Tag Archives: Game stories

You are here: Home / Archive
NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan

Raptors Guards Show Mid-Season Form In Detroit

The preseason tilt between the Raptors and the Pistons in Detroit on Wednesday night gave a good indication about which team was ready to start the regular season and who still has a lot of work to do. The Detroit News James Hawkins reported on Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy’s displeasure with the effort he saw in his team’s final tune-up, a 103-92 loss that was worse than the score indicated.

“I have been happy with our team’s work ethic and how hard we have played throughout the preseason, but I wasn’t tonight,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I was really disappointed. I did not think that we competed hard enough tonight.

“They pounded us on the glass. I did not think we were very aggressive defensively. I do not think we did a great job contesting shots. I just do not think we battled hard.”

Toronto outrebounded Detroit 47-37 and won the turnover battle with 21 points off 14 Pistons turnovers to just 5 points on 12 opportunities provided by the Raptors.

The game was close through the first eight minutes with the lead changing hands three times, but when Van Gundy pulled his starters 8.7 minutes in and three points down, things quickly fell apart.

As Drummond exited for the 19-year-old rookie Henry Ellenson, Raptors head coach Dwane Casey replaced Jonas Valanciunas with third year center Lucas “Bebe” Nogueira and it all went downhill for Detroit. Patrick Patterson, who had subbed in for rookie Pascal Siakam a minute earlier, found Nogueira for a dunk and a minute later Nogueira grabbed Drew Crawford’s miss on a long three-point attempt for a layup. DeMar DeRozan scored his 10 point of the quarter with less than a second left after Nogueria rebounded a Marcus Morris missed three-point attempt with 18 seconds left in the quarter and nearly 12 seconds left on the shot clock.

Nogueira may have been beating up on a rookie, but that’s what he’s supposed to do at this point in his career and what Casey will need from him on most nights during the regular season. Bebe finished with 8 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists in 18 effective minutes.

However, it was business as usual for Toronto’s All-Star guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan as they combined for 53 points on 18-35 shooting from the field and outrebounded the Pistons starting backcourt 10-0. Backup point guard Cory Joseph piling on with 10 points, 6 rebounds and a team-high 4 assists. The Raptors guards imposed their will on Detroit.

“They ran their stuff with a lot of tempo, a lot of speed and we weren’t able to match that,” (Tobias) Harris said. “The physicality got to us early on and that’s something we have to adjust to and really adapt to when we’re playing against teams that can impose their will. We have to learn and grow from it.”

Toronto led by 20 points late in the third quarter when Lowry and DeMarre Carroll were subbed out for Joseph and training camp hopeful Fred VanVleet and the Pistons went on an 8-1 run to close out the frame. VanVleet going 0-4 from the field for 0 points, 0 rebounds and 0 assists over the final 15 minutes. The now veteran Joseph providing nearly half of Toronto’s fourth quarter offense with 10 points on 4-4 shooting as his team’s leader on the court with Lowry watching from the bench. The Pistons starters Ish Smith, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Andre Drummond salvaging what the could from this game against Toronto’s 2nd/3rd unit.

The Pistons will get a chance at redemption in the Raptors home opener on October 26th.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


 

NBA Toronto Raptors Pascal Siakam

Sullinger And Siakam Impress In Raptors Win Over Warriors

In front of a sellout crowd at Vancouver’s Rogers Arena the Toronto Raptors came away with a closely fought, poorly shot, and somewhat sloppily played preseason opening win over the visiting Golden State Warriors on Saturday night 97-93. The Raptors free agent addition Jared Sullinger with 7 points, a game high 10 boards, a steal and a block in a game high 23.3 minutes of action and rookie Pascal Siakam with 9 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks and a steal in 20.8 minutes particularly impressed in their Raptors debuts.

This somewhat meaningless contest will be mostly remembered as Kevin Durant’s first appearance in a Warriors game and the superstar scored 9 points on 2-9 shooting from the field, but from a Raptors perspective, Durant will be remembered as the first NBA player Siakam blocked at the rim on a layup attempt. Siakam is a high energy power forward/center that Raptors head coach Dwane Casey keeps finding reasons to mention and the rookie hid his first game jitters with effort.

“I was nervous, I’m not going to lie,” Siakam said after the game. “I didn’t expect that at all in my first possession I was going to have to guard (Kevin Durant). This is the guy you watch on TV, you look up to and you get to play your first game, your first minutes against him. I was nervous, but at the same time, you’re here. I was happy.”

Sullinger looked really good as the starting power forward and when moving over to backup center after Casey rolled out his first set of substitutions. If his rebounding prowess continues thru the rest of preseason, it’ll be Biyombo-who real fast this year. However, Siakam is going to be the hot topic because he’s a rookie. Everyone knew, or should have known, Sullinger can rebound the ball at a high level.

“Pascal is going to be the type of guy that can guard multiple positions,” Sullinger said. “His energy level, his intensity and his ability to change shots at the rim, Pascal is going to be a difference maker.”

Throw out the score, the bad shooting, the sloppy play. The takeaway from this game was the Raptors out rebounded the Warriors 58-42. Toronto is going to be a good rebounding team again this season.

It was obvious from the start this was a preseason game as the two teams combined for a dozen first quarter turnovers on their way to 44 for the game. Both teams opened with their anticipated starting lineups for the upcoming regular season and not a single starter on either team had a positive plus/minus. There’s a lot of rust to be knocked off before the season starts at the end of the month.

The Raptors organization breathed a collective sigh of relief to see DeMarre Carroll look like the Carroll of two seasons ago as their starting small forward shot 6-9 for a team high 14 points to go with 4 rebounds and 4 steals. This was how it was supposed to go. Carroll completed his rehab from last season’s surgery in August and was reporting no ill effects from workouts or practice, but watching him move this smoothly and effectively in a game situation had to make his coaches feel good.

The Warriors took a look at 18 players in this contest and the Raptors played 15 guys. While the vets shake off the rust in limited minutes, the coaches are looking at who might crack the rotation or win one of the last spots on the roster and there’s a long ways to go on both fronts. At least the fans in Vancouver seemed to enjoy themselves.

“That’s what exhibition is for,” Casey said. “It’s to see guys like Drew Crawford and Norm Powell and those guys, Pascal and see what they can do. Fred VanVleet he came in and did a good job. All the young guys were impressive.”

The Raptors next preseason game is at the ScotiaBank Saddledome in Calgary on Monday against the Denver Nuggets.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 


 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan and Chicago Bulls Jimmy Butler

Da Bulls Beat The Raptors Again, What Else Is New?

By Frank McLean

Stop me if you herd this one before. Inexplicably, the floundering Chicago Bulls beat the Toronto Raptors in an NBA game. So, what else is new? For the ninth straight meeting between the two clubs Monday night in Toronto, the Bulls edged out the Raptors 109-107, but with the Bulls sliding and the Raptors rising, other than the embarrassment, what does it really matter?

The amazing thing is that when you talked to people who cover the Bulls and are with them on a daily basis before the game they were telling everybody that this would be night Toronto snaps the streak.

They came to this conclusion when looking at the Bulls inactive roster for this one.

Sitting at home in Chicago were Pau Gasol with a knee injury and Joakim Noah with a long term shoulder injury. Veteran Mike Dunleavy had a bad case of the flu and when I saw him in the Bulls locker room prior to game he looked like death warmed over. And Derrick Rose was missing as he is taking his time getting back from a left adductor strain.

It looked like easy pickings, ah not so fast folks.

Raptors head coach Dwane Casey was prophetic earlier in the day when he talked about how the Bulls had won eight in a row prior to Monday’s game.

“We’ve got to figure it out because you don’t want to go 0-for against a team and not find out exactly what it is (that isn’t working). Every time we’ve played them somebody’s come in and had an out-of-body experience, whether it’s (Jimmy) Butler, last game it was (Doug) McDermott (scoring a career high 30), the time before that I think it was (Derrick) Rose or (Tony) Snell or somebody rises up out of the woodwork and has a big night. They have a very talented team, very talented roster and it seems like against us they figure it out and we’ve got to make sure we find out what it is tonight.”

McDermott was the man again scoring 24 points in the first half and finishing up with a game high 29.

Jimmy Butler returned after missing the last three games with a sore left knee, but his presence was desperately needed with the Bulls running out to the court a shorthanded line-up. He only scored 13 points, but with a second left in regulation time he made a huge stop on DeMar DeRozan as he tried to make a layup and send the game into overtime.

The Bulls have now 15 man games lost to injuries and illness. With the win and a Detroit Pistons loss in Washington the Bulls now cling to the eighth and last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. This is why the Bulls are in the bottom half of the standings.

With Derrick Rose broken down again and Joakim Noah’s shoulder still hurting the Bulls need Butler to try and steal a playoff berth.

“Gotta risk it to get the biscuit,’’ Butler said after Monday’s game when asked about playing heavy minutes with the knee the rest of the season. “I gotta do whatever it takes to help my team win. I let the coaches know that. If I’m stepping out on that floor, I’m giving my all for as long as my team needs me.’’

“I think my knee is going to be banged up a little bit,’’ Butler added.“Gotta learn to live with it, get my wind back, get in that gym, get my rhythm back.’’

Rose is taking his time getting back from his injury and with less than 20 games to play in the regular season, if Butler misses any more time with his knee the Bulls will be on the golf course by mid April.

Meanwhile for the NBA Eastern Conference second place Toronto Raptors one thing is certain, they don’t have da Bulls on their schedule for the rest of the regular season and sitting with a 6.5 game lead over the Celtics and Heat with just 16 games left, they can forget about the eighth place Bulls for a while.

 

 

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Norman Powell

Raptors Norman Powell Reaches New Highs In Milwaukee

It was a game in which  head coach Dwane Casey gave All-Star DeMar DeRozan the night off to rest and Norman Powell a start at shooting guard and the rookie took full advantage of his opportunity to rewrite his personal bests across the stats sheet in the Raptors 107-89 victory over the Bucks in Milwaukee.

Powell played 35 minutes, 10 more than in any of his previous games, and he got up 15 shots, making 6 and scoring 17 points, all career bests. He was 3-7 from three-point range having never made more than 2 nor taken more than 3 shots from deep previously. He was active and effective on both ends of the court, dishing 2 dimes and blocking 2 shots.

Getting the rookie treatment from the referees on his drives to the basket didn’t dissuade Powell from going inside and he made a surprising end-to-end drive for a dunk that caught the entire building off guard. He made a couple of impressive layups thru traffic as well.

As we are unexpectedly coming to expect, Powell continues to earn his keep at the defensive end of the court. Casey said this before and it was true tonight, “He was physical. He was gritty. He was grimy. His attention to detail, he didn’t fall asleep.” These things have earned his Coach’s trust and the only starts (8) this season by any of this team’s rookies and sophomores.

This kid is looking good.

“I thought Norm came in and did an excellent job,” Casey said after the game. “He did exactly what we thought he was going to do, nothing more, nothing less. He’s a defender, a hard-playing guy.”

 

 

Kyle Lowry carried the Raptors early on in this contest, finishing with 25 points and 11 assists, but as the Raptors pulled away in the second half, Casey was able to give his other All-Star the fourth quarter off.

Bismack Biyombo had a 12 point, 13 rebound, 2 block double-double and was intimidating in the paint. Jason Thompson played 23 solid minutes as Jonas Valanciunas was given the night off to rest a bruised hand.

Bucks future star Giannis Antetokounmpo had 18 points, 12 rebounds, 9 assists and 3 blocks in the loss.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

Ross And Valanciunas Lead Raptors Past Thunder

Meeting and exceeding some very high expectations this season in Toronto means the sophomores Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas have to take another step and in the Raptors preseason tilt against the Thunder in Wichita Kansas on Friday night, they did just that.

The game turned into a 19 point blowout for Toronto and the unlikely lineup of Will Cherry, Jordan Hamilton, Bruno Caboclo, Tyler Hansbrough and Greg Stiemsma played most of the fourth quarter, however, Ross and Valanciunas left their mark earlier on.

The Raptors gave Ross the green light to shoot when he’s open and the 23-year-old put up 18 shots in 25.5 minutes and hit 9 including 4-10 from deep for 22 points to lead all scorers. They were not all catch and shoot or fast break opportunities, he made some nice moves to shake the defender and nail the jumper.  It was a solid all-around effort.

Valanciunas had 14 points in 20.7 minutes by getting to the free throw line for 6-7 and generally working hard in the post.  He was matched up with Steven Adams who played well, but fouled out in 24 minutes.  Valanciunas was a noticeably heavy load down low.

The two teams starting units each scored 62 points and provided some excellent minutes for each other to work off the rust.

However, the Thunder has injury problems beyond just Kevin Durant and their bench was put to the test by the Raptors very deep second unit.  They didn’t fair much better against Toronto’s training camp invites.  It got ugly fast when Coach Scott Brooks pulled his starters.  The Raptors reserves are fighting for minutes and jobs, they weren’t about to let up.

Lou Williams looked like he was playing a team from the summer as he scored at will with a very quick 11 points.  Hamilton continues to show he can fill the basket – at least in preseason games.  He had 13 points on 5-9 from the field.

The most impressive player on the court for the Thunder was 22-year-old shooting guard Andre Roberson.  He gave DeMar DeRozan a hard time while shooting 7-9 for 15 points to go with 10 rebounds and 3 assists in 34.9 minutes.  His over-aggressive defensive on DeRozan put him in foul trouble early, but Roberson played well with 4 first half personal fouls and managed to stay on the court.

DeRozan might want to thank Roberson for the practice.  The Raptors All-Star got to the charity strip for 11 free throws in 22.7 minutes and had to work for his points.

Amir Johnson left the game after playing just 12.7 minutes when his left foot was stepped on.  Watching him hobble off the court on one foot was disconcerting, but the incident that caused the injury didn’t look like something to be worried about.

Greivis Vasquez missed the game with a possible concussion.  He was struck in the head by a ball during shoot-around.

The Raptors next preseason game is against Maccabi Haifa in Toronto on October 22.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

TOR James Johnson Vasquez and WilliamsIs The Raptors Rotation Already Set For The Season?

Last year’s franchise record setting starting lineup is back and unless someone gets hurt, they’ll be the starters for every game this season. Lowry, DeRozan, Ross, Amir Johnson and Valanciunas led the Raptors to the best record in the entire Eastern Conference (41-22) after the seven-player trade with Sacramento in December.

 

 

 

Raptors Fans Head Home Happy, Sad, Worried, Proud And Mad

20,000 fans inside the Air Canada Centre and 10,000 more outside in Maple Leaf Square watched as Terrence Ross made the improbable steal and Kyle Lowry got blocked on the layup attempt where no fouls are ever called to decide a game and the Toronto Raptors fell to the Brooklyn Nets 104-103 in Game Seven.

This game evoked every emotion from the fans at the game, watching the game and following on social media, but one thing is clear, the Raptors are back on top in Toronto and their fans are being heard.
 


 
Even after a tough loss, the Raptors sent their fans home happy – well most of them.

 


 
However, it’s hard not to be sad after losing a Game Seven by one point.
 


 
There are plenty of worries about the Raptors heading into the off season – mostly about the soon to be free agent Kyle Lowry.
 


 
There was every reason for Raptors fans to be proud of what Toronto’s team did this season and in Game Seven.
 

 
As in nearly every NBA game, there was no shortage of questionable or uneven calls from the referees to get the fans mad and as always, there was some justification for the anger.
 


 
Or mad at the team for not doing all they could.
 


 
For those covering the contest, that was as good a Game Seven as the media could hope to be at.
 


 
But of coursed not everyone appreciates the media.
 


 
This Raptors off season should draw just as much passion and interest as the playoffs have. From looking like a lottery team to winning the Atlantic Division and playing in a spectacular seven game first round playoff series, Toronto suddenly has very elevated expectations for next year.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.
 

Does An Early Start Hurt The Raptors In Game Seven

The Toronto Raptors will get another chance to put away the Brooklyn Nets and win their franchise’s second postseason series ever on Sunday afternoon at 1 pm in front of the rabid fans inside and outside of the Air Canada Centre. After splitting the first six games, Toronto and Brooklyn find themselves right back where this series started two weeks ago, but now the Raptors face elimination if they can’t figure out how win an early afternoon game.

Game One was a bit of a shock for a young Raptors team with little playoff experience to fall back on and the Nets took advantage by getting their slightly naive opponents into foul trouble and riding a strong first quarter all the way to a win.

“Believe me this is nowhere near disappointment,” Casey said after Game One. “If some of our fans are disappointed, they are not true fans, they are come-lately fans because this young team won the Division and was third in the Conference. We are going to fight our butts off to win this series.”

Poor 1 pm Sunday starts have been a problem for the Raptors all season, turning a traditional Toronto advantage into an unexpected handicap and there is no rational explanation for the problem. The Raptors were 1 win and 5 losses in games that started before 2 pm this year prior to the Game One loss.

“We changed (things) up a little bit to see if that helps,” Casey said. “I don’t know if there is a right formula, right way, wrong way to try and prepare for an early game, I think it is each team’s personality. We have struggled (with early games), there are no ifs ands or buts about it.”

This, however, is a Game Seven situation, there shouldn’t be any excuses about the start time and matching the Nets early intensity this time around.

“Matching it, you just have to match it,” Kyle Lowry said. “Come out and be as aggressive as they were. We worked for the third seed to get home court advantage and we have to take care of home. Home is not going to take care of us. We still have to go out there and lace them up and play the game.”

This has the feel of a comeback game where the Raptors are down before the basketball is even tossed up at center court and that suits Coach Casey and the Raptors just fine. This team has played its best basketball all season when their backs have been up against the wall just like in Game Two and Game Four of this series.

“At the beginning of the year we talked about being resilient, being the ‘Freddy Krueger’, always keep playing, keep coming, not giving in,” Casey said. “We have developed that personality and that’s a good thing. You don’t want to be behind, but whatever happens, we know we have some fight and grit left in the tank to compete.”

Besides, being here in this situation is every basketball players dream. To be in a Game Seven in front of your home crowd, it doesn’t get any better than that.

“It is Game Seven and we all grew up watching Game Sevens and wanting to be a part of Game Sevens,” Lowry said. “But we still have to go out there and not be too overanxious and play the game and do what we know how to do. Me personally, I am not going to be all amped up. It is going to be a game that we have to go home and win.”

The Raptors are on the verge of a little piece of franchise history. They have never won a seven game playoff series and a victory on Sunday should solidify this team’s place as the best in the franchise’s history. That’s a long ways from their 6 win and 12 loss start to this season and win or lose, there hasn’t been this much hope for the Raptors’ future since Vince Carter missed that potential second round series winning shot in 2001.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_inside Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

Check out:
This Is The Best Raptors Team In Franchise History
Objectively, the 2013-14 Raptors have their best regular season record, best road record, best record against the Western Conference facing the toughest Western Conference schedule and have won by the biggest margin of victory over the season of any Raptors team. However, in some ways, that isn’t the half of it.

Nets Hit First To Beat Raptors And Force Game Seven

The Brooklyn Nets were the more desperate team at the start of Game Six and they hit hard and fast to take most of the Toronto Raptors players off their games early. The Nets raced out to a 34-19 lead in the first quarter on 68.4 percent shooting and never looked back, withstanding the eventual runs by the Raptors and closing out the 97-83 victory that sends this series back to Toronto for Game Seven on Sunday.

“I thought they came out in a desperate mode and we didn’t,” said Head Coach Dwane Casey. “They did what they were supposed to do and we didn’t start to play that way until we got knocked down.”

“We let our offensive problems carry over to the defensive end and they got what they wanted. Tonight they got their foot on the pedal a lot quicker than we did.”

Head Coach Jason Kidd decided to start Alan Anderson over Shaun Livingston and it paid off big time defensively and on the boards. With 5 first quarter boards, Anderson was key to the Nets outrebounding the Raptors 14 to 4 in the opening quarter and he led the Nets with 9 rebounds for the game.

“They did a great job of boxing us out,” Patrick Patterson said. “Normally JV (Valanciunas) is a dominant force on the glass and we are all pitching in whenever we can, but it just seemed like Blatche was everywhere and Paul Pierce was boxing us out. Joe Johnson and even the guards were coming in and boxing out and getting rebounds. It seemed like the more we tried, the ball would always bounce their way.”

“We were aggressive from the start,” Kidd said. “For 48 minutes we executed offensively and defensively. We had a little lull there in the fourth and. guys understood that we had to get a stop.

“It was just a feeling with Alan, we ask him to do everything. It’s nothing that Shaun hasn’t done for us, it was more a feeling that the coaching staff thought, let’s give Alan – the way that he played in that fourth quarter for us up in Toronto to see if he can carry that over and he definitely picked up from where he was in Toronto – rebounding the ball and we are asking him to guard DeRozan.”

It would be hard not to notice the uneven hand of the referees in this game. Toronto was assessed 25 personal fouls to just 14 on the Nets, however, most of the Raptors problems were self-inflicted as they failed to match the Nets intensity until well into the second half.

“They got us on our heels early,” Casey said. “They did a good job of establishing the way they wanted to play early and we did not respond.”

The off night didn’t apply to DeMar DeRozan who led all scorers with 28 points and contributed 6 boards and 4 assists. Kyle Lowry had 11 points on 4-16 shooting as he faced a lot of double teams. Valanciunas finished with 9 points and 9 boards after putting up a line of zeros in the first half that was only broken by 3 fouls and a turnover. Greivis Vasquez also had 9 points in a relatively quiet night.

Toronto literally shot themselves in the foot in this game by hitting on just 38.5 percent from the field. The Raptors took 78 shots to 77 for the Nets.

Apparently Deron Williams took the MISSING posters that were all over social media and elsewhere to heart and led the Nets with 23 points. Joe Johnson had 17 points, Kevin Garnett 13 points and Paul Pierce 12 points.

The Nets were hot in the first half, shooting 59 percent from the field, but cooled off considerably to 34.2 percent in the second half, but Toronto’s initial poor shooting only improved marginally after half, so the Nets were able to maintain their comfortable lead.

There was still room for optimism in the Raptors locker room as they prepared to head back to the Air Canada Centre for Game Seven. Toronto won the last three quarters of this game and they have a lot of confidence playing at home this year.

“If you look at this series, the way it’s gone, it’s been like a rollercoaster the whole time,” Casey said. “Every game has been different. Tonight’s game was different. You take away the first quarter and it’s 64-63. I know our team will bounce back.”

Playing at home doesn’t guarantee a victory in Game Seven, but no one would just give away that advantage either. The Nets were eliminated in Game Seven by the Bulls at the Barclays Center last year.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

Check out:

The Toronto Raptors Huge Advantage in Game Five
The home team has won Game Five 73 percent of the time and won the playoff series over 77 percent of the time – whether they won Game Five or not. Winning Game Five bumps the home team’s series success rate to nearly 86 percent.

No Lead Is Safe In Raptors vs. Nets Series
“You have both teams (that) understand what’s at stake and that they aren’t going to quit, they are going to play for 48 minutes” Head Coach Jason Kid said. “That goes for Toronto and that also goes for us, we’re going to fight.”

No Lead Is Safe In Raptors vs. Nets Series

Nothing makes a playoff series more exciting to watch than when no lead is safe. Both the Toronto Raptors and the Brooklyn Nets have seemingly taken control of games only to watch their advantages disappear before their very eyes.

“You have both teams (that) understand what’s at stake and that they aren’t going to quit, they are going to play for 48 minutes” Head Coach Jason Kid said. “That goes for Toronto and that also goes for us, we’re going to fight.”

Neither team has shown any quit in any of their games. Whether it was the Nets 15 point lead with less than six minutes to go in Game Three or the Raptors 22 point lead at the start of the fourth quarter in Game Five, no lead has been safe and no one on either team was about to quit. There has been no garbage time in any game during this series.

“This is playoff basketball,” Greivis Vasquez said. “The same thing happened to them when we went there. Pat (Patterson) missed two free throws, we missed a couple of (shots) at the end (or) we could have won that game too. This is playoffs. You can’t give up. We don’t expect them to give up. They are a bunch of vet players that have been there and done that.”

Game One was tied with just over 6 minutes to go. Game Two was tied with just over 3 minutes left. There was only a 1 point difference with 20 seconds left in Game Three and a 1 point spread in Game Four with 4.5 minutes to go. Game Five was tied with just over a minute remaining. There is almost nothing separating these two teams except execution in the final moments of each game.

“We knew going into this series it was going to be tight games,” Kidd explained. “One or two possession games and so, whoever can execute or score or get the stop is going to win that game.”

“These two teams are very similar. You have guard play that is at an extremely high level, so you have very similar teams and both teams play extremely hard.”

Through five playoff games, the Raptors have outscored the Nets by a total of 4 points and hold a 3-2 series lead. There is nothing to suggest that Game Six is going to be any different. The contest in Brooklyn on Friday night should once again come down to the final moments with the team that can execute at the end snatching victory away from the outstretched fingers of their opponent. No lead will be safe at any time during this series.

Update:

The pressure of being down 3-2 in such a tight series may be getting to Kidd. The NBA just issued a press release confirming Kidd has been fined $25,000 for public criticism of the officiating during conference call with the media on Thursday, May 1.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

Check out:

Raptors Terrence Ross Is Learning From The Playoff Grind
“It’s hard because this is what they do,” Ross said. “They have been doing this for a long time. It is their experience that helps them out. It’s tough. You can’t really explain it until you have been in it.”

Greivis Vasquez Is The Raptors Next Best Option
“I can tell you this, I am not afraid at all,” Vasquez said. “I am not going to be afraid of the moment. I like big moments and that’s just my personality since college. It’s all about confidence and believing in yourself and I got all of that.”

Raptors Learn At Nets Expense In A Big Game Five Win

Make no mistake, it’s the Toronto Raptors who are the young up-and-coming team trying to learn on the job fast enough to steal a first round playoff series from a very veteran Brooklyn Nets squad and they are learning fast, fast enough to have taken a 3-2 series lead with a 115-113 win at home on Wednesday night.

“The whole series for us is a growing experience because we are such a young team,” said Head Coach Dwane Casey before the game. “First time in the playoffs for a lot of our key guys, so I am learning that they are growing from it, they are getting better in certain situations – still making mistakes in certain situations, but the adjustments part is something that is big for us – to change things on a day’s notice or even in games, that’s good to see.”

The Raptors were about to learn a lot of new lessons and get another opportunity to practice those in game adjustments.

Toronto started to break away from the Nets midway through the first quarter and seemed to cruise to a 62-44 half time lead on the buzzer beating circus shot from Kyle Lowry. Lowry scored a game high 36 points and was there whenever the Raptors needed a bucket and at the end of this game, they really needed him.

Head Coach Jason Kidd tried to salvage the positive out what has to be a crushing loss for a team that is built to win now and whose future opportunities after this season have to be called into question.

“It was a great game all the way around,” Kidd said. “We got off to a slow start, but the guys fought, put us in a position late again to have a chance to win on the road. We just didn’t do the little things we had to. Again the guys fought, so we can build on that.”

“You have both teams understand(ing) what’s at stake and that they aren’t going to quit. They are going to play for 48 minutes.”

Casey saw things from a very different perspective as the Raptors surrendered 44 points in the fourth quarter to squander a 22 point third quarter lead and give the Nets a chance that should not have been there.

“My emotion, you wouldn’t want to hear it,” Casey said. “(We) just didn’t play smart. They are a very veteran team. They are going to take advantage of mistakes that you make and we wrote a book on the mistakes we made in the fourth quarter. We have been a better team in the fourth quarter. They flipped it on us tonight. Every mistake you can think about we made in the fourth quarter.

“We got to learn. Tonight was a learning experience in a playoff atmosphere and it’s a hard place to learn. This game tonight, we have to learn from it. So many learning experiences from tonight’s game. Handling the lead, withstanding prosperity, embracing pressure, we got to do that from top to bottom.”

The good news for Toronto was they learned those hard lessons in a playoff win and teaching the Raptors how to become successful wasn’t exactly what the Nets had in mind when the series started.

“I was on the court when it slipped away,” Amir Johnson said. “We (allowed) 44 points in the fourth quarter which is tough. Brooklyn switched up their guys. They set their starters down and came with their bench players and they came out hot shooting the ball. Joe Johnson came out hot. It is always like one quarter for us where we have a bad quarter and we can’t do that.

“You got to keep your head. You got to keep playing. You got to regroup and I think we did that. We stayed poised. We made some bonehead mistakes, but we finished off the game and that’s all that really matters.”

Joe Johnson scored 26 of his 30 points in the second half to lead the charge back for the Nets, but Pierce and Williams only combined for 23 points in the game. Off the bench, Mirza Teletovic netted 17 points and Alan Anderson scored 13 points.

DeMar DeRozan added 23 points for the Raptors by getting to the free throw line 13 times. Jonas Valanciunas scored 16 points and Toronto needed all of Greivis Vasquez’s 15 points off the bench. Terrence Ross had his best game of the playoffs scoring 8 points on 3-9 shooting and showed signs that just maybe he is starting to figure out the postseason game a little bit.

The Nets are doing a good job of teaching the Raptors that playoff games are never over and a 20 point lead can disappear in a flash. It’s just one lesson among many that the Nets have generously imparted upon the Raptors during this series and they are messages Casey could never have conveyed without their help.

There is just one more lesson to learn, how to finish off your opponent in a series clinching opportunity. The Raptors will get their chance to eliminate the Nets from the postseason in Brooklyn on Friday.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_inside Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

Check out:

Coach Casey Brings Playoff Experience To The Raptors
“It’s not my first rodeo in a playoffs situation,” Casey said. “You are not as comfortable after a win as you are down after a loss. You have to treat each game separately. We have to go into the next game as if we lost the last game. That’s the mentality you have to go in (with). You can’t go in too high and if we lost, we couldn’t go in too low. ”

Toronto Raptors Love Their Fans, Kyle Lowry
“We need our fans,” Lowry said. “We love our fans. We want them to do everything they have been doing, packing the house, filling Maple Leaf Square. We need that. We want that. We can’t wait to see (Wednesday) – just the vibe and energy we are going to get.”

Coach Casey Brings Playoff Experience To The Raptors

It is easy to forget, but one of the reasons the Raptors brought Head Coach Dwane Casey to Toronto and a big part of why he is still here was because he had been around the coaching block.

“It’s not my first rodeo in a playoffs situation,” Casey said. “You are not as comfortable after a win as you are down after a loss. You have to treat each game separately. We have to go into the next game as if we lost the last game. That’s the mentality you have to go in (with). You can’t go in too high and if we lost, we couldn’t go in too low. Playoff situation, the word momentum is used too much cause really that is why they have a seven game series.

“I feel pressure whether it’s Game Five or the beginning of the season, it doesn’t matter. I’m the same, coach the same and I’m excited. I’m excited for this team more than nervous, more than pressure. This is basketball and it’s good for our franchise. Nobody gave us a snowball’s chance. So that’s the attitude I have. I am happy for our young men coming in and competing – win, lose or draw. I think they are in a great spot as far as our growth process is concerned. I feel pressure when I wake up in the morning and its summertime.”

Casey may be the same, but the Raptors players certainly are not. The growth since Game One has been obvious. These young players are learning fast.

“One thing that I did learn was that we had to get used to the playoff atmosphere, the playoff intensity,” Casey said. “We’ve adjusted to that. We have adjusted to the physicality of the games. I’ve learned that we can adjust to situations. There have been a lot of adjustments made between games for certain plays and certain defensive situations. I’ve learned that about our team. That is something that is a growing experience. The whole series for us is a growing experience because we are such a young team, first time in the playoffs for a lot of our key guys, so I am learning that they are growing from it, they are getting better in certain situations – still making mistakes in certain situations, but the adjustments part is something that is big for us – to change things on a day’s notice or even in games, that’s good to see.”

“(The players) should be excited, excited to have the opportunity to be in the situation to go against a good team like the Nets and tied 2-2.”

There should be no doubt that the Raptors players are excited and can credit a lot of their growth in the playoffs to the steady hand of their experienced head coach.

Stephen Brotherston

The Toronto Raptors Huge Advantage in Game Five

The winners of Game One and Game Three in a seven game series typically have a huge advantage when it comes to eliminating their opponent, but when the Raptors won on the road in Brooklyn, history says everything has slanted in Toronto’s favor now.

The Nets are still scratching their heads over what happened in the last six minutes of Game Four. Being held without a field goal with the game on the line simply wasn’t imaginable to Kidd and Company. Now Brooklyn is on the road with the playoff odds laid grimly out before them by Reed Wallach of SB Nation Nets Daily.

“Brooklyn is in a precarious position. When the series is tied at two games apiece, the home team is 111-41 in game five. Even further, the home team has won the series 118 times and lost the series only 34 times.”

The home team has won Game Five 73 percent of the time and won the playoff series over 77 percent of the time – whether they won Game Five or not. Winning Game Five bumps the home team’s series success rate to nearly 86 percent. Take all that playoff experience with a grain of salt now. After four playoff games and two victories, those very green Raptors aren’t so inexperienced any more.

As Head Coach Jason Kidd has repeated numerous times since the beginning of this series, the Raptors and the Nets are similar teams that are closely matched. Winning games has come down to who executes and who gets stops down the stretch. In Game Three it was the Raptors Patrick Patterson who missed the game tying free throws that saved a Nets victory. In Game Four, the Raptors executed at the end and the Nets didn’t. It doesn’t get any clearer than that.

The Nets hopes ride on their Big Three of Paul Pierce, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson all having big games. When these three players have shot for a high percentage and combined for over 60 points, the Nets have won. When the Raptors held the Big Three to 40 points or less, Toronto wins. The Nets are simply not going to execute down the stretch if their Big Three aren’t performing at a high level.

Nothing has really changed from game-to game in this series. The team that can impose their will wins and history says it’s the home team that gets the job done in this situation most of the time.

“It’s not going to be all smiles and bubble gum and fruitcakes (Wednesday) night, it’s going to be a street fight,” Head Coach Dwane Casey said.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_inside Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

Check out:

Toronto Raptors Love Their Fans, Kyle Lowry
“We need our fans,” Lowry said. “We love our fans. We want them to do everything they have been doing, packing the house, filling Maple Leaf Square. We need that. We want that. We can’t wait to see (Wednesday) – just the vibe and energy we are going to get.”

NBA Gets It Right – Sterling Is Done
Silver confirmed that the voice on the recording was Sterling’s and the opinions expressed belonged to the Clippers owner. Then he swung the hammer as hard as he was allowed to by the powers of his office.

Lucky Loonie Or Are The Raptors Just Getting Better?

You can never have too much luck on your side and a couple of months ago, Toronto Raptors fan Vernon Chang, also known as MoVernie, hid a Lucky Loonie inside of the Barclays Center just in case his beloved Raptors had to face the Nets in the playoffs.

“My intuition told me that maybe it would be a good idea to sneak in a Loonie somewhere in the Barclays Centre,” Chang said. “Just in case the Raptors played against the Nets in the playoffs.”

The other possible explanation is the young rapidly developing team that unexpectedly won 48 games this season is just getting better and playing in the postseason is dramatically speeding up the process.

“We understand the situation that we are in,” Kyle Lowry said. “It is a stepping stone for us – getting our feet wet. This man (DeMar DeRozan) is becoming a superstar in front of everyone’s eyes. He is doing it on the defensive end and the offensive end. In the last 48 hours, we got better. We learned from the game on Friday, went to practice, got our little walk through on Saturday, came in tonight and won the game.”

The Raptors beat the Nets 87-79 and didn’t allow Brooklyn to score a single field goal over the final 6 minutes of the game.

“The last four minutes is normally where we feel very comfortable,” Head Coach Jason Kidd said. “We just got out of character there and we didn’t score and that’s something that we have always thought that in the last four minutes of the game that’s where we can execute both defensively and offensively.

“We were trying to do it individually instead of making a play for a teammate and they picked up a couple of charges there. We missed a couple of shots that we have made in the past. We played a little better in the second and third quarter and then in the fourth quarter we just couldn’t execute or make a shot when we were wide open.”

The game was tied at 67 heading into the fourth quarter, but the Raptors outscored the Nets 20-12 over the final 12 minutes, holding the Nets to just 3-17 shooting from the field.

“For sure it was a team effort,” Greivis Vasquez said. “It was a great effort all around.

“Matching up their physicality was a huge key for us. We got the win by playing their way – physical and we weren’t afraid. We gained a lot of experience and a lot of confidence tonight.”

The Raptors were led by DeRozan with 24 points. Both Lowry and Amir Johnson were hobbled but unyielding as they contributed 22 points and 17 points respectively. Vasquez had 9 points, 6 rebounds and 9 assists.

The Nets were led by 22 points from Paul Pierce, but Deron Williams was held to just 10 points and Joe Johnson could only manage 7 points as the Raptors smothered him on defense. Kevin Garnett turned down several very good looks from the outside and finished with 10 points on 3-6 shooting. Mirza Teletovic chipped in with 12 points.

The first round playoff series is now tied at 2 games apiece heading back to Toronto for Game Five on Wednesday.

“We are playing for our lives,” Vasquez said. “We still are. We are not happy. We are not satisfied. We want more.”

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

Check out:

Raptors Fan Hides A Lucky Loonie In Barclays Center
“To my surprise, the Raptors are playing against the Nets,” Chang said. “I am not going to reveal where the Loonie is located as I don’t want the Nets staff find it. Funny thing is I really didn’t expect the Raptors would play Brooklyn, but now the Lucky Loonie becomes relevant. I wish the Raptors best of luck in the playoffs vs. the Nets!”

Brooklyn Nets Will Go As Far As Their Big Three Take Them
“These two teams are very similar,” Kidd said. “They shoot the three extremely well. Both teams like to shoot the three. You have guard play that is at an extremely high level, so you have very similar teams and both teams play extremely hard.”

DeMar DeRozan Photo credit: Paul Saini

Brooklyn Nets Will Go As Far As Their Big Three Take Them

BKN_Pierce_Paul - head shotThe playoff series between the Brooklyn Nets and the Toronto Raptors has come down to last minute execution with the Nets winning if their Big Three of Paul Pierce, Deron Williams and Joe Johnson can produce at a high level and the Raptors lone win coming on the back of a huge fourth quarter performance by DeMar DeRozan. The two teams split the regular season series in much the same way and the team that can finish at the end of games wins.

Head Coach Jason Kidd explains, “We knew going into this series it was going to be tight games, one or two possession games and so, whoever can execute or score or get the stop is going to win that game.

“These two teams are very similar. They shoot the three extremely well. Both teams like to shoot the three. You have guard play that is at an extremely high level, so you have very similar teams and both teams play extremely hard.”

The Nets have eked out victories when their Big Three have combined for over 60 points and shot for a high percentage. The Raptors won when they held them to a combined 35.9 percent shooting and 37 points in game two. The Nets are not likely to finish a game strong if their Big Three stops scoring – something that was evident during the Raptors late run in game three. Pierce and Williams struggled in the fourth quarter of game three and Toronto almost completed the improbable comeback.

The Raptors have been fighting with turnovers in each playoff contest so far and the glaring deficiency has been getting a lot of attention. The Nets are the more experienced team when dealing with and dealing out physical play and the Raptors have been compensating by playing faster than normal to keep Brooklyn off balance defensively.

“That’s the problem with trying to play faster than who you are,” Head Coach Dwane Casey said. “Our whole thing was to try and keep the tempo up and that is not easy for us to do. We kind of get a little frenetic and that’s where our turnovers come. Then in the half court you get hit, bumped, held (for) some of those turnovers, so we have to get adjusted whether we are playing fast or in the half court playing through contact and making a play and not turning it over.”

Turnovers are something the Raptors need to get a better handle on. However, despite calls to the contrary, they don’t need to eliminate them, just get back to a more reasonable number.

“We got to eliminate the turnovers,” Chuck Hayes said. “We got to give them credit, they played great defense, but we got (look after) moving the ball, taking care of the ball. It isn’t going to be easy, but you just have to impose your will and make them play the way you want to play.”

When the Raptors have imposed their will – in the paint in game two and over the last four minutes of game three, they have dominated the Nets for stretches and they’ll have a day off in Brooklyn to try and figure out how to do it again.

“You can really critic the game,” Hayes said. “You watch and break down every aspect – what helped you and what hurt you and you make those adjustments. When you are playing against the same team, it’s the same guys, the same rhythm, the same guys you are playing for the whole time. We should know what they do and they should know what we do.”

This series has always been about imposing your will on the other team. The young up-and-coming Raptors with speed and athleticism and the much older but experienced Nets who have seen it all before. Game four will see adjustments from both sides as they try to impose their will on the other team just long enough to scratch out another victory.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

Check out:

Huge Raptors Comeback Falls Just Short In Brooklyn
“I love our resolve,” Casey said. “That’s the one thing about this young team. They never give up. They never give in. They fight through everything. There were some tough calls down the stretch, they could have mailed it in and they didn’t and that’s what I love about this team.”
http://probballreport.com/huge-raptors-comeback-falls-just-short-in-brooklyn/

Huge Raptors Comeback Falls Just Short In Brooklyn

The Toronto Raptors found themselves in Brooklyn brawl against the Nets at the Barclays Center and after a good first quarter, it was a fight they were slowly and steadily losing to the more experienced home team, but Head Coach Dwane Casey knows his players will never give up. This game came down to execution in the dying seconds once again.

“I love our resolve,” Casey said. “That’s the one thing about this young team. They never give up. They never give in. They fight through everything. There were some tough calls down the stretch, they could have mailed it in and they didn’t and that’s what I love about this team.”

The Nets had built a 15 point lead with just over 4 minutes left to go in the game when Casey’s players kicked it into high gear with an 18-4 run to bring the game to within a point. When Andray Blatche fouled Patrick Patterson going after a Shaun Livingston missed free throw with just 19 seconds left, the Raptors had their chance to tie the game.

Patterson had already scored 10 points in the fourth quarter and was shooting 6-7 from the field for 17 points in the game when he stepped to the line, but he missed both free throws and after Toronto fouled to get the ball back, the Nets made theirs to seal the victory 102-98.

“I missed them,” Patterson said. “First big free throws I’ve ever missed in my life like that.”

The Raptors shot 57.9 percent from the field and scored 32 points in the fourth quarter and held the Nets to just 30.8 percent shooting, but it wasn’t enough. This game got away from the Raptors in the middle two quarters, primarily because of the Nets 14 points on 12 Raptors turnovers over that stretch.

“The difference in the game was turnovers,” Casey said. “We got to meet their physicality. We got to understand how the officials are calling the game and play accordingly. I just thought 19 turnovers – a lot of those were us getting knocked off our mark and we just got to be stronger with the ball or play the way they are playing – bumping and hitting in those situations. So things are correctable, but I love the fight from my team.”

The Raptors player taking the most abuse from the Nets in this game and throughout the series so far has been Terrence Ross. Ross is averaging 1 made shot per game, shooting 16.7 percent from the field and scoring just 2.5 points. Perhaps worse, he has turned the ball over 6 times so far and just can’t stay in front of his own man. The Nets have been running up big leads while Ross has been playing. The Nets were +15 points while Ross was on the court in game three.

“(Ross) struggled,” Casey said. “He just struggled. He had three turnovers. He played the way I figured he was going to play. They got into him. He just struggled getting off his mark. Believe me (though), Terrence is going to be okay.”

Kyle Lowry was hobbled for much of this game with a sore knee and had to quickly go the bench for repairs when was given a foul because his lip interfered with Livingston’s elbow near the end of the game.

“(Lowry) banged knees,” Casey explained. “He got a sore knee. He got a big knock on his knee, knock on his elbow, busted his lip, so he’s been in a 15-round bout, but he is going to be okay.”

DeMar DeRozan scored 30 points for the second game in row, but only shot 2-7 in the fourth quarter. In this very physical game, 13 of DeRozan’s points came from the line.

Jonas Valanciunas recorded his third postseason double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds, but he only had 4 shots as the Nets did their best to deny him the ball.

Joe Johnson continues to give the Raptors fits and he had his best game of the series on Friday with 29 points on 11-17 shooting. Casey went to Landry Fields and John Salmons to add some size to his defense on the wing, but Johnson wasn’t going to be stopped. Deron Williams had 22 points and Paul Pierce added 18 points, but both disappeared in the fourth quarter and it was left to Johnson to carry the load.

Game four goes on Sunday at 7 pm in the Barclays Center. The Nets lead the series 2 games to 1.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

Check out:

Raptors Fan Hides A Lucky Loonie In Barclays Center
“To my surprise, the Raptors are playing against the Nets,” Chang said. “I am not going to reveal where the Loonie is located as I don’t want the Nets staff find it. Funny thing is I really didn’t expect the Raptors would play Brooklyn, but now the Lucky Loonie becomes relevant. I wish the Raptors best of luck in the playoffs vs. the Nets!”

Raptors Fan Hides A Lucky Loonie In Barclays Center

There’s been a Canadian tradition to hide a Lucky Loonie at international sporting events going back to the famous Loonie hidden at centre ice during the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics and on a trip to Brooklyn this year, a die-hard Toronto Raptors fan decided to hide a Lucky Loonie in the Barclays Center just in case these two teams were to meet up in the playoffs.

The Loonie is the nickname given to the Canadian one dollar coin because of the Loon featured on one side. The Lucky Loonie became a tradition after Canada’s men’s and women’s ice hockey teams won gold at Salt Lake City.

Vernon Chang of Toronto covers fashion, movies, music, sports and celebrities as MoVernie and was in Brooklyn as part of the New York Fashion Week.

“In February, I was invited by a number of New York Fashion Designers to attend their fashion shows in New York as part of the New York Fashion Week,” Chang said. “It was an opportunity for me to cover the fashion show and go back stage to interview the fashion designers.”

MoVernie is a self-described superfan and he loves basketball almost as much as he loves his Toronto Raptors. He looks forward to taking in NBA games at every NBA city he visits, whether the Raptors are playing while he is there or not.

MoVernie photo inside the Barclays Center 2

“Part of my MoVernie mission is to always wear my beloved Raptors gear everywhere I travel,” Chang said. “If it’s a city that has an NBA team, I will try to watch a game there, just to give my Raptors the exposure they deserve and to promote my team everywhere I go. Last November, I went to a LA Clippers game at Staples Centre and since I had never been to the newly built Barclays Center, I decided to catch the game vs. New Orleans Pelicans.

“I have to say, the outside Barclays Centre looks rustic and shaped like a rusty boat. It has state-of-the-art television screens at the entrance of the venue. The Centre Court has the dark visual similar to what you expect at the New York Knicks Madison Square Garden. Barclays Centre has lots of interesting attractions for their fans. They have an indoor basketball court and allow the kids to play basketball during half-time. They have a barber shop so fans can get a haircut at the game. They have a big DJ section where the DJ has lots of space to spin his music.”

The Nets turnaround was well underway when MoVernie was in Brooklyn and the thought occurred to him that this could be a Raptors matchup in the playoffs. Never shy about doing anything to help his team, he hid a Lucky Loonie somewhere in the building – location undisclosed.

“The Nets were still trying to pickup from their bad start,” Chang said. “And the Raptors were doing very well and there was only a slim chance that they would play against each other in the playoffs, but my intuition told me that maybe it would be a good idea to sneak in a Loonie somewhere in the Barclays Centre, just in case the Raptors played against the Nets in the playoffs. I am a believer that – Never Say Never.”

With the Raptors headed to Brooklyn for game three in the first round of the playoffs, MoVernie is pretty excited.

“To my surprise, the Raptors are playing against the Nets,” Chang said. “I am not going to reveal where the Loonie is located as I don’t want the Nets staff find it. Funny thing is I really didn’t expect the Raptors would play Brooklyn, but now the Lucky Loonie becomes relevant. I wish the Raptors best of luck in the playoffs vs. the Nets!”

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Road Warrior Raptors In Brooklyn to Face The Nets

The Toronto Raptors and the Brooklyn Nets split the regular season series with two wins apiece including a victory in each others’ building and after dropping game one of the playoffs to the Nets at the Air Canada Centre, the Raptors are hoping to return the favor in the hostile environment of the Barclays Center. The Raptors have been road warriors for much of this season and tied Miami and Washington for the best road record in the Eastern Conference.

Wins and losses between these two teams in Brooklyn were decided on end of game mistakes. A Deron Williams inbounds pass being intercepted by Patrick Patterson and cashed in for the winning bucket in January and in March, Terrence Ross turning the ball over with 25 seconds left that turned into free throws and a three-point Brooklyn lead that Toronto couldn’t overcome. Both high intensity games where the outcome wasn’t certain until the final buzzer sounded.

“As a team, our guys have been pretty resilient on the road,” Head Coach Dwane Casey said. “(They) have a resolve of being together in a hostile atmosphere, so they have been pretty good from that (standpoint) – being a young team, (this) is very unusual. I have been with older teams where some of their eyes get big in places like Oklahoma City and back in the day in Portland. It’s a trait that (the Raptors) have that you can’t put your finger on why they have the resolve that they do on the road. But, this is going to be the first playoff atmosphere that they have had and it’s going to be exciting to see how they react under the bright lights.”

It’s actually hard to imagine the game intensity being any higher than the two regular season contests, but with what Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri said to rev up the fans in Toronto, the crowd’s intensity in Brooklyn should be over the top – even if Head Coach Jason Kidd didn’t seem to care.

“You got to tell me who the (Raptors) GM is, I don’t know who that is,” Kidd said. “I could care less what they think about Brooklyn. I have a job to do and that’s to play the game of basketball.”

“No matter where you play, you got to find a way to win. Both teams have proven they can do that during the regular season. At the end of the day, whether it’s at home or on the road, the main objective is to win.”

It’s going to be loud and hostile for the inexperienced Toronto Raptors in Brooklyn, but based on what has happened this season and in the first two games of the playoffs, the outcome is anything but certain.

This is yet another game that will likely come down to which All-Star, DeMar DeRozan or Paul Pierce, steps up at the end of the game and which team can execute – avoiding the mistakes that cost both teams a win in Brooklyn earlier this year.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

Check out:

Raptors Jonas Valanciunas Is The Beast Of The Playoff East
“I am playing for my team,” Valanciunas said. “I am not playing for my stats. I want to give something for the team to win. I don’t look at the stats. I have 14 rebounds, I need one more, I don’t do that. I see that they can’t get a rebound and can I go take that rebound and protect the rim, that’s how I see it.”

Why The Raptors Landry Fields Can Defend
“You don’t have to be the fastest, quickest, most athletic player defensively, you just have to understand angles, you have to anticipate certain things. There are so many good offensive players in this league, of course they are going to hit shots, but you just want to make it as hard as possible on them, make them go (past) their second to their third and fourth options.”

NBA Toronto Raptors playoffs

Nets vs Raptors Has Come Down To DeRozan vs Pierce

With the 100-95 victory at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday night, the battle between the Brooklyn Nets and the Toronto Raptors has come down to which All-Star, DeMar DeRozan or Paul Pierce, can pull their team over the hump in the fourth quarter. Pierce getting the job done in game one with 9 points over the final 3 minutes and DeRozan returning the favor with 10 points in the last 3 minutes of game two.

“The game is a 1 point game coming down the stretch,” Head Coach Jason Kidd explains. “We had a great look by Paul, it goes in and out, so tonight Toronto executed, they scored, got the stops where in game one we got the scores and stops. We knew going into this series it was going to be tight games, one or two possession games and so, whoever can execute or score or get the stop is going to win that game.”

In game one, the Nets had a 79-76 lead with 3 minutes left as Kyle Lowry missed the potential game tying three-pointer just before Pierce took over. In game two, Pierce missed a potential game tying two-point shot and soon after missed a three-point shot that would have given the Nets the lead as DeRozan broke an 85-all tie with a pair mid-range jumpers that put the Raptors ahead to stay.

“(DeRozan) was great,” Kidd said after game two. “He made every shot and he made his free throws.

“Great looks, (Pierce) had some great looks. It’s basketball. Sometimes they go in and sometimes they don’t.

“These two teams are very similar. They shoot the three extremely well. Both teams like to shoot the three. You have guard play that is at an extremely high level, so you have very similar teams and both teams play extremely hard.”

Where DeRozan was held to 3-13 shooting in game one, Pierce shot 2-11 in game two. Both of these teams need their All-Star to come through at the end of the game in order to win.

Once again in this game, the Raptors had an inordinate number of turnovers, however, they offset the lost possessions by outrebounding the Nets 52-30. Raptors Head Coach Dwane Casey was using pace and size against the older Nets team to great effect, but his own players struggled in the system against a veteran Nets team that knows how to take advantage of mistakes.

“That’s the problem with trying to play faster than who you are,” Casey said. “Our whole thing was to try and keep the tempo up and that is not easy for us to do. We kind of get a little frenetic and that’s where our turnovers come. Then in the half court you get hit, bumped, held (for) some of those turnovers, so we have to get adjusted whether we are playing fast or in the half court playing through contact and making a play and not turning it over.”

For the second game in a row Jonas Valanciunas put up a monster double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Amir Johnson had 16 points and 9 rebounds and Patrick Patterson had 12 points and 9 rebounds. Toronto’s big men were able to consistently take advantage of the Nets small ball lineup. However, the night belonged to DeRozan who scored 30 points, 17 in the fourth quarter, as Toronto outscored the visitors 36-29 over the final 12 minutes to win it.

“(DeRozan) bounced back and refocused,” Casey said. “Making those free throws down the stretch was huge. For him to come through after a tough first game, everyone doubting him and that type of thing, I was very happy.”

The issues Toronto faced in game one haven’t gone away. Joe Johnson shot for a high percentage and scored 18 points in game two and Kevin Garnett found the range and is still a tough cover when his jump shot is falling. Deron Williams and Shaun Livingston combined for 27 points and 10 assists to offset the scoring from Kyle Lowry and Greivis Vasquez. It isn’t going to get any easier in Brooklyn on Friday.

“Next game is going to be tougher,” Casey said. “We know that, they are going to come out with guns-a-blazing. We have to go there and be ready for the fight.”

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

Check out:

Greivis Vasquez Is The Raptors Next Best Option
“I can tell you this, I am not afraid at all,” Vasquez said. “I am not going to be afraid of the moment. I like big moments and that’s just my personality since college. It’s all about confidence and believing in yourself and I got all of that.”

No Playoff Pressure Raptors Kyle Lowry Has Family
“It’s cool man. It puts everything in perspective. We are going to play a game. We are going to play a basketball game and we are going to have fun with it. It is an important game. It is on another level, but at the end of the day it’s a game and it is going to be fun.”

Toronto Raptors Are Over Their First Game Jitters

After the fact, the Raptors are admitting to some first game jitters that maybe they didn’t recognize before they hit the court on Saturday, however, that is all behind them now. They know they can play better than in game one.

“I think the second time around, we’ll get the first game jitters away out of us,” Head Coach Dwane Casey said. “We know we can do better.”

“Not really nervous, a little anxious,” admitted DeMar DeRozan. “It was my first go around.”

After reviewing the game film, Casey saw his team doing things that they normally wouldn’t do.

“Our turnovers were dribble off the foot, some things we normally don’t do (like) passing to a guy who is not looking at you,” Casey said. “This let me know we’re a little anxious.”

“The first game we were all anxious,” Greivis Vasquez explained. “I haven’t been in the playoffs in two years. We wanted to be out there. We wanted to perform. We got it out of our system. Now we are going to play Raptors basketball.”

Vasquez even believes losing game one may have helped them calm down for a long series.

“Losing that game really helped us a lot,” Vasquez said. “Just calmed (us) down and just (let us) be ourselves and relax. If they are going to beat us, they are going to beat us our way. We can’t change anything at this point in the season.”

The Raptors backup point guard suggested Coach Casey might even turn to the seldom used Landry Fields in game two, however, everybody has to be ready to go and there is every indication they are.

“Landry Fields might get a shot (Tuesday),” Vasquez said.

“It is very exciting,” said Fields about being active on the playoff roster. “I can tell the electricity in the air, the atmosphere we are going into.”

“They are ready,” Jamaal Magloire said. “Everybody is excited to play, focused and that is all we can ask for. From (my) experience, they are ready to go.”

After shooting just 3-13 in game one, the Raptors young All-Star is just one of the players Toronto needs to step it up in game two. DeRozan summed things up nicely.

“We understand it’s a big game,” DeRozan said.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_inside Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

Check out:
 

Greivis Vasquez Is The Raptors Next Best Option
“I can tell you this, I am not afraid at all,” Vasquez said. “I am not going to be afraid of the moment. I like big moments and that’s just my personality since college. I just got to do whatever it takes to help the team win games. Whenever my name is called, I am just going to go out there and do my job. I am ready to go. It’s all about confidence and believing in yourself and I got all of that.”

No Playoff Pressure Raptors Kyle Lowry Has Family
“It’s cool man. It puts everything in perspective. We are going to play a game. We are going to play a basketball game and we are going to have fun with it. It is an important game. It is on another level, but at the end of the day it’s a game and it is going to be fun.”

What Went Wrong For The Raptors And ‘What Masai Said’

The day started for the crowd outside of the Air Canada Centre with the Toronto Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri revving up the crowd and dropping an ‘F-bomb Brooklyn’. While that got the crowd going and might create a long term rivalry between the teams’ fans, it would be pretty tough to blame anything that went on inside the building on that faux pas on this day.

“Wrong choice of words out there,” Ujiri said. “This thing is not really about me. It is about the players and the playoffs. I was trying to get the crowd out there rattled. (It was) a wrong choice of words. I apologize to kids out there and to the Brooklyn guys. Nothing against them, just trying to get our fans going – You know how I feel.”

It seemed pretty obvious to the crowd in Toronto how Ujiri felt at that moment. A sea of T-shirts at the ACC saying, ‘What Masai Said’ on Tuesday would create a lasting impression.

Right now, the words ‘What Masai Said’ would likely resonate a lot more with the crowd than ‘We The North.’

Nets Head Coach Jason Kidd did have the right answer for the situation postgame.

“You got to tell me who the (Raptors) GM is, I don’t know who that is,” Kidd said. “I could care less what they think about Brooklyn. I have a job to do and that’s to play the game of basketball.”

This was not what went wrong for the Raptors on Saturday afternoon.

1. The Early Start

The Raptors have been terrible in early starts this season. A traditional advantage for Toronto teams in the past just hasn’t worked out this year and has left the coaching staff searching for answers.

“Normally we bring them early on the day of those early games so we changed that up a little bit to see if that helps,” Casey said. “I’ve had different teams react in different ways to early games. Some teams – the older teams in Dallas were better in early games, then some older teams just couldn’t get going, so I think it’s the personality of your team. I don’t know if there is a right formula, right way, wrong way to try and prepare for an early game, I think it is each team’s personality. We have struggled (with early games), there is no ifs ands or buts about it.”

The early start got to the Raptors again. Toronto got down 25-13 in the first quarter before starting to push back and basically played from behind the rest of the way. That is no way to win a playoff game.

2. John Salmons on Joe Johnson

John Salmons is the veteran with the most experience on the Raptors and Casey often goes to him when the sophomore Terrence Ross gets himself in trouble. Ross was limited by 2 quick fouls in the first quarter and another foul in the second quarter, so as usual, Salmons was sent in to cover. This time, however, it didn’t turn out to be such a good move. Joe Johnson immediately worked himself into the paint for free throws and them a couple of easy close range baskets by backing in Salmons. Johnson scored all 4 of his first half buckets in the paint while Salmons was on the court.

It just wasn’t the Raptors veteran’s day. Salmons went 0-1 for 0 points and didn’t play in the second half.

3. K.G. Sucks, But Never Fouls?

It was almost a shock to hear the Raptors fans chanting ‘K.G. sucks’ and they were not just trying to get under his very thick skin. Kevin Garnett played as bad as ever in game that mattered – in living memory. He looked slow, old and ready to be put out to pasture.

The Raptors sophomore Jonas Valanciunas owned Garnett – lock, stock and barrel. The only defense Garnett had was to foul, but for some unfathomable reason, the starry eyed referees chose to ignore the beating Valanciunas was taking every time he touched the ball and pretend nothing was happening. If the referees had of called every foul Garnett committed, he wouldn’t have made it out of the first half.

Valanciunas wasn’t deterred by the illegal abuse he was taking from Garnett and other Nets as he grabbed a franchise playoff high 18 rebounds and scored 17 points. However, to say this deliberate favoritism didn’t impact the outcome of the game would be to ignore the obvious. Valanciunas was tagged with 6 turnovers – they were not all his fault. By some miracle, the referees thought Garnett didn’t commit a single foul on Valanciunas in the 4th quarter – the reality was very different. Raptors color TV analyst Jack Armstrong warned that this could happen with the Nets as the season wound down.

“I am going to save my money from speaking (about) the officials,” Casey said. “I thought we did a decent job of playing through physicality. That said we still have to continue to finish plays at the rim and make with contact.”

Basically, the Raptors have to score while being hammered and not complain about it and the Nets don’t.

4. Disappearance of DeMar DeRozan

DeRozan had a rough day and took a pounding in the paint that wasn’t always rewarded with free throws. He shot 3-13 from the field for 14 points and only took 3 fourth quarter shots for 4 points. The Raptors need their All-Star to score at the end of games.

“You’ll see the adjustments on Tuesday,” Casey said. “I thought the foul trouble kind of bothered him a little bit. They did a good job of double teaming him. Garnett was coming across the midpoint and into his area, so it was almost like a triple team, so we have to make some adjustments with that to free him up a little bit better.”

DeRozan got hit early on a drive and lost the ball out of bounds without a call from the referees and that set the tone for the afternoon.

5. Turnovers

The Raptors were charged with 19 turnovers, 6 by Valanciunas, 3 by DeRozan and 5 by Lowry. It was more than they could come back from in the end. The stat was tainted by the physical abuse the Raptors were taking, but complaining about the referees only costs players and coaches money. They will have to find a way to deal with it.

6. Paul Pierce Got Hot At the End

This game was tied at 73 with 6:25 remaining when Pierce substituted back in to shoot 4-5 for 9 points and lead his Nets to the victory. It’s not like Pierce hasn’t done this kind of thing before.

“We’ve talked all season about what the 6 minute mark means to our team,” Kidd said. “We feel that with the veteran guys making breaks for one another, sharing the ball, a play might be called for someone, but a teammate might end up with the shot. A perfect example of that tonight was Deron (Williams) and Joe (Johnson) playing the pick-and-roll and Paul (Pierce) penetrating from that and taking advantage of that.”

It’s never just one thing that causes a team to lose a game. It’s usually a long list. Add in little things like not having a shot clock for most of the second half, getting a lengthy timeout while the ACC staff determined they couldn’t fix it and the backup shot clocks didn’t work either affected both teams, but probably hurt the inexperienced Raptors more. It isn’t always the things you expect that can hurt you.

“We all can play better,” Casey said. “I can coach better. We can all do a better job. 19 turnovers and we shot 39 percent and a lot of those were chippies inside and I think game two will be a lot smoother from that standpoint.

“At the end of the year we talked about being resilient, being ‘Freddy Krueger’, always keep playing, keep coming, not giving in and we have developed that personality and that’s a good thing.”

Casey is probably right. The home team usually bounces back after losing the opener, it is, after all, their home court. Losing game one is huge, however, as it’s tough to come back from something like this in a series of any length. The Raptors ‘Freddy Krueger’ personality is about to be put to the test.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_inside Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

Check out:

Home Court Matters To The Raptors, Greivis Vasquez
The Toronto Raptors held off the charge from the Brooklyn Nets to win the Atlantic Division and take home court for themselves in the first round of the playoffs. Put all the ‘tank talk’ about the Nets aside, they might have wanted to face the Raptors, but they did everything they could over the last six weeks of the regular season to open the playoffs in the Barclay’s Center and the Nets fell short.