Quick Reaction: Raptors 97, Blazers 113

Defence (what else is new?) the culprit as the Raptors drop a winnable one.

Portland Trail Blazers113Final

Recap | Box Score

97Toronto Raptors
Amir Johnson, PF 32 MIN | 5-10 FG | 0-0 FT | 7 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | -22 +/-It’s tough to single out any one Raptor for the team’s defensive woes, but Johnson sure felt like a liability in the first half, rotating extremely slowly, and, most notably, losing his man on the fast break numerous times, which led to teammates like Lou Williams and Kyle Lowry checking LaMarcus Aldridge. He pulled it together somewhat in the second half, upping the defensive intensity and being a big part of the pick and roll offense that brought the Raps within 8 at one point. Numbers aren’t bad, but this was a Jekyll and Hyde game for him.

Terrence Ross, SF 25 MIN | 1-6 FG | 0-0 FT | 1 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 1 TO | 3 PTS | -11 +/-A difficult night for Ross, who struggled guarding Nicholas Batum and couldn’t get anything going offensively before being replaced in the rotation by James Johnson midway through the third. I want to highlight an excellent pass he made to a driving Amir on a third quarter baseline drive, because a) it’s nice to see his drive awareness developing and b) that was the only thing resembling a highlight he put up tonight.

Jonas Valanciunas, C 22 MIN | 7-7 FG | 0-0 FT | 9 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 14 PTS | -16 +/-22 minutes??? Only 7 field goal attempts?? It seemed like the Raptors forgot Valanciunas was on the floor, because everything he did when he got a chance was a positive. He had his troubles guarding Aldridge in the post and keeping the Blazer bigs off the glass, but he was the team’s most effective scoring option by a large margin and showed a great amount of versatility, even hitting a midrange jumper off a pick and pop. GET THIS GUY THE DAMN BALL.

Kyle Lowry, PG 35 MIN | 3-11 FG | 3-3 FT | 4 REB | 6 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 4 TO | 10 PTS | -11 +/-Came into the night like a house on fire, scoring 8 points in the first few minutes, but his game tended more to the distribution side of things after it became increasingly clear he was going to have a tough shooting night. Lillard is a tough matchup for him, especially defensively, and it seemed like his general intensity waned as the game went along. I don’t feel like he forced up shots, which is a good thing, but he definitely lost the battle of all-star point guards, in all aspects, tonight.

DeMar DeRozan, SG 35 MIN | 9-18 FG | 4-5 FT | 8 REB | 2 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 22 PTS | -15 +/-The most effective Raptor on the floor tonight, save for Jonas, who is disqualified due to (WHY?? WHY????) lack of shots. I’ve become particularly impressed by his ability to read defences off the bounce – seems like he’s making the right play, be it shot or pass, far more often than not nowadays. His hustle on the boards was evident and he ended up second on the team in that category after Valanciunas. The biggest reason this game was even as close as it was.

Tyler Hansbrough, PF 13 MIN | 2-2 FG | 4-5 FT | 3 REB | 0 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 2 TO | 8 PTS | +7 +/-He’s undersized, he’s limited, yadda yadda, you’ve heard this all from me before. That said, I LOVED what he brought to the table tonight, scrapping with Aldridge, jumping passing lanes, getting and-1s and battling with Chris Kaman (which was all kinds of hilarious for many reasons). Got called for an offensive foul and a travelling violation, but generally, he worked his tail off and was, quite honestly, the only Raptor big who was even remotely disruptive on defence.

James Johnson, PF 13 MIN | 1-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 3 REB | 1 AST | 0 STL | 1 BLK | 3 TO | 2 PTS | -6 +/-It was a smart move by Casey to swap Johnson for Ross when the game was still somewhat in doubt, with the Raptors down double digits but looking frisky in the third. The move immediately paid dividends, as Johnson’s tough nosed defence helped pull the team within 9 within a few minutes. However, individually, we saw some errors we aren’t accustomed to from Johnson – push off offensive fouls, traveling, losing his man on defence – that made you question whether the team’s early effectiveness wasn’t because he simply wasn’t Terrence Ross (and missing the same shots).

Patrick Patterson, PF 24 MIN | 3-5 FG | 0-0 FT | 5 REB | 2 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 7 PTS | +3 +/-Did a reasonable job spacing out the floor offensively in the first half, but had an impossible time keeping his check off the boards and was possibly the Raptor big most susceptible to losing his man on the pick and roll. The team is hedging hard off screeners, meaning that bigs need to hustle their butts back to re-pick up their checks, and it felt like more often than not Patterson doing that either meant a switch by a guard or a wide open Blazer. Add that to a nonexistent second half offensively and you wind up with a C-.

Greg Stiemsma, C 2 MIN | 0-0 FG | 0-2 FT | 2 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | 0 +/-Chuck Hayes, where art thou.

Greivis Vasquez, PG 18 MIN | 4-9 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 1 BLK | 1 TO | 10 PTS | -2 +/-Liked what he brought to the game for the most part – he was useless guarding Lillard (not a surprise), but did a good job orchestrating the offence and spearheading the ball movement the second unit worked to great effect early on. He tailed off late, like all the non DeMar and Jonas Raptors, but without him, you felt like things could easily fall apart at times.

Louis Williams, SG 20 MIN | 2-8 FG | 7-8 FT | 0 REB | 3 AST | 1 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 11 PTS | -7 +/-If you’ve seen a Lou Williams game, you know how this one went. He chucked up more shots than his percentage demanded, yet found himself still scoring his points due to his otherworldly ability to goad defenders into fouling (twice on threes tonight). Showed some nice chemistry with Vasquez in the second quarter too. His defence, though, like all the Raptor wings, was just not adequate tonight.

Landry Fields, SG 2 MIN | 0-1 FG | 0-0 FT | 0 REB | 0 AST | 0 STL | 0 BLK | 0 TO | 0 PTS | 0 +/-Bruno Caboclo, where art thou.

Dwane Casey
I don’t really know what to say here – as a coach, you can’t force your guys to rush hard on switches, but you need to take some of the blame for such a defensive meltdown. On top of that, the decision to not feature a red-hot Valanciunas in the offence was beyond perplexing. I liked the decision to replace Ross with Johnson in the lineup late, but feel like that could have (and should have) been eased into earlier. Just because Johnson isn’t playing regular rotation minutes doesn’t mean he can’t get a couple in the first half. Seriously, though, the biggest problem is the defence – when teams are shredding you like this regularly and you bill yourself as a defensive mind, you will be judged on that, fairly or unfairly.

Four Things We Saw

  1. First big stat: Three point shooting. Raptors were 5 of 18, mostly on off the dribble looks. The Blazers were 13 of 29, nearly all off quick ball movement and inside-out plays. The Raptors did a better job of closing out in the second half, but by then, the shooters were hot and the damage done.
  2. For as negative as my player writeups may sound, this game certainly wasn’t the worst I’ve seen the Raptors play. The team hung with a strong Portland team for three plus quarters – it felt like this game was in play even when the home squad was down 16. The offence was more than adequate for most of the night before tailing off late.
  3. That being said, something need to change about this defence. I don’t know if it’s a system overhaul, or moving someone out of the rotation, or more Chuck Hayes, but the amount of easy looks the team gave up tonight is going to make it impossible for them to beat teams at this level. In a horribly ironic twist, it seems like the two spots the team is most vulnerable is either at the hoop or behind the tree point line – coincidentally the most effective spots for an offensive team to shoot.
  4. Man, I wish Hansbrough had any semblance of basketball skill. If the whole team adopted his mentality, I can’t help but feel like the defence would improve substantially. Spazziness isn’t sexy, but constant movement is the first step towards disrupting the passing lanes that seem to be wide as a freeway at this point.

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