The NBA Eastern Conference leading Toronto Raptors are off to the best start in franchise history by a wide margin at 19-6, however, Head Coach Dwane Casey has had plenty to complain about until recently. A defense-first coach, Casey wasn’t enjoying his team’s 9 game streak of giving up over 100 points per outing and their 5-4 record over that stretch reflected the change. The Raptors may have been missing the chemistry and offense an injured DeMar DeRozan would have provided, but that wasn’t a good excuse for slacking at the defensive end of the court.
“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.”
After a nice two day break to get in some much needed practice time last week, Toronto got back to the style Coach Casey wants to play. Over the next three games the Raptors opponents averaged just 86.7 points on 42.2 percent shooting from the field. Coach Casey’s defense was back.
“(Defense) that’s what we do,” Johnson said. “Once we come to that conclusion then everything else becomes a breeze.”
On Friday the Raptors held the Pacers to 94 points on 41.3 percent shooting from the field in the win and dominated one of the league’s best rebounding teams 52-39.
Sunday in New York the Raptors held the Knicks to 37.2 shooting for the game in an ugly turnover and foul ridden affair that was tied after four quarters. Then in overtime Toronto clamped down on the game’s leading scorer Carmelo Anthony (34 points, but 0-3 in OT) and the Knicks to hold them to 1-8 shooting from the field and pull out the 95-90 win.
On the back-to-back Monday against Orlando it took a tired Toronto team until the second half to stifle the Magic. The Raptors held their opponent to 30 points and 37.1 percent shooting in the second half as Toronto ran away with this game 95-82 after trailing by 8 points at the break.
In the 9 games prior to this the Raptors were scoring buckets free and easy averaging over 110 points per game, but they were giving up over 108 points and that hasn’t been Raptors basketball under Coach Casey.
“We just have to know that (buckets) aren’t always going to come that easy,” Johnson said. “There are going to be nights when our shooters are not going to be scoring like that and we are going to need others to step up at the other end of the floor.
“(Defense) is definitely what we need to do. That is our goal. We have a goal and a standard and we need to accomplish them.”
As Casey said after the game on Monday, “We found our defensive mojo” and the Raptors have been winning games they way they have been coached to once again.
James Johnson audio:
photo credit: Paul Saini Fylmm.com
The top team in the NBA these days by a wide margin is the Golden State Warriors and it isn’t even close – not by any subjective measure. 5. Raptors 18-6 Toronto has hit a bump in the road with DeMar DeRozan sidelined for the past 2 weeks and not expected back before Christmas.