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DeRozan and Harden

The Raptors Are Finding Their Winning Form Again

By Frank McLean

For one night anyways they looked like the old Toronto Raptors. They played some decent defense and DeMar DeRozan got his shooting stroke back in an exciting 99-96 win over the Houston Rockets at the Air Canada Center Monday night.

The significance of the win is that it is Toronto’s first win over a +.500 team since they beat the Atlanta Hawks in February and it’s the last time they will see a team with a +.500 record for the rest of the regular season.

Raptors Head coach Dwayne Casey was happy in his post game comments using that F word again to describe the Raptors defensive game.

“I thought the entire team was ready and more focused,’’ Casey said. “We had a good defensive practice (on Sunday). Again, our whole theme from here on out, not only this game but Wednesday night (vs the Timberwolves) and the rest of the way is going to be defense. But the fun part of this game was watching a couple of childhood friends go mano a mano against each other. DeRozan and James Harden.”

DeRozan had a career night scoring a career high 42 points, tying a career high 11 rebounds and if he hadn’t missed on a couple of free throws he might have had a chance at 50. But let’s not get too carried away with the criticism, he did hit on 12 of 17 from the charity stripe. He was aggressive driving to the hoop and was drawing fouls which when he does that he is one of the most dangerous guards in the game.

Harden was no slouch either. He scored 31 points and grabbed 12 boards leading an undermanned Rockets squad which dressed just 10 players and rested Dwight Howard as he slowly gets back from a knee injury for the playoffs. But that battle with Harden was the fun part and with the crowd really getting in to it, the game took on a playoff like atmosphere.

With time running out in the fourth quarter and Raptors up by one DeRozan was looking to ice the game and his buddy Harden was guarding him. He dribbled to his left and hit jumper from 18 feet to make it 99-96. The Rockets Trevor Ariza missed on desperation three pointer and that was the game.

“Tough shot. Tough shot. Contested shot,” Harden said. “He had it going. When you got it going like that, those shots are going to fall. In this league, when you get a good rhythm, get a good feel, any player can get it going. A fine example was tonight.”

Kind words from a friend.

“It’s definitely cool because we have been playing against each other since we were kids,’’ DeRozan said. “He’s one of my close friends in the league to this day. I’m close with his family and he’s close with my family, so it’s always cool knowing we can cherish this 20 years, 30 years from now.”

But the most important thing was the win a team win and DeRozan did not forget that.

“I just want to go out there and win,’’ DeRozan said. “The crowd was into it and the last time we played these guys they got us pretty good. We are really just trying to go out there and be ourselves and understand that we can use these next few games to get ready for the playoffs.”

Getting ready playoffs is theme now for the remaining 8 games of the regular season and none of them is against teams with a +.500 record.

Using Monday night’s game as an example if they keep playing like this and the old Raptors comeback maybe these guys can attain their next goal and win a best of seven series in the playoffs.
 

 
Frank McLean - small sizeVeteran 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.

 

 

 

Valanciunas Lowry Williams

Kyle Lowry Leads Raptors To 40th Win With Triple-Double

The Toronto Raptors set a new high water mark with their 40th win in just 67 games, the fastest in franchise history, and they did it behind All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry’s second triple-double of the season, Lou Williams offensive outburst and another Jonas Valanciunas double-double.

“I was happy to see our guys get back to playing the way we have to play,” said Head coach Dwane Casey.

Lowry scored 20 points by nailing 5 three-pointers to go with his 11 rebounds, 10 assists and 3 steals as Toronto never trailed in this game and won going away 117-98 over the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Toronto got up 21-12 midway through the first quarter and the Pacers were playing catch-up the rest of the night.

As has so often been the case this season, Toronto is virtually unbeatable when Williams is on his game and in this one, the Raptors instant offense came off the bench to score 24 points in a little under 23 minutes. His offense was important as the Pacers guards George Hill (23 points) and Rodney Stuckey (20 points) were putting on a show for the home crowd and kept this game from becoming a blowout early on.

In the battle of the big men, it was Valanciunas controlling the Pacers Roy Hibbert as Valanciunas scored 14 points on 7-10 shooting, grabbed 12 boards and blocked 2 shots to record his team leading 19th double-double. The two-time NBA All-Star Hibbert was held to 17 points on 5-13 shooting, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks.

The Raptors have an unspoken goal of 50 wins this season and with 15 games remaining their objective is in sight. Toronto has the easiest remaining schedule in the Association with their remaining opponents winning just 40.5 percent of their games on average. Except for the Bulls home and away and the Rockets at home, all of their remaining opponents have sub-.500 records. The Raptors have never won more than 48 games in their franchise’s history.

Toronto is at home on Wednesday in the first of their two remaining meetings against the 14-52 Timberwolves.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

New Orleans Pelicans Media Day

New Orleans Pelicans Don’t Need Anthony Davis To Win

By Frank McLean

When it comes to playing the Toronto Raptors, it seems that the New Orleans Pelicans don’t need their All-Star power forward Anthony Davis to win. For the second time this season without Davis in the lineup, the Pelicans defeated the Raptors 100-97 in game they were trailing until there was less than two minutes to play in fourth quarter.

There is no excuse for how the Raptors let this one get away from their grasp. This game looked like an easy win for the Raptors. Not only was Davis missing with a sprained right shoulder, but two other regulars were scratched from the Pelicans. Power forward Ryan Anderson with sprained knee and point guard Jrue Holliday with a stress reaction in his right leg.

As the game progressed it looked like Toronto could book win number 38 of the season. The Raptors took charge from the get go as they led for the entire first half and had a comfortable 56-44 lead at the break. They started the third quarter looking good and with 7:54 left had a 13-point lead, 62-49, but coming out of timeout it all started to slip away. The Pelicans went on a 15-8 run and cut the Raptors lead to just 6-points with 2:40 left in the quarter. The Raptors led by seven at the end of the third, 74-67, but that’s when the game slipped away.

The fourth quarter saw former Miami Heat guard Norris Cole get red hot for the Pelicans, as he scored 13-points in the quarter. Forward Luke Babbit was the one who created the first lead change in the game with just 1:55 left in regulation time, hitting a three point shot to make it 94-93 Pelicans, a lead they would not give up.

Also, give credit to the Pelicans bench as they scored 55 points. Cole, Alexis Ajinca and Babbitt contributing 49 points. Missing three starters, the Pelicans used the “Next Man Up” philosophy to get a win.

This is a loss the Raptors should be ashamed of. If you are one of the top teams in the NBA, and the Raptors are based on their record, you do not blow big leads on the road to teams missing three players out of their starting five. There’s no excuse, you simply don’t do that! For the record, the Raptors biggest lead of the game was 18 points.

“I don’t even want to hear about the next team that doesn’t have a player playing,” a ticked off Raptors head coach Dwayne Casey said after the game. “I think those other guys came in and played hungry. Their bench had 50 points (55 really). That’s the worst thing you can do, play against hungry guys trying to get their opportunity in this league. That’s what they did. You talk about guys that are talented, Norris Cole and Alexis Ajinca came in and made their mark on the game.”

So that sums up a bad Monday night in “The Big Easy” for Toronto. Not so easy for the Raptors and just like “Mardi Gras” for the Pelicans.

 

 

Veteran 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.

 

 

 

Casey Media Day 2

Inconsistency Hurts The Toronto Raptors

By Frank McLean

After Friday night’s big 105-80 win in Atlanta, Raptors head coach Dwayne Casey was hopeful that effort would carry over 24-hours later in Houston against the Rockets. However, inconsistency reared its ugly head and the Raptors lost 98-76.

If you want to get into Casey’s doghouse, not being ready to play when its time to start the game will do it. The Raptors coach was not a happy man postgame.

“When you don’t come out in this league ready to play mentally and physically, I don’t care who you are, you are going to get your behind handed to you,” Casey said. “Tonight we didn’t come out with the right mind set. They were the hungrier team. They did all the hard and grimy things that we did Friday in Atlanta.”

Casey summed up Saturday night’s game in a nutshell, the Raptors were not physical. When they have trouble shooting from the floor, they have to play hard physical defense or they don’t have a chance to win.

On Friday night, Lou Williams and DeMar DeRozan were the only Raptors to have any luck shooting the ball, but that hard grimy defense Casey loves won the game. They took the paint away from Jeff Teague and Hawks All-Star guard makes his living using his speed on drives to the hoop.

The Raptors defense also shut down one of the NBA’s best 3-point shooters in Kyle Korver. Every time Korver let one go from behind the arc, there was a Raptor flying in his face. Saturday night, the Raptors did none of that.

It was not like the game was a lost cause. The Rockets were not that good either. They only had a 40-36 lead at halftime, but came to life in the second half behind James Harden’s 16 points. He only had a measly 4 points in the first half, all from the free throw line. The Rockets also got help from their bench as Corey Brewer gave his team a spark by leading the Rockets with 25 points on 12-for-19 shooting from the field.

The other thing missing from this game for the Raptors was Lou Williams. Sweet Lou turned his ankle in the third quarter the previous night and wasn’t available.

When the Raptors have needed some help and a kick in the collective butt this season, Williams has been the man. Coming off the bench he has averaged 24.5 minutes and 15.4 points per game, making him a top contender for the NBA’s sixth man of the year award. The Raptors are 11-1 when he leads the team in scoring. If that isn’t a good enough reason to put him in consideration for the sixth man honors, what would be?

So it’s off to New Orleans Monday night and Dallas on Tuesday for another back-to-back on the road.

The Raptors get a break Monday as the Pelicans will not have the services of Anthony Davis. Davis re injured his right shoulder Saturday against the Miami Heat. New Orleans is 2-5 this year without him in the lineup, but that didn’t seem to matter on January 18th in Toronto when Davis didn’t play with a groin injury and they snuck out of town with a 95-93 win.

It won’t matter who is wearing Pelicans or Mavericks uniforms the next two nights if the Raptors don’t do the “hard grimy things on defense” their coach expects. Without the needed defensive effort, the Raptors could easily end up with a 1-3 road trip.

 

 

Veteran 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.

 

 

 

TOR_Williams_Lou

Raptors Return To Atlanta To Show Who’s The Boss

By Frank McLean

If you are a Toronto Raptors fan, you have to love Friday night’s 105-80 beat down of the Eastern Conference leading Hawks right in Atlanta. The victory gave Toronto a 3-1 win in the season series.

When they arrived in Atlanta, the Raptors were still reeling from 110-89 loss to the Hawks in Toronto on January 16th. In that game the Raptors totally forgot to play defense in the second half and gave the game to the Hawks by turning the ball over 19-times.

On Friday night they turned the tables. They closed the paint to the Hawks making life difficult for all-star guard Jeff Teague to drive to the hoop and Atlanta’s usually lethal 3-point shooting went ice cold.

Toronto led by just 4-points at halftime, but they held the Hawks to just 13-points in the third quarter and led by 19 going into the fourth. In other words this game was pretty much over.

The Hawks turned the ball over a shocking 23 times Friday night. As a team the Hawks were just 8-for-38 behind the 3-point line and Kyle Korver was as frigid as the winter weather on east coast going just 2-for-11. The Hawks find their success when sharing the ball, but Toronto’s defense held them to just 19-assists.

Raptors Head Coach Dwayne Casey was pleased with his team’s effort.

“Our defense, mainly starting in that third quarter, came out with an intensity we needed,” Casey said. “We were in the same spot we were in that game in Toronto, close for two quarters and then they came out and busted it open in the third. That was our challenge at halftime, not to let that happen. Our guys came out and dug in and met that challenge. That’s the way we have to play.”

Two other factors that played a major part in the Raptors win were DeMar DeRozan and Lou Williams.

DeRozan wasn’t selected to this year’s All-Star team. He was there last year, but missing 21-games in the first half the season due to injury hurt his chances. Friday night he came out and scored the Raptors first 8-points of the game and finished with 21-points and 8-rebounds. He let people know that he is still one of the best guards in the NBA.

Atlanta native and former Hawk Williams reminded his old team that they made a mistake by trading him to Toronto. Williams scored a game-high 26-points and made a career-high 7 three-point shots on 10 attempts from beyond the arc. Back on November 26th, in the Raptors last visit to Atlanta, Williams chipped in with 22-points in that win. The Raptors are now 11-and -1 when Williams is Raptors leading scorer in a game and 16-and-3 when he scores at least 18-points.

You might think the Hawks wished they had a little Sweet Lou Friday night, but this really all goes back to the Raptors loss in January in Toronto. The Raptors were embarrassed at home and there was a little payback this time around. They were not going to let it happen two times in a row, but as Casey always says, “today’s game is just one-in-82.”

So it’s on to Houston Saturday night and the Raptors first of two meetings this year with the Rockets and NBA’s leading scorer James Harden. Friday night was the start of four games in five nights on the road and 9-of-11 away from the friendly confines of the Air Canada Centre.

Toronto is now 16-8 on the road this season and they will have to keep playing a stifling defensive road game if they want to have any success in this year’s playoffs.

 

 

Veteran 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.

 

 

BKN_Kidd_JasonMilwaukee Bucks, How The Heck Do They Keep Winning?

You got to hand it to the Milwaukee Bucks. A team that was considered a major rebuilding project at the start of the season with a brand new coach in Jason Kidd, not much was expected from this club, but after their 82-75 win in Toronto Monday night over the Raptors, they have now racked off 4-straight wins. – Frank McLean

 

BKN_Kidd_Jason

Milwaukee Bucks, How The Heck Do They Keep Winning?

You got to hand it to the Milwaukee Bucks.

A team that was considered a major rebuilding project at the start of the season with a brand new coach in Jason Kidd, not much was expected from this club, but after their 82-75 win in Toronto Monday night over the Raptors, they have now racked off 4-straight wins. That’s good for a 26-22 record in the Eastern Conference and most importantly, sits them in sixth spot in the conference standings.

What is amazing is that they are doing it with a bare bones roster night after night.

Kidd only had nine players dressed Monday night. A few hours before the game he found out he would not have the services of his leading and only consistent scorer.  Point guard Brandon Knight would be out with a strained quad.

Then with just over 4-minutes left in the second quarter, the roster was trimmed to just eight healthy bodies as O.J. Mayo was given a double technical foul and ejected from the game.

When talking to Kidd and the Bucks players, they all sing from the same hymn book “one goes down another has to step up”.

In Monday’s win forward Khris Middleton was that man. He was 10-17 from the field, 3-4 from behind the arc and a perfect 2-2 from the foul line. The result was a season high 25-points and 9-rebounds.

Before the game Kidd said” I think this is a great learning process for our team to be able to handle injuries and just keep playing”.

It should be pointed out for those who don’t follow the Bucks on a daily basis the rest of the missing players, and there is some talent missing. Ersan Ilyasova groin, Damien Inglis ankle, Kendell Marshall ACL tear, Jabari Parker knee surgery, Zaza Pachulia calf strain and Larry Sanders out on a league suspension.

The real story on Monday night is the Bucks held an opponent to under 90-points for the 17th-time this year and they have not lost a game yet when they held an opponent to under-90.

The Raptors shot just 32 percent for the game, which head coach Dwayne Casey called “A stinker” after the game. Saturday night, however, the Bucks beat Portland 95-88 and held them to just 37 percent shooting.

The Bucks are not doing this against teams that could not beat the Washington Generals. They are doing this against the elite scoring teams in the league.

After the game Kidd said, “Normally when you don’t score you need to play defense. We needed to rebound and they did”.

In case you forgot, when the Bucks visited Toronto in November, the Raptors won 124-83. Monday night the 75-points scored by the Raptors was a season low.

So as this Bucks team gets healthy, watch for them in the playoffs. If you are looking for a team capable of a first round upset, this might be it.

 

 

Veteran 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.

 

 

ATL_Horford_AlAtlanta Hawks Are Set To Stretch Their Lead In The East
By Frank McLean
“We have a chance to do something special this time,” Hawks star center Al Horford said. “We have to keep getting better and it’s up for us to keep playing well and (not) be satisfied. We are half way there and we got to keep going”.

 

 

Raptors bench 1 by Paul Saini FYLMM

Raptors Bench Crushes The Pacers In Indiana

It appears things are getting back to normal for the Toronto Raptors. DeMar DeRozan got to the free throw line 13 times and scored 24 points on 7-15 shooting. Freshly minted 2015 All-Star Kyle Lowry had 19 points, 7 rebounds and 8 assists. The Raptors bench turned an 11 point Pacers lead into a 9 point Raptors advantage in just 4 minutes early in the second quarter to crush Indiana’s hopes of defeating the Atlantic Division leaders. When things are going right, that’s pretty much how this season has gone for Toronto.

The Pacers made several runs to close the gap over the rest of the game, but in the end they could never fully recover from that 4 minute stretch in the second quarter and ended up losing to the visitors 104-91.

Indiana Head Coach Frank Vogel has come to rely on his bench as a bright spot in an otherwise rough season. The Pacers have 16 wins, 31 losses and are getting outscored on average by just 2.4 points. They can still play defense, but only average scoring 94.9 points per game and 40.5 of those points come from the bench. Vogel’s bench is usually helping to keep his team in games and has a +2.1 points differential, but they couldn’t get it done versus Toronto. The Raptors bench outscored them 42-25 on this night. Only George Hill managed much offense off the bench with 13 points in just his third game back from injury.

Toronto’s own high-scoring bench (39.7 point average) leads the league with a +3.6 points differential and in this game they were an impressive +9.4 as they erased yet another deficit created by a slow start. Lou Williams pumped in his typical 14 points and Patrick Patterson had it going offensively with 13 points. Terrence Ross bounced-back after three subpar games to score 11 points on 5-10 shooting and grabbed 6 boards. However, the Raptors bench has been getting their work done with defense lately.

Since Head Coach Dwane Casey sent Ross to the bench, inserted Vasquez into the starting lineup and tightened his rotation – largely at the expense of James Johnson, the Raptors are 4 wins and 1 loss and have held teams to 92 points or less 4 times.

Having a deep and productive bench is going to be particularly important for the Raptors this week as this was just the first of four games in five nights. Toronto plays Sacramento at home on Wednesday, heads to Brooklyn on Friday and then plays a big game against the Wizards in Washington on Saturday.

This was DeMar DeRozan’s eighth game back since returning from a groin injury and his second game in a row getting to the free throw line 10 or more times. He is starting to return to his old All-Star worthy form. This stretch of games will be a major test of his health, strength and endurance after missing a month and a half of the season.

The win over the Pacers marks the first time in Toronto Raptors history that they have won 30 games prior to the All-Star break.

 

 

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.

 photo credit Paul Saini Fylmm.com

 

 

 
Patterson and Hansbrough warmups Paul Saini FYLMMBest Bench In The NBA Belongs To The Toronto Raptors

The Raptors bench averages 39.7 points and has an NBA best +3.5 points differential on the season. The Wizards (34.9 points, -1.9), Hawks (31 points, +0.6), Bulls (30.6 points, +0.9) and Cavaliers (23.8 points, -0.6) get a lot less production from their second unit and the Wizards and Cavs start losing ground without their starters. (The Spurs bench is +2.2 points.)

 

 

 

TOR Ross and James Johnson

James Johnson Sits, Raptors Defeat Bucks 92-89

Head Coach Dwane Casey must be tired of losing, so he made some dramatic changes to his rotation on Monday night in Milwaukee and came away with a hard fought 92-89 win over the Bucks. Terrence Ross was replaced in the starting lineup by Greivis Vasquez and James Johnson sat as a healthy DNP-CD. The nine Raptors that played responded with one of their better defensive efforts.

It would be a challenge to lay much of the blame on James Johnson for the Raptors recent 4 win 8 loss slide. Averaging 9.5 points on 61.5 percent shooting, 5.1 rebounds, 0.8 steals and 1.2 blocks over the past 12 games, Johnson was a model of effort and consistency until his 0 point and 3 turnover effort in 11 minutes on Sunday. Johnson took a silly technical foul sandwiched between two turnovers early in the fourth quarter against the Pelicans and Casey subbed him out for good despite needing his defense later in the game. Casey assured everyone Johnson didn’t do anything wrong in Milwaukee.

“It had nothing to do (with James),” Casey said. “Just those three guys were playing, were doing a good job. I would love to play 15 guys. There are going to be some guys out of the rotation. Tonight those three guys did a good job. Terrence came off the bench, Lou (Williams), Greivis, and Kyle (Lowry) – it had nothing to do with James, nothing he did wrong.”

There is a history between Casey and Johnson that saw Johnson traded for a second round draft pick at the end of the 2011-2012 season in which Johnson had put up some solid stats. Hopefully history isn’t repeating itself.

Ross came off the bench a little slow with 4:51 left in the first quarter. After making a quick midrange jump shot, he missed two deep three-point attempts, turned the ball over and blew a defensive assignment. He started the second quarter with some intensity – a dunk, two made threes and three personal fouls. Ross looked alive for an extended period and earned his extra time on the court.

“Terrence responded coming off the bench and did a great job,” Casey said.

Ross had 16 points and five rebounds and scored the Raptors last two field goals including Toronto’s game-winning shot at the 26.4 second mark and a dunk with 15.9 seconds left.

Jonas Valanciunas had a 11 point 11 rebound double-double at the half, but he only played 5.5 minutes after the break and didn’t score as both Toronto and Milwaukee went small. It seemed inevitable that Valanciunas would have a short night as he had trouble hanging onto the ball and coughed it up 5 times, but Patrick Patterson picked up the rebounding effort for the Raptors with Valanciunas on the bench.

“Pat Patterson was a man on the boards,” Casey said. “His energy on the boards was the difference.”

Patterson tied his career-high of 13 rebounds with 10 in the second half as the Raptors dominated the glass by grabbing 20 offensive rebounds and out dueling the Bucks 54-43 on the boards.

The Raptors needed those offensive rebounds to escape Milwaukee with the win. They shot 40 percent from the field as a team and DeMar DeRozan legs were gone in his first back-to-back game since returning from injury. He shot 0-9 from the field for 0 points. Lowry also couldn’t find the mark, going 8-25 to score 18 points, but Lowry had his fingerprints all over this game with 5 boards, a steal, a block and charges drawn. Lowry was a force.

“DeMar gave us what he had,” Casey said. “I thought his legs were a little shot from coming back and being out for so long.”

The only real criticism of Casey’s rotation in this game was that after watching DeRozan struggle in the first quarter and looking fatigued, maybe he should have given him the rest of the night off. He did just miss a month and a half with a groin injury.

This game was even closer than the final score indicates. The Bucks missed 9 free throws, going 16-25 from the line while the Raptors bricked their way to 14-24 from the charity stripe. Toronto even managed to brick three technical foul shots and Lowry missed a pair of free throws in the dying seconds that would have put this game out of reach.

It is about time Casey started following his own advice and shortened his rotation to 8 or 9 guys. In his own words, ‘I would love to play 15 guys. (But) there are going to be some guys out of the rotation.’ He can’t play everyone and he can’t keep everyone happy with their playing time or spot in the rotation. Monday night in Milwaukee might be the start of trend – maybe.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Terrence Ross shooting warmups Paul Saini FYLMM

Raptors Blow Another Game At Home 95-93 To Pelicans

The Toronto Raptors fought their way back from a 14 point first half deficit to build a 12 point lead in the fourth quarter, but they couldn’t contain the Pelicans down the stretch and ended up losing 95-93 on a driving layup by Tyreke Evans with 1.6 seconds left.

“We got to find a way to get jump started at the beginning of the game or find a group that’s getting jump started,” Head Coach Dwane Casey said after the game.

The struggling Terrence Ross got the quick hook in this game as the Raptors starting small forward was nearly invisible in 10.7 first half minutes going 0-3 from the field for 0 points.

“It wasn’t all T Ross’ fault, but I did think that Greivis (Vasquez) came in at his position and gave us a spark,” Casey said.

Vasquez started the second half in Ross’ place and finished the game with 16 points, 4 made three-pointers, 9 assists and 2 steals. However, he will most likely be remembered for failing to stop Evans on the final play of the game.

“We had talked about putting James (Johnson) on (Evans),” Casey said.

“Greivis did the best job, other than that last possession, of all our guys during the game and that’s why we stuck with Greivis on (Evans). He did a good job of containing him, making him score over a big body, I thought he did a good job (overall).”

Casey didn’t have a lot of other options to go to than Vasquez in this game. Ross was M.I.A. and James Johnson was having an off game as well. Johnson is the Raptors best wing defender and Casey went to him to start the fourth quarter and he promptly turned the ball over twice and picked up a technical foul in 3.7 minutes. In hindsight, Casey should have brought him back in as the Raptors lead was unraveling, but it’s pretty easy to understand why Casey didn’t believe this was Johnson’s night.

There is no time to mourn another game that got away. The Raptors are in Milwaukee on Monday to face a pretty solid Bucks team that’s a couple of games over .500 on the season.

“We are playing in mud right now,” Casey said. “Confidence-wise, we got to come out believing you are going to make a play offensively or defensively. Somehow, someway we got to get back to playing basketball and not feeling that weight of the world on our shoulders.”

Casey is now openly musing about what to do about Ross, but with the losses piling up and Ross regressing, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone if Vasquez or Johnson is back in the the starting lineup.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Chandler Harris YoungPro Bball Report Week in Review 01/18/15

On Pro Bball Report last week: Kyle Lowry, Jonas Valanciunas DeMar DeRozan and Kobe Bryant All-Star discussions, Lou Williams struggling, James Johnson gets serious, Celtics and Cavaliers set trade market prices, the availability of Tobias Harris, Wilson Chandler and Thaddeus Young, Knicks Quincy Acy shines, Elijah Millsap signs, Larry Sanders walking away, Raptors NBA Player-of-the-Month, the Hawks dominate and more.

 

 

TOR_DeRozan_DeMar

Toronto Raptors Vs Sixers Postgame Notes

Postgame notes from the Toronto Raptors 100-84 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday.

The game marked the return of the Raptors All-Star DeMar DeRozan who hadn’t played since injuring his groin at home against Dallas on November 28. DeRozan scored an easy 20 points in 28.8 minutes on 9-14 shooting.

Last season’s Rookie-of-the-Year Michael Carter-Williams was the Sixers only real offensive threat scoring a game-high 29 points and the contrast only served to emphasize Head Coach Brett Brown’s pregame assertion that his team struggles to score.

With the win the Raptors move to 26-12 and a half game back of Washington for second place in the Eastern Conference. Toronto improved to 15-0 when holding their opponent’s score below 100 points.

Lou Williams found his missing three-point stroke, going 4-8 from deep and 6-12 overall for 19 points in 23.6 minutes. Williams had been shooting 24.1 percent from deep over his previous 9 games.

Kyle Lowry came close to another triple-double with 18 points, 7 rebounds and 12 assists.

Amir Johnson had a season high 16 rebounds to go with 10 points.

For the Sixers, the high-flying rookie K.J. McDaniels had 4 blocks and 8 rebounds as the starting shooting guard to go with his 10 points. The Raptors could have taken this kid in the draft.

The Raptors led by 16 points in the second quarter, but turnovers bit them once again and the Sixers closed to within 4 points at the half. Toronto refocused their efforts after the break to rebuild and hold onto their lead.

Toronto had averaged 16.8 turnovers over the previous five games and turned the ball over 17 times to the Sixers.

With the loss, the Sixers record falls to 7-31.

The Raptors led this game wire-to-wire.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Williams and Lowry

Raptors Lowry And Williams Bury The Nuggets 116-102

It wasn’t the prettiest of games as the two teams combined to miss 22 shots from the free throw line, but in the end, it was too much Kyle Lowry and Lou Williams and the Raptors buried the Nuggets with a 28-15 fourth quarter to win 116-102. Toronto living up to #WeTheFourth once again.

Almost from the start it looked like the Raptors were going to pull away and win this game easily, however, the Nuggets refused to go away and the Raptors uncharacteristically shot 13-25 from the charity stripe through the first three quarters. Often times it looked like Toronto was running on tired legs in the mile-high city after playing in Los Angeles the night before, but Head Coach Dwane Casey found energy in his bench when he needed it.

Off the bench, Williams poured in 31 points and drew an impressive array of fouls on his defenders while Tyler Hansbrough pumped in 10 key points including an unexpected mid-range jump shot and a driving slam dunk. Hansbrough also brought some badly needed energy on defense in the fourth quarter as he helped to neutralize Kenneth Faried with the game on the line.

However, as has so often been the case this season, it was Lowry with 30 points and 11 assists who broke down defenses and led the Raptors in points (10), rebounds (4) and assists (4) in the fourth quarter.

 
Raptors Republic: Quick Reaction: Raptors 116, Nuggets 102 by Garrett Hinchey summed up Lowry’s night:

Every time it seemed like Denver went on a run and threatened to push past the Raptors, it was Lowry who came up with the clutch bucket, steal, or charge taken. The Nuggets tried putting larger wings on him in an attempt to slow his outside shot, and he responded by blowing past them to the basket and finishing over larger players. Extremely impressive individual effort after playing big minutes the day before.

Faried was coming off a 26 point 25 rebound performance in the Nuggets 106-102 win over the Timberwolves on Friday and he had 17 points and 19 rebounds against Toronto. The only concern was the 19 shots he took and the numerous misses right at the rim. Faried’s rebounding was helping to keep Denver in this game and gave the Nuggets a 5 rebound advantage heading into the fourth quarter.

Ty Lawson also had a big game for the Nuggets with 28 points and 7 assists and Wilson Chandler chipped in with 20 points, however, the Nuggets couldn’t match Toronto’s bench production as the Raptors reserves held a 53-20 advantage.

The Nuggets took a 1-point lead on the first shot of the fourth quarter, but Toronto has become very adept at crushing sub-.500 teams with the game on the line and held Denver to just 28.7 percent shooting from the field over the final 12 minutes. The Raptors shot 50 percent in the fourth as Lowry and Williams scored 10 points each and Amir Johnson came in to get 8 of his 13 points.

“They gave us an example of what defense is supposed to do coming down the stretch of the game,” admitted Head Coach Brian Shaw.

Faried went 1-6 and Chandler shot 1-4 in the final period as the Raptors tightened their defense and ran away with the game.

No, this wasn’t the prettiest game, but ultimately, it’s a road back-to-back sweep with the second game in high-altitude settings. The Raptors’ bench has them set up to have a chance to win these games, but it’s really rewarding when it actually results in a comfortable win, particularly when the team isn’t playing their best ball.

With the win, the Eastern Conference’s first-place 24-7 Raptors have improved their record against the West to 9-2. They’ll meet the West’s second-place 25-7 Trail Blazers in Portland on Tuesday.

 

 

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 DeRozan Lowry ValanciunasRaptors No. 1 In Attendance But Not In All-Star Voting

After 30 games, 17 of them at home, the Toronto Raptors lead the NBA in attendance at 334,624, but their fans just aren’t getting the job done in the All-Star voting. In the early All-Star ballot returns, Toronto doesn’t have any players even close to being voted into the big game.

 

 

James Johnson warmup line Paul Saini FYLMM

Toronto Raptors Own The Pistons Palace In A Wild 110-100 Win

A game between the best and the third worst teams in the Eastern Conference might not sound compelling, but the Toronto Raptors and Detroit Pistons put on a show in a game that must have felt like home away from home for the visitors. The Palace was rocking with Raptors fans and they got their money’s worth for taking the long bus trip to Detroit.

“I thought Detroit was hosting a Toronto Raptors night,” said forward James Johnson.

Johnson must have loved the attention as he put down what might just be the slam dunk of the season over the outstretched arms of Andre Drummond to put the Raptors up by 20 points midway through the fourth quarter.

“I cocked that thing back and banged on him,” Johnson said.

Apparently Drummond didn’t appreciate being ‘Mozgoved’ by Johnson and on the very next play he sent Johnson crashing to the court with a shoulder block as the Raptors forward was about to embarrass him again. The foul and ensuing scuffle resulted in Drummond receiving a flagrant one and technical fouls to Chuck Hayes, Patrick Patterson, Greg Monroe and Drummond. Johnson made the two foul shots and Lou Williams hit a three-pointer as the Raptors got the ball back because of the flagrant foul for the elusive 5-point play.

“Drummond did what he was supposed to do when somebody is about ready to dunk on you and James and Chuck and Pat did what they are supposed to do and standup for their teammates,” explained Head Coach Dwane Casey. “No harm, I’ve seen far worse than that in the old days.”

The game wound down from there without incident and little intensity as the teams still had to kill 6:42 before they could call it a night. In the process the Pistons brought the final score to a less offensive 10 point loss.

This late incident would have made the trip to Detroit worth it if nothing else happened, but the fans were treated to so much more and they showed their appreciation.

“I thought our fans – the buses that came up – our fans were unbelievable,” Casey said. “I thought that got us going once we got our plays, our energy going, our fans took over and gave us a huge boost. We out-cheered – if there is such a thing – Detroit’s fans.”

Toronto fans were loud from the start, however, the Pistons put a damper on it with a strong first quarter. Other than the ‘M.V.P.’ chants for Kyle’s Lowry’s two trips to the free throw line, the Raptors fans were left waiting for something to cheer about.

The Pistons dominated early with 7 blocked shots – 3 by Drummond – and came away with a 31-25 lead after 12 minutes. Unfortunately for Detroit, the Raptors bench could be considered even tougher than their current starting unit and the Pistons didn’t get another block after the first quarter and the game started turning in Toronto’s favor for good.

“I give our bench a lot of credit,” Casey said. “They came in and did their job. Really, really excited (about the) way (they are) coming in and establishing a style of play, establishing an identity that you need with your second unit.”

The Raptors reserves outscored the Pistons bench 59-41 with everyone contributing. As has been the case several times already this season, it was Hayes coming in for limited minutes that took the Pistons big men off their game – a change in momentum from which they never recovered.

“Chuck is a pro, he’s a pro’s pro,” Casey said. “He is a veteran, knows how to play, knows every play, knows every defensive scheme. He was exactly what we needed.”

Midway through the third quarter as the Raptors were beginning to open up a lead on the Pistons, Landry Fields fell hard to the deck after going for a pump-fake by Kyle Singler. Fields landed on the back of his head and was bleeding profusely as he walked off the court after several very anxious moments.

“It scared me, especially when I saw the blood gushing out,” Casey said. “It scared me, but he’s fine. They had him doing different tests and stuff, so he’s fine.”

Raptors Media Relations reported Fields needed 8 stitches to close the cut on the back of his head, but he passed the concussion tests.

Jonas Valanciunas led the Raptors with 17 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks. James Johnson ended up with 12 points and 8 boards. Lowry and Williams combined for 30 points.

Brandon Jennings led Detroit with 22 points and 8 assists. Drummond only played 20.7 minutes and had 7 points, 11 boards and 3 blocks.

The Raptors won 110-100 and with all that went on in one NBA game, the Pistons will probably find it even easier to sell tickets to the Toronto fans when the Raptors return on March 24th.

 


 

 

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.

 

photo credit: Paul Saini Fylmm.com

 

 

Valanciunas and DrummondStagnating Andre Drummond Vs Rising Jonas Valanciunas

The Toronto Raptors Jonas Valanciunas’ star has been rising with his team’s as the young center is off to the best start in his brief NBA career. Andre Drummond, on the other hand, is still putting up numbers that are comparable to his encouraging rookie year as the 5-21 Detroit Pistons could only wish this season was as good as last year’s disappointing campaign.

 

 

Jonas Valanciunas leaping warmup by Paul Saini FYLMMValanciunas Is Rebounding But Raptors Coach Casey Wants More

“He’s a lot stronger this year that’s for sure,” Amir Johnson said. “It’s hard for guys to box out a 7-footer, especially when you are in the paint. He has been able to hold his ground and grab boards for us which we need him to. He’s our big man in the paint and he’s been getting the job done for us and that’s all you can ask from a starting center. He’s been doing well.”

 

 

 

Valanciunas and Plumlee

Raptors Use #WeTheFourth To Tear Down The Nets 105-89

The Nets started this game strong and the Raptors looked like they had been out partying the night before, but as has so often been the case this season, Toronto used a dominating fourth quarter surge to rip out the hearts of the visitors 29-16 and win easily 105-89. #WeTheFourth is alive and well in Toronto.

The Nets are a shell of the team that defeated the Raptors by one-point in game seven last spring. Last year’s leading scorer Paul Pierce is in Washington and the point guard that gave the Raptors problems Shaun Livingston went to Golden State. The Raptors were leading Brooklyn by 8 games in the Atlantic Division heading into the contest and with both Kevin Garnett and Brook Lopez unavailable, the Nets had every reason to anticipate a long evening.

However, the Nets took advantage of a sluggish Raptors defense to score 30 points in the first quarter led by Mason Plumlee and Mirza Teletovic with 8 points each and only the bulldog mentality of the Raptors Kyle Lowry with 10 points and 5 assists kept Toronto within 8 points at the end of the quarter. Valanciunas did get 6 rebounds, but like the rest of his teammates, he wasn’t moving fast enough on defense to slow down his check.

The Raptors woke up in the second quarter to reverse the score and take a 53-52 lead into the half, but they couldn’t carry their momentum through the break and let Plumlee, Teletovic and Joe Johnson take it to them in the third quarter. Fortunately Valanciunas came to play after the break and put in 10 points on 4 shots as he finished off some pretty feeds to him in the post. Valanciunas had 16 points and 10 rebounds after three-quarters, but he could have easily put up better numbers and Head Coach Dwane Casey went to Tyler Hansbrough, Amir Johnson and Patrick Patterson to finish out the game.

As has so often been the case this year, the Raptors bench outscored the Nets bench 41-20 and they came through big time for Coach Casey in the final period by scoring 23 of the Raptors 29 fourth quarter points led by Lou Williams and Patterson with 8 points each.

Even more impressive was how Toronto shut down the Nets big guns over the last 12 minutes. Leading scorer Plumlee (23 points) was held to 3 made free throws. Joe Johnson (17 points) went 0-2 from the field for 0 points and Deron Williams (11 points) was held to 1-2 shooting for 2 points as the Nets only scored 16 points in the quarter.

Coach Casey praised his players for what they accomplished but continues to say he is surprised by the Raptors 20-6 record.

“Everything we have done is still as a growing team and you can see we have a lot of areas where we can improve on,” Casey said. “It is very unusual that you can grow as a team and get some wins. That’s something our guys accomplished. My hat’s off to them, but they know, everybody knows in that room there are a lot of areas we can get better in.”

Perhaps that is why both Valanciunas and Terrence Ross were watching from the bench as the Raptors put the hurt on the Nets during the fourth quarter.

 

Raptors Republic: Quick Reaction: Raptors 105, Nets 89 by Garrett Hinchey summed things up from a Toronto perspective:

(Jonas Valanciunas) scared me early in the game, when he blew a couple defensive assignments and let Mason Plumlee get off (23 points??), but it’s hard to argue with that statline. He’s a beast down low, and, just like the playoffs, he dominated the Nets on the glass. Showed some nice chemistry with Amir on big-to-big passing, too.

What more is there to say? (Kyle Lowry)’s incredible, and if he’s not an all star this season, it’ll be a travesty. The bench stepped up huge in the fourth quarter, but if it wasn’t for this guy, they wouldn’t have been in a position to win the game. Dominated in the first quarter when the rest of the team (besides Amir) looked like they were falling asleep.

Brooklyn’s Finest: Recap: Brooklyn Nets 105, Toronto Raptors 89 by Brian McNichols brought the visitors view of this game:

The only consistently bright light in this strobe light of a game was the quickly-improving Mason Plumlee. Unfortunately every other Brooklyn Nets player faded as the game went on. Players like Mirza Teletovic and Joe Johnson started strong, but all but disappeared in the fourth quarter.

What makes this particular game so frustrating is that there were plays, runs, and even quarters where the Nets looked like a talented, coherent basketball team. Then they saw their reflection in the glistening eyes of those Raptors and fell apart, just like they’ve been doing all season.

 
Lowry put up a beastly line of 20 points and 13 assists in 31.6 minutes and Greivis Vasquez backed up him with 13 points. Amir Johnson was solid with 13 points and 9 rebounds. Patterson also scored 13 points and was particularly impressive on defense once again.

The NBA Eastern Conference leading Raptors head to Detroit on Friday to take on the 5-21 Pistons.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

James Johnson stretching by Paul Saini FYLMMToronto Raptors Winning With Defense Again

“We got to stop playing to our competition and play Raptors basketball,” James Johnson told Pro Bball Report. “We the North and we got to start acting like it.”

 

 

Dallas Mavericks Media Day 2013-2014December 17, The Day The Raptors Almost Died A Decade Ago

It was 10 years ago today, December 17, 2004, when the Toronto Raptors went from a US National TV worthy team to being forgotten in the frozen North. The Raptors had sent superstar Vince Carter in a huff with management to the New Jersey Nets.

 

 

Lowry and Anthony

Raptors And Knicks Combine For 49 Turnovers

It was ugly. The Toronto Raptors and New York Knicks combined for 49 turnovers and 47 personal fouls in a poorly played mistake-fest that the first-place Raptors had to pull it out in overtime against one of the NBA’s worst teams so far this season. Toronto outscored New York 9-4 in the extra period to win 95-90.

“It was one of those nights when everybody was struggling,” said Head Coach Dwane Casey. “Nothing would go, ball hits your hands falls out of bounds, fumble it out, it was uncharacteristic. We had so many mistakes on both sides.”

Toronto had 24 turnovers and 25 personal fouls led by Kyle Lowry who uncharacteristically booted possessions 9 times and nearly fouled out after picking up 2 more personal fouls in overtime to bring his total to 5. Lowry wasn’t alone as every Raptor except Tyler Hansbrough got in on deluge of poor ball-handling, careless passes, offensive fouls and some widely shared brain cramps. The Knicks claimed 11 steals – 5 by Amar’e Stoudemire and Casey praised them for their defense, however, a lot of that supposedly tough defense was given a huge assist by Toronto’s lack of focus.

The Knicks, however, refused to take advantage of the Raptors generosity and gave the ball back 25 times and managed to earn 22 personal fouls of their own. Tim Hardaway Jr. turned it over 5 times, Stoudemire 4 times and Carmelo Anthony thrice. Stoudemire picked up 3 fouls in the fourth quarter to run his total to 5, but he managed to avoid fouling out in overtime. Former Raptor Quincy Acy was the only Knicks starter that didn’t turn the ball over. The Raptors padded their steal totals with 14 thefts including 6 by Lowry – it was just that kind of a night for both squads.

Fans would be excused if they couldn’t stick this game out until the bitter end. This was not a well played game. New York shot 37.2 percent from the field and only managed to hang around because of some very generous free throw opportunities provided by the guys in gray. The Knicks went to the charity stripe 10 more times than Toronto for 9 more points – all of it relating back to a bizarre first quarter where the referees couldn’t seem to stop blowing their whistles for every real and perceived minor infraction. The whistle-fest slowed the game down to a crawl and made it nearly unplayable let alone watchable. As is often the case, the foul situation evened out over the course of the game, but the damage had already been done – aided greatly by the continued sloppy play from both teams.

Anthony led all scorers with 34 points and 9 boards on 11-24 shooting from the field and his 11 fourth quarter points was what got the Knicks to overtime. However, in overtime Anthony was 0-3 for 0 points as Casey switched power forward Patrick Patterson on him and the move completely stifled and frustrated Anthony over the final 5 minutes. Hardaway had 18 points on 4-15 shooting and Jose Calderon chipped in 13 points. It was the type of night Calderon was all too familiar with when he played in Toronto and his explanation sounded a lot like the ones he used to give after a Raptors loss.

“Some days are going to be better than others,” Calderon said. “(I am) just trying to find a way to fit in the system with teammates, with everything. I think we are getting there. It is the best team in the East and we compete and we get them to the last couple of minutes and we just got to make those shots and hopefully we’ll make it next time.”

Calderon had a lot of experience with moral victories in loses against better teams during his tenure in Toronto.

Terrence Ross led the Raptors with 22 points, but it was Lowry with 21 points – 4 in overtime – and 11 assists who both missed the critical shots in the final minute of regulation and made the critical shots in the extra frame. Jonas Valanciunas had 8 points and 13 rebounds for his fourth consecutive game with double-digit boards and just 2 points shy of his fourth consecutive double-double. Patrick Patterson shot 5-6 for 13 points including a big-time 3 in overtime.

“Pat Patterson did a magnificent job,” Casey said.
 
The 5-21 Knicks get the day off before facing Dallas on Tuesday. The 18-6 Raptors return home to face the Magic on the back-to-back. Toronto has defeated Orlando twice already this season, but the Magic has played them tough, this will not be an easy game.

Raptors rookie Bruno Caboclo was dressed for the game, but didn’t get a chance to play.

Yes, those were “Let’s Go Raptors” cheers at the end of the game in Madison Square Garden.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Lowry and CalderonRaptors (17-6) At Knicks (5-20) Preview

The Raptors have gone 4-3 since DeMar DeRozan went down with a groin strain two weeks ago, but one of those loses one was in overtime and the other two were against the Cavaliers. Toronto has shown no signs of letting bad teams get the better of them and New York is one of this season’s truly bad teams.

 

 

Valanciunas and Hibbert

Valanciunas Dominates Pacers Hibbert In Raptors 106-94 Win

It seemed like the Raptors could turn it up a notch at will versus the Indiana Pacers on Friday night at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto in part due to Jonas Valanciunas’ dominance over Roy Hibbert on the glass. The Raptors out-rebounded the Pacers 52-39 as Valanciunas tore down 14 boards on route to his third consecutive double-double while Hibbert was held to just 6 points and 2 rebounds.

“One of our main emphases going in was our rebounding,” said Head Coach Dwane Casey. “To out-rebound a team like Indiana which is very physical and a paint-oriented team – to beat them 52-39, my hat’s off to our guys because that’s what we’ve been preaching.”

The Raptors also outscored the Pacers in the paint 50-32 and won easily 106-94.

Toronto got out to an early 12-4 advantage and led 28-20 after the first quarter in a game Indiana never really seemed to have a chance in. The Pacers are the league’s second best rebounding team, but on this night it was the Raptors controlling the glass and turning those extra possessions into points. Toronto was led by Lou Williams off the bench with a game-high 26 points as the Raptors reserves poured in 64 points and the starters took much of the night off. Kyle Lowry sat the entire fourth quarter as Williams and Greivis Vasquez took care of business.

“We had a chance to rest tonight,” Lowry said. “Lou (Williams) played well. G (Vasquez) played well. JJ (James Johnson) played well. Pat (Patterson) – those guys, when they come in and give us that type of lift, it is always fortunate for us to be able to kind of relax and (let) those guys take over.”

Valanciunas played the longest of the Raptors starters at 27.2 minutes to collect his 10 points and 14 rebounds and he was his team’s only starter to score in double digits. Patterson was solid with 11 points and 8 rebounds. Vasquez, still reeling from the effects of the flu, scored all 10 of his points in the second half in quite possibly the only game he has never smiled in after making a big shot or a layup – Vasquez quite literally looked wobbly in the first quarter. James Johnson had the highlight reel driving dunk of the night and seemed to be able to get to the rim at will as he chipped in with 13 points.

The injury-riddled Pacers used yet another starting lineup, but their slow starts and inability to put up points continues to haunt them. The Pacers average about 93.5 points and scored 94 in this game. That level of offense just isn’t going to generate many wins.

Solomon Hill led the Pacers with 16 points off the bench. Starters CJ Watson and Rodney Stuckey scored 13 points apiece and David West scored 12 points and collected a team high 7 boards. CJ Miles bruised his knee and didn’t play in the second half.

The Raptors head to New York on Sunday for a game against the Knicks who snapped a 10 game losing streak in Boston on Friday night.

The Pacers losing streak has advanced to 7 games and they are returning home to face a very good Trail Blazers team on Saturday.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Jonas Valanciunas leaping warmup by Paul Saini FYLMMCan A Traditional NBA Center Like Jonas Valanciunas Survive?

“For me personally it is way better to play against a typical center, a big guy who is in the paint wrestling because I do the same thing, for me (that) is much easier,” Valanciunas said. “It’s tough. It’s tough. I am not used to going (out to) the three-point line and cover stretch big guys who can really shoot the ball. I just don’t like that. I am not fast enough.”

 

 

BKN_Garnett_KevinWould The Raptors Be Crazy To Trade For Kevin Garnett?

Toronto Raptors President and General Manager, Basketball Operations Masai Ujiri has said he won’t do anything crazy this year, however, pursuing a trade for the Nets 38-year-old future Hall-of-Fame veteran big man Kevin Garnett isn’t crazy and could just be the missing piece to a Raptors season on the verge of exceeding everyone’s expectations.

 

 

Garnett Hibbert Vucevic DrummondRaptors Next Six Games Are Like An Early Christmas Present

The current combined record of the Raptors next 6 opponents is 35 wins and 101 loses. That should translate into 6 wins in a row for Toronto. Merry Christmas.

 

 

Williams Kobe Vasquez

Raptors at Lakers – The Postgame Show With Co-host James Borbath

Join Pro Bball Report Editor Stephen Brotherston and Dino Nation’s James Borbath as we discuss the aftermath of the Toronto Raptors road game in Los Angeles against the Lakers. The video podcast will start shortly after the conclusion of the game. (about 12 midnight ET)

Submit questions during the Postgame Show on the Google Hangout or at anytime prior to or during the Show on twitter using the hash-tag #PBRPost @stevesraptors @DNBorby

Google Event page: Join the Google Hangout

or watch on Youtube here.

Pregame Ramble:

With 13 wins already, the Toronto Raptors will finish off November with the most wins in any month of the franchise’s history no matter what happens tonight in L.A., however, at 7-0 versus teams under .500, the Raptors should be feeling pretty confidence of the win over the 3-13 Lakers.

Toronto will be minus their All-Star DeMar DeRozan who is out indefinitely with a torn left adductor (thigh) tendon. He could be out for several weeks or even longer if surgery is required, but as Kyle Lowry said, “next man up.”

Toronto’s backup guards Lou Williams and Greivis Vasquez have shot a combined for a 49.2 percent from the field, 45.4 percent from three-point range and 83.3 percent from the charity stripe over the last three games while contributing 30.6 points off the bench. They are the next men up in Toronto.

Future Hall-of-Fame guard Kobe Bryant leads the league in scoring at 26.4 points per game, but he’s taking 23.1 field goal attempts which is twice as many as any of his teammates and he’s shooting 38.8 percent from the field. However, the Lakers truly are a collection of parts thrown together at the last minute and it’s hard to blame Bryant for trying to will his team to victory.

Toronto has to take their opponent seriously tonight as the Lakers have split the last two season series with the Raptors 1-1. They must ignore the records and come ready to play if they hope to get out of L.A. with a win.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Williams and KobeRaptors Finish Franchise’s Best Month Ever Against The Lakers

The Lakers are off to a terrible start and currently reside at the bottom of the Western Conference at 3-13. However, they have faced one of the NBA’s toughest schedules to-date and have picked up wins against Charlotte, Atlanta and Houston (yes, that’s all of their wins), so they are likely better than most of the other non-playoff teams in the West.

 

 

TOR James Johnson Vasquez and WilliamsCan The Toronto Raptors Win Without DeMar DeRozan?

However, recent history suggests the Raptors may not have as much to worry about as some other teams in the Association that do not sport Toronto’s depth. Since the Rudy Gay trade last December that brought in current Raptors Greivis Vasquez, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes, Toronto has been on an unbelievable roll – by local standards anyway.

 

 

 

TOR_DeRozan_DeMar

Raptors DeRozan Injured In Hard Fought Mavericks 106-102 Win

The Toronto Raptors could only watch as All-Star DeMar DeRozan slipped while driving down the lane early in the third quarter and went to the court in pain that was later confirmed to be the result of a left groin strain by Raptors Media Relations.

The game was physical and tightly contested and Dallas seemed to have the Raptors number for most of the night, turning them over an uncharacteristically high 17 times for 22 points in the 106-102 Mavericks road victory.

Raptors Republic: Video: DeMar DeRozan Injured vs Mavericks (Update)

DeRozan wasn’t having a good game, finishing 0-7 from the field for 0 points. DeRozan hasn’t been held to an ‘0-for’ since his rookie season and his presence was missed in the second half as the Raptors were continuously fighting back from big deficits that they could never quite eliminate.

The Raptors didn’t lack for effort. They out-rebounded the Mavericks 55-37 and put up 91 shots. Even the free throws were about the same until Toronto started putting Dallas on the free throw line in the final minute in order to extend the game. This game was lost on the 6 turnovers in the final quarter that helped negate the comeback the Raptors 38 points over the final 12 minutes could have produced. The Mavericks scored 8 points off those turnovers while giving up none off turnovers themselves.

Dallas was led by Monta Ellis with 30 points and 6 assists, but it was a collective effort by the Mavericks that produced the win. Tyson Chandler played tough defense inside as he picked up the 11 point 10 rebound double-double. Chandler Parsons had 16 points and 7 rebounds and Al-Farouq Aminu came off the bench to score 14 points. Dirk Nowitzki was held to 6-19 from the field for 15 points.

“It was hard fought,” said Head Coach Rick Carlisle. “I give our guys credit. We are a balance oriented team and we got to have a lot of guys pitch in to win. We are fortunate to get out of here with a win.”

Toronto was led by Kyle Lowry with 25 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists. He really turned it on in the fourth quarter with 13 points. Amir Johnson scored a season-high 20 points and grabbed 9 boards including 6 at the offensive end. Jonas Valanciunas seemed to struggle at times offensively and only scored 8 points, but he was a beast under the basket, grabbing 12 defensive boards and 1 at the other end.

Once again the Raptors bench was effective, scoring 42 points and almost saving another game for Toronto. Greivis Vasquez scored 9 points in the fourth quarter as he contributed 14 points and 6 assists on the night. Lou Williams scored 16 points, but he missed those end of quarter three-pointers that had almost seemed automatic recently. Patrick Patterson had a 10 point 12 rebound double-double.

Raptors Republic: Quick Reaction: Raptors 102, Mavs 106 by Garrett Hinchey sums this game up from a Raptors perspective:

Even though the Mavs won tonight, the fact that the game ended up as close as it did is a positive sign. Winding up with 17 turnovers and keeping the final score within 4 against a team like Dallas is pretty impressive stuff and speaks to this team’s attitude. That said, they’re going to need to find a way to adjust to the West’s best if they want to be considered true title contenders.

ESPN Recap: DeRozan Injured In Raptors Loss notes:

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle won his 300th game with Dallas. He’s the third coach in team history to reach the mark, joining Don Nelson (339) and Dick Motta (329).

The Mavericks were just happy to get out of town with a win.

As part of the Toronto Raptors 20th Anniversary Season celebrations, the team honored former Raptors player Jalen Rose with a tribute during the game.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

We The North - picToronto Raptors In Unfamiliar Territory

Raptors reach very unfamiliar territory at 13-2, 4-0 vs the West & 4-1 on the road.

 

 

Valanciunas and Horford

Raptors at Hawks – The Postgame Show With Co-host James Borbath

Dino BloggerJoin Pro Bball Report Editor Stephen Brotherston and Dino Nation’s James Borbath as we discuss the aftermath of the Toronto Raptors road game in Atlanta against the Hawks. The video podcast will start shortly after the conclusion of the game. (about 10 pm ET)

Submit questions during the Postgame Show on the Google Hangout or at anytime prior to or during the Show on twitter using the hash-tag #PBRPost @stevesraptors @DNBorby

Google Event page: Join the Google Hangout

or watch on Youtube here.

Pregame Ramble:

The Raptors are 12-2 heading into tonight’s action and defeated the Hawks at the ACC on opening night in Toronto. The Hawks are 7-5, but they are 5-1 at home. Toronto is 3-1 on the road and can get off to the best start on the road in franchise history if they can get to 4-1 by defeating the Hawks tonight.

Toronto also has an opportunity to match the best stretch of wins in team history with a victory. Toronto has won 10 of their last 11 games and is one win shy of a stretch in 2002 when they won 11 of 12 games at the end of the regular season.

Something has to give and we’ll review everything that happened right after the game.

 

 

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 our latest articles:

More Raptors franchise records could fall In Atlanta

Raptors Greg Stiemsma on Toronto, cooking & Grandmas

 

 

Bledsoe Thomas Lowry Valanciunas

Valanciunas Has A Career Best As Raptors Go 4-0 Vs NBA West

The Phoenix Suns were 5-1 against the Eastern Conference as they brought their high-tempo three-point firing offense to Toronto on Monday night to face the best the East has to offer this season. The Raptors were 11-2, especially tough at home and hadn’t lost to a Western Conference team in this young season, but they were about to be severely tested.

The Suns are one the NBA’s top three-point shooting teams, but they are middle-of-pack when it comes to getting to the free throw line. The Raptors are top three in free throw attempts, but middle-of-pack when shooting from deep. The Suns are a top 4 team for pace, while the Raptors are 11th and this game was played with both teams trying to go to their strengths.

Toronto turned to center Jonas Valanciunas early and often and the 7-footer proved to be a matchup nightmare for the Suns, drawing fouls, hitting free throws and dominating in the paint. Valanciunas scored a career high 27 points to go with his 11 rebounds.

It was a close game that Toronto seemed to control in the first half as they took a 54-48 lead into the break. In the third quarter, the Raptors took over defensively, holding the Suns to just 18 points and building a 17 point advantage, but no lead is safe versus the Suns.

“We made a comeback,” said Suns Head Coach Jeff Hornacek. “The guys just made some bad plays. I thought we gambled a little too much towards the end. When you are making a big comeback from 17 down, you can’t have many errors.”

The Suns went 7-10 from three-point range in the fourth quarter and Valanciunas only played 3.5 minutes as Head Coach Dwane Casey struggled to find a lineup that could get out to the three-point line in time to contest the five shooters Hornacek utilized to stage his team’s attack. Where the Raptors had done a superior job of reining in the Suns three-point threat for the first three-quarters, the Suns were able to score 34 points in the fourth once they got the Raptors back on their heels.

The game was decided in the final couple of minutes as the heart and hustle of Kyle Lowry was on full display. Lowry shot 1-5 in the quarter, but he made the layup that put the Raptors up 98-95 with 2:09 left in the game. Then with 23 seconds left, it was Lowry who tackled Isaiah Thomas, tied up the ball and won the jump-ball that put this game out of reach. The final score was 104-100 Toronto.

Lowry finished with 14 points, 7 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals and a block. DeRozan scored 23 points and got to the free throw line 13 times. Player-of-the-Week Lou Williams scored 17 points. Valanciunas’ 27 points was the game-high as he shot 10-11 from the field and 7-8 from the charity stripe.

Eric Bledsoe led the Suns with 25 points on 8-16 shooting from the field and Markieff Morris had 17 points and 8 rebounds. However, it was the Suns bench that turned this into a close game. Thomas shot 4-6 from three to score 16 points, hitting all 4 of his three-pointers over the final 12 minutes. Gerald Green had 13 points and P.J. Tucker was 3-4 from deep for 11 points.

The Suns finished with 14-33 from three-point range. The Raptors made up for it going 26-32 from the free throw line. Each team playing to their strengths.

With the win the Raptors remained undefeated against the Western Conference with a record of 4-0 (12-2 overall). They will be tested by the West again when Dallas visits on Friday followed by a three-game Western Conference road trip against the Lakers, Kings and Jazz.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

DeRozan Lowry Randolph GasolNBA Dominance Rankings

Who is the top dog in the NBA these days? Pro Bball Report takes the subjective out of ranking NBA teams to determine who has been the most dominant to-date.

 

 

Williams and CousinsRaptors Williams And Kings Cousins Named NBA Players Of The Week

The NBA has announced that the Toronto Raptors Lou Williams and the Sacramento Kings DeMarcus Cousins today were named NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Week.

 

 

TOR_Williams_LouRaptors Lou Williams Impresses Coach Casey With Defense

“Most of all I’m impressed with Lou (Williams) defense,” Casey said. “He has a reputation of being a scorer, but now he’s doing a much better job defensively for us which allows him to stay in and guard guys like Waiters and Irving and people like that.”

 

 

TOR DeRozan Lowry Williams

Sweet Lou Williams Leads Raptors Demolition Of The Cavaliers

There was nothing the Cleveland Cavaliers could do to stop sweet Lou Williams from revving up the hundreds of Toronto Raptors fans that had invaded Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday night to watch their NBA Eastern Conference leading Raptors totally and utterly dominate LeBron James and company.

On a three game losing streak, the Cavaliers had just returned home from an embarrassing loss to the Wizards in Washington and they came out of the gate loaded for bear. Before the Raptors knew what had hit them, Cleveland had run up a 24-6 lead.

“We knew that team was going to come out of the gate roaring and they did,” said Raptors Head Coach Dwane Casey. “We didn’t give in. We sustained our focus and our defensive disposition and just kept playing and that is what you have to do against a good team.”

It could easily be argued that after the first 7.5 minutes of the game, the Cavaliers no longer looked like a good team as Toronto outscored them 104-69 the rest of the way. This became as epic a beat down as the Raptors 124-82 demolition of the Bucks in Toronto the night before.

Leading the way off the pine was Williams with a career high 36 points, just 2 points shy of the Raptors record for bench points held by Donyell Marshall of 38 (March 13, 2005 vs 76ers). Kyle Lowry had what has become the expected strong performance as he contributed 23 points and 8 assists, but the other big surprise from the Raptors in this game came from DeMar DeRozan.

“I am surprised that 36 is his career high because he’s a long time scorer. That’s what he has done his whole career,” Casey said. “DeMar DeRozan’s defense was fantastic.”

With Terrence Ross getting torched by James and no James Johnson available to defend the King, Casey turned to his next option in DeRozan and surprisingly, DeRozan stoned him. James was held to just 4 second half points by DeRozan and only scored 15 points in the game. It was a dejected looking James watching from the bench for the final 6.3 minutes as the Raptors had built an 18 point lead that the Cavaliers couldn’t do anything about.

DeRozan was stymied himself in the first half shooting 1-8 from the field, but after the break he scored 17 points to finish with 20 on 7-18 shooting.

Much of the postgame focus of this 110-93 shellacking will probably be on the disappointing Cavaliers, but the 11-2 Raptors were full measure for the win. Chants of ‘Let’s go Raptors’ were heard from before the start of the game and towards the end, even the extra loud piped in music couldn’t drown out the Raptors fans as the locals rushed towards the exits.

Raptors Republic: Raptors Fans in Cleveland Chanting “Let’s go Raptors” – Arena Plays Music to Drown Them Out

Raptors Republic: Quick Reaction: Raptors 110, Cavaliers 93 by Garrett Hinchey:

How great was it having “let’s go Raptors” chants drowning out the crowd in Cleveland in the fourth quarter?

As of Saturday night, the 11-2 Toronto Raptors are tied with the Memphis Grizzlies for the best record in the NBA.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

James Irving DeRozan Lowry10-2 Toronto Raptors Slowly Gaining Respect

We-The-North also means we-the-not-on-ESPN, so it’s been taking a while for the boys in the south to start noticing just how hot the Toronto Raptors have started out this season. In the NBA, superstar players get most of the respect and teams that win without the marquee name players are only grudgingly acknowledged.