Casey helped out
  • Why fans are skeptical about the offense
  • Talent dictates matchups
  • Refs and GSW; CoryJo getting hosed
  • Playing JV and Scola vs GSW
  • DD on Gobert vs Ross on Faried
  • Terrence Ross vs Austin Rivers
  • JV injury – options without him
  • Bebe talk

Part 2:

  • Blake Murphy
  • Raptors 905 pick up first win
  • Scott Suggs – anyone with a half-chance of making the big team?
  • Bruno in the 905
  • Dwane Casey not influencing what the 905 are doing; contrasting to other clubs
  • The opportunity cost of retaining Dwane Casey
  • DeMar under a different coach

Part 3:

  • Cleveland preview – it’s about what LeBron wants
  • Drake night; Will’s sweater
  • Raps complaining to the refs
  • Raptors biggest rivals
  • Washington’s new and improved
  • Phoenix preview; looking back on passing up on Brandon Knight
  • Sonny Weems
  • Starters logging heavy minutes
  • Raptors lack of backup SG
  • Who’s worse – Bennett or Ross?
  • The Bucks

Grab the iTunes feed or check us out on Stitcher on Android. There is also the plain old feed. You can also download the file. Or just listen below:

Dwane Casey and the opportunity cost of continuity | Getting Benched

Casey and DeRozan have, effectively, served as the backbone for this era of Raptors basketball. We watched DeRozan develop from a pup into a full-fledged bloodhound and it’s been Casey who’s overseen the training. As with Casey, the opinion on DeRozan is split. He’s a relentless attacker and he’s solid in almost every aspect of the game, but he just can’t quit the midrange jumpers, and he’s hit a ceiling with ball-handling and outside shooting. DeRozan profiles as a good player with many obvious flaws. But he’s treated like a great player as if those flaws don’t even exist by Casey. And while it’s somewhat unfair to hold him to standards that we know he can’t meet, the game-to-game outcomes are still ultimately decided in large part by DeRozan’s performance. But what if DeRozan’s performance wasn’t all on him? And what would it look like if he wasn’t asked to carry the burden of being the no. 1 guy?

Raptors clip Clippers to finish road trip on a high | Toronto Sun

“I think this trip was a success even though we only went two and three,” he said. “I think it’s a success because every game was close. There were no blowouts. They all came down to the last minute except this one, so it just showed us our mental toughness. We know what we can accomplish now and this was definitely a confidence boost now.” The game also marked the first of what could wind up being 20 or so without Valanciunas. Casey went with a combination of Bismack Biyombo and Scola at the centre position while choosing to let Lucas Nogueira, who did not see the floor, ease his way back into the fold after a stint in the D-League with the Raptors 905. Biyombo gave Casey 14 rebounds and six points in just over 30 minutes while Scola moved back and forth between power forward and centre. “Biz, 14 rebounds I thought that was big for us,” Casey said. “I thought Luis did a good job in the post even though he’s undersized a bit. He’s smart, he knows how to play against bigger guys.

Raptors happy to end road trip with Staples Center sweep | Toronto Star

As coach Dwane Casey and the players have been saying since the season began less than a month ago, surviving a difficult early schedule and showing some kind of growth was almost as important as wins and losses. And finding out flaws that have to be worked on was equally significant, and in that respect this was a journey well worth taking. They blew games they probably should have won, they finished strongly with a weekend sweep of the Lakers and Clippers. and they now know full well what obstacles they have to overcome. “This whole road trip was tough, losing games that we know we should have won,” DeMar DeRozan said, citing blown leads in Sacramento and Utah. “That kind of dwells on you but we understood you don’t want to go out with a loss going all the way back home, you have to dwell on that for a five-hour flight back to Toronto. “We just wanted it.” The Clippers game was in many ways a microcosm of the entire trip. The Raptors looked as good as they have at any time this season in building a 29-point first-half lead but frittered it almost entirely away with some lazy second-half stretches.

Raptors survive challenging stretch of early-season schedule | TSN

t hasn’t necessarily been pretty, nor should we have expected it to be. Understandably, there have been some peaks and valleys at pretty much every facet of the game. Their offence – ball movement, three-point shooting and decision making in particular – has come and gone. The defence, while much improved (they’ve gone from the 23rd ranked team last year to 11th), has also been inconsistent. They’ve left some wins on the table, which can certainly be a source of frustration for those hoping to see them take the next step. Take this trip for instance. The Raptors had a fourth-quarter lead in each of their first three games – all losses by six points or fewer. Recently, their inability to execute down the stretch has stood out but they’ve also fallen victim to some missed opportunity, slow starts and even botched calls in the season’s opening month. If nothing else, the narrative is rarely boring. But the perception that they’ve been a moderate disappointment to this point is misguided. First, consider what they’ve been forced to overcome. In addition to the excess of games, the travel and the lack of practice time to begin the year, the Raptors have had to work seven new players into the lineup while installing a modified system on both ends of the floor. DeMarre Carroll, the club’s biggest off-season addition, missed three games and has been playing through a nagging foot injury. Terrence Ross, one of their best shooters, was sidelined for almost two weeks. Now, they’ll be without their starting centre and most efficient player for an indefinite stretch as Jonas Valanciunas recovers from a fractured hand.

Raptors beat Clippers 91-80, despite nightmare finish | Raptors HQ

Today, the Raptors took advantage of an apathetic Clippers team from the tap. With Bismack Biyombo starting for an injured Jonas Valanciunas, most of the offense started up top with DeMar DeRozan. Rather than dribbling ad nauseum though, DeMar spread the floor evenly, providing plenty of hockey assists to players around the floor. One of the recipients was DeMarre Carroll, who shot 8-for-8 for 21 points in the first half. With Blake Griffin in foul trouble early, and everyone else on the Clippers looking like they had just rolled out of bed, the Raptors jumped to a previously unthinkable 29-point lead at the half. Of course, that was only the beginning of a bizarre afternoon. Looking every bit a team that had Starbucks as their halftime snack, the Clippers turned into a ball-hawking defensive team in the third quarter. The Raptors turned inward, as they often have this season, forcing isolation to the tune of eight total points in the frame. When put in a box score, it’s something to behold.

Toronto Raptors get huge statement win against Clippers | Raptors Cage

The LA Clippers are said to have the best bench in the NBA. Their starters also include offensive weapons everywhere such as Blake Griffin, All-Star Chris Paul and old Raptors favourite Paul Pierce. Tonight they were held to just 80 points. In the second quarter they put up just 11, which is still better than what the Raptors did in the third. DeMarre Carroll grabbed four steals and the Clippers gave up 19 turnovers, 6 of which were on Griffin. The defence was solid tonight, the Clippers had no quarter over 25 and when it mattered most the Raptors were able to get back to back stops and re-establish a strong lead. Really good stuff from Carroll, Scola, and Joseph.

» Last Call: Toronto Raptors 91, Los Angeles Clippers 80 | Clippers Blog

MVP: During the stretch where Toronto took their lead from 10 points to 29, it seemed DeMarre Carroll could be seen on every play on both ends of the floor. He finished the game with 4 steals, 5 rebounds, and tied for a team high 21 points on 8-13 shooting, all scored in the first half of the game. That was … lethargic: The Clippers have had a recent history of sluggish play in matinee games, and the first half of today’s game was a shining example of that. The team would only score 11 points in the 2nd quarter, which is the second lowest scoring 2nd quarter for the Clippers since Chris Paul became a member of the team and only the fifth time the team has score 11 or less points in a quarter in that same span. X factor: The Toronto Raptors are one of the league’s best teams in terms of free throw attempts as well as free throw percentage. This game was no different; the Raptors had 31 free throw attempts and converted 29 of them to the tune of 93.5%.

Atrocious 1st Half Sinks Clippers, Who Lose 91-80 to Raptors | Clips Nation

Speaking of Luis Scola, he was absolutely murderous tonight. He only had 20 and 8 on 8-16 shooting, but every time he scored it either stopped a Clippers run or piled on top of them at the end of the shot clock. DeAndre seemed very hesitant to leave the paint against him, yet Scola’s most lasting specialty has been his great midrange jumper. There must have been a bad scouting report, or DJ was very unaware of who he was guarding. The other Toronto hero/Clipper villain was DeMarre Carroll, who poured in 21 in the 1st half and was everywhere on defense. He was kept under wraps in the 2nd half, but continued to make plays, whether through steals, drawing offensive fouls, or getting offensive rebounds. He would look amazing in a Clippers jersey, I can say that much.

Clippers Can’t Overcome Slow Start Vs. Raptors | Los Angeles Clippers

X-Factor: Luis Scola – The forward, who was averaging fewer than 10 points per game, left Sunday’s matchup with 20 points on 8-of-16 shooting, trying Carroll for made field goals. Scola also added eight rebounds.

Different starting lineup for Clippers but same poor result | LA Times

If anything good came out of Sunday’s game for the Clippers, it would be the team’s play in the second half, when they outscored the Toronto Raptors, 46-28. That was only the fourth time in 11 games the Clippers have won the second half. Not that it helped much since they started the half trailing by 29 points. The Clippers came out of their locker room eight minutes early to begin the second half and Coach Doc Rivers said it may have helped. “I’m assuming they decided we’re coming out early, get loose. Get ready,” he said. “And it actually worked. They came out and played a dang good third quarter. “

Clippers have harsh words after 91-80 loss to Raptors | The Orange County Register

Sunday, the Clippers trailed by 29 points by halftime, allowing the Raptors to score 63 points. They followed that by holding them to eight points in the third quarter. They eventually got to within six in the fourth quarter, but poor shot selection helped the Raptors get the necessary cushion. Frustration postgame, Clippers players said, is to be expected. “It’s because we’re losing,” Redick said. “Things happen during the game, and your frustration level increases or decreases based on the final result. It’s a level of toleration you have either with yourself of other people. … The end result dictates your mindset.” Right now, the Clippers’ mindset is a little scattered. Bad offense has led to bad defense; troubles getting stops has caused the offense to lose movement. They’re up to play the NBA’s defending champs and, by their own assessments, not playing hard enough on other nights.

Third loss in a row leaves L.A. Clippers frustrated | Los Angeles Daily News

The Raptors scored only eight points in the third, with DeMarre Carroll, who scored 21 in the first half, held scoreless. The third ended with the Raptors up 71-55. “They came out and played a really good third quarter,” Rivers said. “If there is a silver lining, it’s that we didn’t play awful in the third quarter. At some point, you are going to fight back and I thought that right in the beginning of the third, you could see we were finally here. “Whether we could win the game or not, it was going to be make or miss.” There were makes in the fourth quarter – including a big 3-pointer by Wes Johnson with 7:30 left quarter that cut it to 73-67 – but by that point, the load was too much to bear defensively. It’s not too late to fix what ails them, but the problem seems to be finding the answers.

Rapid Fire Recap: Clippers Torn Apart By Toronto Raptors 91-80 | NBC Southern California

The Clippers had cut the Raptors lead all the way down to six points with a little over five minutes remaining in the game. After a Toronto basket, Blake Griffin made a layup, but was called for a controversial offensive foul. Replays showed the call was questionable at best, but the Raptors came right back with a two-point basket from Luis Scola and extended their lad back to 12 points.

Toronto Raptors Hold On, Defeat Los Angeles Clippers 91-80 | VAVEL

This wild basketball game featured two halves in which were very one-sided but not just for one team. Toronto dominated all facets of the game in the first half jumping out to an enormous 63-34 lead at the break. The Raptor defense put loads of pressure on the Clippers’ players, and LA struggled to make shots. On the other end of the floor, the Raptors did a fantastic job moving the ball; something they have struggled with this season. The outstanding team basketball resulted in many open looks and made baskets. Leading the way on both ends of the floor in the first half was Carroll. Carroll was on fire, going eight-for-eight from the field including two three-pointers for all of his 21 points. Everything was going the Raptors’ way, but the second half was an entirely different story.

Send me any Raptors-related links/videos/articles: [email protected]

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Toronto Raptors 91 Final
Recap | Box Score
80 Los Angeles Clippers
Luis Scola, PF 31 MIN | 8-16 FG | 1-3 3FG | 3-3 FT | 8 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 20 PTS | +3 +/-

Owned Blake Griffin in that first quarter. Beat him down the court, finished against him in the block, got rebounds over him, and then nailed a key mid-range J in the fourth. By the end of the game, Griffin was welping like a little puppy begging to be put down.

Bismack Biyombo, PF 31 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 3FG | 0-0 FT | 14 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 6 PTS | -4 +/-

Got the start and never left the paint on both ends. In fact, he remained within the key during halftime, post-game, and is now reportedly purchasing a condo in the Clippers paint. The Jordan matchup was a good one for him, one where he can stay home and collect the ‘bounds.

DeMarre Carroll, SF 39 MIN | 8-13 FG | 2-3 3FG | 3-4 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 4 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 21 PTS | +16 +/-

Man on fire. One of those games when you throw up anything and it’s going nowhere but down. He was pulling up in transition, jab-stepping Pierce, and even his dribble-moves were coming off. On the other end, had Pierce on lockdown mode and walked off the court with the Staples Center exploding behind him ala Michael Bay. Had a key steal against Rivers in the fourth, baited Griffin into an offensive foul late on, and hung with Redick on switches to contest shots.

Kyle Lowry, PG 38 MIN | 2-11 FG | 1-4 3FG | 8-8 FT | 3 REB | 10 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 13 PTS | +14 +/-

Not a great game offensively, but at least didn’t let Paul get off. Uses that Scola/Biyombo screen to burst into space to his right seemingly every time and the Clippers perimeter defense was keen on helping which made his decision to pass pretty easy. The fourth quarter D on Paul was nice, didn’t allow any space for Paul to get into the paint on screens.

DeMar DeRozan, SG 40 MIN | 4-16 FG | 0-2 3FG | 13-14 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 21 PTS | +11 +/-

Struggling with the iso-game but that didn’t stop him from hoisting it up. It didn’t matter in the early going since Carroll was flaming hot, but when the Clippers made their run, each DeRozan possession felt like an inevitable outcome. Gotta look up the stats on this, but he seems to possess the ball more than the PGs in the fourth quarter. The saving grace here was that when he did get in trouble, he tried to pass.

James Johnson, PF 7 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-1 3FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 2 PTS | +6 +/-

Not a good game, he slashed after the catch on the perimeter without any idea of what he wanted to do with it. Once he saw Jordan waiting, ran out of ideas and Casey yanked him.

Patrick Patterson, PF 14 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-1 3FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 2 PTS | -3 +/-

When someone figures out what he’s good at, could you please let me know? I remember when Jason Kapono used to play for the Raps, he was one who did zilch but shoot the open three, and Patterson is that, minus the threes. The guy seems too weak to muscle on the glass, too devoid of confidence to make the three, and always short of one of quickness or strength to matchup defensively.

Terrence Ross, SF 16 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-2 3FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | +8 +/-

Stealing money. Got crossed by Austin Rivers, committed lazy fouls, missed open jumpers, and had the IDGAF look plastered on his face. Get off my court.

Cory Joseph, PG 24 MIN | 2-9 FG | 0-1 3FG | 2-2 FT | 4 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 6 PTS | +4 +/-

Strong first half where he ran the offense with Lowry on the court, and supplied some tenacious D on the wings which bothered Paul. Had a key score after he turned on a screen to finish at the rim to put the final nail in the coffin.

Dwane Casey

Good call on the Biyombo start. Not good how an iso offense basically let the Clippers back in. I support the JJ yanking, and I liked how he stuck with the tight rotation to salvage this roadtrip. Yes, the high minutes is a concern but we needed to get this one.

Two Things We Saw

  1. Game of two halves, man. First the Raptors built up a huge lead on account of some awesome shooting. Second half Clippers chipped away and you know it was going to be tight. If a couple of those Rivers and Crawford threes had gone in, it was nail-biting time.
  2. The Raptors defense was actually fine in this game, it was their one-and-done iso offense which kept the Clippers in it. I know Casey’s on record saying that training camp was all about defense, so I’m being patient with this thing, but damn, we have ZERO going on.

Luis Scola had a pretty strong first half, hitting threes, backing people down, finishing on Blake Griffin.

One of those “ah, haven’t seen that one in a while” was this cut from the top of the key which he stopped short on and pulled up for a J.

Check out the fan-made highlight of one such triple on Grandstand here.

Grandstand –  Sports Highlights from Fans in the Stands

On the new sports app, you can share your own Raptors highlights, and watch other fans’ videos straight from the crowd.

Download Grandstand on the App Store or at

Five games into the D-League season, the Raptors 905 have finally registered their first win. Today’s game in Maine against the Red Claws was a laborious one, and suddenly, I have a new-found respect for Blake Murphy for taking in all these D-league games, because quite frankly, it’s 48 minutes of torturous basketball.

But the D-league exists – because it has to. Because once in a blue moon a Rudy Gobert, Hassan Whiteside, or Lou Williams emerges. And, for all the mundane basketball it provides, it’s necessary to develop players like Bruno and Bebe while keeping them in game shape.

Bruno: 20 MIN, 2/8 FG, 9 PTS, 8 REB, 2 BS, 3 TOs

Here’s the thing – most people care about the 905 because of Bruno. Yes, to an extent, also Bebe and Bhullar – but mostly Bruno. So here’s the Caboclo update right off the bat: He was not a focal point of the offense today. The 905 offense goes mostly through Jay Harris and Scott Suggs (more on those two below) who were both scoring the ball pretty efficiently. You can tell that Bruno’s talent level and upside is a notch or two above the majority of the pool around him, but he has some barriers he needs to overcome, because he’s probably not going to make it in the NBA until he at least starts dominating the league he currently plays in.

The good

Despite his relative uninvolvement, you get the feeling he can make a big play on virtually every possession he’s on the floor. He hit a big three to cut the deficit to three points late in the fourth, then he grabbed a key rebound and iced the game at the free-throw line. While he struggles still defensively, his length causes opposing attackers problems as he can still block shots if he gets blown by.

The bad

His decision-making isn’t nearly as good as his athletic ability. On defense, Bruno tends to bite on fakes and leave his feet too early. Offensively, he’ll throw up shots that make you scratch your head – shots that a player of his talent-level shouldn’t be taking. I’m taking about fade-aways at full-speed that don’t even draw rim.

Today, he got into foul trouble quickly, which limited his minutes. His 5th foul was picked up in the third quarter.

His biggest weakness today though was his inability to keep his dribble alive. When he’s closed down, he tends to stop in his tracks and just hold the ball while the defense resets.

If I’m Masai Ujiri, I’m sending a memo down to Jesse Mermuys which emphasizes the following agenda: Make Bruno your go-to guy. Run more plays for him, and let him grow. Really, his development needs to be emphasized. By half-time, he took the least amount of field goal attempts of all active players on the team. That’s half his fault, and half the coaching staff’s. While nothing was being run for him offensively, Bruno was also quite passive on offense.

No Sim Bhullar or Lucas Nogueira today. The former only plays home games, and the latter is in LA with the Raptors to face the Clippers – a game which is tipping-off imminently as I type this. This gave more opportunity to Walter Pitchford.

Pitchford was impressive in one area in particular: interior defense. He was quick on defensive rotations against a Red Claws team that moves the ball really well. Once Pitchford got into his defensive positions, he altered shots efficiently. Unfortunately, he was a zero on offense – going 1 / 6 from the field and taking ill-advised shots, including a couple contested threes early in the shot clock.

A game of runs

The 905 got off to a really great start – opening up a 10-2 lead. A big part of that was their interior defense. Maine went inside on nearly every single possession during that stretch, and the 905’s interior defense was a wall – drawing three offensive fouls during that period. But as the game settled down, the 905 really struggled on both ends of the floor. Defensively, they had no answer for Jordan Mickey who was scoring at will. Mickey is essentially the D-League #RaptorKiller version of Joe Johnson, finishing the game with 25 points and 13 rebounds.

Offensively, the Raptors really struggled too – failing to score in the final six minutes of the first half. It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the Raptors came back thanks to big offensive outpourings from Jay Harris (18 pts) and Scott Suggs (19 pts). While Suggs was the team’s leading scorer, I was mostly impressed with Jay Harris. Harris has a Lou Williams style to his play – he’s agile, has a quick cross-over, and can score inside and out. He also has a seemingly infinite motor – always moving, always full of energy.

All in all, it was a solid first win for the 905. Enjoy the Clippers game, y’all.

Bismack Biyombo will start against the Clippers today at 3:30 PM EST.

In 14 games this season, Biyombo is averaging 17 minutes and producing 4.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and .9 blocks a game. He’s shooting a surprising 74% from the stripe as well. Biyombo has started 136 games in his career, playing 28.4 minutes and averaging 5.7 points and 7.7 rebounds.

Going up against Jordan should be a manageable matchup for Biyombo who likes to stay close to the basket, and Jordan isn’t the type of player that can pull Biyombo out of his comfort zone. Here’s hoping Dwane Casey assesses the matchup on the night before making the starting C decision.

Of course, this is all happening because Jonas Valanciunas is now expected to be out for about 6 weeks.

Jonas Valanciunas will be sidelined for six weeks as he rehabilitates a fractured fourth metacarpal in his left hand, according to a report from Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports.

This is a huge blow to the Toronto Raptors, who entered the season with depth questions at the center position. Bismack Biyombo will be over-exposed in starter’s minutes, Lucas Nogueira is still largely unproven (he was recalled from the D-League yesterday), and the team could be forced into using some very creative lineups to get by. You can read more about the rotation fallout from the injury here.

Valanciunas broke the finger in the second quarter of Friday’s game against the Lakers. X-rays revealed the break and after further tests, Valanciunas reportedly opted to rehabilitate the injury rather than undergo surgery. You can check out his comments on the injury here.

The timeline for recovery suggests this is a bit of a worst-case scenario for a fractured finger. There was some optimism that because the fracture was on the index finger of his non-shooting hand, he may not be out too long. That’s obviously not the case, and the Raptors will be without their starting center for a quarter of the season. Six weeks covers 20 games on the schedule.

Apologies for the brief post, but the links within should provide all the additional context you need.

The Toronto Raptors close out their five-game west coast road trip against the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday, with a 3:30 p.m. tip off on Sportsnet.

The trip has been disappointing so far, with the Raptors dropping three tight games in a row before winning an ugly one against the Lakers on Friday. The Raptors lost center Jonas Valanciunas in that game, making Sunday’s affair difficult to project. Bismack Biyombo probably stands to start, Lucas Nogueira is back from Raptors 905, and head coach Dwane Casey should experiment with some fun, position less lineups in response.

The Clippers are off to a slow start, with their newfound depth failing to prove effective so far and their defense ranking a leaky 25th in points per-100 possessions. They’re also one of the league’s five worst rebounding teams despite the presence of Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, a blessing for the Raptors as we figure out what they’re rebounding strategy will be without Valanciunas. The Raptors should be able to get to the line frequently against a foul-prone Clippers perimeter defense.

I’m mailing this pre-game in a little bit because it’s Sunday morning, but to help set the stage, I traded emails with Roscoe Whalan of ClipperBlog.

Blake Murphy: A tough loss to the Golden State Warriors that saps you of your energy for an easier opponent the next night? Been there, bro. How fatigued is this Clippers team entering Sunday’s game, and how likely is it some or any of the team’s key rotation players rest?

Roscoe Whalan: The team is a combination of beat up, banged up and emotionally pretty vulnerable right now — heartbreaking losses to the Warriors tend to do that to you (you guys know what I mean, right?). In both the losses to Golden State and Portland this week the team has sputtered down the stretch (outscored 39-13 in the final five minutes of their past two games), which is a little surprisingly considering they were coming off three days rest before that. Paul Pierce will return Sunday after coming out of his cryogenic chamber, which is something and hopefully Friday’s disaster in Portland at the very least helped Redick and CP3 round back into some form. It should be a full squad Sunday but I can’t say for sure that it’s a 100% healthy one.

Blake Murphy: What the hell is going on with Lance Stephenson? I get tweaking the starters based on match-ups, and I know he’s a mercurial guy, but there’s something to be said for role consistency, is there not? Has his play been as objectionably bad up close as it’s seemed as a more occasional observer?

Roscoe Whalan:I don’t know, I was hoping you’d be able to answer that. Doc says it’s all about match-ups but I entirely agree that when it comes to a guy that’s as enigmatic as Lance you need to spend some time trying to crack the lock — and that won’t happen with him plastered to the bench in the middle of November. He’s been fine but for the most it’s looked like he’s trying so hard to do the right thing (extra passes, etc.) that he’s inadvertently doing the wrong thing and subsequently having minimal impact on the game. Giving him some more rope may pose a number of other problems but it also might help if there’s any hope of digging out whatever remains in there of Indiana Lance.

Blake Murphy: I don’t really have any long-term concerns with the Clippers, but the current state of the defense seems troubling. What, specifically, on that end can a team like the Raptors target, since there isn’t much hope of flowing the L.A. offense down?

Roscoe Whalan:Well, you’re a lot more positive than many of us folks over in Clipper Land. The 6-6 start is a hurdle but this team is certainly talented enough to iron those woes out over time. Rivers toned down the way the Clips guard the pick-and-roll, which means less hyper-aggressive-big-man-shows and a lot more staying at home. That said, the conservative scheme does leave room for wide open jumpers — it’s something the likes of Lowry and Derozan will certainly get to snack on in Sunday’s matinee. Oh, and rebounds. Besides DJ the Clippers have been awful on the glass.
Roscoe Whalan: What was more important for the Raptors to change this offseason: the roster or the psyche?

Blake Murphy: They’re related, really. To have any chance of winning a playoff series, the roster needed major tweaking. They needed better perimeter defenders and more balance to the offense, ends that Carroll and Joseph served. But those changes also speak to a mental shift. I don’t think the team was broken psychologically by the sweep, but the team had accepted a sub-optimal identity of a one-on-one team that won on the offensive end. That doesn’t fit the coach or any of the non-DeRozan players. So, in a very wishy-washy answer, the roster changes were more important but they were borne of the team’s acceptance of a poor ideological identity the season prior.

Roscoe Whalan: The Clippers are 6-6 and the Raptors are 8-6. Does this whole “East is better than West now” chatter have some validity or is it just a blip on the radar of a long season?

Blake Murphy: I think it’s a blip, to be honest. The East is certainly better and deeper but the balance of power isn’t even close to having swung. You look at the standings page and you can make the case for a handful of West teams getting better than they’ve played and the opposite in the East. Plus, the bottom of the East is a flaming tire fire; at least the West’s dregs compete. It’s nice that the East could play closer to .500 ball this season, but the fact remains that Cleveland is the only team that would be a top-four or top-five team in the West.

Roscoe Whalan: It’s been two years since Bruno Caboclo was drafted. Is he holding steady and now just two years away from contributing?

Blake Murphy: I’m not sure about two years away from contributing, but he’s at least a season away. The Raptors’ investment in a D-League team was in large part to facilitate Caboclo’s growth, and he’s going to spend the entire season getting heavy minutes in Mississauga. That’s crucial, because Caboclo is a baby in basketball terms. Sorry to throw a lot of numbers at you, but prior to his assignment, Caboclo had played only 756 “professional” minutes, all in low-competition environments (24 in the NBA, 277 at summer league, 153 in preseason, 62 in the D-League, and 240 in Brazil in his draft year). In one week since being assigned, he totaled 138 minutes with the 905. He’s nearly 7-feet tall with a 7-foot-9 wingspan, athleticism, and a quick, fluid jumper; I have no idea what he’s going to become as an NBA player, but I still maintain it’s worth investing to find out.

The Raptors are 6.5-point underdogs, which feels right, at least until we figure out what they’re going to look like without Valanciunas. Enjoy your Sundays, fam.

In light of the Jonas Valanciunas news, the Raptors have made the expected move of recalling Bebe.

He will join the team in Los Angeles as they take on the Clippers on Sunday afternoon.  You can check out our 905 coverage to learn how Bebe’s been doing. Overall, though, Bebe has played in 4 games and averaged 9 points, 7.8 rebounds, and 3.8 assists in 22.1 minutes of playing time.  

The man’s length is a factor on the glass and in help situations in the D-League, and it remains to be seen how it plays out in the NBA.  His slight build tends to work against him in the NBA where he’s easier to box out than in the D-League where guys are generally not as strong, and Bebe simply outjumps them to keep it alive via the tip and collect the rebound.

His best skill remains his passing, where he has a keen eye for ball-distribution from the high-post.  Unfortunately, he has no jumper whatsoever so expect teams to simply sag off of him and dare him to shoot if he does get the rock. I can see Casey using Bebe as part of a mobile lineup, where unlike Valanciunas, Bebe would be asked to press and hedge hard instead of laying back.  It all remains to be seen, and it all starts on Sunday afternoon.

As per Yahoo Sports, JV is opting to take the quicker road back to playing basketball again:

After undergoing further tests on Saturday, Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas will bypass surgery on the fracture in his left hand, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Valanciunas injured his hand on a swipe from Kobe Bryant in Friday’s win over the Lakers. Blake has already covered what the Raptors might do without JV in the lineup and the big man also lamented on his misfortune following the game yesterday.

The healing time for such injuries is anywhere between 6-12 weeks, so it shouldn’t be a surprise if Valanciunas is out till the new year.

This should serve as an opportunity for Bebe to showcase his skills, and I’m not saying the Raptors should do this, but Chuck Hayes is out there. The thought of Bismack Biyombo playing starter minutes is a scary one because it basically means that on any pick ‘n roll, the guard will be doubled and ball-handlers on the already-sputtering Raptors offense would face greater pressure.

The smaller lineup of James Johnson, Terrence Ross, Patrick Patterson, Kyle Lowry and Cory Joseph was a very effective one against the Lakers, and could be a go-to move for Dwane Casey if he chooses to stick without a real center, but then again, evaluating a lineup’s effectiveness against the horrible Lakers is not a good idea.

The Raptors are 9th in the league in defensive rebounding percentage, and losing their best rebounder is sure to hurt.  The question is whether Casey goes for a big-for-big replacement via Biyombo or Bebe, or opts to go smaller.

The Toronto Raptors will be without Jonas Valanciunas for an undetermined amount of time after the center fractured the fourth metacarpal in his left hand Friday against the Los Angeles Lakers.

The severity and location of the fracture will play a large part in determining Valanciunas’ timeline. He’s set to undergo further testing after the initial X-ray revealed the fracture, and there’s some cause for optimism. While Valanciunas missed 18 games with a similar injury in his rookie season, that injury was to his shooting hand. If this fracture is closer to the top of his finger, it’s presence on the non-shooting hand could allow for a quicker return to action.

This is all speculative, however. Valanciunas is out, and probably will be for at least a few games, and the Raptors need to figure out how to respond.

Bismack Biyombo and Lucas Nogueira
The primary fallout of the injury is that Biyombo is probably now the team’s starting center. That’s fine, and head coach Dwane Casey will probably want the defense he provides early in games rather than going with more offensively oriented lineups early. So long as it’s only the specifics, and not the scope of Biyombo’s role changing, this is an acceptable adjustment.

What the Raptors can’t do is shift the bulk of Valanciunas’ minutes to Biyombo. Biyombo was brought in as a defender, a backup who can provide a different look than Valanciunas and help against tougher interior assignments. He’s a strong rebounder at both ends, an agile pick-and-roll defender who can switch on to guards and recover back to his man, and his rim-protection numbers are some of the strongest in the league over the last three seasons.

Unfortunately, an experimental surgery left him with hands for feet and feet for hands, rendering the Raptors 4-on-5 on offense when he plays. He struggles to catch passes when stationary and his clumsy dives to the rim are made all the worse by his inability to corral a ball. He does some damage as a finisher around the rim, but the Raptors’ offense often gets gummed up when Biyombo takes the floor, as teams feel entirely comfortable doubling the ball-handler in the pick-and-roll or abandoning Biyombo outside of the restricted area. In 16.9 minutes, he’s averaging 4.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks while shooting 40.4 percent, a mark that’s sure to regress but not to a high enough mean to make 30 minutes a night palatable.

The net result is that the Raptors have been 17.3 points per-100 possessions (PPC) worse with Biyombo on the floor this year. Some of that comes from him playing with bench units instead of the starters, but his impact is dramatic on shared lineups. Here’s a look at how the team plays with Biyombo inserted into Valanciunas’ six most common lineups:


Comparing lineup data like this is an exercise in very small sample sizes, so it’s difficult to learn too much. What’s clear, though, is that some lineups that are very effective with Valanciunas get hamstrung when Biyombo takes the court, most notably the team’s preferred closing unit – the starters with Cory Joseph in place of Luis Scola have been killing teams to the tune of 27.2 PPC, but they’re getting doubled up when Biyombo is out instead.

So it’s fine to star Biyombo, but his limitations are such that the team should probably cap his minutes around 25.

That means there will be minutes off the bench for Nogueira, who figures to be on a flight from Maine to Los Angeles right now for Sunday’s game against the Clippers. Nogueira has been itching for the chance to get some NBA run, and Casey mentioned before departing that the team thought long and hard about keeping him up for depth during the trip. The organization ultimately decided that minutes with the 905 were more valuable, and Nogueira’s responded by playing fairly well.

There’s a lot of Nogueira in our post-game breakdowns from Thursday (a near triple-double performance) and Friday (a lesser outing with some encouraging signs), so check those out. He’s averaging nine points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 2.8 blocks while shooting 45.2 percent from the floor, and he figures to get at least 10-12 minutes a night while Valanciunas recovers.

That total could be inconsistent, as Nogueira’s own inconsistencies are liable to frustrate Casey. An obscenely long defender with quick feet, Nogueira, like Biyombo, is capable of hedging hard on the pick-and-roll and even switching on to guards for brief stretches. He’s still having some trouble adjusting to this year’s more conservative scheme that asks him to drop back, and he’s too often on his heels as the dribble-attack arpporaches. Pick-and-roll defense was a major point of emphasis for his trip to the D-League, so expect NBA teams to attack him to see if his awareness has improved. Offensively, Nogueira’s a gifted player with terrific passing vision and a solid mid-range jump shot, but he’ll need to play within himself. He can be a clumsy screener and his dribble is a little loose. At the same time, he’ll make a couple of plays that few 7-footers have any business making and he’s a major threat for a high-low feed from the elbow to a cutter.

This is a player who was getting regular run in the Spanish ACB league two years ago, one of the best leagues on the planet. At age 23, he should be ready for minutes.

Note on starter, Biyombo/Nogueira pair
There’s an argument to be made that Biyombo shouldn’t start and the Raptors should go with two power forwards. I can’t bring myself to get too upset about the starting lineup – I’m far more concerned with minute loads and who closes out games. Casey’s a defense-first guy and I’d expect he goes defense-first with Biyombo, and the starting group has been fine with Biyombo inserted in.

Nogueira could start, too, similar to how James Johnson started when DeMarre Carroll went out. That was done as a matter of role preservation, tasking Johnson with a big adjustment and keeping everyone else’s role the same. That doesn’t really apply with Nogueira starting here, because while it would keep Biyombo’s role similar, Valanciunas’ injury is going to force a ton of changes in the rotation. Casey also hates poor defensive starts, which starting Nogueira risks.

There’s also the matter of Biyombo and Nogueira playing together for an insanely long frontcourt that could be successful defensively. Count me out. As a bench unit when Valanciunas is healthy, the experiment could be worthwhile, because Nogueira can play far enough away from the basket on offense. But the team is already perilously thin at center now, and playing your only two natural options together seems a poor deployment of resources.

Let’s get weird
So if I’m only comfortable with Biyombo getting about 25 minutes and I’m unsure Nogueira will get more than 15 or so, that means the Raptors need another answer at center. The Raptors are probably looking at 8-10 minutes playing center-less basketball.

And hopefully more, because this could be a lot of fun.

When the Raptors signed Carroll this offseason and were rumored to still be in on Wesley Matthews, I wrote an in-favor piece that focused on positionless basketball. The logic at that time was that the Raptors didn’t have their pick of the market, so finding round pegs for round holes at efficient prices wasn’t realistic. Instead, talent was the most important thing, and if the Raptors could acquire talent, they could figure out fit later.

That same logic applies now. Valanciunas is hurt, and that’s something the Raptors can’t change; center depth was always going to be an issue if he got injured. That doesn’t mean the Raptors have to bow to convention and just shift everyone up a spot in the depth chart. Instead, Casey can get creative with center-less lineups that lean on the team’s athleticism and defensive versatility. It’s not the ideal way to run a team, particularly on defense, but ideal went out the window on Valanciunas’ second-quarter drive to the hoop. Get your best players on the floor and figure it out as you go.

To Casey’s credit, he didn’t give in to sticking with a center on Friday. Biyombo didn’t play at all in the fourth quarter, and lineups without a center outscored the Lakers by 12 points in 16 minutes.

Lineup Minutes +/-
TOTAL 16 +12

Extrapolating results from a game against the Lakers isn’t wise, but the Raptors have dabbled with no-center groups for short minutes throughout the year.


That’s encouraging, and there are two specific looks I think we’ll see a fair amount of.

Luis Scola at center
Scola is the most natural of the power forwards to shift to center. He’s only 6-foot-9 but he’s 240 pounds and plays a more ground-bound style. Offensively, it seems a natural fit given his post game, and his ability to step out to the 3-point line (he’s 10-of-20 on the year) could really stretch defenses. It’s a riskier proposition on defense, where Scola lacks the quickness to cover much ground in the pick-and-roll and isn’t a strong shot blocker, but the Raptors may be able to gameplan around that or deploy Scola at the pivot based on opponent substitution patterns, avoiding the most egregious mismatches.

Of the 52 minutes referenced above, Scola was the de facto center (there’s not really anyone playing center) for 37 of them. That includes seven minutes in Valanciunas’ role with the closing unit – essentially, the starters with Joseph in place of Valanciunas – and that’s a look I think you’ll see a fair amount of.

Patrick Patterson-James Johnson frontcourt
With the exception of one minute with a super-small lineup, the non-Scola minutes referenced above had something in common: Patterson and Johnson shared the frontcourt. This, I think, may be the key to getting through a prolonged Valanciunas absence.

Each player has their shortcomings, but they prove complementary parts. Patterson’s shooting ability lets Casey invert the offense and have Johnson play more inside, and Johnson is an active enough rebounder and on-ball defender that Patterson’s weaknesses are covered for to a degree. Johnson has proven capable of guarding most any player type, and Patterson is smart enough to help and recover where necessary while guarding multiple positions. Most importantly, they can switch and cross-match as needed.

In 81 minutes with those two on the floor together this year (a lot of it at the forward spots rather than the frontcourt positions), the Raptors have outscored opponents by 18.1 PPC.

The suggestion here is to shift those two down a position, unlocking a versatile position-less defense. If Carroll is on the floor, too, even better, as those three can change assignments on the fly. That extends some to DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross, too, though those two need to be protected from the bulkier opposition. Johnson-Patterson is going to be a common reserve duo and could really help goose secondary scoring and force turnovers to push the transition game. It’s susceptible as a set defense, but there are no perfect answers when you lose your starting center.

Basically, Casey should throw positions out the window and go with a “best five” mentality more often, with a quick hook for both of his traditional centers. Playing someone just because they fit a positional definition at the expense of the five-man unit is hardheaded at best, as is Casey’s occasional assertion that he has to match lineups to an opponent’s choices. Forget that. You’re at a disadvantage anyway, so play an unorthodox style that best suits your talent and figures to make an opponent uncomfortable.

Let’s get weird with Valanciunas out.

Other Notes
*This could mean minutes for Anthony Bennett. He’s been bad when he’s played but he’s big enough to help inside and he fits with the Patterson-Johnson strategy outlined on the defensive end. He’s also an active rebounder, something the Raptors may need.

*Don’t even bring up trades. The Raptors have 15 guaranteed contracts, few workable trade assets, and nobody is going to value their prospects more than they do. Plus, there’s a small silver lining here in getting to see what they have in Nogueira. A panic trade for an injury that may only be in the two-to-four week range is not how you should be responding to the news.

*This should also mean even more of Lowry-Joseph. Going small in the frontcourt shifts everyone “up” a position, and Joseph has proven capable of guarding twos. The early success of this duo has allowed Lowry to focus more on scoring, and the Raptors are killing teams (+17 PPC) when they share the floor. More of this, please.

It’s a been an up and down (mostly down) week for the Raptors where last night’s win against the Lakers was the saving grace. There’s also the 905 who are doing their best Philly impression at 0-4, and it all amounts to another packed week at RR.

Jonas Valanciunas left Friday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday due to a fractured fourth left matacarpal. He remains without a timeline for a return, as the team wants him to undergo additional tests following the initial X-ray.

Valanciunas spoke with reporters following the game:

The Raptors would go on to win but the injury looms as a major hit for a team that doesn’t have a ton of great options at the five.

Raptors 102, Lakers 91 | Quick Reaction | Box Score

Let us just get this out of the way off the top: Against most other teams, the Toronto Raptors don’t walk away with a win on Friday night.

Coming off of three consecutive narrow losses, games that were played intensely and could have gone either way with better execution or a few fortuitous breaks, the Raptors came out dead, save for Kyle Lowry. Whether it was the mental or physical exhaustion from the tough losses and the fatigue of the five-game west coast road trip or a matter of overlooking a now-2-10 Los Angeles Lakers outfit, the Raptors didn’t really show up to play.

They’d wind up winning 102-91, mostly because they’re a much more talented team than the Lakers.

Things also turned around when head coach Dwane Casey was forced to use some funky lineups in the second half, as center Jonas Valanciunas fractured the fourth metacarpal in his left hand late in the second quarter. Valanciunas wasn’t playing well to that point and his absence accidentally unlocked effective lineups for the Raptors in this instance, but it makes the ugly victory a Pyrrhic one. The Raptors are thin at the pivot and if Valanciunas misses a significant amount of time, Casey is going to have to get very creative. More on that in another piece later today.

Prior to the injury, the Raptors were relying almost exclusively on Lowry. He had an unbelievable first half, knocking down five triples and scoring 19 points with five dimes. He had a hand in well over 50 percent of the team’s points at the break, and without his singular offensive dominance, the Raptors would have found themselves in a much deeper hole than their 50-49 halftime reality.

Lowry is at his best scoring when he doesn’t need to serve the competing need of facilitating, something he’s been able to focus on more and more as Cory Joseph carves out a larger role alongside him. Some have taken issue with Lowry’s more scoring-focused ways, but it’s a necessity and a luxury in the current offensive environment, and he’s generally good at leveraging a hot stretch to help create for others.

He also drew a foul on Nick Young which not only stands as the best Swaggy P highlight, but also snapped Young out of his hot shooting start.

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Lowry got away from the distributing some in the second half, in part because he’s struggling from inside the arc and deferred to others to initiate. He’d finish 0-of-4 on twos and 7-of-11 on threes, tying a career high for triples in the process. “I can’t make a two right now, so might as well shoot threes,” he said after the game.

It would be nice if his running mate DeMar DeRozan would take a lesson in recognizing what’s working and what isn’t. DeRozan’s final stat line was fine, but – and you’d never guess this without me telling you – the fourth-quarter offense stalled when DeRozan started to look for clear-outs every possession or two. It’s a delicate balance because yes, DeRozan can seal games with ridiculous moves like this that very few players can pull off…

But the outcome too often looks like this, with a glaring lack of floor balance, space, and attention from the defense to anyone not named DeRozan…

And the team is quite capable of moving the ball when everyone’s engaged…

Despite the cries of fans that Casey doesn’t have an offense or doesn’t run plays, that’s patently not true. The Raptors can move the ball and have a few pet plays designed to get their one-on-one players on the move in an advantageous situation before attacking. They just seem to go out the window late sometimes.

As always, I get it. Asking your best one-on-one scorer to go score is an easy sell and Casey and DeRozan have a great comfort level established. Playing opposite Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest one-on-one scorers of all time, it’s difficult not to remember all of the big shots he’s hit playing that way. That’s a serious psychological error, because even Bryant one-on-one at his peak was at times a sub-optimal strategy, and the Lakers have been an example for the last several years of the damage sticking to hero ball without the requisite artillery can do. DeRozan is a very talented scorer, but this team’s offense, particularly with the closing unit, is strong enough that they don’t need to rely on him so much. His crunch-time usage rate right now is obscene, his crunch-time efficiency even more so.

In any case, the Lakers aren’t particularly good, and the Raptors finally caught a break in that regard.

The rest of the team joined Lowry in playing functional basketball in the second half, and the bench in particular woke up. Patrick Patterson turned in one of his better performances of late despite a cold shooting night, James Johnson auditioned for the role of super-weird center after a shaky first half, Joseph was Joseph, and Terrence Ross is back! Oh…

A rough opening stretch aside, Ross played fine, and a return to form for him coming off of injury will be paramount if the Raptors want to go small with Valanciunas out. Those lineups will only work with at least two outside threats on the floor, and the Raptors don’t have a lot of those. In theory, Ross’ athleticism also makes him a good cross-matching candidate and for some positionless transition defense.

Again, more on how to deal with Valanciunas’ injury tomorrow, but it’s worth a quick look at how the Raptors did without a center against the Lakers:

Lineup Minutes +/-
TOTAL 16 +12

Entering play Friday, I had centerless Raptors lineups down as a net-even in 30 minutes of action. It’s not reasonable to extrapolate from a game against the Lakers, who were willing to matchup with a smaller Metta World Peace-Julius Randle frontcourt through the game’s final minutes, but those are encouraging minutes. The Patterson-Johnson pairing has potential, like it did at the forward spots a year ago, because it gives Casey the option of inverting the offense and avoiding having Johnson on the perimeter (tonight’s corner three notwithstanding). Biyombo, meanwhile, didn’t see the floor in the fourth.

How much Casey decides to stick with those groups moving forward is a question for another time, but credit him with not sticking to traditional thinking and forcing Biyombo out there. The Lakers probably would have matched with Roy Hibbert and negated some of the edge because this is Byron Scott, anyway.

With the more athletic lineups unlocked, the Raptors took back the rebounding edge and started firing from outside, going 7-of-17 on threes in the second half. The Raptors opted not to go deep into the bench for Anthony Bennett, Delon Wright, or Norman Powell, and that helped, too, as the tighter rotation took advantage of a long stretch of ineffective Lakers bench-ball.

A lot of smaller things went right. The Lakers are bad, they didn’t employ an optimal strategy given the Raptors’ circumstances, and some unfamiliar Raptors units found a quick chemistry. On balance, the Raptors probably didn’t deserve a win, but games aren’t played in a vacuum. Having played one of the toughest schedules in the league so far, reeling from three consecutive narrow losses that threatened to shake their confidence, the Raptors had the benefit of a “schedule win.”

They needed that. We needed that. Drake needed that.

Toronto Raptors 102 Final
Recap | Box Score
91 Los Angeles Lakers
Luis Scola, PF 25 MIN | 5-11 FG | 1-3 3FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 11 PTS | -13 +/-

Your new crunch time center had a ho-hum game. He got to work in the post a little bit, scoring his crafty buckets. The defense wasn’t great, though, and the schemes have to change dramatically if he’s going to play pivot.

DeMarre Carroll, SF 34 MIN | 5-12 FG | 2-6 3FG | 1-2 FT | 7 REB | 2 AST | 2 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 13 PTS | -5 +/-

Heated up late from outside when it was much needed. Was all over Bryant but Kobe had a few throwback possessions. Hope he’s healthy, because he’s a PF for a bit now.

Jonas Valanciunas, C 18 MIN | 1-3 FG | 0-0 3FG | 1-2 FT | 3 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | -5 +/-

Played abhorrently at both ends before breaking his hand.

Kyle Lowry, PG 36 MIN | 7-16 FG | 7-11 3FG | 4-4 FT | 5 REB | 5 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 25 PTS | +14 +/-

Ridiculously hot first half saw him cool down in the second, but it’s not a game at half without his shot-making. “I can’t make a two right now so I might as well shoot threes,” Lowry said after the game.

DeMar DeRozan, SG 34 MIN | 5-12 FG | 1-2 3FG | 7-8 FT | 4 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 18 PTS | -6 +/-

The final stat line isn’t too objectionable but he really gummed up the team’s offense in the fourth quarter. A smaller unit found a good flow, and his ball dominance put an end to that.

James Johnson, PF 15 MIN | 2-2 FG | 1-1 3FG | 0-0 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 5 PTS | +10 +/-

Some really good minutes from the man who may now be the team’s backup…center? Johnson could be a big part of funky lineups with Valanciunas out, and he turned in a strong second half (after a poor first) in response.

Patrick Patterson, PF 26 MIN | 3-7 FG | 1-5 3FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | +21 +/-

The player who needs to step up most with Valanciunas out, Patterson showed an awareness of that and attacked the glass more aggressively than he normally does. He still doesn’t seem super comfortable in his jumper.

Bismack Biyombo, PF 16 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 3FG | 1-2 FT | 4 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 1 PTS | +4 +/-

This was…discouraging. The offense stalls out whenever he’s on the floor, and he’s going to be over-exposed in larger minutes. Still, he’s a great rim-protector and rebounder. So long as Casey changes his role but doesn’t expand it, he’s fine.

Terrence Ross, SF 14 MIN | 3-6 FG | 2-3 3FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 8 PTS | +14 +/-

Mixed bag for the returning Terry, who had a few very bad possessions early in his stint but settled down later. He seemed more comfortable in the spacier lineups later.

Cory Joseph, PG 23 MIN | 3-8 FG | 0-2 3FG | 5-6 FT | 1 REB | 6 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 11 PTS | +21 +/-

Another player who could be called on more in Valanciunas absence (it’s a team effort, you understand), Joseph was his usual solid self off the bench. Within the context of a defined role, he’s been the team’s steadiest player.

Dwane Casey

He was dealt a tough hand with the Valanciunas injury, but he takes the hit for the team’s first half lethargy and general disinterest until the game was on the line. He was also without a timeout with 90 seconds to go for the second time in three games. Luckily, it didn’t matter much ehre.

Five Things We Saw

  1. The Lakers are so much fun in a weird way. Randle, Clarkson, and Russell are all super intriguing, World Peace and Swaggy P are hilarious, Kobe is Kobe even at 37, and the Lou-Kobe-Swaggy lineup has serious implosion potential. Looking forward to this up close on Dec. 7.
  2. It’s clear from the player blurbs, but the Valanciunas injury is the biggest thing to take from this game.
  3. In response: Let’s get weird. You can’t extrapolate performance from a Lakers game, but the Raptors have a few interesting lineup iterations they can try out when they don’t have a center handy.
  4. Welcome back to the big league club, Lucas Nogueira. Read more about his recent D-League performance here and here.
  5. Weird as it sounds, the Cory Joseph signing continues to pop up when things go poorly. Starters can’t get it together? Add Joseph to the unit in crunch time. Carroll’s out? Play more Lowry-Joseph lineups. Valanciunas out? Go super small. He’s been awesome and unlocks additional options for Casey with his versatility.

Consider Kyle Lowry tired of the three-game losing streak.

The Toronto Raptors point guard came out for blood against the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, wasting no time in getting the scoring going. It’s a good thing, too, because he was the only member of the Raptors who showed up in spirit for tip-time.

When halftime rolled around, Lowry had 19 points and five assists, having a hand in far more than half the team’s total points. He was also 5-of-6 from long-range, thanks in part to some willing ball movement from his teammates, who fed the hot hand.

Check out the fan-made highlight of one such triple on Grandstand here.

Lowry finished the game with 25 points on 7-of-15 from the floor and 7-of-11 from outside. He added four rebounds, two assists, and one steal in his 37 minutes. He’s the man, even if he cooled down late..

Grandstand –  Sports Highlights from Fans in the Stands

On the new sports app, you can share your own Raptors highlights, and watch other fans’ videos straight from the crowd.

Download Grandstand on the App Store or at

Bismack Biyombo started the second half in place of Jonas Valanciunas against the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.

Jonas Valanciunas appeared to injure his left hand or wrist on a play late in the second quarter. He drew contact from Roy Hibbert and appeared to hit his right hand on the rim, but it was left-hand contact with Kobe Bryant on the way down that appeared to do the damage.

Valanciunas stayed in the game but was flexing his left wrist often over the half’s final 55 seconds.

The team announced early in the third quarter that Valanciunas has a fractured fourth metacarpal (ring finger) and is set to undergo further testing.

If Valanciunas’ injury is a long-term one – that will depend on the location and severity of the fracture – it stands as a massive blow to the Raptors. Biyombo is a fine backup and a strong defender, but his offensive limitations have rendered the team somewhat punchless when he’s on the floor. Lucas Nogueira would be recalled from Raptors 905 in that case, and while he’s probably ready for minutes, he’s still quite raw and can struggle with his pick-and-roll coverages. The Raptors don’t have many other options unless head coach Dwane Casey wants to get experimental with very small lineups, something I’ve been suggesting they try, both to goose the offense and breed familiarity for a potential Valanciunas injury.

Depth at the center position was a concern entering the season and that will be tested while Valanciunas is on the shelf. With the injury occurring on his non-shooting hand, his return could be quick – Chris Paul missed hardly any time with an index finger fracture in the preseason because it was low-severity and located in a favorable position, for example. Still, it’s probably best to begin considering short-term scenarios in which the Raptors don’t have Valanciunas at their disposal.

Luis Scola, Patrick Patterson, and Anthony Bennett could be candidates to see center minutes in funky lineups, and you can pencil Cory Joseph in for a few additional minutes alongside Kyle Lowry, shifting DeMare DeRozan and DeMarre Carroll to the forward spots. Short on pivots, the Raptors won’t have much choice but to get weird and throw traditional positions out the window. It could be fun and help with spacing, but it will be a real challenge on defense and on the glass.

The 23-year-old Valanciunas entered play Friday averaging 13.5 points, 9.8 rebounds, and 0.8 blocks in 28.1 minutes while shooting 56.2 percent from the floor. He’d hit a bit of a cold spell of late, including a woeful first-half performance against the Lakers, which had cut into his fourth-quarter minutes. Overall, though, he’s shown improvements on both ends of the floor following the signing of a four-year, $64-million contract extension this summer.

Eventually, Raptors 905 are going to win a game. Unfortunately that may come Wednesday, when the Toronto basketball world will be focused on the Raptors, LeBron James, and Drake Night 3.

The 905 dropped the second end of a home-and-home to Maine on Friday, losing 112-93 to fall to 0-4 on the young season.

It wasn’t an easy game to get up for on either side. The teams played in Mississauga last night, then had to be at Pearson Airport before 7 a.m. for a flight to Maine. Making matters worse for the road side, the 905 were without Sim Bhullar, Axel Toupane, and Ronald Roberts, while the Red Claws had three players on assignment from the Boston Celtics to the Raptors’ two. Bhullar will not be traveling with the team to start the year, Toupane is dealing with a visa issue, and Roberts has an ankle sprain. Eleven healthy players isn’t too few, but all three figure to be in the 10-man rotation on most nights, and tipping off shorthanded for a travel back-to-back is suboptimal.

The Celtics’ assignees proved much more effective than Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira, too. Terry Rozier (16 points, eight assists) was too much for the non-Nogueira bigs to handle at the rim when attacking, Young (26 points, 15 rebounds, four assists) had one of his best games at any level, hammering the glass and knocking down open threes, and Mickey (17 points, nine rebounds, five blocks) was a menace on the defensive end.

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Nogueira, meanwhile, had a strong first half but played sparingly later as head coach Jesse Murmuys opted for smaller lineups (the team closed with three guards, Nick Wiggins, and Michael Kyser, a lineup designed to goose the offense in a failed comeback attempt). The affable Brazilian center finished with four points, four rebounds, and four blocks in 13 minutes, but the box score didn’t speak to some of the things that looked most encouraging. Most notably, a night after struggling with his pick-and-roll coverages some, Nogeuira looked more comfortable dropping back. That’s going to be an adjustment for him all season – while the parent club scheme change is designed to help Jonas Valanciunas, Nogueira was a good fit for the previous scheme, as he uses his length and footwork well to hedge on to guards. He still stays on his heels too much dropping back, but he’s figuring it out.

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That experience hedging in the past has also made him more comfortable switching on to guards.

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He also did this, which was all kinds of cool and shows great spatial awareness and comfort putting it on the floor. The handle is still a little clumsy, but being able to make these kind of moves will really open up his options from the elbows (remember he had nine assists Thursday and has range almost as far as the 3-point line).

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Nogueira’s tag-team partner had a poor night, too, though his came with another 35-minute workload. Caboclo was active defensively, tried to jump post-entry passes (he saw a decent amount of time at the four), and blocked three shots, but that aggression also saw him pick up five fouls. At one point, he was announced as fouling out, only to make a quick return. He was one foul away from being one foul away.

On the offensive end, the green light Caboclo has was glowing and flashing all night. He was 5-of-19 from the floor and 1-of-10 from downtown but never got shy, even as the misses accumulated. That’s a good thing for now, within the guidelines of his development, but it’s worth noting that Maine was sagging off of him a great deal when he caught the ball above the break. They closed on his corner touches, but up top they were willing to let Caboclo gun away. He’s still learning to attack closeouts, and some of that is a matter of seeing more of them in game action. Caboclo’s still going to shoot almost any time he has a window, but moves like this are encouraging steps, even if the 7-of-34 mark from outside on the young season is unsightly.

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So with a bad night from Caboclo, a short night from Nogueira, and a shorthanded bench, the 905 were in tough.

That’s not to make excuses for them, because they lost Friday’s game in much the same way they’ve lost their first three. The 905 committed 17 turnovers, a staple right now as they continue to learn their offense and get comfortable together. That’s bled into poor transition defense, and the Red Claws had a clear edict to let fly going back the other way, taking 44 3-point attempts on the night. The 905 defense wasn’t bad once set, and here’s an idea of what it can look like when everyone’s on the same page.

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It’s a long process at both ends, one that’s not necessarily about wins and losses right now and might mean taking some lumps in the short-term.

The 905 play Maine once again on Sunday before returning home to host Idaho on Wednesday.


*Despite the outcome, I thought Murmuys did a good job with the circumstances. His timeouts were well-timed and often led to responsive runs, he staggered his starters when Maine went all-bench, and a few of his side out-of-bounds (“side oobs,” as my notepad says) showed potential, if unfamiliarity.

*Jay Harris had an excellent game off the bench and was more or less the entire offense in the third quarter. He finished with 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting and added eight rebounds crashing from the perimeter. Four turnovers to three assists for the back-up point guard isn’t ideal, but his scoring punch is something the team was really high on, and he showed why tonight. He also knocked down all three of his threes; if he can do that regularly, he becomes an even bigger weapon, as he shot just 32.9 percent in college. Smart play here, too.

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*This is a very D-League sequence:

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Terrence Ross will return from a thumb ligament injury to play against the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday, the team announced.

The fourth-year shooting guard injured the thumb in a workout last Monday and anticipated missing at least two weeks. Instead, he’s back in a week and change, having missed just six games.

His return will mean a decreased role off the bench for James Johnson and Norman Powell, who both played quite well in Ross’ stead. Head coach Dwane Casey sees Johnson as more of a match-up specialist and “break glass in case of emergency” starter, but Powell had been carving out occasional minutes. It could also mean fewer minutes for the highly effective Kyle Lowry-Cory Joseph pairing. Powell, who is back home in California, probably won’t see run while the game’s tight unless Ross plays poorly.

First 7 Games Last 6 Games
Ross 17.4 0.0
Powell 3.3 9.0
Johnson 9.8 19.2
Joseph 23.1 27.2

Ross playing poorly is within the realm of possibility.

Prior to hurting his thumb, Ross had turned in four obscenely bad games in a row. This, immediately following a three-year, $31-million contract extension being signed, required a shrug of the shoulders and additional, if undeserved patience. He was averaging 6.3 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 0.7 assists in 17.4 minutes over seven games before hitting the shelf, shooting 36.4 percent from the floor and 28 percent from long-range. The outside shooting mark can be expected to correct so long as the non-shooting thumb doesn’t bother him, as the majority of Ross’ misses have been open looks that he normally cans with regularity, the one area of his game that’s generally reliable.


In part because Ross’ injury coincided with missed time for DeMarre Carroll, the team struggled with floor spacing while he was out. For as inconsistent as Ross can be, shooting is one thing he does demonstrably well, and even just the threat of his shot from the corners helps the Raptors balance the floor.

The Raptors are 4.6 points per-100 possessions worse with Ross playing for the season, but his return should help Casey manage his rotations nonetheless, particularly when it comes to keeping the offense afloat when Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan hit the bench. Casey now also has options if Ross’ effort and defense wane, as they tend to. Powell’s energy and aggression make him a natural “teaching moment” substitute, and Johnson can come in and defend when a bigger linup is required.

There’s a good chance Raptors fans will respond to Ross’ return with sarcasm or jokes or eye-rolls. That’s fair, and they’ve earned it with three-plus years of fighting the urge to write off a prospect who keeps giving them reason to. Still, Ross is a better player than he showed before the injury, the franchise invested heavily in him a few weeks back, and the Raptors could really use his shooting off the bench. His return is welcome news.

The Lakers, by the way, are surrendering the seventh-highest number of 3-point attempts per-game, so Ross should find the space necessary to let fly and get his comfort level back.

The Raptors tip off against the Los Angeles Lakers at 10:30 on Sportsnet One, a meeting that could be the final time Kobe Bryant plays against the franchise.

After sitting out the team’s Monday game due to general fatigue and soreness, Bryant is a go for Friday’s contest. As explained in greater detail earlier today, Bryant is talking as if retirement is on the horizon following the season. His final visit to Toronto, where he hasn’t played in nearly three calendar years, is scheduled for Dec. 7, the second night of a back-to-back for the Lakers, making his status for that game questionable at best.

The 20-year veteran and 17-time All-Star has played _ career games against the Raptors, averaging 27.7 points, six rebounds, and 5.4 assists. Of all NBA teams, the Raptors have allowed Bryant to shoot his highest field-goal percentage (47.2) and 3-point percentage (37.3). There’s also the matter of his 81-point game.

But with Bryant showing the signs of a basketball odometer like no other, he’s no longer a major threat, and the Raptors stand as 6.5-point favorites on the road. You can check out the full game preview here.

Powell, DeRozan
The meeting with Bryant may hold a special meaning to Norman Powell and DeMar DeRozan. Both players are California natives who spent their college years in the state. Powell identifies Bryant as his favorite player, while DeRozan leaned on Bryant for council while rehabbing an injury of his own last year. Here’s a brief exceprt from Powell’s excellent one-on-one with Holly MacKenzie of linked above:

Significance of your number?
NP: 24? I chose this number since I couldn’t have No. 4. That had always been my number, but I had to give that to Luis Scola. I’m always a big 24 guy because of Kobe. Growing up I used to wear 24 in AAU, saying I was the next Kobe, so I thought it would be fitting to wear this in my first year in the NBA [with No. 4 gone].

Were you nervous or excited checking in during that preseason game against the Lakers?
NP: I wasn’t nervous, I was more like, ‘Dang, that’s Kobe.’ During one of the timeouts, walking past him, I’m like ‘Yo, I’m like two inches away from Kobe Bryant right now. That’s crazy.’ I’m trying not to like, be like, ’Yo man, what’s up?’ I tried to play it cool.

Favourite Kobe moment?
NP: Besides the 81?

Damn, Norm.

Terrence Ross will return. More shortly.

What will Kobe’s final line be?
Guess Kobe’s final points-rebounds-assists line correctly in the comments BEFORE tip-off and I’ll buy you a beer at a Raptors or 905 game TBD in the future.

The shot looks good unguarded, so guess high on the points. But wait, it could be Facilitator Kobe tonight!

Eighty-one seems a long time ago.

Kobe Bryant will suit up as the Los Angeles Lakers host the Toronto Raptors on Friday, possibly the last time he’ll ever square off against the Raptors.

The 20-year veteran has missed the bulk of the last two seasons due to three fairly serious injuries and despite planning to play most of 2015-16, Bryant has already begun taking games off due to soreness. He appeared in the team’s first six games before taking a two-game respite, returned for two games, then sat out Monday’s contest against the Phoenix Suns.

“I’m not looking forward to waking to the car. Seriously,” Bryant said Sunday, citing back and knee soreness. His inability to play a regular workload without a great deal of soreness has become such that he’s more or less confirmed the long-held assumption that he’ll retire at the end of the season, unless something changes.

The bigger question than Bryant’s status for Friday, however, remains unanswered. If this does end up being Bryant’s last season, his final visit to Toronto will come on Dec. 7. The Lakers are on the second night of a back-to-back in that game, and it stands to reason that Bryant could sit out for rest, which would be an enormous shame for those hoping to see him in person one last time. Injuries have conspired to keep Bryant from playing in Toronto since January of 2013, when nobody had any idea it may have been their last chance to see a legend live. Here’s hoping the Lakers opt to rest Bryant the night prior in Detroit instead. (I’d say “or not at all,” but playing Bryant on back-to-backs seems woefully irresponsible, as does playing him 37 minutes like he did Sunday.)

Head coach Byron Scott said Thursday that he plans to play Bryant around his usual 30 minutes against the Raptors.

The Lakers have been slightly less bad with Bryant on the floor so far this season, but Bryant himself has visibly struggled. He doesn’t have the quickness in his first step, far fewer defenders are biting on his jab step, and his turnaround jumpers lack the necessary lift to get over outstretched defenders and to the basket. There have been a good number of lowlights, and it’s honestly been difficult to watch at times. This is one of the greatest players of all time, coming back from three major injuries at age 37, trying to be the prime version of himself, and coming up demonstrably short. It doesn’t change anything Bryant’s done in his amazing, illustrious career, but it’s tough to watch when Bryant’s at his worst.

At least there’s little risk of him doing this Friday:

The 2015-16 version of Bryant’s 81-point game against the Raptors would probably be something like 30 points on 50-percent shooting. Bryant’s season high is 24 points, back in the season opener, and he’s averaging 16.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 3.5 assists while shooting 33.6 percent overall. He’s also hitting just 23.3 percent on his 7.5 3-point attempts per game, meaning the Raptors should be more than willing to go under screens and sag off of Bryant when faced up.

Again, none of this is to disparage Bryant. He’s one of my all-time favorite players and was at the height of his prowess right as I began watching basketball. I had been hoping against hope that Bryant would thrive in a smaller role with better-managed minutes this year, enough that he could even conceivably do one more season as a Kevin Garnett-adjace player-coach. That could still happen, I suppose, but most evidence suggests that this will be our last time watching Bryant against the Raptors. So try to enjoy it. Time might be a flat circle, but it’s also an asshole.

The Raptors opened as six-point favorites and the line has since moved to Raptors -7.5. That speaks to a market confidence in the Raptors snapping their three-game losing skid, avoiding a winless road trip, and taking advantage of the Lakers’ No. 27-ranked defense.

All eyes have been on Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira as the Raptors 905 opened their inaugural season in the last week. The D-League affiliate of the Toronto Raptors exists to help develop young NBA talent first and foremost, but the team can’t build their foundation on those two alone, can’t build their offense around a player learning on the job, and can’t rely too heavily on players who may not be there week in and week out.

That’s where the rest of the roster comes in. The 905 are one of, if not the youngest team in the D-League, light on overall experience and elite college talent. Except for the team’s starting backcourt, which stands to be leaned on heavily to set the tone at both ends of the floor and carry the youngsters through tougher stretches.

At 26, Scott Suggs is the second-oldest player on the team. Without a minute of regular season NBA playing time, he’s also the one who brings the most experience. Shannon Scott is among the youthful at 22 but brings with him four years of experience in a large role for a major NCAA program, Ohio State. It’s telling that four different teams took a look at Suggs over the last three summer leagues and that the San Antonio Spurs, of all teams, picked Scott up for their Vegas roster.

Where most of the players on the roster have to focus on turning great physical gifts into actual production through additional playing time, Suggs and Scott are ready to compete at a high level now, and their doing so will be paramount to the 905’s success.

The Raptors made Suggs their first acquisition by snagging him in the expansion draft, and he’s the lone player from that process on the roster. Undrafted as a five-year senior out of Washington in 2013, Suggs lit up the D-League in 2013-14, averaging 18.5 points and knocking down 40.3 percent of his threes. A season in France helped further hone those offensive talents, and Suggs returned stateside looking to prove he’s now ready to make the next jump.

“I’m here to try to take another shot at the NBA, man,” Suggs told D-League Digest in September.

Getting on the radar of NBA teams is a difficult task, and it’s one of the primary benefits of the D-League at the player level. While it means forgoing more lucrative international opportunities, playing in the D-League puts a player within the sight line of NBA organizations on a nightly basis.

Suggs will act as the Raptors’ primary scorer, with Scott, who the Raptors brought in to NBA training camp with the goal of making him an affiliate player in the D-League, conceding a good deal of the ball-handling duties. Through three games, Suggs is averaging a team-high 19.3 points despite a cold stretch of outside shooting, and it’s that ability to fill it up quickly while playing adequate defense that could get him noticed, so long as he doesn’t try to do too much.

“The first message I try to tell them if they’re anywhere close to being considered by the NBA people is that the NBA is not looking for the next Kobe or the next James Harden in the D-League,” Maine head coach Scott Morrison said Thursday. “They’re looking for guys that can fill the end of the bench, play a small role, be good energy guys, be good team guys, maybe hit an open shot and space the floor, play some defense, little things like that.”

The nice thing for Suggs is that he has a complementary backcourt partner in Scott. Where Suggs is more ball dominant on offense, Scott is a facilitator first and a savvy cutter off the ball. Scott can’t help space the floor on Suggs dribble attacks, a minor concern for the team’s floor balance with the starting unit, but Suggs draws a ton of attention in the corners when Scott is operating the pick-and-roll.

So far, Scott has taken a secondary scoring role, as expected, averaging 4.3 points on 22.7-percent shooting. That field-goal percentage will regress, and Scott is averaging 7.7 rebounds and six assists to help make up for the early frigidity from the floor.

As a team, the offense is still a work in progress. Turnovers have been a major problem, an issue that was exceedingly evident in a home opener loss Thursday – the 905 are turning the ball over on 19.3 percent of their offensive possessions – and the offense as a whole is the second-worst in the league through three games. That’s not unexpected, and the starting backcourt combined for only four of the team’s 20 turnovers in 63 minutes Thursday.

“We’ve got a pretty young team, though, so this early part of the season will still be a learning process for us,” Suggs wrote in his first diary entry for D-League Digest last week.

Scott can also take on a larger load at the defensive end, not dissimilar to when Cory Joseph and Kyle Lowry share the backcourt with the parent club. At 6-foot-6, Suggs has the length to be disruptive in passing lanes and keep wings in front of him, but Scott is the team’s best perimeter defender. A strong 6-foot-1 who can cross-match with bigger guards despite his height, Scott twice made Big 10 All-Defense teams.

Head coach Jesse Murmuys showed a strong vote of confidence in the pairing by keeping them together Thursday, even with Axel Toupane finally available. With Toupane and Caboclo both starting and cross-matching on defense, the 905 are essentially playing a two-guard, two-forward lineup without a real concern for traditional positions. That fits the identity general manager Dan Tolzman and Murmuys laid out when building the team, and it’s little surprise they saw Scott and Suggs (and second-round pick Jay Harris, the team’s backup point guard) as fits.

The hope is not only that Suggs and Scott continue to develop a two-way chemistry to help lift the entire team’s overall level of play, but also to improve their own long-term outlooks.

“It’s hard because so much in professional basketball is gauged on wins and losses, and it’s just not that way here,” Murmuys said Thursday. “That’s not the goal and so really if we start getting guys called up, then we’re having success. And if we start losing players to other teams…then it’s a success.”

For now, Mermuys will lean on his perimeter defensive stopper in Scott, his offensive leader in Suggs, and the way they complement each other at both ends as a means of stabilizing the team through the learning process. Strange though it sounds, with any luck Mermuys will lose one or both later in the year.

The marquee free agent acquisition of the Toronto Raptors was in for a big life change. After spending two seasons in Atlanta, Toronto figured to be a change. At the same time, Carroll’s two years in The ATL were preceded by short stops in Utah, Denver, Houston, Memphis, and Dakota. The idea of having a home for four years is surely comforting.

The latest episode of the Raptors’ highly regarded web series Open Gym takes a closer look at Carroll’s adjustment to his new city, including a trip to take his adorable daughter to school. It also follows the team through their season opener and talks to Cory Joseph about being the hometown kid for the Raptors.

Earlier episodes are available on the Raptors’ YouTube page.

Two years ago, there was some debate over who was the best player on the Toronto Raptors: Kyle Lowry or DeMar DeRozan. The scales usually tipped in favour of Lowry, but DeRozan’s youth, membership in the Team USA fraternity and All-Star bona fides at least made the case compelling.

Not anymore. Kyle Lowry has broken away from the 1a and 1b deadlock and cemented himself as the clear number 1, pushing DeRozan to number 2 and creating all sorts of issues for the Raptors today and going forward.

As of Friday morning, the Raptors sport a plus-7.0 point differential when Lowry is on the floor and minus-6.3 differential when he leaves it (versus DeRozan’s plus-4.1 and plus-1.5). Lowry is leading the team with a 23.3 PER and has a True Shooting Percentage of 57.4%. DeRozan’s numbers are a respectable 20.0 PER and 52.8 TS%, but both are very much a notch below Lowry’s output.

Then there is the fact that Lowry is a better playmaker, a better three-point shooter, and that he takes most of his shots at the rim or from behind the arc while DeRozan still likes to live in the mid-range (47% of DeRozan’s shots come between 10ft. and the three-point line versus 17% for Lowry). Then there are those weird eye-test things, like the feeling that Lowry is more effective in those ‘the team really needs a basket right now’ scenarios. Lowry thrives in those situations, whereas DeRozan just gets visibly frustrated when he or the team hasn’t scored in a while.

In seven months, though, the Raptors are going to sign DeRozan to a MASSIVE new contract. It’s as close to a certainty as I think there has ever been in Raptors’ free agency. He loves Toronto, Masai Ujiri was pimping DeRozan as a cornerstone in all his free agent pitches this summer, and the Raptors aren’t really in a position to just let him walk since they have no one in the pipeline to replace him. Plus, DeRozan is a very popular guy with players around the league, and cutting him loose – after all he’s done to attach himself to Toronto – would look very bad on a franchise still looking for a toe-hold in free agency respectability.

That means a) that the Raptors aren’t going to trade DeRozan, and b) that they aren’t going to sideline him or lessen his role. Given the financial commitment that is in the pipeline, the team has to begin crafting the narrative that he’s a player that they can’t afford t let go in order to help fans (and MLSE) swallow the cap hit DeRozan’s salary is going make.

They are also not going to suddenly push Jonas Valanciunas ahead of him in the pecking order, no matter how efficiently he scores (aside: let’s remember that part of what makes Valanciunas so efficient is that the team tries to only give him the ball when he’s earned deep post position because there is a very narrow window in which he can score effectively. Part of what keeps him looking good is the team’s diligence in not giving him a longer leash on offence). DeRozan may be worse than Lowry, and some may feel he’s in danger of being surpassed by Valanciunas, but his role and position on these Raptors is basically ensured, and that is going to start causing more and more problems for this club going forward.

First of all, DeRozan is a high-usage player. Higher than anyone on the roster. For someone with such a shaky offensive approach that generally means that he’s preventing the team from utilizing a more efficient option several times per game. Besides his lack of three-point shooting talent, he also rarely looks to go to the rim, with only 18% of his shot attempts coming within 3ft. of the basket, which is good for 10th on the team and 7th amongst rotation players. DeRozan is a really nice finisher around the rim, but he doesn’t have the handles or the first step needed to routinely attack the basket off of the dribble. Often when he tries the defence looks to swarm him, and they usually have the time to because he’s not that quick with the ball in his hands.

Which speaks to another issue: passing. His uptick in assists this season (a solid 4.5 per game) should not be taken as a sign that he is a quicker or more decisive passer. DeRozan is still a heartbreaking ball-stopper. When he gets a touch the offence is almost guaranteed to grind to a halt while he hunts for a mid-range shot (or hunts for a foul, which can be a blessing and a curse depending on how the refs are calling the game). What DeRozan has gotten much better at is passing out of trouble as a last resort, finding the open man when he’s been penned-in, and that’s why his assists have catapulted to a career-high per game. However, those passes are emergency finds, they aren’t passes that are keeping the ball hopping or the defence shifting. They are coming when he’s been bottled up and he needs an outlet. While it’s better that he can make that pass than the alternative, what would really help his team is if his passes would come more in the flow, but that’s now how DeRozan is wired. DeRozan is not a selfish player, he just doesn’t see the game that way.

DeRozan doesn’t see the game like the great facilitating shooting guards. He’s not James Harden. He’s not Andre Iguodala. He’s not Manu Ginobili. When he gets the ball he believes that the best thing he can do is probe for a shot. He’s a good offensive player, but he’s not good enough to abort ball-movement to go one-on-one so often. Going back to that team-leading usage, that means that he’s got the ball in his hands a lot and he doesn’t have the playmaking skills to capitalize on the defensive attention that he creates. Going back to the fact that this team is going to go all-in on him regardless, it’s hard to see how the club is going to make all of this work.

Keep in mind, Lowry and Valanciunas are also guys that need a lot of time to isolate to play the way that they want to play. The difference is that both guys get shots from more efficient spots on the floor, and neither one handcuffs the offence in quite the same way as DeRozan. Nonetheless, having three guys that need that kind of time with the ball is non-ideal, especially for a team prone to offensive droughts at the start and end of games. If you’re not going to let DeRozan play his game, though, which basically boils down to hunting for fouls on jump shots at the expense of ball movement, what are you really going to do with him? He’s not going to start hitting threes and he doesn’t have the feel to be a playmaker for others, so what else could one expect him to do? The Raptors appear committed to keeping him around, so they’re going to have to find something out.

I know that there is a chorus that says that none of that non-basketball stuff matters and that the Raptors cannot sign DeRozan to a max deal next summer, but the non-basketball stuff matters a great deal, and will dictate his signing as much as anything. He may be the team’s first drafted-and-groomed All-Star that wants to stay in Toronto beyond his second contract. That’s unprecedented. He’s also a massive advocate for the city, both within Toronto and outside of it, which has done a tremendous service to the perception of the organization in NBA circles. Severing ties with him would have ripple effects. Free agents are becoming more attuned to the ‘quality’ and ‘culture’ of organizations. One’s where the drama is low and the loyalty is high. Stuff like that helps lure Greg Monroe to Milwaukee and LaMarcus Aldridge to San Antonio. DeRozan doesn’t help on the court as much as his role would imply that he does, but he helps tremendously off of the court, and so the team has to make peace with his foibles and learn to work around them better given the position DeRoan has put them in.

Of course you could make an argument that any team that has DeRozan in so prominent a place in the pecking order (and eating a large part of one’s salary cap) will never be a threat to go deep in the Playoffs, and I wouldn’t be inclined to try and talk you out of that stance. DeRozan is an easy player to game plan for, especially when you have the time that the Playoffs afford you, but not even that fact is likely to dissuade the organization about his future within it DeRozan has the Raptors penned into a very uncomfortable place, a place where they can’t afford to lose him but, in all ways save financially, can’t really afford to keep him, either.

The one hope is that Ujiri is not done with this roster. He began tuning it to Dwane Casey’s needs and looking at its current makeup you must conclude that he’s not done with it this season. The gaping hole at power forward, the lack of offensive weapons off of the bench and the dearth of three-point threats have already begun to hamstring Casey’s rotation. Perhaps Ujiri can find assets via trade that will help mitigate the problems that DeRozan introduces to the game, rounding out the roster and making all the pieces fit together more effectively.

Or, rather, Ujiri must find assets that help mitigate those problems because those problems aren’t going away otherwise. And if he’s months away from making DeRozan the highest paid player in Raptors history, he’s going to want to find those assets sooner rather than later.

Things to look for in tonight’s matchup @ Lakers:

The Kobe Byrant effect. DeMar DeRozan grew up in LA, idolizing Kobe Bryant. It’s sure looked that way lately. DeMar is putting up points, getting to the line and averaging what would be a career high (4.5) in assists. That’s great, but man, he’s sure eating up a lot of bad possessions on his way there. He’s shooting 16% from 3 right now, 29% on long 2s and 40% from midrange. I’ll save you the trouble of emailing Daryl Morey to ask and just let you know: that is very bad. He’s getting to the line 9 times a game, which is great, but it’s also the only thing separating him from a very bad old man Kobe Bryant impression right now. He’s eating up a gargantuan amount of usage lately, consuming entire shot clocks and turning the ball over more frequently than he ever has before. Scoring is great, but it’s a misleading stat when it hurts the team. Just ask anyone whose ever played with Kobe Bryant.

DeMarre Carroll getting set before his shots. His shot has come and gone lately, and much of that has been forced and/or well defended shots at the end of shot clocks. Carroll looked like a revelation from 3 earlier this season when he was being used as a spot-up shooter, with the ball finding it’s way to him through movement and breaking down the defense through actions. That’s been falling apart lately, and died completely in the 4th quarter at Golden State. The shots Carroll has been largely attempting have been heaves, bailouts and 3s over an opponent in position that have been forced by the hand of the shot clock and the score. Those will always be low percentage shots for players not named Curry, and they are not in Carroll’s wheelhouse. A day off and a bad opponent should hopefully give the Raptors the reset they need to get back to running their stuff.

The ball has gotten very sticky again. The movement and intelligent play that highlighted the season’s start has dissipated again. This is a big problem. Double re-posts and dribble handoffs that lead to DeMar mid range shots or 20 seconds of unproductive dribbling is NOT good offense. Hopefully though…

The Lakers defense can help with that. The Lakers defense has been, and I’m being generous with this word choice, abysmal. The Lakers are coming in with a 107.5 defensive rating, well below average, and that’s been against a below average strength of schedule so far. Between the composition of this team, pairing Kobe-Nick Young-Lou Williams together, benching the #2 overall pick, every shot the Lakers choose and everything that Byron Scott says to the media, almost nothing makes any sense about this Lakers team. But one of the strangest facts so far has been that the Lakers are better defensively when Roy Hibbert sits and when Nick Young plays. This has to be the crowning achievement of Byron Scott’s coaching career, because that should be impossible. Byron Scott has been an absolute inspiration in his resolve over the last five years to show up for work every day, just daring somebody, anybody competent to fire him. And yet, here he still is. If you think that Casey has been disappointing this year, at least he’s not Byron Scott.

Jonas Valanciunas versus another slow, lumbering giant! Jonas has played some of his best personal games against the Pacers teams of Roy Hibbert’s past. You’re not going to need a super hi def slow motion camera to keep up with the movements of these two lumbering ogres. That bodes well for Jonas, who is rarely quicker than his guard. Not having to worry about anything other than a put back from Hibbert frees up Valanciunas to stay conservative when guarding pick and rolls and focus on the shooter when guarding the rim too. I kid, but this is actually a very good match-up for Jonas and an opportunity for him to be a real factor in the game.

The Toronto Raptors to salvage something from this west coast swing with a win. Coming off 3 disappointing loses in a row and heading into matchups at the Clippers and then home for Cleveland, this is an important game to have to avoid what could otherwise be a very dirty looking losing streak. The Lakers are a disorganized mess that any team running a coordinated NBA offense and defense should beat. The chances of Bryant, Williams and Young all getting hot are so low as to effectively cancel each other out. Execute their schemes and there’s no good reason why the Raptors should lose. Hopefully we see a Raptors team return to form, wipe the glue off the ball and get back to running smart stuff on both ends.

Want to watch the world burn? Just turn to Twitter and search for any of the following:

  • “DeRozan Trade”
  • “Raptors Trade”
  • “DeMar Trade”
  • “Lowry Trade”

Just don’t search for “Bruno Trade”…because that would be the darkest timeline and you don’t need people with that type of negativity in your life.

The season starting five game win streak now feels like it’s a world away, and the Raptors currently sit outside of a playoff spot (because that matters in late November?).  If you explore the forums or social media, it truly looks as if the world is ending and the season is over.

The tank talk/debate has returned in force..

The Raptors have already lost to the New York Knicks, a deep shame for me even thought I recognize they are improved.

And watching the Raptors often brings about a certain amount of self-loathing in me.

It almost feels like things are back to the way they’ve always been, and that’s a problem.  The last two years have been a sweet reprieve from a history full of wounds, and the summer was a continuation of that theme.

Toronto got one of the biggest off-season acquisitions in DeMarre Carroll, managed to get a first round pick and Norman (NORM!!!) Powell in exchange for Greivis Vasquez, got an apparent steal in Cory Joseph, bought a D-League team for Bruno and company, and even added a recent Canadian number one overall draft pick.  Sure…it’s Anthony Bennett and not Andrew Wiggins, but…let’s just move on.

Outside of playoff success, it’s been one of the most positive stretches in franchise history, and it’s important to keep these things in mind at the moment.  Despite what my emotions tell me after each loss, the world is not crashing around the Raptors.

Toronto has played just 15.8 percent of the season so far, and even maintaining the current pace would see the Raptors finish with 44 wins on the season, good for the sixth best season in franchise history.  Even the most optimistic of fans were realistically thinking the Raptors could peak at roughly 50-52 games if all broke right for them.

I was in that group.  My preseason prediction was that the Raptors would walk away with the first 50 win season in franchise history, a number that is still within reach if things break right moving forward.

Despite my optimistic prediction of 50 wins though, I’ve always maintained that this is still a building year for the Raptors.  With the right bounces the Raptors could force their name into the conversation of the second tier, and perhaps even threaten for a spot in the Eastern Conference Final, but that is expecting/hoping for a lot from a team that was swept in the first round last season and who turned over a good portion of their roster over the summer.

This isn’t a true contender, but is trying to build towards being on in the years to come.

Yes, the Raptors are likely not as good as they seemed when they won their first five games, but they also aren’t just a .500 team when healthy.  In fact, the Raptors currently have a net rating of +2.8, tenth best across the league.

Toronto also has the third best rebounding percentage (53.1 percent) behind only Oklahoma City and San Antonio, an area that the Raptors struggled greatly in last year.  The defence too is in the top half of the league, after being 23rd last year.  Significant improvements in areas of historical weakness.

Which is exactly what this season is about in my mind: seeing marginal improvements in key areas.  Add to this the fact that Toronto has played more road games than any other team (9), and has barely seen their home court where they currently sport a 3-1 record.  When Toronto has finished the two remaining games on their current road trip, 73.3 percent of their games to date will have been played on the road.  This means that 61.2 percent of their remaining games will be played in the hopefully friendly confines of the Air Canada Centre.

All this is to say that hope is certainly not lost. At least that is what I’m trying to tell myself and why I spend far too much time trying to find stats to help me feel better.

Well. The road was not kind to our beloved team. Are we panicking yet? No, but there are some consistent issues that are giving us all high levels of stress. Nick and Barry are back with episode 4 of Talking Raptors. The guys break down that stress and discuss what is needed to alleviate it.

This episode includes:

Raps vs. Refs.

4th quarter problems…Dwayne Casey problems.

Demar creating posters. (No photoshop needed)

BMO and that damn commercial.

Raptors 905.

OVO Christmas shopping.

The guys also check out whats going on around the league. They take a glance at some social media happenings and they introduce a brand new segment.

All this and much more.

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Toronto Raptors 905 program about more than wins and losses | National Post

The challenge, then, becomes assessing things that are less objective than simple wins and losses. For Raptors 905, the Toronto Raptors’ new Mississauga-based D-League team, that means judging their key players in ways that are not necessarily reflected in the box score. Let the record reflect that Raptors 905 lost their first home game, 109-104 to Maine. And let the record also reflect that every key figure on the roster did some nice things — Bruno Caboclo knocked in some shots, Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira dominated defensively and Sim Bhullar, who is only playing home games as he improves his conditioning, finished three alley-oops in the first half. It was also a fairly fun atmosphere, as the team imported a few Toronto FC fans to chant and sing throughout the game. There were 6,007 fans at the Hershey Centre in total.

Raptors 905 lose in inaugural home game | Toronto Sun

The game itself Thursday had its moments. The home side blew a six-point half-time lead, but battled back in the third and fourth, in part thanks to a scoring run from Vaughan native Nick Wiggins, who scored 10 points in the second half. Raptors 905 boasts four Canadians — Brampton’s Sim Bhullar and Ashton Smith, Wiggins and Victoria’s Keanau Post. Wiggins turned down other options to play for Raptors 905 and said the atmosphere was what he expected. “It says a lot about the growth of Canadian basketball. We’ve really grown as a country. You see the support that we have around us, it’s a beautiful thing,” Wiggins said after the game. “When I first went out there, I got a quick foul, I think I was just too amped and excited to be in the game. Once I settled down I feel like I got comfortable. It feels great playing in Toronto, playing in my home town.”

Raptors 905 launches D-League home season | Toronto Star

Petroff and the rest of the crowd got a good look at what Nogueira can do. The seven-footer showed an all-around game that at the very least would have caught the attention of Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri, who was in the building. Nogueira had 13 points, nine rebounds, nine assists and four blocked shots in 27 minutes. When he was told that the rowdy fans came to see him play, he made the connection quickly. “It’s possible, because they look like soccer fans and basketball fans from here. I never saw this in the NBA,” he said.

Raptors 905 face unique challenges with Caboclo |

Normally the measure of coaching success is pretty straightforward: the more you win, the better you have coached. But in the D-League, and in particular with the 905, winning is — in theory — at best a secondary goal. The primary one is where the league gets its name: develop players to play in the NBA. But that’s where things can get complicated. Take the case of Raptors’ long-term project Bruno Caboclo, the 20-year-old Brazilian taken 20th overall in the 2014 draft. If it’s possible for a D-League team to have a franchise player, Caboclo is it. The Raptors had been kicking around the idea of acquiring their own D-League team for years, but when Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri drafted Caboclo — a player long on potential but woefully short on competitive experience — and had him languish on the Raptors bench last season, getting a team up and running for this season became an urgent priority.

Raptors 905 franchise good for hoops growth | Toronto Sun

“We, at this point right now are part of a growth explosion for the D-league, which is going to solidify this team in this community because the league as a whole is just on a meteoric rise,” said 905 coach Jesse Mermuys before the team’s 109-104 home-opener loss against the Maine Red Claws. Owned by Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, the 905 took over the basketball lease at Mississauga’s Hershey Centre from the now-defunct Power of the National Basketball League of Canada this past June and are the 19th D-league franchise and eighth owned by an NBA organization.

Q&A With Norman Powell | Toronto Raptors

When a draft night trade gave the Toronto Raptors the 46th pick, the team wasn’t expecting Norman Powell to still be on the draft board. The 6-foot-4 senior out of UCLA was the kind of player the team had been hoping to add to the roster. An experienced rookie with the athleticism and ability to affect the game on the defensive end of the floor, Powell doesn’t talk much about wanting to play defence, he just does it. Two weeks after getting selected — later than he’d hoped — Powell put each of the teams who passed up on him on notice when he became the only member of his rookie class to be named to the All-NBA Summer League First Team. Over the summer, head coach Dwane Casey praised Powell’s desire to defend. Veterans Luis Scola and DeMar DeRozan have each spent time speaking with Powell about his performances, and the team’s assistant coaches praise both his potential and focus. After practices, the usual scene is Powell throwing down dunks with a ferocity that brings Russell Westbrook to mind. Not surprisingly, Powell names the fellow UCLA alum as one of his favourite players.

Toronto Raptors: The Scott Brooks Problem | The Runner Sports

Look, Casey is a good coach. I appreciate what he’s done to get this team to this point. He helped change the culture and defensive mindset of the team. He would be a great defensive assistant and I wouldn’t object to him staying on in that role (if he’d accept it). But he isn’t what this team needs going forward. His offensive sets and inbound plays lack imagination. He’s absolutely horrible at evaluating the talent of his own players and adjusting his lineups to best utilize his personnel. And we’ve seen in the last two years how he’s unable to adjust his strategy in a 7-game series to counter the other team’s moves. He’s playing checkers while the rest of these teams are playing chess. Actually, they’re playing basketball, but in a strategic way that he…whatever, you know what I’m getting at here. He’s being outcoached.

Am I allowed to be a Casey-hater? | /r/torontoraptors

I’ve been thinking about this since we said we were bringing him back and I’ve come to my conclusion… He is a terrible head coach. Now I know that is not some new revelation, but if we ever want to get out of the 1st round, better players just isn’t going to cut it, a better coach that has more creativity and makes better big-time decisions is needed as well. I can go into more reasons why I think this if anyone wants, but I honestly want to know what people who love, or even like Casey see in him. Because I can’t find one redeeming quality other than he seems to be a pretty nice guy…

Bad things come in threes – Raptors’ Casey on thin ice? | Raptors Rapture

Two players whom the Raptors were counting on to hold the fort have been disastrous. Patrick Patterson can’t shoot to save his life. I know I should count and report on the number of 3-point misses he’s had recently, but I’m not a lover of pain, so I won’t. Terrence Ross made one basket in his last three games, and now is sidelined with a mysterious thumb injury. [20-second timeout: I’m not implying he’s faking. As Jack Armstrong has accurately said on many occasions “You can play if you’re hurt, but you can’t if you’re injured”. A basketball player with troubles in his extremities (i.e., hand in TRoss’ case, foot in DeMarre Carroll’s) has to sit. Those are injuries.]  None of Anthony Bennett, Norman Powell or Bismack Biyombo have been able to make any kind of an offensive contribution. Only the fine play of Cory Joseph has kept the Raptors’ rotation from being a complete embarrassment.

James Johnson Watch Week 4: Let’s try to be professional about it | Raptors HQ

Last week I set the over/under at 63.5 minutes, which was just far too optimistic. Look at me talking about optimism while the Raptors lose three games in a row. I’m starting to think the James Johnson Watch is warping my sense of perception. (I mean, more so than usual.) Regardless, Johnson did play this past week in three games out of four, for a total of just over 36 minutes. So, if you took the under, congrats (you’re a pessimist). But curiously, the Raptors lost all three games in which Johnson made an appearance, and won the lone game in which he sat. I will not draw any causality lines here because I fear reprisals from a) Daniel Hackett, b) the laws which govern nature, and c) I have to admit a very un-pro thing here and mention that I missed two of the games this week so I don’t exactly know what Johnson looked like out there. In my defense, I was tired.

NBA: Top 5 Backcourts Playing Today | Sports Cheat Sheet

After the departure of All-Star forward Chris Bosh five seasons ago, the Toronto Raptors were a free-falling organization without any direction. Things drastically changed in the 2013-14 season with the emergence of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan as the main offensive contributors. Lowry has developed into one of the better all-around point guards in his league, which helped him earn his first All-Star game selection last season. DeRozan has become a dependable scorer, averaging more than 20 points in each of the last two seasons, which includes his only All-Star game appearance. What is most surprising? The duo hasn’t received much national recognition even though they are a major reason for the Raptors’ transformation into a legitimate playoff team. In many ways, both players are underrated at their position. Lowry has averaged over 4.5 rebounds and 6.4 assists in each of the last six seasons while scoring at least 17 points in the last two years. As for DeRozan, he has placed inside the top-15 scorers in the league in each of the last two seasons, which includes placing inside the top five at his position both times. All in all, Toronto boasts only the league’s best and undervalued backcourts in the league; they deserve some much-needed attention.

Book Review: 100 Things Raptors Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die | Raptors HQ

The strength of 100 Things is when it goes a little deeper into the team’s history and early years. With the internet (and sites like Basketball Reference), it’s easy for anyone to look up what Alvin Williams’ career numbers were or the block totals for Yogi Stewart, but to learn about, for example, the power struggle between Allan Slaight, John Bitove and Isiah Thomas? That’s good stuff. Likewise, it was fun to read about some of the obscure players who played for the Raptors over the years, and some of the bizarre asides Mendonca includes. (An example: Tracy Murray recounting a tail of Acie Earl farting everyone off the team bus.) When the book goes beyond numbers, it’s an honest-to-goodness historical document. With the amount of sports history that is easily searchable these days, 100 Things succeeds by collecting some fun, interesting facts from that late 90s era when we were all just slightly less informed.

What do the Raptors need to improve? | /r/torontoraptors

Hey everyone, I don’t want this to turn into a mud slinging contest but a conversation about the necessary strides the team must make to fix their early season flaws. I personally feel that we need to have a bit more of an impact off of the bench. I would love to see Powell gain a bit more experience through playing time and gain the confidence to play to the potential I think he has. For example, his steal and break in the Utah game could have ended in foul shots rather than a block if he had the experience to feel the defender on his back and pump fake but that will only come with time. I also think that our offence needs to start swinging the ball more like we did 2 years ago after the Sacramento trade. It was at that point that it looked like the trust between our players was at its highest due to the chemistry and the ball was really moving. Its early and there is a lot of time for things to improve. What do you guys think?

Raptors stumbles into Lakers: Two sorry foes meet | Raptors Rapture

The Lakers shoot a remarkable 31.4% of their shots from three point land. With streaky shooters such as Nick Young, Kobe Bryant, and D’Angelo Russell, the last thing you need is one of them getting hot from down town. Nick Young especially is a human slingshot, and sometimes there is fire coming out of his hands. Luckily, the Lakers shoot much of their shots contested from three and are hitting only 32.%.

Lakers Vs. Raptors: Kobe’s Back | NBC Southern California

n Friday, Bryant and the Lakers play host to a couple guards that will challenge the Lakers’ young starting backcourt of D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson from the opening tip. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry lead the Raptors by combining for 41.4 points, 10.8 assists and 9.1 rebounds per game, split about evenly with DeRozan averaging an extra point and Lowry averaging a couple extra assists. Luckily for the Lakers, the Raptors do not feature an offensive rebounding terror, and no single Raptor averages 10 or more rebounds per game. Luis Scola, though, has been known to find a few offensive rebounds over the years, so he could have success against the Lakers’ undersized second unit. Thus far, the Lakers have been awful at guarding the defensive glass and average allowing 12.7 offensive rebounds per game–ranks third-worst in the NBA.

The Lakers return home for a date with the Raptors |

Returning to present, offensively the Raptors rank 13th in the NBA, on average scoring 101.6 points per game. Defensively, Toronto ranks eighth in the league, allowing an average of 98.2 points per game. Toronto is also the 10th ranked rebounding team in the league averaging 45.3 rebounds per game. DeMar DeRozen, the former USC Trojan, from Compton recently put Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert on a poster as well as provided an early dunk of the year candidate submission. DeRozen leads the Raptors in scoring, averaging 21.1 points per game. Toronto’s veteran backcourt of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozen on average, post a statistic line that includes 41.1 points, nine rebounds, 11 assists, 3.93 steals while shooting 42-percent from the field. Los Angeles seeks to avenge a 93-84 loss, on March 27th, to the Raptors at the Air Canada Centre and with the win Toronto won the Atlantic Division.

NBA Preview – Toronto Raptors at Los Angeles Lakers – Nov 20, 2015 |

Facing the often off-target Lakers could help Toronto solve its other problem. Los Angeles is last in the league in field-goal shooting at 41.5 percent but had one of its better offensive showings Monday with Bryant sitting out. Los Angeles (2-9) shot a season-best 48.1 percent and had six players score in double figures, but permitted 40 points in the fourth en route to a 120-101 loss.

Toronto Raptors at Los Angeles Lakers: Friday NBA preview | Toronto Star

The 2-9 Lakers have been idle since losing to Phoenix on Monday night and are just 1-3 at home. . . . Ex-Raptor Lou Williams is 5-for-15 from three-point range in his last five games, when he’s averaged about nine field-goal attempts in close to 25 minutes on average. . . . In eight games, Bryant is shooting 23 per cent from three-point range and 34 per cent overall from the field. . . . Big trip for Raptors rookie Norman Powell, honourary captain for his UCLA alma mater at a home game against Pepperdine on Thursday. . . . Kyle Lowry has made 30 straight free throws.

5 Hypothetical Trades the Toronto Raptors Could Make Before the Deadline | RantSports

The Toronto Raptors have been knocked out of the playoffs two years in a row after winning their division. Their underwhelming performance has caused fans and experts to question whether or not the Toronto backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are enough to make a team legitimate contenders in the Eastern Conference. With DeRozan’s impending free agency, Toronto could have a huge shift next year. Here are five trades to consider.

Send me all your Raptors-related links: [email protected]

The first ever home game of Raptors 905 played out much the same as their first exhibition game and their first two regular season games, and probably much like most of their games this season will: They lost, in this case 109-104 to the Maine Red Claws, but it was a lot of fun and there were plenty of positives to draw on.

The 905 played hard, employed an exciting brand of basketball, and were ultimately found wanting in terms of overall talent, cohesion, and readiness. This is an expansion franchise born into existence on somewhat short notice. Their roster is patched together from the expansion draft, the actual draft (their first-round pick has already been cut), Raptors affiliate players, training camp invites who impressed at open tryouts, and, of course, Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira on assignment from the Toronto Raptors. Training camp was less than two weeks long and included a lone exhibition game against a D-League opponent, and it operated without the ability to integrate Ronald Roberts and the two assignees.

If any team were built to struggle, it’s this young, raw, unacquainted Raptors 905 squad.

That was on display Thursday, but some poor late-game execution and a lack of ball control couldn’t detract from what was a really entertaining night. The Hershey Centre was a little slow to fill but by the time Caboclo was announced with the starters, it was clear that the crowd was ready to welcome the 905 to Mississauga properly. With an announced attendance of 6,007, the Hershey Centre quickly acquired an intimate intensity, the acoustics of the smaller facility helping the 905 (and 416, as a dueling chant in the crowd would remind) faithful impact the game like a much bigger crowd. The smile on Caboclo’s face was infectious, Nogueira’s personal cheering section (fans he met at a Toronto FC game who wanted to show him love) set the tone, and a frenetic fourth quarter left the impression that 905 games are going to be well worth the trip to Hurontario and the 401.

That crowd helped lift the 905 early, as the home side opened up an 18-9 lead a little over six minutes in. Caboclo hit a corner three, Nogueira showed of his value as a help defender at the rim, and Scott Suggs worked quickly to back me up that he may become everyone’s favorite 905er by year’s end. If that’s not Axel Toupane, who made his season debut and grabbed six first-quarter rebounds en route to a 17-10-4 line.

The Red Claws closed the lead to four by the end of the first quarter, and after the 905’s bench unit held serve in the second, they took a six-point lead into half-time. Half-time included dog races, and if they promise to have puppy-related half-time shows every game, I’ll commit to going to all of them right now. Sim Bhullar saw most of his action in the first half, scoring eight points and blocking a pair of shots in 9:30 (he’d finish with those same totals and three rebounds in 14:12), and he kept the crowd hot with some alley-oop finishes. He’s not the most mobile, but his immense size makes him a deterrent against drives and a laughably easy target as a dive man in the pick-and-roll.

It wasn’t just Bhullar the 905 found easily – the team had 15 first-half assists on 22 field goals and 25 on 40 for the game, with Nogueira providing nine of them in a near-triple-double performance (13 points, nine rebounds, nine assists, and four blocks). Nogueira was probably the biggest story at the individual level, reinforcing the encouraging progress he showed at summer league. He’s a great passer as far as big men go, especially on a high-low feed, and he can step out almost as far as the 3-point line. Those things make him a dangerous screener, because he can pop, dive, or facilitate a give-and-go, something the team used several times Thursday. He wasn’t at his best defensively despite his length making him a natural weak-side rim-protector, as his pick-and-roll coverages were a bit sloppy and his switches a little hesitant. Still, this was a statement performance from a player who openly doesn’t want to be in the D-League but is embracing his role there nonetheless.

“I don’t have to prove anything for anybody,” Nogueira said after the game. “Of course it’s a great opportunity to show scouts, GMs, the coach that I can play, pass, rebound, whatever. But it’s not enough if the team doesn’t have the win. The reason I’m here is to help Coach Jess, to have success in the D-League, and have a chance in the NBA, and help my teammates have a better contract in the future. I’m not here to be selfish and try to triple-double, double-double if we don’t win the game. Because when we win, everybody has a chance to have a better future.”

The balance between individual performance, player development, and winning games is going to be a common theme with the 905, and really, any D-League team. Murmuys would prefer to win than to lose, but he also has to be willing to let young players take their lumps and play through their mistakes. Nogueira wants to lift his teammates, and there was a great sequence in the second quarter where Caboclo was bullied on the block and Nogueira came over to erase the resultant field-goal attempt that stands not only as a nice opening clip for their eventual buddy cop movie but also as an explanation of where the two Raptors are at on their development curves.

Caboclo is going to be the focus of most fans most nights and Murmuys is going to give him the latitude to learn. To a person, everyone in the organization keeps talking about the need for Caboclo to get regular minutes, and the nice thing about the D-League is that Murmuys doesn’t have to look over his shoulder if the team’s record is poor so long as Caboclo and others are improving, and the system and the culture are strong. Some cold shooting made for a tough night for Caboclo, much as the crowd tried to will him to a better performance. He finished 4-of-12 from the floor and 1-of-7 from outside, scoring nine points with four rebounds and a pair of turnovers in 35 minutes.

He particularly struggled in the third quarter as the 905 watched a six-point lead turn into a seven-point deficit. The offense got sticky, the team couldn’t buy a three, and the primary issue the team has had in earlier games reared it’s head again: Turnovers. The 905 finished the game with 20 miscues that led to 26 Red Claws points (six and seven, respectively, came in the third), with some combination of inexperience, over-excitement, and comfort level conspiring to make this team incredibly turnover-prone so far. It’s a weakness that was entirely expected entering the year, but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating in the moment.

“The guys fought to get us back and give us a chance and get us a win,” Mermuys said. “Turnovers has been a problem for us throughout the preseason, this whole time, and it got us again. We gave up 26 points off turns. The fact that we were in that game and had a chance is amazing and that’s a credit to our guys.”

And fight back they did. Taking a cue from their parent club, the 905 refused to give up, rallied on by a crowd that wouldn’t let them. The fourth-quarter deficit was quickly erased by the 905 forcing turnovers and getting out in transition. That’s the blueprint manager Dan Tolzman and Mermuys laid out for this club, and their comeback leveraged the athleticism and defensive aggression they sought out in building the roster.

Taking another cue from their parent club, the 905 couldn’t execute on offense down the stretch, even getting whistled for a five-second inbounding violation with under a minute to play. A tie with 2:29 to go unraveled, and Boston Celtics assignee Terry Rozier helped settle the Red Claws offense to pull back ahead.

“There’s just no excuse for that,” Mermuys said of the late miscues. “We’re better than that, we have better talent on the floor. I’m fully aware that we’re very young and we’re going to make mistakes, and that’s part of the process. Just obviously a little disappointed to lose this one.”

The disappointment is understandable. A victory, especially of the comeback variety, would have been a perfect wrap on a great home opener, one that had everyone with the team, the Raptors, the D-League, and even the NBA excited. The loss doesn’t change the importance of the evening, though. The 905 are here, and as much as there will be growing pains, Thursday marked the beginning of a very important new chapter for the Raptors organization and basketball in the GTA.


*The Hershey Centre needs a nickname. Kiss Court? That’s bad. Help me out.

*Ronald Roberts told me after the game that his sprained ankle is feeling better and that he expects to play next week some time. He didn’t offer me one of his Reese peanut butter cups, though.

*I’m not sure if Axel Toupane’s visa issues allow him to travel yet. We’ll find out tomorrow, I guess (the 905 play at 7 in Maine).

*Suggs and Toupane are a ton of fun up close.

*I asked Murmuys about the team’s decision to waive first-round pick Mike Anderson. He said that unlike with the NBA draft, you don’t get a ton of information on a player in the D-League draft process (the draft is only a couple of days after the deadline to declare for the player pool). When Anderson got to camp, he was struggling through what had the potential to be a nagging long-term injury. With a 12-man non-NBA roster limit and the heavy turnover the D-League is known for, waiving a player with injury concerns, especially one buried a bit on the wing depth chart, is a reasonable move, even if he was the franchise’s first ever draft pick just weeks ago.

Ran numbers directly from Variables used were all starting centers, playing in at least 4 games, and playing at least 20 minutes. Come and see where he sits in the rankings?

What if there’s no way to explain things like deja vu and acid rain?

The endings of the Toronto Raptors’ last three games have been tough to swallow. They’ve all been losses on the road to west coast teams, generally forgivable scenarios, but they’ve lost by six, five, and four points. Three games where a possession or two could have swung the outcome, where slightly better execution could have been the difference between an 0-3 start to the trip or 1-2, 2-1, or even 3-0. Playing close games in tough situations is valiant. Coughing away those opportunities is not.

Narrow losses provide for plenty of opportunity to nitpick and get lost in what-ifs. The Raptors had a tough call go against them late against the Kings, the team’s decision-making was curious against the Warriors, and their execution late against Utah was found wanting.

There was an unfortunate commonality between the way the Warriors and Jazz games played out late – the Raptors were without a timeout for key offensive possessions. In both cases, the Raptors were forced to burn their final timeout early because of an inability to inbound the ball coming out of a timeout. Two fourth quarters, two double-timeout scenarios, neither of which led to points on the eventual ATO play. A closer look is warranted.

108-103 Warriors, 1:28 to play
Following a Steph Curry bucket (the one he traveled on), the Raptors call a full timeout. Down five but with plenty of time, head coach Dwane Casey doesn’t make a substitution but simply wants to advance the ball and set up a high-quality look. Here’s what happens out of the full timeout:

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The play starts off with DeMar DeRozan running toward the inbounder (DeMarre Carroll) over a Luis Scola screen. DeRozan has a chance to flare to the top for the ball, but he also sees a ton of space in the short corner if he continues to curl.
The inbound is well-guarded, but DeRozan doesn’t look to the short corner. Instead, he continues on whatever path has originally been drawn up. The other three Raptors look to create confusion at the free-throw line, where it’s unclear who is screening for whom and who may pop out.
Because DeRozan didn’t go short-corner, the defense shifts to prevent Carroll from inbounding up top, where Cory Joseph breaks free. It becomes clear why DeRozan continued his slow looping jog, as Scola breaks into the open space DeRozan would have been occupying
Scola winds up open enough to thread a pass to, and with the defense still trying to prevent a pass up top, Carroll had the space. Thinking it too great a risk and with the referee counting down, Carroll calls for the team’s final 20-second timeout.
It’s tough to judge that final image, because the play isn’t just about inbounding the ball. Had DeRozan cut aggressively back up top, there was a ton of space. That would have been a difficult pass for Carroll over an outstretched defender and may have put DeRozan too far away from where the play call dictated he start, but he could have popped up late as an additional option. Really, the pass could have gone to Scola, burning a few seconds as the team reset up top rather than a timeout.

Perhaps more frustrating than the inability to inbound is that after a second timeout, the Raptors inbounded the ball to have DeRozan attack Draymond Green, committing a turnover. That’s a lot of time and two valuable timeouts spent on getting your top scorer the ball on his usual curl that the Warriors seemed to know as coming (Curry shades off of Lowry to fill space until DeRozan’s man recovers over the screen).

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The Raptors would still manage to fight back within one point, and when Curry missed a six-footer with 25 seconds to go, the Raptors had a legitimate chance to win. Unfortunately, they didn’t have a timeout left to set anything up, and a rushed play led to a Lowry offensive foul.

91-87 Jazz, 0:23 to play
Following a Derrick Favors dunk, the Raptors call a 20-second timeout. Down four with the need to score on this possession, Casey opts not to make a substitution, leaving Scola in for Jonas Valanciunas as the center with the team’s de facto closing unit. The Jazz bring Rudy Gobert back into the game for Joe Ingles. Have a look at the ATO:

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Once again, DeRozan flares up top quickly. In this case, Carroll easily could have made the pass, but that’s not the play design and DeRozan carries on his way. The other three Raptors set up for a well-disguised screen for Joseph, who originally looks to be setting the first in a staggered double-screen for Lowry.
Instead of Joseph screening, he uses a Lowry screen to pop into the corner. He doesn’t get much separation and opts to cut deep into the corner rather than coming closer for an easier pass. That’s because some Scola-Lowry action appears to be coming and that space might be needed. DeRozan remains at the top of the arc as a safety valve.
The apparent Scola-Lowry stalled action was a decoy, and Scola quickly pops away from Gobert to the top of the arc. Carroll has a great opportunity to find Scola here, and DeRozan would be nearby for a dribble hand-off early in the clock if that’s not the desired inbound outcome. In that event, Lowry and Joseph would be in the corners for a kickout off of a DeRozan drive.
Instead, Scola breaks away from Carroll, readying to set a screen that would allow DeRozan to pop up top again for a pass. The benefit of this action instead of inbounding to DeRozan in the same place earlier is that DeRozan would be receiving the ball on the move, around a screen, possibly switched onto Gobert with shooters in the corners to prevent help.
It’s a pretty good play design, but Gobert sniffs it out and jumps the cut, denying DeRozan the ball. Scola doesn’t have much of an option to play safety valve here – he could break toward Carroll, but he risks getting in DeRozan’s way, and Favors has the inbound angled off well to prevent a pass to the top of the key – and the Raptors have already taken their own point guards out of the play.
timeout uta5
Carroll has to burn the team’s final 20-second timeout from there, and a decent play design (albeit one with really only a single option) is rendered ineffective in large part by the length and awareness of Gobert. Such is life against the Jazz. Using a final timeout with 23 seconds left is far more justifiable than 88 seconds the night prior, but having to kill back-to-back 20-second timeouts because of an inability to inbound isn’t the best use of key late-game assets.

Like with the Warriors situation, additional frustration comes from the fact that the Raptors ran a DeRozan one-on-one out of a second timeout, one that once again resulted in a turnover.

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The Jazz would subsequently extend the lead to five, one the Raptors couldn’t surmount in 18 seconds without the benefit of timeouts to advance the ball.

Three tight games lost at the margins to start a road trip, two of them impacted by an inability to inbound the ball at key junctures. Any guesses as to what the team might work on in practice once they’re back home?

Following the Raptors’ 93-89 loss to the Jazz on Wednesday, RR traded emails with Ben Dowsett of Salt City Hoops, debriefing on a game that made for plenty of tired eyes by the end. It’s a format for additional post-game content I’ve had in my head for a while, and tonight seemed like a decent night to give it a shot. Check out Ben’s game recap here, check out ours here.

Blake Murphy: Well that certainly was a game. A slow, somewhat disjointed game, but an entertaining one nonetheless. From the Raptors side, it looked like it could have been a “schedule loss,” the second night of a road-road back-to-back a night after playing The Champs. Instead, they played better than expected, which kind of serves to make the narrow loss more painful than a blowout one would have been.

Do the Jazz walk away from this one happy? They played mostly well, themselves, but they nearly let one get away against an exhausted, good-not-great team.

Ben Dowsett: The Jazz have never been much of a team to linger on anything under Quin Snyder, but those of us prognosticating (at least, this prognosticator) certainly came away with a feeling that Utah was a bit fortunate to win. The words “schedule loss” absolutely crossed my mind while watching the Raps play in Golden State last night in a game that came down to the wire, but there were long stretches Wednesday where the Raptors looked like the team with more energy.

Saying “the Jazz turned it on when it mattered” is technically kinda true in this case, but that’s not necessarily comforting from their end of the table. That simply won’t always be possible, and multiple lulls like the Jazz experienced in the middle parts of the game will often bite them in too large a way to recover from. They’re still working through various barriers early on in the year, and their inconsistent play looks to be the chief one in need of addressing.

Blake Murphy: It would have been nice for both sides, then, if the Raptors could have capitalized on those lulls to a greater degree and helped the Jazz out by teaching them a lesson. With a loss. The Raptors have lost three tough, close games to start their five-game road trip. It’s a disheartening stretch.

What’s worse, the endgame scenarios have all been fairly similar. Were you surprised to see the Raptors go so DeRozan-heavy in the fourth (he took 10 field-goal attempts and used 12 possessions), particularly since Gobert had gotten the better of that match-up in help scenarios and switches in the mid-range?

Ben Dowsett: I was a little, though at the same time, relying on their strong backcourt has been among their go-to moves in high-leverage situations over the last couple years, right? I do think a bit more involvement for Lowry as well could have been good, though he may have been most exhausted of all Raptors players from the night before. In his case, though, the ability to fill it up from deep would have been huge in the two-man game – it becomes a lot tougher for the Jazz to funnel penetration optimally in Gobert and Favors’ direction when they have to contend with a larger variety of options in the initial set up top.

One pretty consistent positive with this Jazz team is this: They can learn plenty of lessons from a win, and absolutely will tonight. Snyder is the last guy who’ll let his group rest on their laurels just because they came out with a W. Some of the most frustrated situations we’ve ever seen him in have come after wins, honestly (not all of them, of course). Process is and will always remain king for his team.

Blake Murphy: Glad you mentioned the impact multiple options up top can have on Favors-Gobert. I was pretty shocked the Raptors stuck with their starting lineup for the final six-plus minutes (less 48 seconds) for that reason – the starters with Cory Joseph in place of Luis Scola have been doing major damage, and the dual ball-handler approach, plus the additional floor balance that comes with it, seemed the best way to attack the Jazz late.

I’d imagine you were also looking to the scorer’s table waiting on the Raptors to add another shooter or ball-handler late?

Man, Snyder seems awesome. He was my preseason pick for Coach of the Year, and he’s a safe bet for Screencap Face of the Year at some point, too.

Ben Dowsett: While in the moment I was a bit more concerned with what the Jazz were doing rotations-wise, I definitely wondered about that upon review. I think Dwayne Casey got a bit too generous with Scola after his monster first half, even though the Jazz changed up their coverage on him in the 2nd and mostly neutralized the ways he’d been killing them. Plus, some of the only issues the Jazz have had defensively this year have been with those exact sort of multi-handler lineups that can move the ball and find a weak crease to attack.

I have to curb myself from going too over-the-top on Snyder, both because I don’t want to sound too much like a homer and more importantly because I know he sees our stuff and I don’t want him to think I’m an obsessive nutcase. That said, though, this is flat-out one of the best overall coaches in the NBA. His player development behind the scenes is legitimately incredible – just over a year isn’t a large enough sample, of course, but if he maintains this rate of success with maximizing the skills of his young guys, he’ll be considered the best in the league in this area within a couple seasons. And he’s still developing as an NBA coach – his rotations will improve, as will his in-game playcalling. Jazz fans already have enough to be excited about with a great young core, but add Snyder in to the mix and they have among the most promising futures of any young team in the league.

Blake Murphy: The player development stands out, for sure, and it’s all the more impressive since the Jazz are competitive while serving that end. I’m still not a big Trey Burke fan, but I love how Rodney Hood’s come along, really enjoy the no-point guard lineups in response to the Dante Exum injury, and, of course, molding the raw material of Rudy Gobert into a topped-rank defense garners the coach a fair amount of credit.

It’s just too bad Gobert was postered into oblivion Wednesday…

Ben Dowsett: That was legitimately one of the best dunks I’ve ever watched in person. The dunks where a guy seems to jump, then crest, then somehow rise into the air again are always the best ones, and DDR added to it by throwing down a vicious tomahawk over the best rim protector in the league. Even Rudy acknowledged the leap with his hashtag on Twitter later: #thatboyusedthecallofdutydoublejump.

True to form, of course, Snyder didn’t even want to hear about Gobert on that dunk – he wanted to hear about the other guys, especially Hayward, who got blown by by DeRozan and left Gobert hanging out to dry. Both coach and players repeated the sentiment – they take those kinds of things personally as a team, and I think you could see their overall level rise after that play. The next time DeRozan had Rudy one on one, for instance, he forced a fallaway that airballed.

All this stuff does is fuel Gobert. He’s notorious for finding negative tweets about himself and favoriting them (he’s done it to me a couple times), nevermind if they come amid 10 other beaming positives about him. The guy is as competitive as they come, and in the end all he actually cared about tonight was that the team won. He was even laughing with Joe Ingles about the dunk in the locker room, he knows he got posterized.

Blake Murphy: So you’re saying DeRozan cost the Raptors the loss by waking the giant up from a brief defensive siesta? Excellent. So the answer to “how to score on Rudy Gobert” is “don’t, because if you do, he’ll get even better.” That doesn’t seem fair.

Any other parting thoughts on tonight’s game or what you saw from the Raptors in general?

Ben Dowsett: Yeah, basically. Remember that vicious Wiggins dunk on Gobert from last year that got replayed about 3,681 times on various national TV stations? What no one seems to remember is that Gobert went right back up with Wiggins under two minutes later in virtually the exact same situation and destroyed him (Wiggins ended up on the ground with Gobert flexing over him as the ball went the other way), then spent the rest of the game terrorizing the Wolves anytime they even got close to the paint. He feeds off it.

Not surprisingly, Lowry didn’t quite look like he had a full tank tonight after how hard he went the night before. That could have easily been the difference, honestly – if he’s full force, he and DeRozan would be a tough combo for a Jazz team that’s struggled with versatile and talented backcourts. Beyond that, only other Raptors-related thought I had was a bit of surprise that Patrick Patterson played only 16 minutes. The Jazz have also had the occasional issue with the “stretch-4” prototype while in their traditional 2-big alignment, so I was a bit surprised Casey didn’t look to Patterson for that sort of thing a little more frequently. I guess when Scola is performing like he was in the first half, you gotta ride the hot hand to some degree.

Blake Murphy: Yeah, Casey rode the Scola hot hand, and I’m not sure he trusts Patterson a ton right now. Save for a two-game bounce-back, he hasn’t shot the ball all that well and he looks hesitant at times (and isn’t adept at attacking closeouts). He rebounded well in small minutes against Golden State but so far this season he’s been boom or bust based on his shooting, and Casey’s not giving him as long to shoot his way through it now.

Thanks so much for doing this, Ben. I really appreciate it. Was nice to confirm what I saw on both sides was being noticed on the other side of the lines, too.

Jazz 93, Raptors 89 | Box Score | Quick Reaction

Here it is again, yet it stings like the first time.

Good news before bad news: The next time the Toronto Raptors see the Utah Jazz, they won’t have to worry about Rudy Gobert. Because DeMar DeRozan ended him in the fourth quarter of Wednesday’s game.

Now for the bad: That was the highlight of DeRozan’s night, the highlight of a tough fourth quarter for the Raptors, and an image that will probably fade for Raptors’ fans in the short-term, because it came late in a 93-89 loss. More bad: If the playoffs started today, the 7-6 Raptors would be outside of the playoff picture in a much improved Eastern Conference. That doesn’t matter this early, and the Raptors have had one of the league’s toughest schedules so far, but it speaks to a potentially smaller margin of error this year than in the last two.

If you’ve been watching the last two nights, you may realize that the Raptors are the Edward John Smith of navigating small margins of error.

It’s tough to know how to feel about Wednesday’s loss. On paper, a narrow loss to a quality Jazz team is less forgivable than the one a night prior to the undefeated defending champion Golden State Warriors. The way the Raptors choked away Wednesday’s game was also more objectionable. At the same time, the Raptors were on the second night of a road back-to-back that saw them play the champs tight to the wire a night before, then immediately travel through a time zone, then tip-off their next game less than 24 hours after the prior tip. Utah could have easily been circled as a “schedule loss,” and strangely, had the Raptors bowed out early and been blown out, most would have understood.

Instead, the Raptors were able to make up for their customary slow start, taking a lead into the half and into the fourth quarter. That put the microscope closer to the team’s play, and what could have been an acceptable loss by a larger margin became an unacceptable loss by a smaller margin. That’s a weird psychological quirk of how games are viewed and evaluated, but it’s where we are.

Like a night earlier in Oakland, there was plenty to second-guess about the Raptors’ play late in the game. These points should ring familiar.

The Raptors had to burn their last timeout too early – For a second night in a row, the Raptors couldn’t successfully inbound the ball, even coming out of a full timeout, and had to use their final break to regroup. In this case, it came with 23 seconds left, thanks to Gobert playing terrific defense to ensure DeRozan couldn’t receive the ball. Exactly like a night earlier, the Raptors opted to run a DeRozan isolation play out of the second timeout. He would dribble the ball off of his knee and out of bounds, allowing the Jazz to extend a two-point lead to four.

DeRozan carried far too big an offensive burden late – The Raptors were running their offense pretty creatively from the second quarter onward, a necessity of the Jazz giving up nothing easy and clearly playing with an edict to avoid their usual predilection to fouling. DeRozan was struggling to get to the line, and early on he opted to become a facilitator. He took five field-goal attempts and dished five dimes through three quarters, and while he was struggling to keep from fouling Rodney Hood (and his DeRozan impression) at the other end, he was at least playing within himself.

He took 10 of the team’s 20 field-goal attempts in the fourth quarter, got to the line on only one occasion, committed a turnover, and recorded just one assist. He used 12 possessions to score his 12 points, which isn’t bad itself, but it makes the Raptors very easy to defend when it’s clear he’s holding for his shot. His makes mostly came on strong takes where he was able to clear space, use a screen, or draw the defender off balance. His late misses came from 20, 15, 17, six, and eight feet, while his makes all came within 10 feet of the rim, and several of those misses were up against the length of a Jazz big.
derozan shot chart
Even with Gobert lurking – and Gobert got the better of him for the game despite the dunk – simply avoiding the paint was not an option. Neither was not looking for teammates at all off the bounce, something he had done so well earlier in the game and has been doing regularly this year.

It’s not all on DeRozan. He’s the team’s primary scoring option and head coach Dwane Casey clearly trusts him, as do his teammates. But for as nice as this offense can look for stretches, and as good a distributor as DeRozan can look, there have been several occasions on which the team devolves into DeRozan isolation-ball late. Avoiding that was supposed to be one of the reasons for the roster turnover that summer. The team should get some leash while they figure their endgame sets out, but it’d be nice to see them trying new things more often. The plays are there, they’re employed earlier in the game, so use them.

Questionable lineup decisions late – On Tuesday, it was an over-reliance on the Luis Scola-Jonas Valanciunas frontcourt duo in a match-up they weren’t well-suited for. This may seem a bit hypocritical a night later, but I actually disliked Casey’s decision to roll with the pairing in a much more suitable match-up late Wednesday.

Casey said after the game he stayed big, using the starting lineup for the bulk of the final seven minutes, because the Raptors “had to match their size.” The Jazz were playing Derrick Favors and Gobert, the former a really difficult check and the latter a dive-man dynamo. And Scola was awesome on offense – “I just make shots,” he said at halftime – shooting 10-of-15 for 22 points in 30 minutes.

But Valanciunas wasn’t at his best, and the Scola-Valanciunas pairing was struggling some when it came to pick-and-rolls involving Gobert. Valanciunas looked hesitant in the space between Gobert and the ball-handler, and Scola was occasionally late to help off of Favors and bump Gobert. A few first-half possessions seemed to haunt the pair into hesitation later, and it resulted in some easy looks for Favors. And, like Tuesday, the offensive edge of having both bigs out there was negated some by not giving them many touches and by their own poor rebounding performance.

Instead of going to their closing lineup – the starters with Cory Joseph in place of Scola – late, they played Joseph with Lowry a lot in the third and then staggered their minutes for all but 48 seconds of the fourth. The team’s best lineup saw less than a minute of total action, even though the Joseph-Lowry pairing outscored the Jazz by four points in their 11 minutes. The Jazz don’t have the personnel to match up at the one and two like that, and they seem to strongly prefer playing two bigs rather than making Gordon Hayward a small four.

You don’t “have” to match up with what another team is doing. You can use your own advantage and make them adjust to you. The Jazz outscored the Raptors 19-10 in the game’s final 6:20 (when Lowry came in for Joseph), and the Raptors weren’t getting the desired effect of their bigger lineup at either end. Against Gobert, better floor balance and spacing is probably more valuable than having an extra big to work the elbows or go inside.

It’s disappointing that the Raptors bowed to an opponent’s wishes in that regard.

The bench provided next to nothing – The Raptors have a day off before taking on the Lakers on Friday night. They could surely use a rest, having tasked their starters with an obscene workload over the course of 26 hours or so. Scola played 58 minutes in the back-to-back, Valanciunas 64, and Carroll, DeRozan, and Lowry 74, 74, and 76, respectively. The Raptors bench gave them next to nothing outside of a few solid James Johnson minutes and the usual two-way goodness from Cory Joseph. That’s a problem on a five-road-games-in-eight-days stretch.

So, yeah…
This one’s disappointing. The Raptors were right there for a second night in a row and really have only themselves, and maybe fatigue, to blame. That’s a tough reality, since the Raptors would have been justified in rolling over and resting up given the circumstances. DeRozan forced it way too much, Casey may have used sub-optimal lineups late, Lowry didn’t have his best game, the team was ice cold from outside – there’s a lot here that can be chalked up to a bad night or tired legs, but it hurts in a game where one or two corrected mistakes could have meant a victory.

They were a couple of possessions from defeating a pair of Western Conference playoff teams, the class of the league at one end of the floor each, and they came away 0-2 instead, falling to 0-3 on the road trip.

Rest up, Raptors. Friday’s game took on a lot more importance.

Is the Raptors’ pace of play an issue? |

As the team struggles to find its footing early in games—the Raptors own the league’s worst first-quarter offence—increased pace has come up as a potential panacea. “I think we felt that we were not playing the style of basketball that we knew we could play at both ends,” an unhappy DeMar DeRozan said after Friday’s victory over the New Orleans Pelicans. “We had to pick it up and get some stops, try and get out in transition and change the tempo of the game to our pace.” What “their pace” is, however, remains an enormous question mark. The Raptors ranked 19th in the NBA in pace through games played Monday, averaging 97.99 possessions per 48 minutes. That’s not inflated by opponents, as their competition has averaged almost exactly a league-average pace. Individual teams don’t show a strong ability to impact a single game’s pace, but—Tuesday’s game against the defending champions excepted—the Raptors have done well to slow things down a modest degree.

Raptors fall apart in the fourth quarter against Jazz | Toronto Sun

With only Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan around from the group that closed out games a year ago it was suggested that this is merely a product of a lack of familiarity and something that can be fixed over time. Casey grudgingly gave the suggestion a little merit. “It’s some of that but it’s no excuse,” he said. “A lot of it is guys in new positions, especially end-of-game execution and some of the plays there. But it’s no excuse. We’re professionals, we ought to understand what our jobs are in certain situations and we’ve got to know to do that.” DeMarre Carroll is one of those new guys coming in and learning both the way the Raptors attempt to close out games and the people they do it with. He is confident the problems they are having now are fixable. “At times I do think we get stagnant on offence,” Carroll said. “Instead of playing the way that got us the lead we get stagnant a little bit. We have to understand that when we do have a lead we got to step on their throats. We can’t just sit back and let them come and attack us, but I think we can fix it.”

Raptors fade again in loss to Jazz | Toronto Star

In what’s becoming a disturbing trend, the Raptors got off to a sluggish start, surrendering a 14-0 first-quarter run to the Jazz. Part of it could have been pure fatigue after arriving here from California at about 2:45 a.m. local time, and getting used to the altitude, but it’s been a troubling occurrence most of the season. “Believe me, I have every number there is known to man about the woes in the first quarter,” said Raptors coach Dwane Casey. “We’re aware of it, we talk about it, we’re trying to correct it, and it’s still our Achilles’ heel right now.” But because it’s so early in the season — and because the same starters have done a good job in the third quarter most nights — Casey isn’t considering any significant changes. “All we can do is address it,” the coach said. “If we don’t get a better start, the only alternative is to change the starting lineup. I don’t know if we’re at that point yet.”

Game Rap: Raptors 89, Jazz 93 | Toronto Raptors

After giving up a 10-point fourth quarter lead against the Sacramento Kings, the Raptors put up a valiant effort against the defending champion Golden State Warriors before battling the Utah Jazz until the final seconds. It’s difficult to go west and win on the road. Giving away fourth-quarter leads makes those losses sting even more.

Raptors offense falters late (again) in 93-89 loss to Jazz | Raptors HQ

As he did the previous two games, Kyle Lowry kept the team afloat tonight with a solid third quarter. Once again, though, clock mismanagement and bad decisions returned in the fourth as DeMar DeRozan isolated the hell out of the ball down the stretch. After two points on 1-of-5 shooting in the first three quarters, he was 5-of-10 in the fourth. It wasn’t bad, but it stagnated everyone else, leaving the team in a position not unlike those Los Angeles Lakers teams of the mid-aughts — four players leeching off Kobe Bryant, standing around and hoping for the occasional pass.

Toronto Raptors choke again, drop 3rd straight to Utah Jazz | Raptors Cage

The Raptors slow start continued in Utah as they struggled to simply make their shots. They were getting good looks, but with their tired legs – weren’t able to knock them down. Dwane Casey tried going to his bench unit for a spark but the struggles continue for Patrick Patterson who’s still out there searching for his jump-shot. The Raps were most effective tonight utilizing the drive and kick to find the open man but as mentioned weren’t able to get shots to drop. The Raps offence on the stat sheet was led by Scola and Lowry, but when it came to the fourth quarter it was all DeMar. When the Jazz took the lead, the Raptors seemed to forget everything that allowed them to be in the position they’re in by abandoning team basketball and reverting to iso-ball. The Raptors finished shooting just 42% from the field. Can’t blame Casey for this one. Terrible, terrible shot selection did them in.

Utah Jazz 93 Toronto Raptors 89 Game Recap: Woah, Canada! | SLC Dunk

Yes, the Raptors were staying alive early because of Luis Scola. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry weren’t killing the Jazz, it was Luis. It was close at halftime, only three points down, but the Raptors did a marvelous job closing the first half. At one point down 10, they turned on the jets like a playoff team is supposed to and held significant control during long stretches. Things didn’t look good in the third either, as the Jazz offense stalled. Alec Burks was having a poor first half. Joe Ingles *kinda* had a stealth benching. And Lowry and DeRozan started getting to the line. If Utah was going to win tonight they would have to do it after being down after three quarters. So far this season that ‘comeback’ victory had eluded the Jazz. But it was the offense that won out. How do I mean? Well, the team did score 34 points in the fourth quarter. That’s not nothing. Yes, DeRozan had a poster jam on Rudy Gobert — but this team was really locked in during the fourth quarter. Gordon Hayward started to make some shots. Alec Burks started to make some shots. They both remembered that Derrick Favors was on the team, and got him the ball and he produced.

Utah Jazz: Former Utes guard Delon Wright remains on bench during Raptors’ 93-89 loss in Utah | The Salt Lake Tribune

The Raptors really like him. Casey said he loves Wright’s versatility, his defense, his ability to run the offense and his maturity — all attributes that made him a star at Utah. But Casey’s depth chart has room for only two playmakers, and it’s a numbers game for Wright. “He just needs experience,” Casey said. “He needs to keep living. Right now, he’s playing behind an all-star point guard, but he has all that you need to be an excellent NBA player. He’s got great instincts, he’s got size and he has the defensive ability. He’s just got to stay ready.” Most teams send rookies who aren’t commanding playing time down to the D-League to get them repetition and experience. But the Raptors are keeping Wright because they feel he will develop faster with the big club. They also need to keep a third point guard, in case Lowry or Joseph should suffer injury.

The Roundup—Jazz 93, Raptors 89 | Utah Jazz

After going ice cold in the third quarter, the Jazz caught fire from the field in the fourth. Hayward converted a three-point play and drilled two 3-pointers. Burke hit a three. Burks made three straight shots after going 0-for-6 from the field to start the game. Hood hit two free throws and then sank a runner in the lane. The result was an 82-79 Jazz lead with 4:54 left in the game (their first lead since late in the second quarter).

NBA: Kyle Lowry actually offensively fouled Andre Iguodala twice | ProBasketballTalk

With the shot clock and game clock practically synced, Toronto attempted to score while trailing by one. Kyle Lowry screened Andre Iguodala, and officials called Lowry for a debatable offensive foul. That was the right call, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report. In fact, the league ruled Lowry should have first been called for fouling Iguodala a few seconds earlier.

Raptors’ Terrence Ross Key in Dynamic Duo of Future? | Raptors Rapture

I am still a strong believer in looking to our guards  as our future. When looking at starting shooting guards in the league you think of Klay Thompson, James Harden, Dwyane Wade and after that there is a significant talent drop. Ross and DeRozan as individuals may not be in the same tier as the mentioned but together they are possibly the most dynamic duo on the wings when it comes to pure athleticism and above the rim scoring. Together or even separately, the Raptors tandem will be able to keep most defenses alert when it comes to defending the lanes. Despite some of Terrence Ross’ shortcomings and lack thereof development, he complements DeRozan perfectly. While DeMar can get to the rim and draw fouls almost on a whim, Ross provides the outside touch and defensive chops that his wing mate does not. Dynamic? Unquestionable. Duo? Separated by lineups but represent the same.  Only time will tell if Ross can live up to his massive extension. For right now all Raptors fans can hope for is a successful recovery, continued development and perhaps another 51 point game.

Toronto Raptors’ 905ers battle to get back to the 416 | Toronto Star

He’s averaging 9.5 points, nine rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 24 minutes per night, minutes that weren’t available to him with the Raptors, who are in the middle of a five-game West-coast road swing this week. Nogueira’s point, referencing the previous day’s interview, is to say that he’s not happy to be here, not happy that he’s missing the Raptors trip. He means it in the best possible way. “Honestly, it feels strange. I feel strange, I’m not going to lie to you,” he said. “I like to tell the truth and say whatever I want and I feel strange because I played as a pro for a long time (his pro career started in Spain in 2009, his NBA journey started in 2013) and now I’m going to use the D-League to work on (my game). I’m going to try to do the best I can and see if I have a chance to play on the first team again.” These aren’t the words of a malcontent, or of a player on an NBA contract playing in a league that’s beneath him. As honest as Nogueira is, he’s doing the right things.

All your Raptor-links are belong to me (or if you just want to say hi): [email protected]

Toronto Raptors 89 Final
Recap | Box Score
93 Utah Jazz
Luis Scola, PF 30 MIN | 10-15 FG | 2-2 3FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | PTS | 22 +/-

Had a really strong offensive night. Was quiet on the boards by his standards. Mostly helped well when Valanciunas needs to leave Gobert, but his man-defense on Favors was a little lacking.

DeMarre Carroll, SF 35 MIN | 2-8 FG | 2-6 3FG | 1-2 FT | 6 REB | 0 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | PTS | 7 +/-

A very quiet night. Wasn’t himself off the ball, it didn’t seem, and coming off of plantar fasciitis, 35 minutes on the second night of a back-to-back probably wore him down.

Jonas Valanciunas, C 33 MIN | 5-10 FG | 0-0 3FG | 1-1 FT | 9 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 2 BLK | 1 TO | PTS | 11 +/-

Probably lost the overall battle against Gobert but acquitted himself better than maybe could have been expected. A few lapses in pick-and-roll defense but it’s tough navigating Gobert lobs in those scenarios.

Kyle Lowry, PG 37 MIN | 6-17 FG | 1-7 3FG | 7-7 FT | 3 REB | 6 AST | 3 STL | 0 BLK | 5 TO | PTS | 20 +/-

Didn’t shoot particularly well, especially from outside, and didn’t look to pass pretty much at all in the second half. He played 76 minutes within 24 hours. Disagree with going to a lone PG late, but that’s not on him.

DeMar DeRozan, SG 35 MIN | 6-15 FG | 0-1 3FG | 2-2 FT | 3 REB | 6 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | PTS | 14 +/-

The full DeRozan experience. He facilitated well for others early but got tunnel vision in the fourth quarter, forcing way too many shots. Two free-throw attempts against the league’s most foul-prone team is just weird. That dunk, though.

James Johnson, PF 15 MIN | 2-2 FG | 0-0 3FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | PTS | 4 +/-

Solid defensive minutes and a few really heady plays on offense. He doesn’t know the team’s playbook, I don’t think, but it’s good that he’s in the rotation.

Patrick Patterson, PF 16 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-3 3FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | PTS | 0 +/-

Back to the ice-cold shooting, Patterson at least crashed the glass well by his standards to make up for it.

Bismack Biyombo, PF 15 MIN | 1-2 FG | 0-0 3FG | 1-2 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | PTS | 3 +/-

Gobert is what some people seem to believe Biyombo is. Tonight he was every Raptors backup center ever. Other than a few shot contests, mostly invisible, and he’s becoming really difficult to work around on offense.

Cory Joseph, PG 22 MIN | 2-5 FG | 0-1 3FG | 4-4 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | PTS | 8 +/-

A solid, if somewhat quiet game for Joseph. Not playing him down the stretch was curious given he and Lowry were playing well together earlier and have generally killed teams together. His defense is terrific.

Norman Powell, SG 3 MIN | 0-3 FG | 0-0 3FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | PTS | 0 +/-

The three missed field goals stand out, of course, but he was his usual aggressive self, including an on-ball steal. Tough to judge in three minutes.

Terrence Ross, SF DNP MIN | FG | 3FG | FT | REB | AST | STL | BLK | TO | PTS | +/-


Delon Wright, PG DNP COACH’S DECISION MIN | FG | 3FG | FT | REB | AST | STL | BLK | TO | PTS | +/-

Sucks he didn’t manage to get some run back in Utah. There was no good time for it. Shrug.

Dwane Casey

Not his best showing. Disagreed with sticking with the starters instead of the closing unit late. Having to burn his final timeout because the team couldn’t inbound, only to run an ISO for DeRozan ATO, is bad. Doing it two nights in a row is awful.

Five Things We Saw

  1. The Raptors went from playing the league’s fastest-paced team to it’s slowest. The slower pace was probably a positive for a tired Raptors team, but that drastic change in styles must be tough to adjust to.
  2. Important reminder: The Raptors were on the second night of a road back-to-back, having played late and tight against the defending champs, then traveling through a time zone and playing again less than 24 hours later. This looked like a schedule loss beforehand.
  3. The late-game play-calling was pretty bad. DeRozan seeing fit to jack contested mid-range twos over Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert without the benefit of having created space was worse.
  4. Casey said after the game the Raptors “had to match their size” because the Jazz stayed big late. Counter: No, you didn’t.
  5. Sigh. Whatever.

This was literally the only highlight on Grandstand tonight. The Raptors have a weak following in Utah, I suppose.

Anyway, Derrick Favors had a key bucket late against Luis Scola, one Scola got whistled for a block on but really could have been granted a charge. It’s close, probably a 50/50 call, and credit Favors for finishing it the and-one. This came with 40 seconds left and extended the Jazz lead to four, one the Raptors wouldn’t close.

Check out the fan-made highlight of the and-1 on Grandstand here.

Favors finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds, shooting 7-of-9 in the process. he quietly had a very, very good game.

Grandstand –  Sports Highlights from Fans in the Stands

On the new sports app, you can share your own Raptors highlights, and watch other fans’ videos straight from the crowd.

Download Grandstand on the App Store or at

DeMar DeRozan may be the early frontrunner for dunk of the year.

After struggling early in the game, DeRozan is trying to take over the fourth quarter. He’s also trying to take over Rudy Gobert’s entire existence.

The Defensive Player of the Year candidate with the 7-foot-9 wingspan and 9-foot-9 standing reach was no match for DeRozan with a full head of steam, and DeRozan absolutely put it on him.

Here’s another angle:

Au revoir.

The Raptors are set to take on the Utah Jazz at 9 p.m. on TSN.

The script is flipped from a night ago against Golden State. Instead of worrying about how to stop the league’s top scorer and the NBA’s No. 1 offense, Tuesday will see the Raptors try to solve the league’s best defender and No. 6 defense. The defensive ranking may undersell the Jazz at that end of the floor, as they were the class of the league after trading Enes Kanter last season, too, thanks in large part to the emergence of Rudy Gobert, an early Defensive Player of the Year candidate.

How good is Gobert on defense? As ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh described it Tuesday, “A layup defended by Gobert, with his 7′ 9″ wingspan, has the same conversion rate as if it were a shot taken 28 feet away.”

All of those mid-range heaves the Raptors take too often and everyone loathes? Expect more of those Tuesday, as the restricted area is essentially a no-fly zone with Gobert on the floor. Just look at this shot chart when Gobert is the primary defender on a shot, courtesy

Rudy Gobert

It’s not bad news just for slashers. Opponents are 4-of-13 from the floor posting Gobert up, so Jonas Valanciunas is in tough, too. And while Gobert has fouled frequently on post-ups, he’s only averaging about three fouls per-36 minutes, so sending him to the bench early is a worthwhile but probably fruitless goal.

As a result of Gobert’s incredible efforts, the Jazz are 13.1 points per-100 possessions better with him on the floor. What’s more, a good chunk of that effect comes on offense, a perceived Gobert weakness, and the Jazz as a team shoot far better with Gobert on the court. So, what’s there to do about him? Hope you get hot from outside. Opponents shoot 39 percent from long-range with Gobert on the court, albeit in fewer attempts, as the Jazz can close out more aggressively knowing he’s behind them. And…

Some good news
Outside of Gobert, the Jazz are by far the league’s most foul-prone team. Their guards will foul and their wings will foul. That plays into the Raptors’ general offensive strategy, as Toronto ranks second in team free-throw rate. If things go well for the Raptors at that end, expect to see a lot of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan at the charity stripe.

There’s not much to report on from the injury front. Terrence Ross and Dante Exum remain sidelined for their respective squads, Bruno Caboclo and Lucas Nogueira are in the D-League, and otherwise both sides are tip-top. Rodney Hood was dealing with foot soreness last week but was able to play 20 minutes Sunday.

The line
The Raptors opened as 4.5-point underdogs, a reasonable margin given how fatigued they may be following Tuesday’s loss and the subsequent travel into another time zone. The market has faith in Toronto, pushing the line to Raptors +3.5 as of this writing. The over-under is at 187, a nod to the defense of the Jazz, the potential lethargy of the Raptors, and what should be a game played at a Chuck Hayes-like pace.

As a reminder, teams on the second night of a road-road back-to-back historically win a little under a third of their games. It stands to reason that teams that just went toe-to-toe with the champs for 48 minutes may do even worse.

Moment of silence for France
Not only will Jazz-Raptors be preceded by the United States and Canadian national anthems, the French national anthem will also be played, followed by a moment of silence to honor the victims of the recent tragedies in Paris. (Dap to Eric Smith for this note.) Gobert is French, one of six international players the Jazz employ.

I went pretty deep with my recap from Tuesday’s loss to the Golden State Warriors and I had a bit of a busy day, so I didn’t have time for a second post-game reaction piece (editing this now, it’s 1,000 words, so I guess I did).

I did, however, promise I’d double back to the awful stretch of play late in the second quarter where head coach Dwane Casey was painfully slow to adjust to the Warriors destroying an over-matched Toronto Raptors frontcourt. From the 5:54 mark of the second to the 1:23 mark, the Warriors outscored the Raptors 21-8, with the Raptors managing just one stop. One stop. A single stop. In 4:31. The Warriors shot 9-of-12, didn’t turn the ball over, and corralled two of their own rebounds. One stop.

Luis Scola and Jonas Valanciunas were sharing the floor during that time, as they did for 18 minutes in total Tuesday. The Raptors were outscored by seven points in those 18 minutes, meaning the team actually outscored the Warriors with that pairing to start the first and third quarters. But the bad stretch was with Festus Ezeli in at center, not Andrew Bogut, and while that’s not a net upgrade overall, it made for too difficult a frontline for Scola and Valanciunas to defend. Neither Raptors big played well in the second, but it’s not entirely on them – this was a bad matchup on paper, it played out as such, and Casey was slow to make a change.

When he finally did, the Warriors had an 18-point lead. Things were out of hand enough that I spent halftime drawing pictures in MS Paint, half expecting to not have to do a proper recap and simply writing “Warriors are good, here are some doodles.” It’s a huge credit to the Raptors that they fought back in the second half, even if the end didn’t play out exactly as a real underdog story would have.

The close final leaves plenty of room for second guessing, including why they stuck with a patently flawed lineup for so long. What’s more, neither big took a shot in that entire stretch of play, and if they’re not out there for offense, what are they out there for?

The starting lineup is getting outscored by one point per-100 possessions (PPC) on the year, and while the Scola-Valanciunas pairing itself has been better (plus-7.7 PPC), it’s a match-up-dependent look if there’s ever been one. The mobility is a concern, enough that most assumed Patrick Patterson would be the team’s starting power forward. When they’re not hammering the glass, one thing this pair does very well, stops may be hard to come by.

Having said all of that, this is not a cause to call for Casey’s removal. Not even close. I’m generally more positive about Casey than most around these parts, but even if I were to change my mind in that regard, over-reacting to flaws most expected entering the year during the season’s opening 12 games would be obtuse. The Raptors are 7-5 against one of the tougher schedules so far, rank seventh in offensive efficiency, and have been a shade better than average on defense. They’re playing well, mostly.

Plus, ESPN’s Kevin Pelton has found that teams that were expected to be .500 or better have not noticed a positive boost from a mid-season coaching change once correcting for likely regression closer to expected performance. As Pelton writes:

In fact, as a group these eight teams won less than expected based on their point differential and preseason lines the remainder of the season. That’s not to say midseason coaching changes can never work. Under P.J. Carlesimo, the 2012-13 Nets played much better in the second half of the season, and the 2005-06 Heat will understandably point to the championship they won after Pat Riley replaced Stan Van Gundy rather than the team’s record. Still, midseason coaching changes are hardly the slam dunk they might appear because teams tend to play up to their preseason expectations.

Considering the coaching candidates available were deemed not worthy of making a change for this offseason, it doesn’t seem likely that general manager Masai Ujiri will pull the plug on Casey any time soon. And he shouldn’t – Casey is fine, the team is playing fairly well, and I’m not a big believer in making a mid-season change behind the bench unless there’s either a clear successor or demonstrable evidence of a coach having lost the players.

To be frank, I think a lot of people jump to yell “FIRE CASEY” way too quickly and too often, overestimating the impact a coach has over results. Coaching is obviously very important and there are clear areas Casey can improve in, but the constant talk of firing a coach of a good team who doesn’t seem close to being fired is growing tiresome.

Other lineup notes
*Out of necessity, Casey experimented with a few lineups without a center on Tuesday, ones I’d like to get a longer look at when match-ups allow. Scola and Patterson are no Draymond Green, but with DeMarre Carroll’s ability to play the four, the Raptors might be able to survive without a traditional center if the match-up is unfavorable for Valanciunas.

Those looks weren’t awesome Tuesday – I have center-less groups down as a net-even in 10 minutes – but they were serviceable. The Raptors have played 30 minutes this season without Valanciunas, Bismack Biyombo, or Bebe Nogueira on the court, and the team has played those minutes to a draw, too. Some of those include two power forwards, but the point remains that center-less looks are worth investigating further.

Getting comfortable with this style could prove useful later in the year and unlock some additional flexibility if Valanciunas were to ever miss time.

*The team’s closing unit continues to be terrific. The starters with Cory Joseph in place of Scola outscored the Warriors by three points over six minutes Tuesday, despite shooting 2-of-9 from the floor. They’re a sharp defensive look, they get to the line like crazy, and they’re one of the only units where the Raptors maintain strong floor balance.

For the season, the Lowry-Joseph-DeRozan-Carroll-Valanciunas group has destroyed opponents by 27.6 points per-100 possessions in 33 minutes. It’s awesome.

*The impact of that group can be narrowed even more tightly to focus on the Lowry-Joseph duo. They’ve found a very quick chemistry at both ends of the floor, with Lowry moving into scorer mode as the two-guard on offense and Joseph capable of handling the bigger guard at the other end.

The Raptors have outscored opponents by 11 PPC in their 154 minutes together, and the Raptors edged Golden State by one over the 19 minutes they shared the floor Tuesday.

This probably isn’t exactly what Toronto Raptors fans were expecting to hear.

Tuesday night’s 115-110 loss to the Golden State Warriors included several controversial calls late. The NBA’s official Last Two Minute Report was released Wednesday afternoon, and the NBA is standing by the call that drew the most ire, a late offensive foul against Kyle Lowry. They’re also saying that another foul should have been called on Lowry, while Steph Curry had a traveling violation go uncalled. Fans seemed certain following the game that the Raptors were on their way to a third “sorry, we messed up” of the young season, but the official report shows an even 1-1 score in referee errors.

Let’s unpack this play-by-play.

2:02 – Cory Joseph is called for a loose ball foul after appearing to cleanly strip the ball from Klay Thompson on an offensive rebounding opportunity. This call was not in the report, as it was just outside the last two minutes. The NBA ruled a similar Joseph foul against DeMarcus Cousins to have been called incorrectly Sunday, making this one even more irritating. It was clean.

1:30 – Steph Curry is not called for a travel, which the NBA is calling an “incorrect non-call,” a walk that gave him some additional space to hit a 10-footer. “[Observable in enhanced video] Curry (GSW) moves his pivot foot,” the report states. Check it out for yourself:

0:18.3 – Kyle Lowry is not called for an offensive foul fighting to screen Andre Iguodala. The NBA has deemed he should have been whistled, calling this an “incorrect non-call” and writing, “Lowry (TOR) grabs Iguodala’s (GSW) right arm and affects his ability to defend.” There’s no note made about the potentially illegal screen Lowry committed at the 45-second mark.

0:15.4 – Lowry is called for an offensive foul after appearing to hook Iguodala’s arm setting a screen for DeMar DeRozan. This is the play that had fans calling for a conspiracy. Personally, I thought it was an illegal screen but a tough call to make in this game scenario (although referees should call fouls by the rule, not situation). The NBA half agrees, saying this was, indeed, an illegal screen, calling it a “correct call.” “Lowry (TOR) clamps Iguodala’s (GSW) left arm as he sets the screen and affects his ability to defend,” they explain.

I’m not sure if there were any other gripes, but the Curry travel and the earlier no-call on Lowry are the only incorrect calls the league has identified in the report.

As in all cases, blaming the referees for the outcome of a game based on a single possession is never a good look. Here’s what I wrote last night:

The NBA is not out to get the Raptors. Believe me, the fact that I likely have to write a third “NBA admits late officiating error” post tomorrow and it’s only mid-November annoys me, too. I also understand that my general refusal to get up in arms over officiating can sometimes make the reactions of those who are angry even worse. It’s not my intent. I just don’t engage in referee hand-wringing. I truly believe that if an objective person scoured over every game, they’d find that most games are called relatively evenly, or as close as is humanly possible given the constraints on officials. Our rooting interests color that, as do our cognitive biases. Calls made late in close games are the most recent, the most primary, and the most argumentative. They’re under a greater microscope and we care more about them, so of course it’s going to feel like the outcome of a single call is reflective of the entire game or season or league-wide agenda. But I think most games, including this one, are called pretty evenly.

I feel comfortable with that having re-watched the fourth quarter and reading the NBA’s official report. Sorry, fam.

It’s been a tough couple games for the Toronto Raptors and their devoted fan base. Their 5-game Western road trip began in Sacramento with a loss. DeMarcus Cousins got away with traveling at game end, enabling him to score the go ahead basket. This in a game that also saw the Raptors get to the free throw line a single time in the second half for a Quincy Acy technical foul compared to the Sacramento Kings 24 trips. One to twenty-four, that’s quite the disparity.

Last night in the confines of a hostile Oracle arena the Raptors overcame an 18-point deficit only to have their efforts wiped out via two questionable calls and one no call in the final minutes. The result finds the Warriors sitting atop the Western Conference with an unbeaten 12-0 record and the Raptors sporting a 7-5 record for which 3 games at a minimum have effectively been altered, if not determined by a zebra.  Oh yeah, and let’s not forget the other team (Knicks) who got the benefit of a travel/ foot out of bounds no call at game end and now sit one game behind the Raptors.

Raptors at Jazz: 9:00 pm on TSN

Suffice to say I’m salty as I prepare the pregame for tonight’s match against the 5-5 Utah Jazz. The second game of a back to back set for Toronto who arrive in Salt Lake to a waiting Jazz squad who’ve been off since Sunday. Moreover Utah has the advantage of the thin mountain air which is sure to play havoc with the Raptors lungs and tired legs.

Last season the emergence of Rudy Gobert offered Utah the opportunity to trade Enes Kanter and not surprisingly coincided with the Jazz sky rocketing up the Associations ladder, specifically on the defensive end of the court. Utah has continued their defensive brilliance this season though it is married with an inability to score.  Their offensive production or lack thereof is telling:

Jazz versus Raptors Stats sheet

This past week the Jazz traveled East, losing 3 of 4 games to the Cavaliers, Magic and Heat, the latter two likely due to not having Gobert in the line-up after he sustained an ankle injury versus Cleveland. The other notable fact is the win versus Atlanta on Sunday marked Utah’s first against a team with a winning record (though Indiana and Denver now boast records over .500, at the time they played Utah they did not). Granted the Jazz have only played two of their 10 games at home.

Last season the Raptors easily handled Utah winning both games, but they haven’t played the reformulated defensive minded Jazz. The key for the Raptors will be to overcome their fatigue and force the pace and scoring.

Walking Wounded:


  • Terrence Ross – tendon in thumb – out indefinitely


  • Dante Exum – ACL tear in knee – out for season

Grading the Match-ups:

Point Guard: Kyle Lowry vs. Raul Neto

Neto is filling in for the injured Dante Exum with his job being to run the offense and not turn the ball over in his 17 minutes per game. He won’t bring much scoring to the court but he’ll pressure the ball and try to snag steals until his reserve guards take over. If Lowry can get off early specifically behind the arc where he’s connecting on over 40% of his attempts the Raptors could build an early lead.

Edge: Lowry

Lowry Shot Chart

Shooting Guard: DeMar DeRozan vs Rodney Hood

Quinn Snyder seems to really like Hood given his move to the starting line-up and the head coach has been utilizing him in a 3-wing line-up to close out games. Though he’s improved defensively he’ll have his hands full guarding DeRozan who’ll make him work. Then again, DeRozan has historically had issues playing against opponents with length, so with Hood measuring 6’8″ he’ll need to use all his versatility and not back away from attacking the paint.

DeRozan has vacillated between initiating ball movement garnering multiple assists with his tendency to return to iso-ball. When he opts for the latter it results in teams collapsing on him, asphyxiating the Raptors offense and makes the Raptors easier to defend.

Facing a defensive squad if DeRozan can continue to be the catalyst for passing the ball it could be the x factor in the game.

Edge: DeRozan- His sheer volume of shots wins out over his shooting averages, though the shot chart highlights the paint is his money shot.

DeRozan Shot Chart

Small Forward: DeMarre Carroll vs Gordon Hayward

For the first time since his return to the line-up from the plantar fasciitis injury Carroll looked 100% in the Warriors game. Six steals, 50% from the arc and 17 points punctuated that fact. How he’ll deal with a back to back is the next test. Additionally he’ll be tasked with guarding Jazz sharp shooter Hayward who boasts similar stats to that of Carroll though his shooting efficiency has been off so far: 39.4% from the field and 27% from three. It’s likely Hayward will improve when the Jazz get their home stand coming soon, but for now Hayward is a negative in both the offensive and defensive box scores and barely registers at +0.1 for his value over replacement player which is a significant drop off from his career high last season of +3.6.

Edge: EVEN – let’s hope Hayward doesn’t choose this game to get rolling and that Carroll’s apparent return to health continues even in the back to back

Gordon Hayward shot chart

Power Forward: Luis Scola vs. Derrick Favors

Favors was my preseason favorite for Most Improved. Through 10 games he’s leading the Jazz in scoring with 15.8 points per game and grabs 9.1 rebounds. The one category jumping off the stats page is his 2.2 steals an increase of 1.4 per game over last season. Capable on both ends of the court he’ll offer a challenge for the Raptors regardless of who is guarding him.

The wily vet Scola continues to utilize his craftiness in games with his rebounding being a welcome addition. But, facing the likes of Favors he might find himself being subbed out early especially if Patterson can hit a few early 3 point shots. Either way the Raptors power forward will need to keep Favors busy on his defensive end or pay the price when Favors capitalizes on offense.

Edge: Favors

Favors Shot Chart

Center: Jonas Valanciunas versus Rudy Gobert

Simply put the Utah Jazz became a different team the minute Gobert became the starting center and shipped the defensive sieve Enes Kanter to Oklahoma City. Gobert’s rim protection, rebounding and captaining of the Jazz defense gave them their identity and they haven’t looked back since. His free throw shooting lacks something to be desired (58%), but all his other stats have increased.

Valanciunas is averaging close to a double-double and has shown growth defensively with the revamped scheme, but he still has issues guarding athletic centers. The Raptors should test Gobert and try to draw him into early foul trouble by getting JV extra touches inside. He didn’t look good facing Ezeli or Bogut, so hopefully he’ll improve his effort versus Gobert.

Edge: Gobert


Raptors: Cory Joseph, Patrick Patterson, Bismack Biyombo, James Johnson, Norman Powell, Anthony Bennett

Jazz: Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Trevor Booker, Jeff Withey, Joe Ingles

With the Raptors having pushed the Golden State Warriors to the edge they’ll likely be suffering from fatigue both physically and mentally. Given that fact we’ll see whether Dwane Casey decides to go deeper into his bench in an effort to offset that weariness.

Through 12 games Cory Joseph is posting numbers worthy of Most Improved Player or Sixth Man consideration. As per HoopsStats Joseph has won 5 of his match-ups and lost 2 (Westbrook, Ellis) when both players have logged 25 minutes.

As poorly as the Raptors bench appears to have played they actually hold a healthy advantage over Utah’s bench from

  • 35.9 points versus 23.7 points per game
  • 8.1 assists to 4.5
  • Efficiency of 40.5 to Jazz 25.3
  • Cory Joseph holds a distinct advantage over Trey Burke and if he plays to his ability could do real damage. Of note: for point guards logging over 20 minutes per game Joseph leads all with a gaudy 57.7% field goal percentage

Edge: Raptors

Joseph Shot Chart

Watch for the three wing line-up that Quinn Snyder has been utilizing increasingly in clutch minute situations. In the win over Atlanta, Snyder used it for more than half of the fourth quarter opting for no point guard. In essence it makes the Jazz super long versus their opponents, so if the game is close it could come down to Utah’s 3 wing players versus Toronto’s 3 guards in a tall ball versus small ball situation.

The one aspect of the schedule that does work in the Raptors favor is historically the first game back from an extended road trip teams typically don’t come out with the same energy (likely due to home teams subconsciously relaxing). Let’s hope that’s the case tonight and the Raptors can jump on the Jazz early.

Ultimately the game will come down to two factors:

  1. Raptors back court versus the Jazz front court in terms of which takes greater advantage of their assets and which bench can be an x factor.
  2. Raptors strength on offense versus the Jazz prowess on defense.

The Pick: The odds makers have the Jazz favored by 4.5 points and an extremely low over/under of 189 points (which in fairness should be expected given the defensive ranks of both squads and the fact both are in the top 10 of opponent points per game.

Factors to consider are the hang over of getting shafted yet again by the zebras and how that will effect the Raptors mind set, the altitude of Salt Lake City and Utah being rested since Sunday. On the other hand other than the win over Atlanta (who were without Jeff Teague) the Jazz haven’t beat a plus .500 squad.

Being the eternal optimist I’m thinking the zebra’s may actually need to send a few early calls the Raptors way to offset the damage they’ve done to this point early in the season (though I’d prefer the NBA just let teams play and stopped this WWE nonsense we’ve been exposed to so frequently already).

Raptors by 3

Note: all shot charts courtesy of

Tuesday’s incredibly entertaining 115-110 loss to the Golden State Warriors poses an interesting question for the Toronto Raptors: In their third consecutive season of being a competitive, playoff-bound, above-.500 team, do moral victories still exist?

If they do, then Tuesday’s game was the definition of moral victory.

In the second game of a west coast road trip, the Raptors visited the undefeated defending NBA champions, a team nearly at full health, employing the reigning MVP and league’s leading scorer, the NBA Finals MVP, the runner up for Most Improved Player and Defensive Player of the Year, and several other major, enviable contributors, all coming off of two days of rest. Not only did the Raptors claw back from the brink, having taken the Warriors’ best punch in the second quarter while the Raptors kept their hands down around their waists, they kept things close enough late that some were calling the result a split decision. It wasn’t quite the double-knockout whereby the Warriors retain their title on a technicality, a la the original Rocky, but it was hardly the Mr. T-Rocky or Ivan Drago-Apollo Creed battle that most expected. The Raptors were floored, bruised, busted open, got stitched up at half time and came back out to fight like hell. That’s becoming a lovable staple of this team.

There’s honor in a spirited defeat like Tuesday’s, especially against a juggernaut like the Warriors that was yet to play a game with a margin of victory less than eight points, a team outscoring opponents by more than 16 points per-100 possessions. They are the favorite to end all favorites, a veritable Goliath that thinks itself an underdog and has somehow been given cause for further hunger, insulted at claims their championship was driven by anything other than a singular dominance. There may not be a team in the last decade or two that’s played at this level for this long a stretch – the Warriors are 95-20, including playoffs, dating back to the start of last year. Steph Curry is a remarkable piece of breathing basketball artwork without a contemporary. Draymond Green is a complete original, someone no team has a match-up answer for. The team has benefited from great coaching, unprecedented continuity, and total buy-in from a deep, talented, and versatile roster.

Losing narrowly on the road to a team this good is a win. Literally nobody has played the Warriors tighter, save for the Nets, who forced an overtime before rolling over in the extra frame. The Warriors don’t suffer challengers lightly. They don’t deal in close calls and uncertainties and coin flips. They’ve gamed the coin by this point. To make matters worse, the Warriors played probably their best defensive game of the season on Tuesday as far as coverages and assignments go.

The Raptors did several things well Tuesday, perhaps providing a road map for the next team that has an upset in its grasp.

The lone area to identify as a potential edge before the game was Toronto’s ability to get to the free-throw line, something the Warriors are occasionally willing to oblige opponents in and aren’t elite at themselves. The Raptors took 39 free-throw attempts to 27 for the Warriors, providing a 12-point edge. Some felt during the course of the game that the Raptors were the beneficiaries of loose whistles (more on that in a bit), but the Raptors had a clear plan to attack Golden State aggressively. That worked about as well as they could have hoped, and they leveraged an offensive rebounding advantage to corral 12 second chances leading to 14 points. There were also real instances of shot making, including some nifty actions that created space where the Warriors aren’t often wont to allow it.

The Raptors didn’t play magnificently on defense, but they capitalized on Warrior miscues, worked their tails off in transition, and generally did an effective job closing out on 3-point shooters. Cory Joseph, in particular, had another terrific night on the defensive end of the floor. The Warriors are going to hit threes, and 11-of-29 isn’t a bad mark by any means – the Raptors would gladly take it most nights – but some were degree-of-difficulty shots.

It wasn’t all great, because again, the level of competition couldn’t have been higher. And there were some, umm, lapses on the defensive end.

The Warriors had 14 second-chance points on three fewer offensive rebounds because everything they grab gets kicked back outside the arc, whereas the Raptors were a chilly 6-of-18 from outside. Toronto conceded control of the pace of the game in the second half, too, with a 103.5-possession estimate for the game leaning far toward Golden State’s preferred mode of play. The Warriors are far more effective scoring off of steals (73.9 effective field-goal percentage) than misses (58.1) or makes (48.8), and the Raptors committed 20 turnovers, half coming by way of the steal (Golden State also had 20 turnovers, something they accept as a function of their style of play). Curry reigned hell fire, scoring 37 points on 23 shots and adding nine dimes. Because dammit if they guy isn’t one of the best three players in the basketball universe right now. 

And still, with several miscues, the Warriors shooting well enough, and an abhorrent stretch of play in the second quarter (I may double back to this tomorrow), the Raptors nearly stole one.

So again, the question becomes whether the Raptors are at a point where playing the champs better than anyone else is something to talk away happy about. Because the flip side of that is that they had the champs, and they lit the upset slip away. Now, it’s the Warriors, so as Dom Toretto would advise, “You never had me. You never had your car.” And that’s fair. The Warriors are the favorites in almost any game situation, because they’re the Warriors. The fact remains that the Raptors were tied as late as midway through the fourth, were down one with 38 seconds to go, and were within a possession until the six-second mark. It was right there. Right. There.

How you look at the way the final few minutes played out might say something about you. It might not, I don’t know, I’m not your shrink. But you’re welcome to assign deeper meaning to your own interpretation or the interpretation of others. The Raptors either earned a major moral victory by being in that situation, suffered a moral blow by choking away the situation, or were the victims of some elaborate conspiracy that muddles the grey area between those two extremes.

So let’s start here: The Raptors may have been hosed on two late calls.

Let’s follow with this: The NBA is not out to get the Raptors. Believe me, the fact that I likely have to write a third “NBA admits late officiating error” post tomorrow and it’s only mid-November annoys me, too. I also understand that my general refusal to get up in arms over officiating can sometimes make the reactions of those who are angry even worse. It’s not my intent. I just don’t engage in referee hand-wringing. I truly believe that if an objective person scoured over every game, they’d find that most games are called relatively evenly, or as close as is humanly possible given the constraints on officials. Our rooting interests color that, as do our cognitive biases. Calls made late in close games are the most recent, the most primary, and the most argumentative. They’re under a greater microscope and we care more about them, so of course it’s going to feel like the outcome of a single call is reflective of the entire game or season or league-wide agenda. But I think most games, including this one, are called pretty evenly.

Having said that, two calls late Tuesday were tough to swallow.

The first won’t be subject to the league’s official review, as it happened with 2:02 remaining. In a play almost identical to the one from Sunday that the league admitted an error on, Cory Joseph was once again whistled for a loose ball foul on an offensive rebounding situation. Like Sunday, replays strongly suggested Joseph plucked the ball from Klay Thompson cleanly. Thompson would hit one of two free throws – the Warriors were in the bonus – extending the lead to three.

(Note: There may also be a Curry travel at the 1:28 mark. I can’t tell if I’m overreacting to a liberal pivot or seeing a walk.)

And then with 15 seconds left and the Raptors again down one, Kyle Lowry was whistled for an illegal screen.

Perhaps coloring the referee’s decision was that Lowry had engaged in two other 50-50 offensive foul calls on prior plays without a whistle. Officials should call every play as an independent event and not keep a sort of running tally like that, but it’s possible that leaning against a foul call earlier subconsciously suggested the referee lean the other way this time around.

In any case, Lowry’s foul on Andre Iguodala is a tough one to call in real time. It’s a tough one to call with the benefit of replay, too, as Lowry appears to trap Iguodala’s arm some while Iguodala also appears to invite the contact.

Whatever your feeling on the call – my thought is that it’s an illegal screen, but one that’s tough to justify calling at this point in the game – this one hurt far more. The Raptors were down three after Curry sunk the free throws, putting them in a very tough situation with no timeouts.

That tough situation is further reason why I’m not a believer in chalking things up to officiating. Those in boxing and MMA are partial to saying “you can’t leave it up to the judges,” meaning fighters have to decisively win fights, go for a knockout or submission, to avoid the chance for an unexpected outcome at the margins. Similarly, the Raptors could have avoided needing that call to go their way. Here are three other factors that have me more upset than the final foul call:

The second quarter – Again, I might go deeper on this tomorrow, but Dwane Casey stuck with a Luis Scola-Jonas Valanciunas frontcourt far longer than there was any reason to. It looked like a horrid match-up on paper and it played out exactly as expected. Still, the duo played 18 minutes together, getting outscore by seven points. What’s worse, there was a stretch of 4:31 late in the second quarter where the starters were completely torched by the Warriors’ starters with Festus Ezeli in place of Andrew Bogut. The Warriors scored on 9-of-12 field goal attempts and collected two of their own misses, meaning the Raptors got a single stop over a 4:31 stretch. Not all of that is on the bigs – the Raptors didn’t even bother to give either a touch in that time – but that 21-8 run may have made the task of coming back too large.

The Raptors had no timeouts – Casey used his final timeout with 88 seconds left, far earlier than most coaches burn their final break. That’s because immediately coming out of a full timeout, they were unable to inbound the ball.

So Casey burned his last 20-second timeout, and the Raptors were able to inbound the ball. To Joseph, who gave it to DeMar DeRozan for a drive right at a terrific defender in Green, who stole the ball.

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Lowry went for a quick two – We don’t know for sure what play the Raptors were attempting to run when Lowry was called for a foul up one. It certainly looked like they going for a quick two, then giving the Warriors possession. Considering the Warriors employ Curry to shoot free throws in the event the Raptors missed and had to foul, and given the general insanity of the Warriors’ offense, I probably would have opted to hold for the last shot here. It’s riskier in a way, because it boils thing down to a single possession, but the Raptors play with that mentality and style late in games anyway, and a single shot to beat the Warriors is probably the best chance anyone can hope for in Golden State.

And I definitely would have shot a three to tie with six seconds left, when Lowry sprinted directly at Green and was blocked. Lowry was trying to draw an and-one to tie the game and, failing that, come away with two points and the chance to foul. But it was so late, the Raptors without a timeout to advance the ball, and the Warriors so good at the stripe, that this seemed like an accidental release of a white flag.

All of that is to say, this can’t be hung on one or two bad calls late. It’s unfortunate, to be sure, but there are plenty of reasons the Raptors lost Tuesday, not the least of which is that the Warriors are the best team most of us have ever seen.

Whether you want to take Tuesday as a moral victory, a bitter disappointment, or a rallying cry against the NBA bureaucracy is entirely up to you.

Raptors push undefeated Warriors to limit, still lose | Toronto Sun

With about 5:30 remaining in the game, the Raptors actually took a short-lived lead two-point lead, however, the Warriors just turned it up again and that two-point lead was quickly a five-point deficit. The Warriors had some issues of their own on this night as well. Turning the ball over 20 times, seven by Steph Curry — which you never see — kept the door open just enough but down the line Curry was too much to handle. Curry wound up with a game high 37 on 13-of-23 shooting. All of his nine points in the fourth quarter came in the final four minutes. The Raptors duo of DeRozan and Lowry combined for 52 points, getting 26 apiece in a losing cause. Biggest change in the third quarter was on the boards, where the Raptors, who had been losing that battle drew a line in the sand and started to win those battles.

Resilient Raptors come up short against unbeaten Warriors | Toronto Star

Down by 18 in the third quarter when they could have pulled the chute and started resting for Wednesday night in Salt Lake City, the Raptors stayed in the game and led by two with about four minutes remaining. That they ultimately failed against the defending NBA champions and 37 points from MVP Stephen Curry will hurt but there will be some team growth out of the loss. “We have something good going, our guys competed,” said Casey. “If we play like that in any game we’re going to give ourselves a chance to win.” A questionable offensive foul on Kyle Lowry with about 14 seconds left set up Curry for two free throws on a subsequent foul that put Golden State up three. “It’s unfortunate, guys were attacking the basket, drawing contact, there’s a lot of contact in there … but our guys played well enough to win,” said Casey. Lowry tried to instigate contact at the rim on the Toronto’s final possession but was denied and the Warriors closed the game out at the free throw line.

Game Rap: Raptors 110, Warriors 115 | Toronto Raptors

After a dizzying second quarter display from the Warriors turned into a 63-47 lead for Golden State at the half, the game could have easily been over. The undefeated defending champions are tough to beat anywhere, but especially on their home floor. The Raptors weren’t interested in handing over a victory to anyone, and clawed their way back in the third quarter, outscoring the Warriors 36-27 to go into the fourth trailing by seven. The team continued to push in the fourth, and played well on both ends of the floor as they turned it into a hard-fought battle down the stretch.

Pops and the legendary GP #oaklandsfinest

A photo posted by Terrence Ross (@3tross1) on

Raptors Lose to Warriors 115-110. Not much has Changed. | Raptors HQ

After a second quarter in which the wheels came off, the Raps fought back in the third and made it a game in the fourth, due in large part to the aggressiveness on both ends from Cory Joseph who was the Raps MVP tonight. But then #4thQuarterCasey took over and ruined any semblance of flow the offence had going by handing the reins over to DeMar DeRozan. It really does feel like Groundhog Day talking about DeRozan in the fourth quarter of close games, as seemingly everyone but him knows exactly what’s coming. Prolonged dribbling and probing on the wing, followed by either A) a fallaway jumper on the baseline. B) a double team that results in a steal or C) an unforced error dribbling it off his foot. In many cases it’s a combination of those things that lead to a turnover and fast break going the other way.

Warriors squeak past Raptors to reach 12-0 | SFBay

The Warriors lost the rebounding battle 52-45, allowed 54 points in the paint to their 46, and the Raptors took 39 shots from the free throw line. Nearly one-quarter of Toronto’s total, 30 points, came via the freebie, and 22 came in the second half. DeRozan and Lowry took 25 shots from the stripe, nailing 22 of them. The Raptors went small to open the second half, something that worked well. The Warriors tempo was matched or exceeded by Toronto’s small lineup, and the Warriors were limited to only two made three-point shots in the second half after nailing nine in the first half. Did Toronto paint a portrait, the Mona Lisa, on how to beat the Warriors? Probably not. But it’s certainly telling that a good starting five and a weak bench managed to keep pace with the league’s best using smalls.

Warriors vs. Raptors final score: Golden State wins 12th straight, enjoys struggle in 115-110 win | Golden State Of Mind

“We have gotten away from, recently, playing four solid, hard quarters of basketball. We are putting together nice halves and finishing games nice and playing well when we have to, but we have gotten away from that overall great game of basketball.” How much of this is concerning? There’s a level of intensity held back that all players admit to reaching when that times comes. Every single team is now coming into Oracle Arena or going into their home court with the attitude that this is their Game 7. Kyle Lowry was bouncing up and down the floor, through three people at a time for an offensive rebound late in the fourth quarter. I somehow fail to see that same type of play against a Milwaukee Bucks in late-November.

Warriors Remain Perfect in Ugly Win Over Raptors | Blueman Hoop

Toronto didn’t score a field goal for nearly nine minutes in the fourth, but still managed to take the lead with free throw shooting, as the Warriors got themselves in foul trouble. Lowry’s foul shots at 5:54 put the Raptors ahead 98-96, their first lead since the first quarter. But the Warriors responded with a quick 7-0 run out of a timeout, starting with a lob from Draymond Green to Andrew Bogut to tie the game back up. Curry made a three, and Green’s floater put the Warriors ahead 103-98. The Raptors’ first field goal since the 11:26 mark came from Lowry, whose three cut the lead to 105-103 with under three minutes to play.

Stories behind Warriors’ 12th consecutive win | SFGate

The Raptors play a gritty style, are adept at making adjustments and seemingly never quit on their coach. They made a concerted effort to slow down the Warriors and skew the rhythm of their offense by making the game disjointed with consistent trips to the foul line and by intentionally foul Bogut in the fourth quarter. After allowing the Warriors to score 63 first-half points on 9-of-19 three-point shooting, Toronto limited the Warriors to 2-of-10 three-point shooting in the second half and erased an 18-point, third-quarter deficit. The Raptors also forced the Warriors into 13 second-half turnover to just 10 second-half assists. “We’re not going to win every game easily,” Bogut said. “These are playoff-type atmospheres played with playoff-type energy. Teams coming in here, whether their record is 20-1 or 1-20, they’re going to give us the same test. Everyone wants to beat us, and I think it’s a good learning point for us.”

Golden State Warriors win 12th in a row | Contra Costa Times

If nothing else, the Warriors looked a little more whole. Klay Thompson returned after missing a game with back stiffness and responded with a terrific 18-point first half, although he scored just one point in the second. Leandro Barbosa also was back after missing two games to tend to a family matter, but the Warriors definitely missed Shaun Livingston, who sat out with a strained left hip flexor. As a result, Curry had to carry a heavier load than usual. He played 39½ minutes, but hit 13 of 23 shots, including 5 of 10 3-pointers, and coupled with the nine assists, it made his seven turnovers forgivable. Lowry and DeRozan scored 28 apiece for Toronto and proved a headache most of the night for the Warriors. Warriors interim coach Luke Walton, who at one point got so frustrated with the state of the game and the officiating he drew his first regular-season technical, tried not to be critical of his team in spite of an effort that wasn’t completely up to snuff.

Time for Toronto Raptors to sink or swim with Jonas Valanciunas on the floor: The Post-Up podcast | National Post

In our 21st episode, Koreen and MacKenzie discuss the Toronto Raptors’ use of Jonas Valanciunas and Bismack Biyombo late in games, the arrival of Raptors 905 and Luis Scola: three-point assassin.

PG: Kyle Lowry is a great decision maker | RealGM

I’m not even mad. That was a great game from the Raptors. So much fight despite playing so bad in the 1st half. 3rd Quarter was amazing though…. like amazing, same with 4th Q, incredible fight there. We got jobbed so hard by the refs it’s ridiculous. Maybe a couple were actual fouls…. but man, most of those were total phantom calls… so many random calls on JV just running back to defensive end lmao…. and oh my lord that Cojo call… got to be kidding me…… Made some really stupid mistakes with turnovers and dug a major hole in the first half, but still fought back, I was impressed. Whatever, next game…. run some more plays, because our team actually looks pretty efficient when we don’t ISO ball. I dunno…. that was a good game, just didn’t like a lot of those calls at all. Great game, s**t refs.

Quick Stat Hits: How great is Jonas Valanciunas? | Raptors HQ

Two patterns. And this is early, but this seems symptomatic of the type of offence the team is running on a given night. First pattern: when JV is the most used player, the Raptors smash teams (admittedly, poor teams). Unfortunately he’s only been the most used player twice, and otherwise hasn’t cracked the top three. Second pattern: during the 3 game losing streak Jonas was 9th, 4th and 6th on the team in usage. Considering the first pattern, one has to wonder if that losing streak could have been easily avoided, especially with two of the losses being by a combined seven points.

Joseph exceeding expectations in expanded role with Raptors | TSN

For those that had seen him play extended minutes in San Antonio when Tony Parker went down last season, or watched as he led the Canadian national team this past summer, his upside was apparent. Ujiri saw it – he had been targeting Joseph for years. But nobody, including the Raptors general manager, anticipated that the 24-year-old point guard would be this good, this reliable, so quickly. “When you do these things, you try to get good players and you try to figure out,” said Ujiri, who guested on TSN Radio last week. “You do your scouting, you do your analytics, and you try to figure out if the team will fit together. But honestly, until they start playing, we [don’t know].” “When we looked at it, we tried to look at two-way players who bring us some kind of toughness and that’s what he is. He’s a two-way player that will pick up the ball full court and put pressure on opposing guards. He knows how to fight people and make people better and score a little bit too. So you hope that it translates to the basketball court.” So far, he has been everything the Raptors could have hoped for, and more.

Cory Joseph: Bench Commander | Hoops Habit

For the season, CoJo is putting up career numbers in several areas. He’s averaging 9.5 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 0.8 steals on 57.7 percent shooting from the field, 40 percent shooting from deep and 86.4 percent shooting from the foul line. He’s playing 25 minutes a night. The most impressive is definitely the shooting. His 57.7 percent is the highest of his career, and while surprising isn’t downright shocking due to the fact that in every season since he entered the league his shooting percentages have risen.

Toronto Raptors at Utah Jazz: Wednesday game preview | Toronto Star

Utah, 5-5, is back home after a four-game Eastern Conference road trip that ended with a win Sunday in Atlanta . . . The Jazz are one of the best defensive teams in the league, allowing 91.8 points per game, third lowest in the league. Opponents shoot 42.4 per cent from the floor . . . Canadian-born rookie forward Trey Lyles has made one start for Utan but he plays sparingly (he did not play in Sunday’s win) while averaging 1.9 points and 2.2 rebounds per game . . . The Raptors swept last season’s series with Utah and improved to 6-13 all time on the road vs. the Jazz.

NBA Preview – Toronto Raptors at Utah Jazz – Nov 18, 2015 |

After winning 13 of its last 19 at home and 26 of its final 42 overall in 2014-15, Utah hoped to carry some of that momentum into a strong start this season. The club, however, faced an uphill battle from the start with eight of its first 10 games on the road. After dropping the first three by a total of 14 points, the Jazz closed out a four-game trip with Sunday’s 97-96 victory at Atlanta. Derrick Favors led the way with 23 points, Rodney Hood scored 20 after missing one game with a sore foot and Alec Burks added 18 off the bench as Utah shot a season-high 51.3 percent. Favors and Hood combined to score 32 in the second half. Rudy Gobert had 11 points and a game-high 11 rebounds in his return after missing two games with a sprained left ankle. The French native also played with a heavy heart in his first game since the terrorist attacks in Paris two days earlier.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Ben Margot

Did I miss something Raptors-related? Send it to me: [email protected]

Toronto Raptors 110 Final
Recap | Box Score
115 Golden State Warriors
Luis Scola, PF 28 MIN | 3-7 FG | 0-2 3FG | 0-2 FT | 5 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 6 PTS | -7 +/-Played 25 minutes too many tonight. Not his fault since he wasn’t in a position to be successful. Surprisingly, he did more good than harm in the 2nd half that saw the Raptors storm back after all looked lost, but a crunch time three from the corner? That should have been a play run for Carroll, not Razor Ramon.

DeMarre Carroll, SF 39 MIN | 7-12 FG | 3-6 3FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 2 AST | 6 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 17 PTS | +2 +/-10 points in the third off of steals, tight defense (3 steals), and three pointers were crucial in the Raptors turning the tide in the 3rd quarter. With his defensive contribution, this game would have got out of hand earlier in the night.

Jonas Valanciunas, C 31 MIN | 3-9 FG | 0-0 3FG | 3-4 FT | 11 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 9 PTS | -1 +/-…ok…you could see he was trying hard, but he’s just not built for this type of game. On four occasions, he was very late on the defensive rotation; three of which ended in his man scoring uncontested layups.

Kyle Lowry, PG 39 MIN | 7-15 FG | 2-7 3FG | 12-12 FT | 6 REB | 3 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 2 TO | 28 PTS | 0 +/-Two massive threes in the fourth, slowed the tempo, and orchestrated situations where the Raptors were able to stop the clock and get to the line. Curry had an incredible, albeit somewhat quiet game, but he does that against everyone. There really didn’t seem like a plan to slow Curry down any, which wasn’t on him. Tough call on that moving screen; not saying it was a bad call, just a tough one; clearly threw him off cause on the next possession, down three, he drove to the rack instead of shooting a three, missed, then fouled Green.

DeMar DeRozan, SG 39 MIN | 9-22 FG | 0-0 3FG | 10-13 FT | 5 REB | 6 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 28 PTS | -4 +/-Ok, so we all know I have blinders when it comes to DeMar, and I potentially overvalue the things he does (I don’t think I do actually, but I could see how you could think that), but games like this are infuriating. On one hand, we saw an array of poor shot selection generated off of weak hero-ball, then on the other, we saw him slow the game down, drive to the rack, draw contact, stop the clock, and stick free throws to help get the Raptors back into the game. Why doesn’t he do that every single time? The final minute was typical DeRozan: on one possession, he forces a shot, and turns it over; a few plays later, he takes it aggressively to the rack and cuts the lead to 1. Why is he so invested in shooting jumpers? These are question we all need answers too.

James Johnson, PF 9 MIN | 3-4 FG | 0-1 3FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 6 PTS | -5 +/-The Warriors are exactly the type of team that JJ should be able to provide a lot of value against. Three turnovers in 9 minutes was just too reckless, and saw him sit the second half despite all the good things he did off the bounce when he had the ball off the wing.

Patrick Patterson, PF 20 MIN | 1-3 FG | 1-2 3FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 3 TO | 3 PTS | -2 +/-Disappointing.

Bismack Biyombo, PF 7 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-0 3FG | 0-0 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | -4 +/-He’s just such a liability offensively…makes him especially useless in games like this.

Cory Joseph, PG 28 MIN | 4-7 FG | 0-0 3FG | 5-8 FT | 5 REB | 6 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 13 PTS | -4 +/-Yea… another strong game where he provided steady relief minutes for Lowry. What can you say? Dude is great. I’m very happy we got him, and it’s ridiculous he’ll make less than Ross next season.

Dwane Casey
Despite putting out extremely dubious lineups. Despite not seeming to have a plan to avoid having so many alley-oops rain down on you. Despite playing Razor Ramon 28 minutes and JV 31. Despite being out-coached by Luke Walton (LOL). Despite. Despite. Despite all that, this team was right in till the end. What does that say about you? The value you bring to this team? Your future with this team? Seems pretty clear to me.

Four Things We Saw

  1. Did we forget the score or go for the quick two with no timeouts?

  2. The play that decided the game?

  3. Lost our last timeout for no reason. Scola was open.
  4. Is it unfair to expect a little more movement than this followed by a fadeaway in crunch time?

In case you thought there was any chance of guarding Steph Curry, Tuesday served as a reminder that there is not, even when you defend Curry somewhat well. Somewhat well isn’t well enough. The Toronto Raptors did a decent job on a third-quarter possession, one that served to highlight just how little margin for error there is with Curry.

Curry entered a pick-and-roll with Draymond Green at the top of the 3-point arc, with Kyle Lowry and Patrick Patterson defending, respectively. Lowry initially tries to fight over the screen, but Patterson is sure to hedge to Curry’s side quickly, as high as the 3-point line. Now, Lowry probably should have fought all the way through the screen to recover and even double Curry, risking a Green top-of-key three, even with Patterson in an alright position. Because what Curry did next is unfair and is really only guardable with completely perfect defense.

With Patterson now expecting a drive after a quick few steps from Curry, the reigning MVP stops on a dime, creating more than enough space to let the greatest jump shot in NBA history fly. It would be beautiful if it weren’t happening against the Raptors.

Check out the fan-made highlight of the triple on Grandstand here.

Curry finished with 37 points on 13-of-23 shooting and 5-of-10 from outside. He added two rebounds, nine assists, and two steals in 40 minutes. He’s obscene. #BanCurry.

Grandstand –  Sports Highlights from Fans in the Stands

On the new sports app, you can share your own Raptors highlights, and watch other fans’ videos straight from the crowd.

Download Grandstand on the App Store or at

It’s been a pretty busy day as far as Toronto Raptors news is concerned, though there hasn’t been anything particularly groundbreaking. The Raptors tip off against the undefeated defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors at 10:30 on TSN, the biggest news from Tuesday is that the Warriors will be at close to full health.

Green, Thompson, Barbosa all in
Klay Thompson (back) and Leandro Barbosa (personal) were always expected to play, but a quick return to health for Draymond Green is a minor surprise. Green missed practice Monday after a sinus infection beget the flu. Tuesday brought a cessation of symptoms and Green’s going to give it a go.

You can read more about these three rotation players being confirmed for action in our earlier news hit on it. There’s a lot of Green stuff there and in the full game preview. He’s such a fun, unique player, and I’m really excited to watch him wreak havoc on the Raptors’ frontcourt (sorry).

Livingston out
Also mentioned within that piece is that Shaun Livingston will (“probably“) miss the game with a hip flexor strain. He’ll join rookie Kevon Looney (hip) on the shelf. Livingston is a tough matchup, a strong and lengthy defender who can do damage against smaller guards on the block. He’s averaging 4.7 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 2.2 assists in 20.2 minutes, minutes that will shift to Barbosa and perhaps Ian Clark.

Warriors pivot
Andrew Bogut will reportedly take his starting center position back from Festus Ezeli in this one. Bogut started the team’s season opener but suffered a concussion, costing him the next six games. With the Warriors rolling and Ezeli playing fairly well, the Warriors opted to have Bogut make a gradual return to action off the bench. A 10-point, 18-rebound performance as a reserve Saturday may have been the impetus for the change, as could the defensive challenge that Toronto Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas presents.

A defensive presence in the middle, Bogut’s overall impact has been lessened some by Green’s emergence and how well the team plays in smaller lineups. Still, the Warriors are 2.7 points per-100 possessions better with him on the floor compared to -7.1 PPC with Ezeli. They were 9.5 PPC better with Bogut than without last year.

The Australian big man has averaged 6.6 points, 8.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, and 1.7 blocks over four seasons with the Warriors, shooting 57 percent from the floor.

The line, she moves
When Thompson and Barbosa were probable and Green seemed doubtful, I guessed the line would open this morning at Raptors +8. It instead opened at Raptors +8.5, went as high as Raptors +10 after Green was said to be playing, and now sits at Raptors +9.5 The over-under is at 208.5, and while the Raptors have done a decent job slowing their opponents (their games have been about two possessions slower than their opponents’ average), that seems a shade low.

One way the Raptors can swing things in their favor is to get off to a better start. The Warriors’ starters are great but they do their biggest damage as a team when Andrew Bogut hits the bench and they roll with three wings. The Raptors have struggled mightily in first quarters, something they seem at a loss for how to correct, and Tuesday’s as good a time as any to turn things around.

Talking Curry
The biggest question facing the Raptors is how to guard Steph Curry, the league’s reigning MVP and current leading scorer. Put simply, Curry is the greatest off-dribble shooter of all time and likely as a catch-and-shoot threat, too. Factor in that he has a magnificent handle, great footwork, and is largely unselfish when it comes to leveraging his court vision, and he’s an impossible check. Add in Green and the Sophie’s Choice high pick-and-roll they run, one that forces teams to guard in a way that is the antithesis of Dwane Casey’s new defense, and it’s probably been a long couple of days for the coaching staff.

Here are some Raptors discussing Curry and how to guard him, the first two courtesy Doug Smith of The Star and the last one transcribed from video.

Kyle Lowry: Man, I’m a fan. I’m a fan of the game and I’m a fan of what he’s been able to do and how he’s been able to get better. As a basketball fan, it’s pretty impressive, but tomorrow I’m definitely going to be a competitor.

Casey: I tell you what, the key with him is, his range is unbelievable. I have never seen anyone in the league in my 23 years or whatever, or even in college. You say, ‘OK, we are going to get up into him.’ He takes two or three steps across half court and drills it. That is what makes him so dangerous.

Cory Joseph: As a defender, guarding great players, try to limit their touches. They can’t do great things if they don’t have the ball.

Good luck with that, Joseph.

Raptors 905 cut first ever draft pick already
Mike Anderson, the first ever draft pick of Raptors 905, was waived Tuesday. Taking his place is Ashton Smith, who originally made the team as a camp invite after impressing at open tryouts. It’s a curious move given how high the franchise sounded on Anderson around the draft, but he had played just five minutes over the team’s first two games and was buried deep in the wing rotation.

The franchise also announced that nine games will be broadcast on NBA TV this year. The home opener goes Thursday. Here’s some Bruno:

The Toronto Raptors received some bad news at Tuesday’s shootaround: Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and Leandro Barbosa are all good to go for the Golden State Warriors. Shaun Livingston, meanwhile, is doubtful with a hip flexor strain.