Morning Coffee – Tue, Feb 24

Toronto Raptors’ defence has improved but against New Orleans Pelicans their offence wobbles late in second-consecutive loss | National Post

Against the Pelicans, you could see why. In a lot of ways, Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans is like a smaller version of Brooklyn swingman Joe Johnson, the Raptors’ tormentor a year ago: He is very effective at using his backside to gain positioning, putting his defender behind him in pick-and-rolls. Evans did that against Johnson, but Johnson was often able to use his combination of size and nimbleness to get back into position. Evans shot just 5-for-13 from the field. However, Evans beat Johnson to the rim for a layup with 1:23 left that put the Raptors in a fatal three-point hole, and beat him again to set up Alexis Ajinca for the game-winning basket in the final minute. Johnson’s promotion was a move a segment of the Raptors’ fan base wanted for weeks before it happened. Yet there were reasons, beyond his shooting limitations, that it did not happen earlier. His tendency to lose track of the play when he is not guarding the ball can be, at times, problematic. “James, if he sees somebody else not doing something, he’ll try to help get the block,” DeRozan said. “He’ll try to go beyond what our defensive principles are. Sometimes he’ll try to make a play. There’s a positive in that: He’s just active on the defensive end.”

Pelicans rally to win over Raptors | Toronto Sun

Casey didn’t use “embarrassed as he talked to the media after this one but he certainly wasn’t thrilled. “I don’t even want to hear about the next team that doesn’t have a player playing,” Casey said. “I think those other guys came in and played hungry. Their bench had 50 points (55 actually). That’s the worst thing you can do, play against hungry guys trying to (get their) opportunity in this league. That’s what they did. You talk about guys that are talented — Norris Cole and Alexis Ajinca came in and made their mark on the game.” Between them Cole, Ajinca, and Luke Babbit combined for 49 of those 55 points. For Ajinca it was his second beatdown of the Raptors. In the first win over Toronto, Ajinca had 22 points. Monday night he had 16 and nine rebounds in 27 minutes. “He knows where to be in his spots,” Amir Johnson said of Ajinca. “When their guards drive he is definitely in the right spot. He’s so tall he is able to hit that jump hook or jump shot.” As for why he seems to save his best for the Raptors, Johnson had no idea nor did anyone else in the Raptors locker room.

Raptors lose it late vs. Pelicans | Toronto Star

Without their star player and focal point of their offence, the bench saved the day for the Pelicans. While so many times this season the Raptors have been saved by their second unit, this time the Toronto backups were outscored 55-21, something made all the more remarkable by the fact the Raptors had Lou Williams back in the lineup. Williams, who had missed Saturday night’s 98-76 loss in Houston with a sprained ankle, was largely ineffective, going 1 of 8 from the field.

Second-half collapse costs Raptors | TSN

Coming off one of their most lopsided defeats of the season, they looked like themselves – the good version – throughout the first half. The league’s top defensive team over the span of their last four contests, they held the Pelicans – missing their injured all-star and MVP candidate Anthony Davis – around 40 per cent and did an equally admirable job scoring the ball. Then, just as quickly as the Raptors regrouped to begin the game, they reverted back to the team that was run out of Houston two days prior. Led by the likes of Alexis Ajinca and Luke Babbitt, career journeymen, New Orleans hit 21 of its 33 shots in the second half, holding Toronto to 36 per cent, 2-of-13 from three-point range, and outscoring them 56-41 to complete an unlikely comeback. “Tough loss,” DeMar DeRozan admitted when it was all said and done. “We should’ve had that one, being up so much, should’ve contained the lead but they fought. They hit some big shots.” “This one was pretty bad. It sucks, especially coming off a loss like we had, to lose tonight, it was definitely tough.” The breakdown was in equal parts offensive and on the defensive end. The Pelicans hit some tough shots but took advantage of just as many good looks. Tyreke Evans and newcomer Norris Cole got into the lane, Babbitt found open jumpers and Ajinca had his way in the paint.

GameDay: Toronto Raptors at Dallas Mavericks | The Star Telegram

Dallas enters the finale of a three-game homestand at 2-0 after a victory Friday over Houston (111-100) and Sunday over Charlotte (92-81). … The Mavericks are 19-5 against the East. All five losses have occurred at American Airlines Center — to Miami, Indiana, Atlanta, Detroit and Chicago. … This is the fourth game in six days for the Mavericks and the first leg of a back-to-back. The Mavericks are 7-6 in back-to-back openers. … Dallas won in Toronto 106-102 on Nov. 28 when Monta Ellis scored 15 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter. … Amar’e Stoudemire contributed 14 points and three rebounds in just 11 minutes in his debut Sunday.

Game Rap: Raptors 97 Pelicans 100 | Toronto Raptors

“I thought we got three point happy a little bit. We were shooting 21%. We were in transition, we have to take it to the basket starting in the fourth quarter. Again, you always have to drive it to the basket. We have to recognize those and some nights your threes aren’t falling, that’s when you drive it. We have to recognize that when your shots aren’t falling and you’re tight there. For whatever reason we decided to take some quick threes and they converted those.” – Dwane Casey talking about his team’s offensive woes in the second half

Pelicans Prove Basketball without AD still Fun, beat Raptors | BourbonStreetShots.com

The part of the Pelicans’ performance tonight that should not be overlooked was the change in defensive intensity in the second half. In the first two quarters, the Raptors made 20 of their 42 field goal attempts, rebounded 10 of their 22 misses, and attempted 16 free throws (some a direct result of those offensive boards). The second half was an entirely different story, as Toronto shot just 35.7% from the field, including a horrific 5-26 outside of the paint. The Raptors missed a few open shots, but the Pelicans also did a much better job on the defensive glass, holding Toronto to just 6 offensive rebounds compared to 24 defensive rebounds for New Orleans. The result was only 5 second chance points for the Raptors in the second half, a crucial statistic considering both how strong they usually are on the offensive glass along with how thin the Pelicans were down low without Davis or Anderson.

Pelicans surprise Raptors once more, 100-97 | The Bird Writes

Once again, the defense was going to have to come up huge. Never mind that it had already allowed 4 points in the previous 2:30. Never mind that the opposition sports the second best offensive rating in the league. Well, when you’ve got Omer Asik, it really is no problem. The Raptors final shot attempt, another one by Kyle Lowry, was a thing of beauty…if you’re a fan of Asik’s defense. Seriously, the Turkish delight not only stayed with a starting guard from the All-Star game, he swatted his shot attempt with ease. After a couple of Fredette free throws, Lowry was forced to take a difficult 27 footer to tie the game. It missed the mark rather easily.

Injury-Ridden Pelicans Eat Raptors Whole in 100-97 Win | Raptors HQ

DeMar DeRozan was only occasionally interested in attacking, and settled for a lot of off-ball action and fadeaway jump shots on his way to a 6-for-15 night. Amir Johnson had a great first half with eight points, but disappeared as the Pelicans made their run down the stretch, going scoreless in the final 24 minutes. The Raptors seemed to be in control of this one after the first half, leading 56-44. A sloppy offensive third quarter by the Raptors allowed the Pelicans to chip away, though, and a 10-2 run to start the fourth tied it up. From there, the vaunted Smoothie King Center fans rose to their feet (no doubt a delayed sugar high from all the strawberries and bananas), playing a role in making the finish that much more frantic. The Raptors will now play their fourth game in five nights tomorrow in Dallas before returning home for Golden State on Friday. Big picture, the Raptors are 4-2 on this gruelling eight game stretch. That’s not bad. Given the roster of their opposition tonight, though, this game has to be up there with the November 30 overtime loss to the Lakers for worst of the season.

The Toronto Raptors fall to the ailing New Orleans Pelicans | Raptors Cage

Other than the individual performances of Valanciunas and James Johnson, the Raptors don’t have much at all to hang their hat on when it comes to the offensive side of the ball coming out of tonight’s game. The team shot a very poor 41% from the field and an abysmal 5 for 23 from beyond the arc. While shooting touch may come and go, the team has absolutely no excuse for the lack of ball movement. The team was only able to muster up a measly 13 assists for the entire ball game. The Raptors chance to take the lead late is a a microcosm of their performance. Kyle Lowry took the ball and went full ISO mode, only to get stuffed at the rim by Omer Asik. Finally, while forcing 17 turnovers is a great sign, only scoring 13 points off of them shows a lack of execution. Plain and simple.

Toronto Raptors vs. New Orleans Pelicans: Postgame Grades and Analysis | Bleacher Report

Omer Asik was relatively quiet without Davis in the lineup—a fact that many would assume might kill the Pelicans. However, Alexis Ajinca kept the team afloat inside, offering a 16-point, nine-rebound performance in which he saw the team’s crunch-time minutes. With him leading the post, New Orleans saw its greatest stretches of success. Even with Valanciunas excelling in the opening half, Ajinca went toe-to-toe with him whenever on the court. With New Orleans’ frontcourt depth severely depleted, Ajinca’s big night was needed desperately. Though it was a team victory, it’s hard to imagine them pulling away without his services.

Toronto Raptors would benefit from league reducing four-games-in-five-nights stretches | National Post

For their part, the Raptors have had to go through this gauntlet three times this year. They went 3-1 in November with games in four different cities (including Toronto) and 4-0 in January. The Raptors split a back-to-back set in Atlanta and Houston on the weekend, and travel to Dallas on Tuesday. In general, the Raptors have been very good on back-to-backs this year. However, competitiveness is not really the point, since every team battles a similar number of schedule quirks. Patterson was questionable to play on Monday because of a sprained knee. Teams are lucky to make it through the year with one or two of their rotation players pushing 80 games. On Monday, for example, the Pelicans were prepared to play without three of their starters. Some of that is injury luck, but it has been pretty definitively proven that the schedule is too tight for athletes to endure most seasons. Then, there is the quality of play. Think back to Saturday’s game in Houston, when the Raptors and Rockets, both on the painful end of a back-to-back set, combined to turn the ball over an obscene 50 times. “Something has to give whether it is the product on the floor or the players’ bodies,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. “All we can do is make that known to commissioner Silver. He has been great as far as knowing what is best for the game. My humble opinion I think it [would be] good for the league and good for the game.”

Inconsistency Hurts The Toronto Raptors | Pro Bball Report

If you want to get into Casey’s doghouse, not being ready to play when its time to start the game will do it. The Raptors coach was not a happy man postgame. “When you don’t come out in this league ready to play mentally and physically, I don’t care who you are, you are going to get your behind handed to you,” Casey said. “Tonight we didn’t come out with the right mind set. They were the hungrier team. They did all the hard and grimy things that we did Friday in Atlanta.” Casey summed up Saturday night’s game in a nutshell, the Raptors were not physical. When they have trouble shooting from the floor, they have to play hard physical defense or they don’t have a chance to win.

Toronto Raptors at Dallas Mavericks: Tuesday NBA game preview | Toronto Star

There aren’t too many teams that can field a starting five with two seven-footers, but Mavs centre Tyson Chandler is seven-foot-one and star power forward Dirk Nowitzki is seven-feet. … Nowitzki is averaging 17.9 points and 6.1 assists per game. . . . Chandler’s averaging a double-double: 10.7 points and 11.8 rebounds.

Dallas Mavericks vs. Toronto Raptors Preview: Mavs face the high octane North | Mavs Moneyball

The Raptors’ defense hasn’t been consistent but the team has the third most efficient offense in the league, thanks to a high free throw rate and few turnovers. They attempt 25.3 free throws per game and draw a trip to the stripe on 23.5 percent of their field goal attempts. These marks rank them fourth and third in the league respectively. Dallas doesn’t commit a great deal of shooting fouls but they will have their hands full with the Raptors. Dallas will have to keep players like Lowry, DeRozan and reserve guard Louis Williams off the free throw line. And the Mavs will have to do a better job rebounding the ball than they did in that November meeting, when Toronto kept the game close in part thanks to 15 offensive rebounds.

Photo by Gerald Herbert/AP

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