Morning Coffee – Thu, Jan 21

Unpredictable Raptors top Celtics, win sixth straight | Toronto Sun

The Raptors can’t say Dwane Casey failed to send a warning before Wednesday’s game against the Boston Celtics. “We can’t play two out of four quarters,” Casey had said a day earlier. “We need to string them together. If not, it’s going to be a long evening.” The Raptors again showcased the team’s wildcard nature, playing at times absurdly well offensively against a very good defensive squad and at others, particularly in the first and third quarters, but at other times truly wretched defence. In the end, the inconsistency didn’t prove fatal as the club won its sixth-straight game, 115-109.

Raptors’ Lowry shows off defensive skills in clash with Thomas | Sportsnet.ca

“He’s so talented, man,” Lowry said of Thomas. “He can get to the basket, he draws fouls, he shoots the ball really well. He’s number two in the league in fourth quarter scoring, so you’ve got to go in late. He’s just a talented player. Its kinda one of those things where you just try to contest his shots and hopefully he’ll miss them.” Of course, this is the new Kyle Lowry, slimmed down and leaned out after an off-season of rigorous conditioning and strict dieting, which has allowed him to play more up-tempo defence late in games and keep his legs moving through screens to hunt down quicker guards. And it’s also the new Raptors, who are a top-five defensive team in 2015-16 after allowing up-tempo opponents to practically score at will in last season’s disappointing campaign. On a night when speedy back-up point guard Cory Joseph was -17 and left on the bench for the majority of the fourth quarter, Lowry’s ability to contain Boston’s primary weapon was even more crucial.

Raptors outlast Celtics in a surprising shootout | Toronto Star

His backcourt mate, Kyle Lowry, summed up the game plan for Wednesday perfectly.
“Get him the ball and get out of the way,” Lowry said. “He’s going to shoot his little Kobe Bryant fade-aways and he’s going to make them. Get him the ball and get out of the way. When he’s on one of them rolls right there, you sit back and watch a bit.”
DeRozan had a captive audience watching and an entire Celtics team trying to slow him down. To the delight of the 19,800 at the ACC, nothing the Celtics did worked against him. At one point in the third, DeRozan was fouled on the floor and flicked a shot a good 20 feet in the air without looking and had it drop cleanly through.
“I think it comes with experience,” DeRozan said of the new level he’s playing at this year. “When you’re consciously trying to become a better player every single year, you’re looking at things you can clean up on and get better on.”

10 things I noticed from Raptors-Celtics | Getting Benched

DeMar DeRozan is on one. The Celtics had two of the best perimeter defenders in the league between Avery Bradley (quickness, hands), and Jae Crowder (size, strength, length). None of that mattered. He killed Bradley in the post, and worked pick-and-roll beautifully to shed Crowder on the screen. 34 never came so easily.

Game Rap: Raptors 115, Celtics 109 | Toronto Raptors

DeMar DeRozan scored a game-high 34 points on 13-for-25 field goals. He added six assists, two rebounds and a steal in 38 minutes and he made eight of nine free throws. Most of DeRozan’s makes were heavily contested, but the Celtics, like the rest of his opponents of late, were unable to slow him down. DeRozan is averaging 22.8 points, 4.1 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game.

Raptors, Celtics a rivalry worth keeping an eye on | Sportsnet.ca

But the point worth making is that the Celtics’ identity as scrappy underdogs rebuilding incrementally from within could be shattered anytime in the next few weeks and almost certainly by next summer. They may not have a seasoned scorer like DeRozan to lean on and while tiny Isaiah Thomas is having a season that will earn him some all-star consideration, Lowry is the better player. Why fear the Celtics then? Because Boston has one of the deepest troves of draft picks this side of the Philadelphia 76ers. Thanks to their decision to cut the cord on the final days of the Kevin Garnett-led championship team of 2008 and send Garnett and Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets in the summer of 2013, Boston is in the driver’s seat for almost any significant trade that could get made before the Feb. 19 NBA trade deadline. The Celtics have Brooklyn’s first-round pick in 2016 and 2018 and the right to swap firsts with the Nets in 2017. Given the Nets have the third-worst record in the NBA and appear headed for an extended tour of the nether reaches of the league standings, these are incredibly valuable assets. Boston has gathered some other lesser firsts as well.

Raptors outgun Celtics 115-109 on the back of DeRozan & JV | Raptors HQ

This game wasn’t exactly a complete effort. Lowry had and off night (although he was still effective), Patterson’s hot shooting cooled and the bench – particularly Cory Joseph – struggled; it was largely responsible for letting Boston run wild in the second quarter. Joseph had just two points on 1-of-6 shooting, bricking two threes and passing up a wide-open one that led to a Biyombo three-second violation in the fourth quarter. Ross had issues, like the rest of his teammates, defensively in that second quarter, but he was one of the only sources of offense during that stretch. In the second half, his defense perked up. He had a steal that led to an open, but unsuccessful corner three for Joseph, and had a massive block late as the Raptors defended a narrow lead. The strong performances by DeRozan, Valanciunas and Ross combined with some minor hiccups translated into one of the more entertaining games of the Raptors season, and a solid win over a pesky opponent. On top of that, it was further proof that DeRozan belongs in the All-Star game even though he won’t be voted in Thursday night.

Celtics lose 115-109 to red-hot Raptors | CelticsBlog

Demar DeRozan is a star.  Not a superstar, certainly, and maybe not even a max guy in this age of analytics, but he put on a show tonight, and it was impressive.  34 points on 25 shots is not a bad line.  I don’t know if the fact that he was 0-1 from deep makes the line more or less impressive, to be honest.

“We are the two best friends that anyone could have.”

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Talented Raptors are too much for Celtics in 115-109 win | The Boston Globe

For a Celtics team that prides itself on defense, the ease with which Toronto scored was jarring. The Raptors seemed to dizzy Boston with a mixture of long 3-pointers and aggressive play inside that was set in motion by Kyle Lowry’s success in the pick-and-roll. Although the Celtics responded by hitting 12 of 26 3-pointers of their own, they are not necessarily built for shootouts. “It’s been good to see the ball going in the hole for a lot of guys this trip,” forward Jae Crowder said. “But we’ve got to get back to our defense.”

Classic DeMar. #WeTheNorth

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Boston Celtics lose to red-hot shooting Toronto Raptors, 115-109 | Comcast Sportsnet

Boston had a particularly difficult time trying to defending DeMar DeRozan. He lit the Celtics up for 34 points which included a clutch, fade-away jumper in the final minute that made it a two-possession game, 113-109. His shooting was one of the keys to Toronto shooting 55.4 percent from the field.

Post Game Report Card: DeRozan, Raptors Overcome Celtics in Amir’s Return to Toronto | Raptors Cage

The Raptors shot an incredible 55% from the field, while hitting 38% of their shots downtown. Toronto also managed to pull down 9 offensive boards and dished the ball out 23 times on 46 shots. The Raps had another all-star caliber performance from DeMar DeRozan who finished with 34 points, 2 boards, 6 helpers and 1 steal. Jonas Valanciunas also played exceptional as he chipped in 19 points, on a perfect 9/9 from the field, as well as 12 boards.

TREATMENT FLOW….#TeamCarroll #WeTheNorth #jyd2point0 #BLESSED #Staypositive

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There’s no taking the Raptor out of Amir Johnson | TSN

How tough was that for him? “It wasn’t tough… it’s the business… yada yada.” He wasn’t biting. Maybe he had moved on after all. Then somebody asked if he was surprised that his old teammate Patrick Patterson didn’t step into his vacant starting role. “Pat has been good for us always off the bench,” he said, before noticing and correcting his slip up. “Or, good for Toronto off the bench.” “Any questions about Boston?,” he asked moments later. “Anything?” Regardless of what he says or how hard he tries to mask the natural disappointment of how things went down with that smile of his, it couldn’t have been easy for him. Two hundred five players have suited up for the Raptors in their 21-year history and only a small handful, at most, have ever embraced the city, the country like Johnson. Fittingly, the ovation he received upon returning the ACC reflected that. Johnson has shown Raptors fans a lot of love over the years. He’s taken them out to dinner by the hundreds and handed them Drake CDs on one of downtown Toronto’s busiest streets, to name just a few. On Wednesday evening they gave some of that love back. The tribute video Toronto ran for him during a first-quarter timeout was one of the best the team had ever produced and the recipient couldn’t have been more deserving.

Lowry and DeRozan’s friendship makes Raptors stronger | Toronto Sun

“I think when they first got here, I think they looked at each other like ‘OK’, ” said Casey before the Raptors took on the Boston Celtics Wednesday. “But then as things went on and as the games went on and winning went on, they saw that they could co-exist together.” DeRozan was drafted ninth overall by the Raptors in 2009 while Lowry came over in a trade from the Houston Rockets in July 2012. “I think the trust has been built, the friendship built, and they (have) a good thing going,” continued Casey. That friendship has been evident as the Raptors enjoy a successful campaign — sitting first in the Atlantic and second in the Eastern Conference — while both players thrive off of each other and even

Toronto Raptors: DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry Lead New Era | Hoops Habit

Let’s say the Raptors fall short, they make the playoffs and are once again eliminated in the first round. That’d be three straight years of winning an awful lot of regular season games to accomplish zilch when it’s all said and done. DeRozan would then face free agency with a crushed soul, frustration in his heart, and three years of “we weren’t even close” on his mind. Has DeRozan given any real indication that he’s leaving, or thinking about leaving? No. But do the Raptors want him headed into free agency with that state of mind? Hell no, they don’t. They want DeRozan and the rest of this Raptors team thinking, “we came so close, we’re a real contender.” That’s a thought or a feeling that I don’t think any Raptors player or fan has yet to ever experience in the franchise’s 21 seasons.

Harsh Take: On mid-season form and new perspectives for 2016 | Raptors HQ

Jonas Valanciunas: So what if he moves like me? So what if he made me anoint him “Baby Ostertag?” From the moment he screamed out “Wictory Baby”, we’ve been attached at the hip to JV. Finally playing in a defensive scheme that hides his weaknesses, the team has been much, much better with him on the court (team-leading 7.7 net rating). It’s okay if he has the tunnel vision of the true Sportsperson of the Year, American Pharoah, I am happy with him.

Can Patrick Patterson Evolve Into A Power Small Forward? | Pro Bball Report

“My whole life I was a center,” Patterson told Pro Bball Report. “All the way up until my Junior year when Coach Calipari came to Kentucky and had me work out with the wings and the guards. Then getting to the NBA and having Coach Adelman encourage me to shoot mid-range jump shots while at the same time still looking at the post and then Coach Kevin McHale came in and right off the bat he told me he wanted me to shoot threes and that’s what I’ve been doing for the longest time. Now I am just starting to read the defense and as I knock down more shots, the defense wants to run me off my opportunities to shoot the three, so I have been working on that in-between game.”

Ex-Raptor Reggie Evans reveals drug-dealing past — and how he’ll heal his hometown | Toronto Star

Evans’ career as a dealer was relatively short, curtailed when he saw his cousin arrested twice within a week for attempts to sell drugs. “I quit then. I cold turkey quit,” Evans said. “I felt like that was a sign for me to quit.” Evans moved on from his past in Pensacola. A prized basketball prospect during high school, he ended up attending Coffeyville (Kansas) Community College. He transferred to Iowa for his final two collegiate years before signing with the Seattle Sonics as an undrafted free agent prior to the 2002-03 season. None of those places is close to Pensacola. Evans knew he had to get away in order to make it on his own. “I would’ve been selling dope,” Evans hypothesized about his fate if he had stayed closer to home. “I probably wouldn’t be in the position where I am now. I would’ve been weak-minded. I would’ve been doing stuff; I pretty much would’ve been a follower.

In the mag: There Will Never Be Another Dunk Contest Champ Like Vince | Sportsnet.ca

What nobody could have known was that the three finalists would combine to put on arguably the greatest showing of all time, and that Carter’s performance would go down as the gold standard in contest dunking, just as jaw-dropping 15 years later as it was on that Saturday night in Oakland.

In the current issue of Sportsnet magazine, I spoke at length with Carter for the definitive and complete oral history of his performance at the 2000 dunk contest. Also hear from Stackhouse (…who’s turn to dunk came immediately after Carter’s), TNT announcer Kenny Smith (who’s famous “It’s over!” call still resonates today), Carter’s then-teammate and former contest champ Dee Brown, Terrence Ross (who paid tribute to Carter when he won the contest in 2013), and many more.

Toronto Raptors worth $980 million: Forbes | Toronto Sun

The Toronto Raptors are 14th at $980 million.

The Business Of Basketball List – Forbes

Photo Credit: Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press via AP

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