Just call last season an aberration, a team coached by the Toronto Raptors Dwane Casey isn’t supposed to be an offensive juggernaut. This time around it’s back to grit grind and let the offense come around when it will. Casey preaches hard physical defense as a staple and his former head coach from the Dallas Mavericks Rick Carlisle laid out what this year’s Raptors are doing after losing his open opener to Toronto 102-91.
“They made it more their type of game,” Carlisle explained. “Physical, grinding, a lot of physical contact. They turned it into a boxing match.”
No sweeter words could be spoken to Casey.
“Our defense carried us,” Casey said. “We have gotten back to what wins in this league.”
Toronto leads the Eastern Conference with a 4-0 record, the best start in franchise history and the defensive-minded Raptors are scoring a 106.8 points per game, but it’s their opponents’ field goal percentage of 38.7 percent that defines this team so far. The Raptors are winning with defense and rebounding.
The addition of DeMarre Carroll, Bismack Biyombo and Cory Joseph to the Raptors rotation infused a large dose of toughness that complements the toughness of their on the court leader Kyle Lowry. However, what often gets skipped over is the impact veteran Luis Scola has on this team.
Scola was a late insertion into Casey’s starting lineup during preseason, but he has had a big impact in the games that count. Scola rebounds and pushes Valanciunas to be more active on the glass – unless the Raptors young center wants to watch the “old man” take boards away from him that he should be getting. Scola is ripping down boards at a rate of 13.9 per 36 minutes and is second in total rebounds on the team.
Scola also provides the toughness of a veteran big man who has seen it all and can still perform as he did against the Mavericks Dirk Nowitzki. Scola helped hold the future hall of fame big man to 1-4 shooting in the fourth quarter by crowding the foul drawing machine and keeping Nowitzki uncomfortable. As Carlisle noted, the Raptors were hanging all over him. It takes a veteran the referees respect to hang off of Dirk and the crafty Scola has been around long enough to have it.
Taking away the home opener from a veteran Western Conference team isn’t easy and it was made tougher because of some ice-cold shooting from some of the Raptors more reliable scorers. Carroll (1-8, 3 points), Terrence Ross (2-8, 4 points), Patrick Patterson (0-6, 0 points) were picked up by Lowry’s stellar 27 point 10 assist game and Scola’s 19 points and 12 rebounds, but it was defense that won the game. Toronto held Dallas to 27.3 percent shooting in the fourth quarter and just 5 points over the final 6.5 minutes to pull out the victory. Now that defines making it “more their type of game” as Coach Carlisle lamented postgame.