-Playing short-handed with no Valanciunas, DeMarre Carroll or Bebe and Bismack Biyombo and Terrence Ross in the starting line-up, the Raptors collected a relatively easy win over the underwhelming Lakers.
-Terrence Ross played undoubtedly the best game of the $31.5 million dollar era, putting up 22 points with 6 rebounds and 2 steals on 8 of 12 shooting while leading the team with 39 minutes. He was shooting in rhythm and looked more sure of himself than he has lately, prompting Leo to ask on the broadcast, “Is Terrence just more comfortable hearing his name called in the starting lineup?” The body language doctor isn’t convinced of anything when it comes to T Ross, but their did seem to be more purpose to his game, as if realizing and embracing that the team needed more out of him. It’s also possible that playing with the starters simply means that you’re playing with better players who are better used to playing together as a unit and run more clearly defined plays, resulting in better plays, more double teams for others that leave you open for spot-ups and better quality passes and thus shots from those teammates. Regardless, with Carroll out indefinitely, Ross starting is likely to be the case for the foreseeable future, so his solid performance is a very positive sign.
-Kyle Lowry continuing to utilize the rolling big men in pick and roll for lobs and easy buckets! Amongst the many improvements Lowry has made in his game this season, one of the more pleasant things we’re seeing lately is his development hitting the rolling Biyombo and Bebe for uncontested layups, dunks and lobs off of screens. The Raptors guard tandems have been amongst the least likely ball handlers to utilize the rolling big man in that play over the last 2 years, and the league has noticed. Lowry seems to have realized that they’ve noticed, and instead of bullying through double teams on the pick and roll he’s hitting the bigs with lobs and bounce passes that have them completing the highest percentage shots in basketball. Lowry found Biyombo twice in the second half with lobs this way while putting in 27 points to go with his 7 rebounds and 6 assists. Lowry’s high volume and high shooting percentage from 3 also continued, as he shot 5 of 11 from deep, helping to buoy the team’s outside shooting as Lowry and Ross were the only Raptors to hit an outside shot all night. Lowry’s offensive game is blossoming beautifully, and if he can incorporate Valanciunas into it the way he has Bebe and Biyombo then the team will be much tougher to guard moving forward.
-The 2015-2016 Lakers are now officially off to the worst start in Lakers franchise history at 3-18. It is so hard to watch this Lakers team play and convince yourself that they’re actually being run with any kind of overarching, intelligent plan or direction. Byron Scott moved trying despite their team to develop young players Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell to the bench for this game. Being the clown who makes the most questionable decisions on a team is a tough mantle to claim for a franchise that has Metta World Peace, but gosh darn it, Byron Scott sure is trying. MWP tried to reclaim his throne post game though, remarking, “We have a chance to go to the playoffs, we still have a chance. It’s very slim, but we have a chance.” Aww, isn’t that kind of delusional thinking just adorable?
-The Raptors fans trying to chant ‘de-fense’ were drowned out by chants of ‘ko-be’. The Strange Kobe Bryant chucker road show continues to amaze, though more surprising than his name drowning out the home crowd support, much to Casey’s stated annoyance and disappointment, was the fact that Kobe actually managed to shoot 50% from the field for the first time this entire season and passed more readily than he has for the most part as well. I’d like to credit the Kobe crowd to his last game, and I’m sure much of it has been, but Laker games continue to be weird home crowds full of gold jerseys and crazy high ticket prices at the ACC.
-1st quarters, especially to start games, continue to be just dreadful affairs for the Raps. Last night, the first 7 minutes of the game saw the Raptors fall behind quickly. During those first 7 minutes, Kyle Lowry was essentially uninvolved in every Raptors possession. I know good point guards like to get their teammates involved early before taking over late; it’s the CP3 move of facilitating while saving energy, but the ball movement and shot production just dies without one of Lowry or Joseph making the ball move. The Raptors are just punting on the early part of the game when they opt to simply let Scola, Ross and DeRozan have a few attempts to make plays slowly happen on their own in these circumstances. Ross actually carried the 1st quarter scoring for the Raps. Scola looks particularly rough without the space to operate from Valanciunas’ gravity, as his numbers continue to plummet without him. Scola can run some nice moves from the post, but he’s struggling mightily to get into position to make them when he’s fighting his way into it with the ball, late in the shot clock without having established position first. Biyombo is simply being left literally unguarded at times. The Raptors figured out how to utilize this as the game progressed, but the starting lineup is struggling, especially early, with him clogging the driving lanes and consuming space from Scola when he isn’t being used in the pick and roll.