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Morning Coffee – Tue, Feb 7

10 things I saw from Raptors-Clippers (6–2–2017) – The Defeated

Welcome back: No rust whatsoever for DeMar DeRozan. He scored 13 in the first quarter and it just kept on coming. Working off the high screen to get into the lane, drive and dish to his bigs, floaters with either hand in the lane, getting to the foul stripe. He even drilled two threes: pull-up off a screen, corner look to beat the buzzer.

DeMar DeRozan’s return reawakens hunger in Raptors – Sportsnet.ca

It’s troubling to imagine what Monday’s loose, defence-free first quarter would have looked like for the Raptors without DeRozan around to pour in his first 13 points. The Raptors started slow in their own end, struggling to keep up with an endlessly cycling Clippers offence and allowing L.A. to hit six of its first eight shots. When the Raptors took their first timeout less than four minutes into the game, the Clippers already had a nine-point lead.

But after missing his first three attempts DeRozan started getting to work. Pivoting off a much-needed injection of energy from Nogeuira and centre Jonas Valanciunas, DeRozan’s shots began to fall and he found his way to the free-throw line seven times in the quarter, putting those early misses behind him with a steady string of buckets.

Once Lowry—who had an excellent start himself—finished his early shift, DeRozan dragged the Raptors through the end of the first, finishing it with a ringing put-back after Jakob Poeltl’s contested fast-break lay-up rimmed out. After trailing by double digits minutes earlier, the Raptors were finishing the opening frame up by four.

Finally healthy DeMar DeRozan helps Raptors break out of losing funk | Toronto Sun

DeRozan finished the game with 31 points including two three pointers but his return wasn’t just the return of a polished scorer. His presence just seemed to settle everyone in the lineup as the Raps won this one rather handily 118-109.

“It kind of put things back in the pecking order,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said after the game. “It’s funny how things go, you have so many talented young men but it’s still a pecking order. Guys know the rhythm with DeMar back in, how we play offensively, how we play defensively.”

In DeRozan’s absence, Lowry has been a rock, shouldering the load without his backcourt mate and keeping the Raptors afloat in trying times with both DeRozan and for a good chunk of his absence, Patrick Patterson out of the lineup too.

But with DeRozan back, Lowry looked more like his old self, not quite so frantic and not needing to be.

DeMar DeRozan’s return puts Raptors back in their rhythm | Toronto Star

“It kind of puts things back in the pecking order,” coach Dwane Casey said. “It’s funny how things go, you have so many talented young men but it’s still a pecking order. Guys know the rhythm with DeMar back in, how we play offensively, how we play defensively.”

How the Raptors played was well, at both ends of the court. They had a season-high 70 points in the first half, shot 49 per cent from the field and limited the Clippers to just 47 per cent shooting, a number more impressive when Blake Griffin’s 11-for-19 night is taken off the total.

“I think tonight we did the best job of passing out of double teams of any time this year,” Casey said. “We didn’t make shots but we made the right decisions and I think in time those shots will fall.

“I thought (Jonas Valanciunas) caught it in the middle and made good decisions, Lucas (Nogueira) got it in the middle (and) made good decisions and we still have to make the shots. And Kyle and DeMar willingly, on time and on target, gave up the ball and that’s so important. That’s a sign of growth.”

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Game Rap: Raptors 118, Clippers 109 | Toronto Raptors

FINISHING STRONG

Prior to the game, Dwane Casey talked about his team’s effort levels as they recently lost eight of 10 games saying that the effort was there, but the team needed to find a way to extend their stretches of defensive intensity. By the mid-way point of the quarter, free throws from Jonas Valanciunas stretched the lead to 20 points. Although Toronto would be outscored 16-5 in the final 6:30 of the game, the defensive effort throughout the game in building the 20-point lead allowed them to pick up their second consecutive victory after dropping eight of 10 games.

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Blake Griffin’s triple-double is not enough for Clippers, 118-109 – LA Times

The Clippers never got a handle on DeMar DeRozan (31 points), who had missed seven of his last eight games with a sore right ankle, or Kyle Lowry (24 points, eight assists), or Jonas Valanciunas  (21 points, 12 rebounds).

In their last 10 games, the Clippers have the worst defensive rating (116.7) in the NBA.

“I don’t know why, but we’re pretty [bad] right now,” Clippers center DeAndre Jordan said after being limited to just 24 minutes 47 seconds because of foul trouble.

And why is the defense so porous?

“I think it’s multiple efforts,” Jordan said. “Locking into the game plan and just having some urgency and some fight.”

First half views (1/3). #WeTheNorth

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February 6, 2017: Clippers 109, Raptors 118 – Los Angeles Clippers Blog

X-Factor: The Raptors dominated the Clippers from the FT line. Toronto made 26-of-29 FTs (89.7 percent), while the Clippers made only 12-of-18 FTs (66.7 percent). That’s a 14-point differential, the second-worst of the season for the Clippers behind only their December 30 game in Houston. DeRozan and All-Star teammate PG Kyle Lowry combined to make more FTs (14-of-16) than the Clippers did as a team.

@normanpowell4 can fly. #WeTheNorth

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Clippers Fall to Raptors, 109-118 – Clips Nation

Free throws really plagued the Clippers throughout this game. The Raptors are an excellent team at both drawing and converting foul shots, so it was crucial for the Clippers to prevent any Raptors players, particularly DeRozan and Kyle Lowry, from getting to the line. By halftime, the Raptors were 19-22 at the line, versus the Clippers’ 5-7. And by game’s end, though the Clippers had managed to close the margin, 7 of DeRozan’s game-high 31 points and 7 of Lowry’s 24 came from the free throw line. As a team, the Raptors shot 89.7% from behind the line, making 26 of 29 attempts.

By contrast, the Clippers, also a great team at drawing fouls this season, only made 12 of 18 attempted free throws, good enough for just 66.7%. As bad as that was, the larger issue at hand was defending the Raptors without initiating contact. DeAndre Jordan, the defensive anchor for the Clippers, had committed his second foul less than four minutes into the game; he would find himself in foul trouble for much of the rest of the game. And his replacement, Marreese Speights, had also committed two costly fouls before the first quarter was even finished. The Clippers fouled plentifully, a result of poor-timing and being a bit over-zealous on the defensive end. The Clippers discovered an opportunity late in the second quarter by getting the ball down-low to Griffin in the post, where he drew three straight fouls in less than a minute. But for some reason, this tactic wasn’t employed in the second half.

First half views (3/3). #WeTheNorth

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Raptors start slow, cruise to win over Clippers 118-109 – Raptors HQ

Valanciunas, meanwhile, continued his strong stretch of play. He had 21 points and 12 rebounds, while shooting 9-of-13 from the field and pulling out every trick in his offensive playbook. Valanciunas scored on putbacks, floaters, post-moves and a series of spins and drop steps. He even had the jumper working (with minimal pump fake involvement — Casey, when prompted, called him “decisive”). On defense, Jonas did what he could to keep DeAndre Jordan (6 points, 12 rebounds) from his usual thunderous finishes, and kept the team’s pick-and-roll defense relatively sound (Lucas Nogueira, 8 points and 6 boards, helped in this regard too). Sure the Raps gave up 60 points in the first half — but they scored 70, so all is forgiven.

First half views (2/3). #WeTheNorth

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Raptors this week: As deadline looms, it’s now or never to add to core – Sportsnet.ca

With this reality staring Toronto in the face just fourth months from now, it’s likely this season will be the last with one or even both of these players. Lowry’s departure would obviously hurt the most, but, as has become very apparent this season, Patterson is almost as important for what the Raptors want to accomplish.

Therefore, Masai Ujiri and Co. have to make a deadline move or they may as well abandon this Raptors team as constructed and look to begin to tear it down.

Ujiri has been incredibly conservative during his tenure with Raptors. Other than trading Rudy Gay, a move that accidently set into motion this period of Raptors prosperity, and drafting Bruno Caboclo, a pick that’s done absolutely nothing to help this current Raptors team, Ujiri has opted for slow and steady team building.

It’s a strategy that’s worked thus far, mainly because of how friendly the team’s core players’ contracts have been. But starting with DeMarre Carroll’s four-year $60-million deal – a contract that keeps looking worse and worse because of his diminishing skills – and continuing with DeRozan’s mega deal this past off-season the Raptors’ cap situation is an issue.

The team’s financial situation should spur Ujiri and his staff into action, one way or the other.

Toronto Raptors Two-Man Game: Depressing January – Tip of the Tower

Panic, no. Concerned, yes.

The Raptors have their issues right now, but I’m not quite ready to panic yet. Let’s keep in mind that both DeMar DeRozan and Patrick Patterson have been in-and-out during this stretch of losing and they are key cogs for the team. With them in the lineup, the Raptors are averaging over 100 points per 100 possessions and we’ve seen this team struggle to score without them.

Of course, there are glaring issues like their shooting slump, inefficiencies on the glass, big-man rotation, Cory Joseph‘s play and constant defensive lapses, to name a few, but I won’t panic until we see this team at full strength. If they’re losing with a healthy roster, then, yea, smash the panic button with reckless abandon!

Frustrated? Yes, but the Raptors Aren’t Panicking – The New York Times

When Dwane Casey, the coach of the Raptors, was asked about his team’s level of confidence before Sunday’s game against the Nets, he used the word frustrated four times.

“Everybody’s frustrated,” Casey said. “When things are going good, everybody’s excited and happy. And then when you lose a few games in a row, it does test you. A lot of guys are frustrated. You want them to be frustrated. I want them to be frustrated. Nobody’s jumping up and down and chirping and whistling Dixie or whatever.”

Still, Casey seems to have solid perspective on such matters. Whenever he feels susceptible to the seductive tug of despair, Casey thinks back to when he was an assistant coach with the Dallas Mavericks during the 2010-11 season. After running out to a strong start, the Mavericks went one stretch in which they lost nine of 11 games.

“We thought the end of the world was coming,” Casey recalled, “but we kept fighting, we kept practicing and we stayed together.”

Court Squeaks: Lowry solidifying his place in Raptors history – Video – TSN

Matthew Scianitti and Josh Lewenberg discuss DeMar DeRozan’s impressive return to the Raptors’ lineup and explain how he makes the job easier for everyone else on the team, what Kyle Lowry’s franchise record for three-pointers means for the All-Star, and weigh in on Cory Joseph’s recent struggles.

Patterson critical to Raptors’ success – Video – TSN

The importance of Patrick Patterson should not be overlooked by Raptors fans. His field goal percentage may be the worst of his career, but this year he has the 11th best plus/minus in the NBA. Leo Rautins has more on how critical he is to Toronto’s success.

Walter “Edy” Tavares named D-League All-Star – Raptors HQ

Tavares is currently averaging 10.1 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.5 blocks in 28 games played. Tavares was not initially on the 905 roster as they claimed him off waivers after the Atlanta Hawks cut him. Nevertheless, he’s been a huge part of the team’s success so far this season, particularly on the defensive end.

Tavares currently ranks 5th in the D-League in shooting percentage at 60.6 percent (though most are dunks) and 3rd in blocks per game. He continues to be a very large man.

Did I miss something? Send me any Raptors-related article/video to [email protected]

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