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NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry

Kyle Lowry Will Play For The Raptors Again Next Season

It’s been widely assumed that the bromance between DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry all but assured the Raptors All-Star point guard would re-sign with the team next season. Well, the word out of All-Star weekend confirmed the team is feeling the same way according to Basketball Insiders editor Steve Kyler.

Over the NBA All-Star break, it was said pretty dramatically that Lowry is all in with the Raptors 

Sources close to the Raptors said this weekend there was almost no scenario in which the Raptors wouldn’t pony up the money

Lowry is playing even better than his “career year” of 2015-16 and is on pace for the most minutes (37.7), points (22.8), rebounds (4.8), and three-pointers made and attempted (3.3/7.9) at the best percentage (41.7) of his career. He is averaging half an assist per game better than last year as well.

He is the engine that drives the Raptors and without him, they would be a mere shadow of the team that has won three consecutive Atlantic Division crowns.

 

 

  Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan

Raptors All-Stars Lowry And DeRozan Are Asking For Help

Mired in a 4-10 streak and watching team after team pass them in the standings, the Toronto Raptors All-Stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are asking for help. No one is mentioning names or blame, but the only one that can help them in the immediate future is president Masai Ujiri.

It’s as much how the team is losing games as how many they’ve lost. In the first half of the season the Raptors went 28-13 and lost seven of those games by five points or less. While the result was positive, how they were losing was raising concerns from head coach Dwane Casey even then. In their next 10 losses, seven more were by five points or less and were punctuated by blowing double-digit leads to teams well below them in the standings.

Injuries, rehab assignments, and playing rookies aside, Lowry and DeRozan have a right to be very concerned.

“Something got to give, something got to change,” Lowry said after the one-point loss to the Pistons. “I have an idea, but I am going to keep my mouth shut, keep it professional. I am starting to get worried. It’s not going the way it’s supposed to be going and things aren’t changing, so I am starting to get worried.”

“Help is always beneficial,” DeRozan said. “I never looked at help as a negative thing. If help is an option, why not?”

Patrick Patterson has missed 13 games because of a sore knee since the New Year, but things weren’t much better in the games he has played since then, so even when he returns healthy – probably post All-Star break – there won’t be a lot of confidence that it will be enough to swing the tide.

The best help would come from the outside via trade. An impact player who could shore up the Raptors porous defense or become a legitimate third scoring option and preferably both.

Ujiri likes to take his time and land the best deal possible, but maybe this time he needs to pull the trigger early and pay a little more. The Raptors players haven’t looked this disheartened since before the Rudy Gay trade in 2013. They need help now.
 

 

 
 

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 Kyle Lowry

Raptors Kyle Lowry Carries A Heavy Load In Toronto

By Frank McLean

Okay Raptors fans who’s is averaging more minutes a game in the NBA this year than MVP candidates James Harden, Russell Westbrook and some guy named LeBron James. Would you believe Kyle Lowry?

At 37-minutes a game Lowry is leading the league with minutes played.  17-times this year he has logged 40-minutes or more in a game. He carries a heavy load in Toronto each and every night.

He has been the Raptors most consistent player because of his ability to log heavy minutes in a season where he has been one of the lucky ones to avoid extended stays on the injury list, which started in the summer league with Delon Wright and added Jared Sullinger in the preseason and more recently Patrick Patterson and his partner at guard DeMar DeRozan.

You wonder how Lowry is able to keep it up? Along with DeRozan he spent the summer with the USA Basketball winning the gold medal at the Olympics and had maybe a total of three weeks off before training camp rolled around for the current NBA season.

Lowry will tell you though he is enjoying every minute of it.

“I play basketball for a living. It’s very easy. It’s very easy to get up and then when you have a great group of guys and great coaches around you it’s fun. At times you’re like I want to sleep in longer, but it’s your job. At the end of the day it brings home the bacon.”

Lowry and the Raptors have been enjoying something that the schedule doesn’t give you very often and that’s three days off before their next game. They also have games Tuesday and Wednesday before the team gets eight days off for the All-Star break.

Now Lowry along with DeRozan won’t get the full eight days off since they will be in New Orleans to play in the game, but with only four wins in their last 13-games, this break is needed.

But the problem for the Raptors is not just needing a rest. Their defence has disappeared and that showed in a Wednesday night loss in Minnesota.

Lowry as the leader of this team spoke Wednesday night about what needs to be done down the stretch to the playoffs because the defence has not been their consistently all year.

“Honestly, no it hasn’t,” Lowry said. “I think we had one good game where we shot 38 or 40% and we won the game. That’s one game this year. Other than that I just feel like we have to figure it out and it’s on everyone. It’s on myself to hold guys acceptable, it’s on DeMar to hold guys accountable, it’s on us to lead us. It starts with us. We got to both do it. Then DeMarre (Carroll) and (Jonas Valanciunas) and everyone else has to step up.

“Something has got to shake, something has got to give. It’s not in the sense of doing something, we just have to figure it out ourselves. When I say something has got to give we just all have to give in and figure out our defence, put ourselves on the line and hold each other accountable. We are a good team, but as of now we are not a good team. We are not playing like a good team.”

Lowry has been ‘the man’ all season, averaging 23-points, five rebounds and seven assists. With DeRozan back from his ankle injury, the dynamic duo are averaging a combined 51-points a night.

This also Lowry’s contract year and a big payday of over $25-million a year will be coming his way.

He’s earned it. He has been the Raptors most reliable player all year.

 

 

  

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.

  Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry

Raptors Kyle Lowry Has Earned The Respect Of His Opponents

By Frank McLean

It was one of those things you took for granted was going to happen, but you weren’t quite sure until it was officially announced, the Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry would be going to his third straight NBA All-Star Game.

Lowry got the word Thursday night that the coaches had voted him on the Eastern Conference roster as a reserve and that he will be joining his Siamese twin in the Raptors backcourt DeMar DeRozan next month in New Orleans.

DeRozan, who had been a reserve last year, was named a starter in the fan/player/media voting two weeks ago.

Lowry has been one of the top guards in the Eastern Conference all season. He has averaged 22.7-points, 4.8 rebounds and 6.9 assists a game. You figured the coaches have got to pick him right?

“Of course I would love to have the fans voted me in,” Lowry was saying to the media on Friday.  “But for the coaches to vote you in, it means they respect your game, respect what you bring to the team.”

Meanwhile his coach Dwane Casey was saying he didn’t have to contact his fellow coaches around the league and put in a plug for his player.

“Not much (lobbying) because a lot of (the coaches) said they were all in. Kyle’s numbers and us hovering around second place spoke for itself .”

During his time in Toronto Lowry has become respected around the league. His play, hustle and the extra work he has put in the gym are major factors towards him making his third straight appearance in the All-Star Game.

Before Lowry came to Toronto he played in Memphis where he was drafted out of Villanova and then went to Houston. In both places he came with a reputation as an uncoachable player always arguing about the way he was being used and not going along with the game plan.

Lowry’s story is quite similar to that of another Toronto star of the past, center fielder Devon White of the Blue Jays. White came to the Blue Jays in a trade with the California Angels spent the next five years as an all-star and major part of Toronto’s two MLB World Championship teams.

White arrived in Toronto with the same reputation as Lowry, yet when you saw White play everyday, you saw a hard worker who played the game the right way and was a quality teammate.

When Lowry first arrived from Houston he knew he had a bad rap, but Dwane Casey and Raptors management showed him the right way to be pro and the results are there in black and white.

Lowry is ecstatic that he’s going to game again with his pal DeRozan.

“It feels great. It’s pretty cool to be able to say the things we’ve done from the end of May (including a gold medal win with the US National Basketball team at the Olympics) until now and continue to grow with me and him. It just shows the hard work, the passion, the dedication to be great and to win is there.

“He’s one of my best friends ever. We can hang out, go to dinner, hang out with our families.  My first year (with the Raptors) I really didn’t talk to anybody. I was trying to figure (things) out. It just happened to grow and we became leaders of the team, we took that upon ourselves on the basketball court and we developed a great relationship off of it.”

Lowry’s hard work and play on the court during his time in Toronto has made him a respected veteran and player any coach can trust with big minutes during a game.

This coming off season it will be time for Lowry to get the big maximum contract that veteran players get with his numbers.

It’s a no brainer that he will get that respect.

 

 

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 Kyle Lowry

Raptors Kyle Lowry Joins DeMar DeRozan As 3-Time All-Star

NBA coaches have affirmed what everyone was expecting, the Raptors starting point guard Kyle Lowry will be joining his backcourt mate DeMar DeRozan as a three-time All-Star in New Orleans.

This will be Lowry’s third appearance in a row at the NBA All-Star Game. This year he is averaging career highs in points (22.4), field goal percentage (46.9%), three-point makes, attempts and shooting percentage (3.2/7.5, 42.2%).

Lowry, voted in as a reserve, joins All-Star starter DeRozan who will also be appearing in an NBA All-Star Game for the third time. The Raptors starting shooting guard is averaging a career high 27.9 points on 47.3 percent shooting.

 

 

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.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Cory Joseph

Raptors Cory Joseph Scores A Career High 33 Points

The Toronto Raptors gave starting point guard Kyle Lowry the night off in Brooklyn to rest and Canadian guard Cory Joseph stepped in and stepped up to score a career-high 33 points on career highs in field goal makes and attempts (15-22) in the 119-109 road win.

“Kyle provides a lot of scoring for us, I knew that slot would be missing today, so I took it upon myself to try to be more aggressive,” Joseph said after the game. “Try to be aggressive and take what the defense gave me. They were giving up a lot of layups and short floaters, so that’s what I was taking.”

It was Joseph’s first start since last April and he played a season-high 37 minutes. However, DeMar DeRozan stole most of the limelight with a 36 point 11 rebound double-double.

The win marked the first time Toronto has reached the halfway point in the season with 28 victories, 2 wins ahead of last year at the same point (26-15) when the team set a franchise record 56 wins on the season and one win ahead of their previous best in 2014-15 (27-14) which finished with 49 victories.

Overshadowing a great performance from Joseph and the new midseason record was concern over Lucas Nogueira who left the game with blurred vision in his left eye and a possible concussion.

The Raptors play the second game of this back-to-back set on the road in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

 

 

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.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 

 

Raptors Lowry And DeRozan Need More Fans In All-Star Voting

The initial fan All-Star voting returns are in and just like last year, Eastern Conference guards DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are out of the top two in the preliminary returns. (Results as of January 5th below).

All-Star voting

 

Last year Kyle Lowry became just the third player in Toronto Raptors team history to be voted an NBA All-Star starter when he finished second among Eastern Conference guards in fan balloting with 646,441 votes. But, it took a late rally by the Raptors fans to overcome a deficit of more than 30,000 votes to help Lowry get in. (see NBA All-Star fan voting in 2016 below)

To-date the Raptors have spent the entire voting period on a western conference road trip while the Air Canada Centre was taken over for the 2017 IIHF World Junior Ice Hockey Championships, so basketball hasn’t been uppermost on Canadian’s minds. However, that is all about to change with the Raptors at home for 5 of the next 6 games.

It is going to take another big push by the local fanbase to get one of the Raptors guards into the top two of fan voting for Eastern Conference guards. However, winning the fan vote isn’t the only deciding factor this year. The fan vote counts for 50% with the other half split between a media panel and NBA players, but it’s unlikely a player outside of the top five in the fan vote has a chance.

The next fan voting update is Thursday, January 12th and voting ends on Monday, January 16th at 11:59 p.m. E.T.

Voting is easy. NBA fans may submit one full ballot each day through Twitter and Facebook using the player’s first and last name with #NBAVOTE, NBA.com, the NBA App and Google Search, as well as via Sina Weibo and Tencent Microblogs in China.

The 2017 All-Star Starters will be announced live on TNT on Thursday, January 19th during a special one-hour edition of TNT NBA Tip-Off at 7 p.m. E.T.

 

 

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 Jonas Valanciunas Kyle Lowry 2016 media day

NBA News: Toronto Raptors Are Contenders

Surprisingly, though, it is the Raptors who enter play on December 27 as the NBA’s top-ranked team in offensive efficiency—not the Warriors, not the Cavaliers and not the Spurs.

Simply? The Raptors are benefiting from continuity and chemistry. Dwane Casey, DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are in their fifth season together and the pieces around them—Jonas Valanciunas, Terrence Ross, Cory Joseph and DeMarre Carroll—fit within their system.

A few days after the Cavs scored one of their biggest wins of the season by defeating the Warriors, the Raptors enter play on December 27 trailing them by one game in the standings.

 

Source: Basketball Insiders Moke Hamilton

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry

Raptors Kyle Lowry Still Being Snubbed In The NBA MVP Race

Toronto Raptors All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry continues to be snubbed in the NBA MVP race despite leading his team to a 21-8 record and objectively dominating the land beyond as this year’s scariest three-point threat.  No disrespect to Stephen Curry intended.

According to ESPN, Curry leads the NBA in three-point makes, but Lowry is the lone representative in the top 10 in makes from the East and at 45.5 percent shooting from three, he’s the best shooter in the NBA among this elite group.

In today’s NBA, there isn’t anyone more valuable than a two-way player who can sink volume threes at a high percentage. It’s past time his impact garnered some notice.

At least he hasn’t had to suffer alone. It took until now for ESPN’s NBA Real Plus-Minus leader Chris Paul to finally edge into the 10th spot on NBA.com Sekou Smith’s list of MVP candidates.

The fans in Toronto know Lowry’s worth to the Raptors, voting him onto the All-Star team last year, but it’s the Eastern Conference’s leading scorer DeMar DeRozan who has been getting whatever love is available to “We The North” in the MVP race (currently 7th on Smith’s list.) Although, Basketball Insiders

6. DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry (Last Week: 6) 

Lowry has undoubtedly been overlooked this season because of DeRozan’s scoring streak early in the season. Lowry has been incredibly consistent on both offense and defense, driving to the rack with confidence and forcing turnovers against some of the best point guards in the league.

While DeRozan continues to pile in the points and confound defenses on most nights, this is Lowry’s team and when they get into trouble, it’s Lowry who takes over and changes certain defeat into just another Raptors win like he did on the road in Utah on the Friday before Christmas.

“For me, it’s all about winning games,” Lowry said after the game. “That’s all that matters. I’ll do whatever it takes to win games.”

Lowry personally stopped a Jazz resurgence that started while he was getting a couple of stitches in his upper lip during the third quarter with 19 fourth quarter points on route to a season high 36 points in the 104-98 win.

A oh hum 15-20 shooting from the field and a typical 4-8 from three point range, Raptors fans have come to expect nothing less from their All-Star, even against a Western Conference playoff team in its own building. It’s why Lowry brings out the passion from the local fan base and why he should be on somebody’s NBA MVP race list.

 

 

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.

 Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry

Raptors Claim NBA’s Top Offensive Rating From Warriors

Toronto Raptors defensive-minded head coach Dwane Casey would probably prefer to bury this news, but his team now has the top offensive rating in the NBA at 114.2 points per 100 possessions, tied with the high scoring Golden State Warriors.

Led by the Eastern Conference’s top scorer DeMar DeRozan (640 points) and the conference’s most prolific three-point maker Kyle Lowry (71 3FGM), the eighth slowest paced team in the NBA has been averaging 115.5 points over their past 10 games to score at the blistering rate of 120.6 per 100 possessions, that’s 4.3 points more than the Cavaliers and almost 6 points better than the fast-paced Warriors over this time period.

The Raptors haven’t exactly been forgetting about defense over this span either, coach Casey’s regular rants to the contrary notwithstanding. Over the past 10 games in which Toronto has gone 8-2, the Raptors have allowed 100.8 points for a differential of +14.7 points. On the season, the Raptors are outscoring their opponents by an Eastern Conference best +8.3 points. The Warriors led the West at +12 points.

This offensive surge has moved the Raptors up the NBA rankings in several key areas:

They are now fourth in scoring at 111 points per game, just behind the Rockets and Cavs, but well back of the Warriors (118).

At 47.5 percent shooting, they are second only to the Warriors at 49.8 percent.

Three point shooting at 39.4 percent as a team trails only the Spurs (40) and the Cavs (40.1).

The Raptors are the second best free throw shooting team in the NBA at 81.7 percent, with the third most makes (481) on the 10th most attempts (589).

Toronto leads the NBA in drive points per game at 22.3 on the sixth most attempts (30.7).

Although the Raptors bench often seems to take the heat for inconsistency locally, they have the highest Net Rating in the NBA by a wide margin at +14.1. The second place Spurs bench is +10.3 and the next best in the East is the Cavs bench at +4.1.

Coach Casey can point to one offensive stat that should make a defensive coach happy, the Raptors are third best at creating screen assists (12.6), just behind Charlotte and Golden State.

At 16-7, the Raptors are in the midst of another very good season and while the offensive numbers are impressive, Casey would rather see his team improve on their 15th ranked defensive rating (104.4). But it isn’t going to be easy when your team has the NBA’s second best Net Rating of +9.8 points per 100 possessions and they just keep on winning.

Note: the Eastern Conference’s first place Cavs defensive rating is ranked 17th at 104.7.

 

 

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 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 DeMar DeRozan Jonas Valanciunas Kyle Lowry 2016 media day

Coach Casey Says Raptors Are Going To Score This Year

The Toronto Raptors played at the second slowest pace in the NBA last season, but they still managed to put up points in the dead middle of the pack (102.7 points per game) while playing solid defense so they had a league fifth best plus/minus of +4.5 points. Head coach Dwane Casey maintains it’ll be defense first again this season and he isn’t worried about scoring. “We’ll score,” Casey explained after a recent preseason practice and one look at this Raptors roster suggests they’ll score more than last season unless the injury bug bites them hard again this time.

In the Raptors starting unit of 2015-16, center Jonas Valanciunas missed 22 games, small forward DeMarre Carroll missed 56 games and the 35-year-old power forward Luis Scola started 76 games as his team’s best starting option at his position.

The Raptors blew through these issues somewhat seamlessly, but likely impact of injuries to starters and Scola on their scoring isn’t that hard to see.

The stone-fisted Bismack Biyombo was a solid replacement for Valanciunas in the starting line-up, but he he averaged 7.2 points as a starter versus 12.9 points for Valanciunas.

Carroll averaged 11.9 points as a starter, but more importantly spread the floor with 5 three-point attempts as one of the Raptors best three-point shooters. Veteran forward James Johnson stepped in for 32 starts, but he only averaged 5.9 points and 1.5 cringe-worthy three-point attempts per game. Rookie Norman Powell eventually won the job and started 24 times (almost all after the All-Star break) and averaged a solid 10.1 points and 3.2 three-point attempts while shooting 46.1 percent from three. Powell doesn’t have Carroll’s experience or size, but he sure makes that Raptors bench look a lot stronger heading into this season.

As much as everyone would have liked a stronger starting power forward than Scola, the veteran was pretty effective averaging 8.7 points and spreading the court with 2.1 three-point attempts and hitting over 40 percent of them. Still, newcomer Jared Sullinger is bigger, younger and forced his way into the Celtics starting lineup over several bodies put in his way before the season started. In his 73 starts with Boston, Sullinger averaged 10.2 points and 8.5 rebounds. He only shot just over one three-ball per game, but like Scola last season, the potential to become a three-point threat is there.

The other scoring aspects of this year’s roster are:

1) Valanciunas, third on Toronto in scoring last season, is expected to play significantly more minutes this year.

2) Sullinger is also expected to play significant minutes at center where he’ll be a much more effective offensive player than Biyombo could ever hope to be.

3) Lowry, coming off a career year, is heading into a contact year that should/will land him a deal in the $130-150 million range. Look for the Raptors’ leader to have an even bigger year this time around.

For purely fantasy purposes, a quick look at the Raptors projected nine man rotation using last year’s stats illustrates why Casey isn’t worried about scoring.

Starters:
Kyle Lowry 77 games, 21.2 points, 4.7 rebounds
DeMar DeRozan 78 games, 23.5 points, 4.5 rebounds
DeMarre Carroll 26 games, 11 points, 4.7 rebounds
Jared Sullinger 81 games, 10.3 points, 8.3 rebounds
Jonas Valanciunas 60 games, 12.8 points, 9.1 rebounds

Reserves:
Terrence Ross 73 games, 9.9 points, 2.5 rebounds
Norman Powell* 25 games, 9.6 points, 3.4 rebounds
Cory Joseph 80 games, 8.5 points, 2.6 rebounds
Patrick Patterson 79 games, 6.9 points, 4.3 rebounds

Totals: 113.7 points, 44.1 rebounds (last season 102.7, 43.4)

* Powell post All-Star break

The biggest fly in the fantasy numbers will be Casey trying to find minutes to develop players like Lucas Nogueira, Jacob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam and Delon Wright. The reality is there isn’t enough minutes available to give the nine guys in the rotation all the time they should be getting and are expected to earn this season – unless someone gets hurt.

 

 

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 Terrence Ross, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, DeMarre Carroll

Raptors Are Fighting To Be The Next Man Up In Toronto Again

Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey has one of those nice problems to have. He has too many deserving players and not enough minutes to go around leaving a group of guys fighting to be the next man up when opportunity finally knocks.

Even with the departure of starter Luis Scola, back up center Bismack Biyombo and heavily used fill-in James Johnson, finding meaningful minutes for players outside of the team’s top nine players will be a challenge unless someone gets hurt.

Plus, if Casey can, he’d like to find more minutes for some of the guys in his top nine, but if all of them were to just average playing the minutes they had last season, he’d have to create about 10 more minutes a game just to do that.

The Raptors will feature a three guard rotation with Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Cory Joseph soaking up virtually all of the minutes at the one and the two spots. These three very durable guards averaged so many minutes last season (98.5 minutes combined out of 96 available) that the only way Casey could keep them on the floor was to play them together. In 74 games Casey ran a lineup of Lowry, Joseph, DeRozan, Patrick Patterson and one of Jonas Valanciunas or Bismack Biyombo for an average of 3.2 minutes per game.

Heading into this season, the developing Joseph could see even more than the 25.6 minutes he averaged in his first go around in Toronto and since the All-Stars DeRozan and Lowry aren’t likely to be cut back, those minutes will have to come from somewhere (someone) else.

The one player Casey has already hinted at trying to “protect” this season so he’s available in good shape for the playoffs is DeMarre Carroll. Carroll averaged 30.2 minutes, but only played in 26 games due to injury and has only recently returned to playing five-on-five basketball in practice. Known as the Junkyard Dog 2.0, Carroll won’t exactly be excited about playing 24-26 minutes a game, but he’s secure in his contract and a team player. Besides, Casey knows he has to create minutes for the very deserving Norman Powell somehow, someway.

With very limited opportunities expected to be available at shooting guard, Casey will be left searching for ways to get Powell and three-point specialist and all around super tease Terrence Ross 24 minutes a game each this season. Casey can create time by playing small ball and the Raptors, like so many other NBA teams these days, have featured very successful lineups of guards and wings with one big man on the court.

Ross led the Raptors bench in three-point attempts last season (4.6), averaging 9.9 points in 23.9 minutes. As much as Ross can frustrate the fans for not doing more, Toronto needs his ability to stretch the floor. Post All-Star break, Powell averaged 9.6 points in 22.8 minutes and hit on 45.5 percent of his 3.1 three-point attempts, plus Casey loves his physical brand of defense.

The squeeze may come with the big men, although it won’t be easy to sit these guys down either.

Jonas Valanciunas was third in Raptors scoring (12.8 points) in just 26 minutes per game last season and he came up huge in the postseason before he was injured. Now entering his fifth NBA season, the pressure will be on to find JV more playing time. It’s easy to project Valanciunas at his 2016 pre-injury playoff numbers of 15 points, 12.1 rebounds, a steal and 1.4 blocks if he gets 28 to 30 minutes a night.

The crunch may come with Jared Sullinger and Patrick Patterson. Sullinger averaged 23.6 minutes a game in Boston putting up 10.3 points and a team best 8.3 rebounds. He replaces Scola (21.5 minutes per game) at starting power forward, plus Sullinger is expected to spend some time at backup center. Patterson played 25.6 minutes a game last year. However, both players are on expiring contracts and will be pushing hard for a bigger role this time around.

Sullinger and Patterson are highly motivated and very talented players, so Casey isn’t likely to find any minutes here to hand out to someone else. If anything, these two guys should be expected to earn more playing time than last season. It just isn’t that easy to see where the additional minutes for them are going to come from.

Then there’s the crew fighting to be the next man up if and when Casey needs someone.

Sitting on the sidelines and hoping to make an impression on coach Casey at training camp are centers Lucas Nogueira, rookie (9th pick) Jacob Poeltl and rookie (27th pick) center/power forward Pascal Siakam (who is eerily similar to Biyombo except this kid can score too). In other circumstances, on a team without so many quality big men or not fighting for a high playoff seed, these guys would play.

Nogueira has natural gifts of length, hops and quicks that are hard to find. He has the ability to be the best screen setter on the team, the potential to be a three-point threat or to feed the post from the outside for dunks and layups, and a is natural shot blocker. He just has to stay healthy and put it all together for longer than a quarter at a time.

Poeltl was described as the least likely player to be a bust in this year’s draft, a back-handed compliment to be sure, but not wrong. He has all the earmarks of a solid traditional NBA center. He might even become better than JV given time to develop.

Siakam is the guy everyone is likely to get excited about. High energy with more skill than he’s been given credit for, this is the guy to watch in preseason – even if he’s the one pegged as most likely to see time in the 905 right away. There’s just a “Norman Powell-like” feel to this kid.

Just maybe Casey makes the effort/sacrifice to create a few minutes for one of these three big men at backup center?

There never really was an issue with Delon Wright or Bruno Caboclo.

Wright won’t be available until December and he might not even get backup minutes at point guard if Lowry or Joseph aren’t available. Powell looked just as good as Wright running the offense with the 905 last season.

Is Bruno still two years away? t.b.d.

Of the six guys in training camp hoping to land the 15th roster spot, 26-year-old 905 Wing E.J. Singler has the three-point stroke and all around game that would make him an ideal replacement for last season’s injury reserve James Johnson. However, nothing is for certain with this group.

Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey has a lot of decisions to make before the regular season starts, but they feel more like tweaks than earth shattering moves. His biggest issue may be trying to keep everybody happy with the number of minutes he has available and to keep guys fighting to get 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.

 

 

 


 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan

Raptors Ujiri Tells DeRozan and Lowry To Think About Championships

Toronto Raptors All-Stars DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are coming off career years and team President Masai Ujiri wants them to set their goals higher, to start thinking about championships as reported by Lauren La Rose on CBC Sports.

“What an unbelievable year for both of them,” Ujiri said of the duo. “They’re All-Stars, they get to the Eastern Conference Finals, they’re Gold medalists.

“When I texted with them and we talked about the championship, that’s where their minds should be, to be set. They’re building themselves to be that caliber of players. They should start thinking about competing to the highest level.”

The Toronto Raptors are coming off a 56 win season that saw them just two wins away from representing the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals and they head into this season with an upgrade at starting power forward as the Celtics leading rebounder Jared Sullinger steps in to replace the 36-year-old Luis Scola.

Both DeRozan and Lowry were Eastern Conference All-Stars for the second time in their careers last season. DeRozan (23.5 points per game) only trailed LeBron James for the scoring lead in the East. Kyle Lowry ranked as the third best player in the Eastern Conference in Sports Illustrated’s top 100 NBA players and he was noticeably better than the Cavs Kyrie Irving in this summer’s run to Olympic Gold in Rio.

While the Cavaliers will significantly outspend the Raptors again this season, only the width of the gap is left to be determined when the Cavs finally get J.R. Smith inked to a new contract, their advantage may not be as insurmountable as it’s perceived to be. Cleveland took first place in the East last season with just one more win than Toronto. It is only the presence of LeBron James that makes this team stand out in their Conference.

Head-to-head Toronto won the regular season series with Cleveland last year 2-1, taking two close games in Toronto and getting blown out at the Q. The Conference Finals took a similar turn with Cleveland winning two blowouts at home, then losing two blowouts at the Air Canada Centre before finally putting the underdogs away in Games Five and Six.

Unfortunately the Raptors were without the services of a healthy Jonas Valanciunas for the first four games against the eventual NBA Champion Cavaliers and Valanciunas only saw limited run in the final two games and it mattered.

More than even the points the Raptors starting center was putting up in the playoffs before he was hurt, Valanciunas did shoot 7-9 for 15 points in 36 total minutes over the final two games against the Cavs, Toronto missed his rebounding as Cleveland hammered Toronto on the boards 255 to 210 over the six game series. Valanciunas was averaging 15 points and 12.1 rebounds per game in the playoffs before he was hurt.

It should be noted the Raptors were bailed out on the glass at home by monster performances from Bismack Biyombo who grabbed 40 rebounds total in Games Three and Four of the Conference Finals.  Unfortunately Biyombo only averaged 4.3 rebounds over three games in Cleveland.

However, where the Cavaliers are a veteran laden team, the Raptors are still building. Toronto’s anticipated nine man rotation this season averages just 5.3 years of NBA experience and the balance of the roster will have two years or less in the league.

“We have 10 players who are 25 years and younger. We are a growing team,” said Ujiri.

“Many things have to come together, but you had what we had last year.”

Toronto is going to have to be very lucky on the injury front or some of these young guys will need to take big steps in their development over the course of the coming season if the Raptors are going to challenge the Cavaliers when it counts in next spring’s playoffs. Unless of course Ujiri has something up his sleeve to add some proven veteran help by the trade deadline.

 

 

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 Kyle Lowry

Raptors Kyle Lowry Beats Out James Harden For All-NBA Third Team

The National Basketball Association announced Thursday that Toronto Raptors All-Star guard Kyle Lowry has been named to the All-NBA Third Team with 35 Second Team votes and 50 Third Team votes for a total of 155 points beating out the Rockets All-Star James Harden who earned 106 points.

Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry NBA All-Star

This is Lowry’s first selection to the All-NBA team. He joins Vince Carter and Chris Bosh as the only players in franchise history to receive the honour. Carter was named to the All-NBA Second Team in 2001 and Third Team in 2000. Bosh was named to the All-NBA Second team in 2006-07.

The Raptors other All-Star guard DeMar DeRozan received 26 points towards the All-NBA Team voting.

Lowry averaged a career-high 21.2 points, a team-high 6.4 assists and was tied for third in the NBA averaging 2.05 steals in 77 games. He shot a career-best .388 (212-for-547) from three-point range, while ranking fifth in the NBA for three-pointers made.

Lowry was named a starter for the 2016 NBA All-Star Game in Toronto for a second straight year. He and teammate DeMar DeRozan were named co-winners for Eastern Conference Players of the Month honours in January after averaging 45.6 points, 10.9 assists, and 9.7 rebounds while propelling Toronto to a franchise-record 11 straight wins (January 6-30). Lowry then scored a career-high 43 points February 26 in a 99-97 victory over Cleveland to earn Eastern Conference Player of the Week honours for games played February 22-28. He was named Eastern Conference Player of the week again for games played March 14-20 after averaging 26.2 points, 6.8 assists and 6.4 rebounds in five games.

Joining Lowry on the All-NBA Third team are Paul George (Indiana), LaMarcus Aldridge (San Antonio), Andre Drummond (Detroit) and Klay Thompson (Golden State).

The All-NBA Teams were chosen by a panel of sportswriters and broadcasters in the United States and Canada. The media voted for All-NBA First, Second and Third Teams by position with points awarded on a 5-3-1 basis. Voters were asked to select two guards, two forwards and one center for each team, choosing players at the position they play regularly. Players who received votes at multiple positions were slotted at the position where they received the most votes.

NBA All-NBA Team

All-NBA 2nd team

All-NBA 3rd Team

Other players receiving votes, with point totals (First Team votes in parentheses): James Harden, Houston, 106; Paul Millsap, Atlanta, 84; Anthony Davis, New Orleans, 76 (1); Al Horford, Atlanta, 76 (2); Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota, 44; DeMar DeRozan, Toronto, 26; Hassan Whiteside, Miami, 24 (1); Isaiah Thomas, Boston, 20; Pau Gasol, Chicago, 16 (2); Jimmy Butler, Chicago, 12; Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas, 8; John Wall, Washington, 7; Kemba Walker, Charlotte, 6; Tim Duncan, San Antonio, 3; Gordon Hayward, Utah, 3; Dwight Howard, Houston, 3; Carmelo Anthony, New York, 2; Marc Gasol, Memphis, 2; Andrew Bogut, Golden State, 1; Blake Griffin, Los Angeles Clippers, 1; Brook Lopez, Brooklyn, 1; Tony Parker, San Antonio, 1.

 

 

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini

 

Defend Territory Toronto Raptors NBA Playoffs 2016

Raptors Look To Their Home Crowd To Beat The Cavs

The Toronto Raptors enjoy a significant home court advantage inside the Air Canada Centre and outside Gate Five in Jurassic Park. It’s loud inside and it’s loud outside, so loud in fact that even the Raptors have struggled with the noise level in every Playoff Game One at home in the Dwane Casey era. Visiting teams can’t help but notice the crowd impact.

Jurassic Park Toronto Raptors

“Have you been here before?” DeMar DeRozan responded incredulously to a media inquiry this morning.

There will likely be an even higher level of electricity in the air and overwhelming noise inside the building and outside Gate Five for the first ever Eastern Conference Final game held in Toronto. The Raptors will need every advantage to beat the Cavs.

“I think being at home will help us,” Casey said after practice on Friday.

“We got our home crowd energy to feed off,” DeRozan said. “Understanding we’ve been great at home and we’ve kind of been in this position before. Probably not at this magnitude, but understanding that this is an opportunity for us to go home where we are comfortable at.”

Despite their Game One record in the postseason, the Raptors have played significantly better at home when the pressure is on. In the last two series, they had to win Game Five and Game Seven at the ACC to advance and they dominated after bad Game Four and Game Six losses. They have been here before, just not in an Eastern Conference Final.

“We’ll make shots tomorrow,” Lowry said on Friday. “We are going to be at home. We are going to play better. We got pride. We are going to play hard.”

The Raptors will give their all in front of their home crowd. The only question at this point is, will it be enough?

“Every game we get an opportunity to play is a must-win-game from here on out,” DeRozan said.

Toronto has to take both Game Three and Game Four at the ACC to get back in this series. It’s a steep hill to climb, but they’ve beaten the Cavaliers in Toronto twice before this season with the help of some fabulous crowd support. It’s just another opportunity with much higher stakes.

 

 

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 Kyle Lowry

Raptors Showing Frustration For The First Time

By Frank McLean

I was not in the Quicken Loans Arena Thursday night to see the second game of this Eastern Conference Final. I watched it from the comfort of home, but I didn’t need to be in Cleveland live to see for myself that for the first time this year that dreaded F word coaches hate use “Frustration” is showing in the Toronto Raptors.

That will happen to team who had 56 wins in the regular season and had not lost two games in row since March 23rd and 25th. This team has had more highs than lows this year.

The Raptors had been consistent all season. In fact, it’s something that head coach Dwane Casey preaches so much that team is probably sick of hearing it.

“If you are consistent you don’t have these highs and lows,” Casey said in Cleveland prior to Game Two.

“If you get emotionally high and emotionally low, you are never going to be successful in this league. You got to have consistent emotional approach and a consistent physical approach. I think that plays into us bouncing back throughout the year.”

However, human nature being such, when you have constant success and every time things start to go wrong you able to figure it out, and then suddenly everything you try doesn’t work, that dreaded “Frustration” can show up.

That’s what you see in the Raptors after two spankings in Cleveland and the player showing it the worst is point guard Kyle Lowry.

Lowry’s playoff statistics are like looking at a heart beats on an EKG graph. When Lowry can score 20 or more points in game, and he has only done it in five of their 16 playoff games, the Raptors are 4-1. Seven times he has scored 12 or fewer points in these playoffs.

Lowry is starting to show it in front of the world. With 2:30 left in the second quarter in Game Two, and score tied 46 all, he headed for the locker room. He said wasn’t hurt after the game, he just needed to decompress.

While he was in the room the Cavaliers went on a 12-2 run to close the first half.

It wasn’t just Lowry who stood out, the body language of the whole team as they headed into the locker room at half-time looked like the victims of a drive by shooting. The Cavaliers offensive power can make you look like that.

“You may be seeing something I don’t see,” Casey said after the game. “I don’t see quit. They beat us two games, but I don’t it’s not over yet.”

Casey is right the series is not over. The job of Casey and the rest of his coaching staff is to not yell and scream at their players, because it’s not their fault the Cavaliers are the better team. What they have to do is their best job of convincing them that it’s us against the world. The Raptors aren’t that bad. Counting the playoffs, they have won 64 basketball games this year, and in the regular season they did beat Cleveland in two out of three times (both times in Toronto).

But in reality, this is how a team becomes playoff tested, getting beat by a team that was expected to be in the NBA Finals. When this series is over, the Raptors will know what it will take to contend for a championship in the future.

Being around this team like I have all year I expect them to come out flying at home in Game Three trying to win one for the home fans, but the frustration is starting to show. It’s only human nature when you finally run into an opponent who is better than you and you can’t find anything to stop them.

 

 

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.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini

 

 

 


NBA Toronto Raptors DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry

Raptors Won Because DeMar DeRozan Played Hurt

By Frank McLean

The Toronto Raptors won game five of their series with the Miami Heat Wednesday night the old fashioned Raptors way, DeMar DeRozan was shooting the basketball and it was going in the hoop.

It sounds simplistic, but when DeRozan and his partner in crime at the guard position Kyle Lowry combine to score 40 or more points in game, the Raptors usually win. It’s one of the few givens in life like death and taxes.

However, the duo has struggled this postseason. Lowry has been in the worst shooting slump of his career and DeRozan has as well, but in Game Five against the Heat, DeRozan was 11-22 from the field and a perfect 11-11 from the foul line for his playoff best game of 34 points. Lowry attempted 25 shots from the field, made nine, but was 4-9 from behind the three point line and chipped in with a solid 25 points. Added together, they combined for 59 of the Raptors 99 points on the night.

Lowry had his best game of the playoffs in this series back on Saturday in Game Three with a 33 point performance, but he and DeRozan have not been completely in sync in the same playoff game for the whole postseason. That is something the Raptors and their fans have been waiting for.

“We can disparage them all we want and talk about how bad their shooting is, but you don’t forget how to score the basketball,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said after the game. “It’s going to come back. When? You hope it’s within this series, but it’s going to come back. We have faith in those guys. They carried us the entire season and not one-time did we doubt their ability to score the basketball.

“And now they have to ramp it up again for the next game.”

DeRozan has taken a beating in the press and on social media over his lack of performance in the playoffs. He can opt out of his contract at the end of the season and go for a max deal in the neighborhood of $20-25-million per season. One Toronto sports writer actually said on Wednesday that if the Raptors did sign DeRozan to a max deal that person should be fired.

DeRozan’s performance in Game Five was a gigantic “stick it” to his detractors.

The fact is he played the game hurt, the thumb on his shooting hand is hurting and hurting bad. He played through the pain. Many stars have sat out with less pain and just shut it down.

In the fourth quarter DeRozan re-injured his thumb and made a bee line to the locker room. He was followed by the Raptors Director of Sports Science Alex McKechnie. The cagey Scotsman did his best MacGyver imitation by using a shoelace on DeRozan’s thumb and he came back and finished the game.

“Thousand dollar shoelaces” is what DeRozan called the device.

When asked, what does the thumb hurt like? DeRozan said, “it hurt likes a blow torch.”
That’s pretty graphic.

Plain and simple the Raptors don’t win without DeRozan sucking it up and playing. He played like the legendary war horses of the old days in the NBA.

That’s why the Raptors head to Miami up three games to two instead of being down three games to two.

They need DeRozan and Lowry to keep up doing what they did Wednesday night if they want to advance to the Toronto Raptors first ever Conference Final.

 

 

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 DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry

Raptors And Heat Look to Win Ugly In Game Five

By Frank McLean

After watching Game Four of this Miami Heat-Toronto Raptors conference semi-final, you might scratch your head and ask, was that really professional basketball I just watched? That game was ugly from both team’s perspective.

Missing their big men in the middle , Jonas Valanciunas for Toronto and Hassan Whiteside for Miami, both teams had to improvise so to speak.

What hurts from a Raptors standpoint is that they had an opportunity to win this game and they let it slip away.

The problem was they couldn’t stop Dwyane Wade who scored 30 points in the win and willed the Heat to the win, that’s what the great players in the game do.

Raptors head coach Dwane Casey sat down with the media yesterday when the team returned from Miami after opting to spend the night in South Florida instead of flying home after the game.

“Everyone’s upset we lost, which they should be, but nobody’s pushing the panic button because it’s such a competitive series,” Casey said.

It has been a competitive series for sure, even though the basketball has not been pretty.

“They’re not shooting the ball well, it’s written history,” Casey added. “We know about it, Miami knows it. We’re trying to do things to get around it. We’re trying to create more offence with those guys struggling the way they are, but again, they’re going to be our guys because at some point they’re going to get their rhythm, their shot. Someone else is going to step up and they may be more of a decoy or whatever, but’s not like we’re going to bench Kyle and DeMar and go away from them. They’re our guys. We believe in them. They’re our two all-stars and sooner or later they’re going to come through or be a part of what we’re trying to do.”

The struggles again go back to the lack of scoring from Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. The duo were a combined 6-28 from the field for 19 points. Lowry fouled out and that did not help. DeRozan was 4-17 and has a thumb injury that is hindering his shooting.

“I thought that was our biggest nemesis, containing the basketball,” Casey continued. “Dwyane Wade was just putting his head down and attacking our paint. I don’t care if you have Wilt Chamberlain or Bill Russell back there. One dribble to the rim, there’s not many big guys that are going to (get over to help).

“Our defence hasn’t been atrocious, but it could be better,” Casey said. “It could help our offence more by getting stops, getting out on the break a little more.”

The Raptors have been decent on defense. The Heat averaged 108 points a game against Charlotte and the Raptors have held them to under a 100 in this series.

Toronto can still win this series.

They must attack Wade and make life difficult for him.

Lowry can’t foul out of the game early like he did in Game Four. He needs another big scoring game like Game Three.

If DeMar DeRozan’s thumb is hurting, he needs to become a Jose Calderon and be a ball distributor and set his teammates up for the perfect shot.

Let’s see what happens, it might not be pretty, but ugly wins count the same as the pretty one’s.

 

 

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 Jonas Valanciunas, Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan

Toronto Raptors Are 3:1 Favorites To Beat The Heat

There has been a lot of noise coming from south of the Canadian border about how much certain sports organizations expect or would like to see a Cavaliers versus Heat Eastern Conference Final, but after the Raptors took back home court advantage in Miami on Saturday night, the odds have swung heavily in favor of a Toronto-Cleveland series.

Like it or hate it, ESPN’s Basketball Power index is at the very least objective and it puts the Raptors as 3:1 favorites to advance.

Raptors playoff odds as of May 8 2016 per ESPN

The ESPN Basket Power Index is meant to predict a team’s future performance using the recent past and known future. It doesn’t account for things like Heat center Hassan Whiteside twisting a knee a possibly missing the rest of the postseason or Raptors center Jonas Valanciunas turning an ankle and not being available either.

“Right now we don’t know about Hassan who is a big part of what we do, but that doesn’t mean anything, we still have a series to play and Toronto, they don’t care, no one cares,” Dwyane Wade said after Game Three.

Wade is right. No one cares if a team is hindered by injuries to key players in the playoffs. You figure it out or your season ends and this series is about to look a whole lot more like the second half of Game Three than it did in the 2.5 contests prior to that.

“Whiteside’s out, JV is out, it was a guard game today so the floor opened up a lot more,” Kyle Lowry said after Game Three. “I felt like (my) shot was there last game to be honest and I felt in was just a matter of time and me shooting the shots for them to go down.”

It shouldn’t surprise anyone the Wade and Lowry both went off in the second half of Game Three. With the starting centers out of the game, there was no rim protection and it became a free-for-all driving to the hoop which caused defenders to sag off and the three-point line to open up. Neither team could stop the other’s star guard, they could only barely slow them down.

Don’t look to an analytical predictor to help you figure which team is going to be favored now. Your only clues are going to come from how these teams performed in the regular season and how both teams won without their centers.

The Heat went 6-3 without Whiteside this season and the Raptors were 16-6 without Valanciunas. In Miami, Chris Bosh was there to step up in 8 of the games Whiteside missed, averaging 21 points and 7.8 rebounds, a small but significant bump over his season averages. In Toronto, Bismack Biyombo started the 22 games Valanciunas wasn’t available and averaged 7.2 points , 12.2 rebounds and 2 blocks, almost doubling his boards and getting about 50 percent more points and blocks in about 50 percent more minutes.

Unfortunately for Miami, Bosh is unavailable and they really don’t have anyone that can replace Whiteside’s defense and rebounding. For Toronto, Biyombo has been M.I.A. so far in the second round and they will be hoping he steps up once again in Valanciunas’ absence to give them the rim protection the Heat no longer have.

As Lowry noted about Game Three, it’ll be a guards’ game from now on. Wade and Dragic versus Lowry and DeRozan. The Heat guard duo averaging 27.5 points per game during the regular season and 36.9 points per game during this year’s playoffs. The Raptors guard duo averaging 44.7 points per game during the regular season, but only 34.1 points per game in the postseason.

Fortunately for Toronto, both of their guards appear to have reacquired their scoring touch, DeRozan averaging 22.8 points over his last four games and Lowry’s break out 33 point performance in Game Three.

Game Four will end up as DeRozan predicted, the team that wants it the most will get it, but this time at least the Raptors will be ready. It doesn’t matter who is hurt, there are no excuses in the playoffs.

“(The Heat will be) going out there and lay(ing) everything they have out there on the line and we got to go out there with that same intensity because they sure don’t want to go down 3-1,” DeRozan said.

Taking everything into consideration, the ESPN Basketball Power index odds look about right and that makes Game Four little more than a coin flip.

 

 

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.