On Pro Bball Report last week: Timberwolves problems, Cody Zeller, Celtics trade, NBA Rookie Watch, Raptors identity, pregame and post game stories and more.
Minnesota has a right to object, but in Toronto, we’ve seen this movie before. A pretty good looking team led by a bona fide All-Star power forward that just can’t seem to get over the hump. The Timberwolves have become the Western Conference’s version of the Chris Bosh led Toronto Raptors.
Chris Bosh was a perennial 20+ point 10+ rebound guy in Toronto who could put up monster games and carry his team to victory – some of the time. But like Andrea Bargnani said after Bosh left (paraphrasing) – we didn’t win anything when he was here.
“It is definitely a learning process being a rookie in the NBA,” Zeller said. “You have a lot to learn, but everyone has been good about trying to help me out, the coaches, the vets, everyone along the way. We are winning, so everything is better when you are winning.
“It’s definitely fun. It could be a lot worse than playing basketball for a living.”
In a big 3 team deal, the Boston Celtics have traded MarShon Brooks and Jordan Crawford to the Golden State Warriors for a package of draft picks from the HEAT and the contract of Joel Anthony. The HEAT receive Toney Douglas from the Warriors and move Anthony’s $3.8 million contract this season and $3.8 million player option for next season which will result in some nice luxury tax savings for the HEAT.
Two weeks into the New Year and the NBA rookies to watch are still Michael Carter-Williams, Victor Oladipo and Trey Burke, however, there may be some competition looming on the horizon. As the season shakes out and teams resign themselves to their respective fates, certain rookies are going to get their chance to shine while others will see their minutes cut. The Knicks might apologize to Tim Hardaway Jr. as he has been playing well, but winning games has meant the rookie has lost 5 minutes from his playing time in January. Other teams, like the Bucks, really have no reasons left to hold back their rookies any longer.
Make no mistake, Toronto has been on a roll since the Rudy Gay trade, but they haven’t been in a game like this one vs the Bucks. The Raptors couldn’t take any of their opponents over the past 17 games lightly as they have faced as tough a schedule as the NBA could have arranged for them. At 7-29 and losers of 13 of their past 15 games, Milwaukee is the softest touch Toronto has seen this season and for a team that has only just become accustomed to winning, this game has trap written all over it.
The Toronto Raptors quite literally cruised into third place in the Eastern Conference with a 116-94 win over the last place Bucks on Monday night at the Air Canada Centre. With a record of 19-17, Toronto is percentage points ahead of the idle Hawks who only play 1 game this week because they are in London England for a game against the Nets on Thursday.
“(Patterson) is stepping in offensively and giving us that punch off the bench,” Casey said. “Stretching the floor for us, defending multiple positions – 2s, 3s and 4s and possibly could guard some 5s in the league. He has been a great addition for us. His energy coming into the game – he and John Salmons both – has been huge.”
While the Raptors have been rising up the standings to claim third place in the Eastern Conference, the crumbling Boston Celtics have dropped 9 games in a row to sit 1 game out of third last overall in the NBA. Right now the distraction of the impending return of Rajon Rondo may be doing more harm than good?
On opening night in Toronto, the Raptors defeated the Celtics 93-87, but this isn’t the same team Boston faced way back then – the Raptors are a lot better now. The Celtics are better than their current 0-9 streak as well, so the Raptors will have to maintain this new level of play if they want to stretch the Celtics misery to 10 games. However, beating teams below them in the standings has not been an issue for the Raptors over the past month.
The words being quietly whispered in Toronto these days are, ‘Don’t blow it now!’
It was a brick-fest in Boston between 2 teams that didn’t deserve to win, but Jared Sullinger had 25 points and a career best 20 rebounds as the Celtics defeated the Raptors 88-83. Sullinger was the first Celtic since Kevin Garnett in 2007 to record a 20-20 game.
To put it mildly, this game was ugly. The Raptors held Boston to the lowest field goal percentage of any team they had faced this season at 34.5 percent. The Celtics even managed to miss 10 free throws, but as Boston won, the Raptors had their own problems. Toronto shot just 38.5 percent from the field and missed 13 free throws of their own as they set their season low for free throw shooting of 48 percent. The referees called 51 personal fouls and sent the teams to the free throw line a combined 61 times helping to eliminate any flow this game might have developed, an ugly game indeed.
“It’s the first stinker we’ve had,” Raptors Head Coach Dwane Casey said.
It has been a decade since the last time the Timberwolves won a game at the Air Canada Centre as the Raptors took them down for the tenth time in a row on home court 94-89. In a more current context, this was Toronto’s sixth consecutive home win as the Raptors have started protecting home court with a vengeance in the post-Rudy Gay era.
Minnesota never led in the game and Toronto led by double-digits in the mid-part of each quarter, but the Raptors could never completely put this game out of reach until the end and that should not come as a surprise. The Timberwolves were the second highest scoring team in the NBA coming into tonight’s game at 107.1 points per game and number 2 ranked at offensive rebounding, so putting up points in a hurry is something they are good at. However, Toronto held them to under 90 points and the only other teams to do that this season were the Pacers, HEAT and Spurs.
These are the Lakers from Los Angeles arriving in Toronto for an early Sunday afternoon game after beating the Celtics on Friday, but compared to what the ticket buying public is used to, they are the faux Lakers – No Kobe Bryant, no Steve Nash and even backup point guards Jordan Farmar and Steve Blake are injured, so the Lakers will be led by a group of players on expiring deals and/or options on Sunday. This team is currently 15-25 and headed towards the NBA Draft Lottery for the first time since 2005.
Coach Casey’s defensive-minded Raptors were seduced into a pretty Coach D’Antoni style of play and it cost them a winnable game at the Air Canada Centre on Sunday afternoon. The Lakers outscored the Raptors 112-106.
“It is easy to do,” Casey said. “They are coming down shooting the shot. Things are easy, it seems easy, so you get seduced into that game.”
“Our personality wasn’t into the game today,” Casey said. “We got caught up into the spread the floor, draw and kick shoot the three – shoot the quick three and we can’t win that way. We are not built that way. That is not our identity.”