Numbers Game: More good times coming? - Raptors HQ
After the All-Star break, without Lowry, the team is posting a +3.3 net rating*, good for 8th in the league in that time, and second in the East behind the Heat. Before the break, they had posted a +4.9 net rating, good for 5th in the league. Not much of a step back without their best player.

But if you look at only the most recent play of the team, you’ll note that they didn’t exactly hit the break running. Between January 1st and the break, the team actually posted a negative net rating (-0.3), and played like a .500 team (while posting a sub-.500 record of 11-14). Some will call it a slump, but consider the following pieces of information.

Best on-court ORTG* on the team: Patrick Patterson
Highest usage on the team: DeMar DeRozan

Number of games played by Patterson in that stretch: 9/25
Number of games played by DeRozan in that stretch: 18/25
Number of games played by both players in that stretch: 3/25
3 days ago
Raptors' Defensive Improvement Is Leading Them Without Kyle Lowry - Fan Rag Sports
Sometimes throwing around terms like “toughness” and “enforcer” can be a little cliché. Players who don’t offer much else often receive such labels. But with Tucker, that isn’t the case. His toughness has had a real impact with the Raptors. From strong rebounding (7.2 per 36 minutes with Toronto) to his on-ball tenacity, he’s almost transformed the team’s defense when he’s on the floor.

In fact, with Tucker on the floor so far, the Raptors have allowed 12.3 fewer points per 100 possessions (down from 109.5 to a stifling 97.2).

That difference (even with the small sample) speaks volumes about what Tucker can do and why the Raptors will need him both now and in Lowry’s return when things slow down in the playoffs. Tucker uses his powerful 6’6″, 245-pound frame to body up against opponents perfectly with his quick foot speed to hold players away and predict (and attack) their attempts to get past.
3 days ago
In golden age of guard play, earning All-NBA honors carries prestige -
Kyle Lowry, Toronto Raptors
Almost everyone would agree Lowry would be a near-lock if he's healthy. Still a strong rebounder for a six-footer, and the set-up man for the Raptors, Lowry was shooting 41 percent from deep when he broke his wrist last month. He cracked the All-NBA lineup last season with the third team, and if his injury isn’t held against him, could make it again.
3 days ago
Tuesday game preview: Chicago Bulls at Toronto Raptors | Toronto Star

Butler vs. DeRozan

Jimmy Butler (23.3 points per game) might be the Bulls’ only real threat with Dwyane Wade injured, but he has the ability to go off at any time. He scored 40 in a half against the Raptors last season, and was at it again in January, putting up 32 after halftime in an overtime victory over Toronto. DeMar DeRozan is going to have to have his defensive game up to par. Look for P.J. Tucker to get some time on Butler, as well.
3 days ago
Rookie Jakob Poeltl earning the trust of Raptors, coach Casey | Toronto Star
“For me, just every time you put him in, he does something positive,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said Monday. “There’s that trust, not only with myself but with his teammates. He’s doing positive things, he plays with physicality.

“He’s always in the right place, (makes) very few mistakes, he’s very physical, he’s not afraid, he loves contact. All those things add up, this is a physical game . . . and he meets all those criteria.”

Poeltl’s biggest attribute may be his humility. He knows what he doesn’t know, he doesn’t get too happy with big nights or too down with bad ones. He avoids going berserk when the inevitable bad rookie calls go against him — “If that was me, I would have lost my mind a long time ago,” Casey said — and he has built a reputation as a trustworthy young player.

“I wouldn’t say there’s a moment,” he said. “It’s just that trust is something you’ve got to develop over time . . . with solid performances night in, night out.

“That’s how you earn your trust, like being in the right spots in defensive rotations, doing your job, playing hard. I feel like that’s how you earn a coach’s trust and that’s what I try to do.”
3 days ago
Jack Armstrong on Patterson's struggles - TSN
TSN Basketball analyst Jack Armstrong joins Home Court host Meghan McPeak & co-host Duane Watson to give his take on Patrick Patterson's recent struggles. Armstrong also explains why he thinks this Raptors team has more potential than last year's team.
3 days ago
Rookie Poeltl making an impact with Raptors - TSN
It can be a maddening thing for a player that has worked hard to both get and stay on the floor as it is, but to Poeltl's credit he's taken it in stride. It's one of the biggest reasons his transition to the NBA has been relatively seamless and something the Raptors have always liked about the 21-year-old. He's mature beyond his years.
"That's okay," he said with a smile on his face, shrugging off the idea of an officiating double standard. "That's just part of the journey. As long as it's not a deciding play I'm okay with it."
"He's got the emotional stability that you want from a rookie," said Casey. "[He] doesn't get overly dramatic or excited, or down or up. He's a very levelheaded young man. All those things factor into him having a little bit more immediate success than if you were up and down emotionally, unstable and all those things. He's got the right mindset for where he is and who he is because if that was me I would've lost my mind a long time ago."
3 days ago
Leo Rautins on P.J Tucker: "He'll get in your face and he backs it up" - TSN
NBA analyst Leo Rautins joined Home Court to talk about P.J Tucker's impact on the Raptors both on the court and in the locker room. In the wake of the Raptors holding a players only meeting, Leo also breaks down the impact that it can have on an NBA team.
3 days ago
2017 Free Agent Rankings: Point Guards | Basketball Insiders
Lowry may not be in the same conversation with Curry and Paul, but these numbers show that he’s a difference maker that deserves to be on the highest tier of pending free agent point guards. One need look no further than the near-max contract the Magic gave Bismack Biyombo after his heroics in the playoffs to see the Lowry effect. A stout rebounder, defender and shot blocker, Biyombo has looked like a shell of himself this season without Lowry to set him up for attacks on the rim. Basketball Insiders editor and publisher Steve Kyler spoke to sources close to the Raptors during All-Star festivities in New Orleans, who said there is almost no scenario in which Toronto wouldn’t pay whatever it takes to keep Lowry, despite the wrist injury that has cost him extended time.

Simply put, the Raptors without Lowry are in danger of falling into the dreaded NBA purgatory. A healthy Toronto squad can compete for a second consecutive trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. If Lowry departs in the summer, the Raptors lack the cap space to replace him with anything close to equal talent. In that scenario, the Raptors would be too good to tank for high draft picks, but not good enough to contend. Toronto must do everything within its power to keep Lowry long term. Trading for Ibaka was almost certainly part of that equation.
3 days ago
Five Things to Watch: Bulls clash with Raptors | CSN
Scoring won’t be easy. The Raptors have really picked it up defensively of late after adding both Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker at the trade deadline. The Bulls had a solid showing offensively against the Jazz and will look to replicate it against a Raptors team hitting its stride on that end of late. Defense won’t necessarily win it tonight; finding enough baskets late will.
3 days ago
Raptors coach Dwane Casey loving way rookie Jakob Poeltl’s game is developing | Toronto Sun
“For me, just every time you put him in, he does something positive,” Casey said. “There’s that trust, not only with myself but with his teammates. He’s doing positive things, he plays with physicality. The only thing — and it’s not his fault — is cheap fouls, he gets a lot of cheap calls.”

Those calls will eventually even out as Poeltl earns some credibility with the league’s officials.

But make no mistake, it has been Poeltl’s eagerness engaging opposing players physically that has made his jump up the depth chart possible.

“He’s always in the right place, very few mistakes, he’s very physical, he’s not afraid, he loves contact,” Casey said. “All those things add up, this is a physical game ... and he meets all those criteria.”

Ironically it was the physical nature of the NBA game that Poeltl’s counts as the toughest adjustment he has made.

“Not now, not anymore, because I feel like I’m used to it already,” Poeltl said. “I’m still not the most physical player but at least I’ve got adjusted to the new level of physicality in the NBA. But that was definitely a challenge to start the season, getting used to playing against bigger bodies and stronger guys.”
3 days ago
A master of falling down, Cory Joseph becoming adept at getting back up
Joseph’s traditional numbers without Lowry do not jump off the page. He is averaging a solid 11 points, five assists and 3.3 rebounds in almost 32 minutes in those 13 games. However, his value is easy to find: With Joseph on the floor, the Raptors are outscoring opponents by 6.3 points per 100 possessions; with him on the bench, they are being outscored by 2.5 points, and those numbers were far more pronounced before the Raptors’ last two wins, during which the Raptors’ second unit has shown signs of coalescing. Of Raptors’ regulars, only P.J. Tucker boasts a bigger gap between his on/off court splits (plus-8.1 points when he is on the floor, minus-1.7 points when he is off of it).

“Playing with force. He had a tough game against, like everyone else, (Oklahoma City point guard Russell) Westbrook, but he’s still giving us every ounce of energy and toughness Cory has, and running the team in the right way,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said of Joseph before the Raptors beat the Pacers on Sunday. “I think he’s in a rhythm now from being a starter. It’s a different rhythm, (it’s) different from being a starter to being a second unit guy. I think he’s used to do that. He’s given us all he has. And he’s logging big minutes. Until Delon (Wright) and Fred (VanVleet) get their feel on both ends of the floor, he’s going to be logging some pretty big minutes.”

Now, that says a lot about the unreliability of Joseph’s aforementioned backups. But it also speaks well of Joseph’s transformation from reserve to starter. This is not Joseph’s first time starting — in his final year in San Antonio, Joseph started 14 times in 19 games because of injuries to Parker and Patty Mills. However, the Spurs, given their structure and consistency, were never as reliant on their point guard as these Raptors have been on Lowry. Joseph said he has talked to Lowry a bit about what it is like to play with the starting group.
3 days ago
The Value of Patience - Raptors Republic: ESPN TrueHoop Network Blog
The trajectory that DeMar DeRozan followed to get where he is today should be encouraging because it suggests that there is still quite a bit of time for Valanciunas to develop. A lot of it is on him – like DeRozan he probably needs to rework his body and needs to develop his playmaking and the finer details of his game – but he does need to be given the opportunity to play through mistakes like DeRozan did. His inconsistency can be frustrating for a team trying to win games in the present but when he is struggling it’s important to remember the way he saved the Raptors in the playoffs last year and that he has outplayed the likes of DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gobert, Andre Drummond and Anthony Davis head to head in recent games. The point isn’t to hide him when he isn’t that player, it’s to find ways to bring that player out with greater regularity because it’s what the team needs to take that next step. It’s not unreasonable to think that if DeRozan were kept on a short leash like this he wouldn’t be the player he is now and the Raptors were absolutely right to build him up and let him play through his rough patches, they need to do the same with Valanciunas.
9 days ago
Cory Joseph stepping up in Kyle Lowry's absence - Raptors Republic: ESPN TrueHoop Network Blog
In 2015-16, Joseph played a career high in minutes and then faded in the playoffs. He was great against Indiana, but struggled in the following two series. Joseph then played in the Olympic qualifying tournament in early July 2016. That tournament, although brief, was in the Philippines.

Joseph has played a ton of minutes, racking up miles in travel and has not had the extended rest period that many players enjoy in the offseason. It is easy to dismiss these things when we know that athletes are earning millions of dollars, but we have to separate the paycheque from the physical toll. Cash can’t compensate for tired legs or a lack of sleep. That’s just not how it works.

Dwane Casey benched Joseph in early February, and he’s been solid since that. Originally, the coach wanted to give Joseph a “mental blow” but he may have just given him the time off he really needed. Or, being forced into the spotlight made him step up his game. Having Ibaka doesn’t hurt either. Whatever the reason, Joseph has proven to be a more-than-capable replacement while Lowry gets right
9 days ago
The ingredients of a title contender - Raptors Republic: ESPN TrueHoop Network Blog
Raptors 905 have the best record in the NBA D-League. They stand at 32-11, 2.5 games ahead of both the Los Angeles D-Fenders and Oklahoma City Blue. They’ve won the way contenders do, from blowouts and buzzer-beaters to second-half rallies and ugly grind-it-outs. They’ve won 16 games at home, and 16 on the road. They are in the top five for both offensive and defensive efficiency, and have a net rating of +8.0, 3.2 points higher than the second-best team.

This past Saturday, they clinched the first of what they hope will be many playoff berths.

For those of you wondering, the four division winners of each conference, along with the two best remaining records (wildcards) in each conference advance to the playoffs. The 905 are on the verge of clinching their first Central Division title (I know, why not the Atlantic?), and must win three best-of-three series to win the title. The D-League favours upsets (and wants to limit travel), so they grant the wildcard home-court advantage for the first game, before the division winner hosts the second, and third if necessary. That means just six wins is all it takes, but as few as two losses could end a storybook season.
9 days ago
Sneakerheads: How the Raptors choose, change and get comfortable in their shoes – The Athletic
“I don’t change them that often, maybe once, twice a year,” Joseph said, as he was walking off the main court at American Airlines Arena as Powell started to eavesdrop. “They’re crazy, man. These guys are crazy. I don’t know why they change their shoes so much. It don’t make any sense to me.”

“You gotta change shoes man,” Powell countered. “Some of them be too slippery sometimes depending on the court — how it is”

“No. The shoes don’t lose nothing,” Joseph said. “You know when you first get shoes, they’re a little bit stiff? They don’t loosen up. My shoes have to be formed to my feet.”

Then it got personal.

“Cory is a pretty boy. He can’t just go out there and hoop,” Powell said. “Everything’s got to be perfect. The hair’s got to be perfect. You’ve got to have the shoes perfect.”

“Pretty boys change their shoes every game,” Joseph said. “Pretty boys care more about looks more than being comfortable. I’m about comfort.”

Point, Joseph.
9 days ago
Raptors rookies Wright, VanVleet taking advantage of opportunity | RAPTORS | Rap
The Raptors, needless to say, are better and more dangerous when Lowry is running the show, forcing teams to extend their defence when he’s making three-pointers and his presence on the floor can’t be measured in any statistical number.

Wright and VanVleet aren’t in Lowry’s category, but they don’t have to be at the moment given their secondary role. They energize the team, make the right play by finding the right guy, play off each other and compete at a high level.

Wright had the luxury of watching Lowry and Joseph play together last season, Wright’s first in the NBA, and now VanVleet understands how the two can impact games when both are on the floor.

“I definitely take notice on how they (Lowry and Joseph) attack or where the spacing is,’’ VanVleet said.

As young players, VanVleet is well aware how every opportunity must be embraced, every second a chance to improve and make an impression.

“We’re figuring it out and trying to improve each game,’’ he added.
9 days ago
Tucker gets nod as Raps near playoffs | Raptors | Sports | Toronto Sun
Dwane Casey is trying to get more minutes, not less, for P.J. Tucker, the tough forward acquired on trade deadline day from Phoenix.

Tucker has never appeared in a post-season game, but his role will expand.

“He’s going to be important for us,’’ said Casey, who used Tucker as his fourth reserve off the bench Monday night against Dallas, playing just north of 13 minutes. “His physicality, his experience, we have to make sure we keep his minutes up.”

Matchups are critical in the post-season and Casey wants to get Tucker playing with as many combinations as possible.

“Our defence is one of the tops in the league with P.J. on the floor,’’ said Casey, who did not want to throw Tucker into the fire in Miami Saturday night as the Heat was in the midst of laying a beatdown on the visitors.

Monday rolled around and Casey’s focus was on getting his young kids involved as the Raptors were rolling against the Mavs.

“But we got to make sure he (Tucker) gets his minutes where he gets his rhythm, is in game condition. He’s getting his work in off the court, but we have to make sure he has game time, “ Casey said.

Ideally, Casey wants to see Tucker play 25 to 28 minutes.
9 days ago
Raptors’ Delon Wright getting himself noticed around NBA | Toronto Star
Of the many attributes Wright has put on display in what’s now a 10-game run as the team’s primary backup point guard, one of the most impressive is his ability to block shots.

He is deceptively quick and undeniably long and has a knack for catching shooters off guard. In just 202 minutes this season, he’s had seven blocked shots. That may not sound like an extraordinary number, but it’s by far a greater ratio of blocks-to-minutes-played than any other guard on the team. He had a four-block game in Washington 10 days ago and got another one in a win over Dallas in Toronto on Monday night.

Wright gets near the rim defending a penetrating guard and can catch them off-guard by knocking away a field goal attempt.

“His timing is pretty good in those situations,” coach Dwane Casey said. “He surprises people with his length and timing more than anything else.”
9 days ago
Numbers Game: Time for Some Optimism? - Raptors HQ
But here’s the good news. The other change that happened over the break, is not only did Lowry go out, but the Raptors also swapped Ross and Sullinger for Tucker and Ibaka, two dramatic defensive improvements. And although Lowry has also been key defensively for the Raptors (105.1 DRTG with him on the court, 108.8 DRTG without him), they’ve made up enough ground to actually stay afloat over this stretch.

They are sporting a 102.8 DRTG since the break, good for 7th in the league in that time. That puts them at a surprising slight positive net rating (+2.7, 9th) without Lowry, which usually translates to roughly .500 basketball. And they’ve exceeded that expectation as well, with a 6-4 record since the break.

Recent ugly losses to teams below them in the standings like the Bucks, Hawks and Heat have coloured the perception of the team’s play of late. In reality, they’ve grabbed quality wins as well against Boston and Washington, and overall have treaded water nicely without Lowry.

And if Lowry can come back and re-ignite that offense, and the defense can maintain its new form, watch out. This team could get fun to watch again — very, very quickly.
9 days ago
Defense keys Raptors' bounce-back against Mavericks - Raptors Republic: ESPN TrueHoop Network Blog
Coming off of a pair of unsightly losses to end a five-game road trip, the Toronto Raptors needed a win. They needed it in the literal sense, because a 2-3 trip had squandered their cushion for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs, and that’s a pretty important factor for this team looking ahead a month. They needed it in a more broad sense, too, because a losing streak can carry with it the seeds of doubt, and the schedule, while hardly arduous compared to earlier stretches, is fraught with teams fighting for their lives right now.

“I mean we’ve got what, 15, 16 games left?” head coach Dwane Casey asked rhetorically before the game, speaking to the urgency felt in the locker room. “And to understand what significance, it means in these next 16 games, home court.”

As with all things Raptors right now, that need comes with an accepted caveat: It’s probably not going to be sexy. The Raptors aren’t built to win pretty in general, and that’s an even more glaring reality when Kyle Lowry is sidelined, as he presently finds himself. It’s an old story despite being only a few weeks old right now: This version of the Raptors needs DeMar DeRozan to carry a heavy load against increasingly greater defensive attention, they need depth players to step beyond their roles, and they need to defend like hell, turning every game into an ugly war of attrition.

It couldn’t be more fitting, then, that with the Raptors in need of a win, the deciding stretch of play saw the hosts and the visiting Dallas Mavericks conspire to quietly ban all offense from the Air Canada Centre.
10 days ago
Siakam and Poeltl help lift 905 in record-setting Air Canada Centre rout - Raptors Republic: ESPN TrueHoop Network Blog
Attempting to discern development through small, short-lived NBA windows is a difficult task. For the bulk of the season, it’s been the only way to evaluate Toronto Raptors rookies Pascal Siakam and Jakob Poeltl. Siakam was thrust into a major role early on but has played sparingly over the last few months. Poeltl has oscillated between the backup and third-string center jobs, providing encouraging glimpses in only the small bursts allowed. But the Raptors’ occasionally thin roster situation, lengthy road trips, and a desire for the young players to gain NBA exposure has kept the freshmen developing mostly out of site, away from Raptors 905 and the D-League.

With both the 905 and their parent club returning from five-game road trips Monday to play a doubleheader at the Air Canada Centre, it was a prime opportunity to get Siakam and Poeltl some extended run. The logistics were easy, with the rest of the team going through shootaround just upstairs on the 300-level, and it would be no issue to have both available later in the day (Fred VanVleet performed the rare D-League-NBA double-dip earlier in the year). As a handful of Raptors and staff watched on from the front row on the baseline, Siakam and Poeltl were given the chance to show how they’ve come along since their respective one-game visits to the 905 earlier in the year, in which each posted a double-double.
10 days ago
10 things I saw from Raptors-Mavericks (13–3–2017) – The Defeated – Medium
Dirk vs. Jonas: Mr. 30K was always going to burn Jonas Valanciunas in pick and roll, but Jonas also had his advantages in the post with Dirk Nowitzki playing center.
Rick Carlisle wisely targeted Valanciunas in high screen action with Dirk. The Raptors hedged early on but that (predictably) opened up everything. Dirk was raining jumpers and it was an easy layup for the guard whenever he got around Jonas out top.
In turn, Dwane Casey force fed Jonas in the low block. 39-year-old Dirk couldn’t handle Valanciunas’ bulk and aggression and could only hack Jonas to pieces. Carlisle tried to send double teams, but the Raptors broke that by playing pick and roll and getting Jonas looks on the move. Basketball is about exploiting weaknesses and both coaches did that.
10 days ago
Raptors rebound to beat Mavericks | Toronto Star
“We weren’t out there thinking about what play to run,” Norm Powell said after his 19-point performance. “We get a stop, we’re pushing it. We’re going to focus on getting stops on defence, making it easier on our offence, not letting their defence get as set by walking the ball up the court.

“So I think our pace was really good from the start and to the finish of the game.”

Just about everything the Raptors did before the usual sellout crowd of 19,800 was really good, for once:

They held Dallas to 36.5 per cent shooting on the night, the second-lowest opponent’s percentage of the season.
They made nine three-pointers, a number they’ve exceeded just once in the last 10 games.
They dished out 19 assists, mainly because they shot 48 per cent from the floor.
“It makes the game a lot easier when you do that. That’s the way we want to play,” coach Dwane Casey said. “I thought we had a good rhythm from that tonight and that’s the key to it, getting stops.

“You don’t have to run an offence. You don’t have to worry about not knowing. Just run the floor.”
10 days ago
Raptors cruise to win over Mavericks, 100-78 - Raptors HQ
“I might head to Pizza Pizza after,” said Norman Powell, smiling. “Yeah, I felt the energy when I was at the free-throw line, about getting the free throws to get 100.” The smile then dropped away as Powell got serious in his post-game reflection. “That’s the most important thing, not only to make the fans happy. That’s double — we get a win and they get free pizza. But it was a big win for us coming off the road trip and dropping two, our last two games, so we were really focused and locked in.”

It’s been a searching run of games for the Raptors as of late. Without Kyle Lowry, we’re learning what the rest of this team is made of. Tonight, DeRozan kept up his usual level of attack, finished when the lane opened, drew a couple fouls, and most importantly, made passes when the Mavs tried to force the ball out of his hands. As Casey remarked, “that’s what he’s going to see.”
10 days ago
Power Ranking Poll Week 21: Just Another 40 Degree Day - Raptors HQ
The Raptors are in the midst of a bunch of 40 degree days. They beat teams, but the wins are thing. They lose to teams, and the results feel crushing — even if there is a huge excuse sitting there, ready to be offered up. We’re a little like Stringer Bell in this scenario (oh boy, here comes the stretch), we’re still eager for progress, but mad that it can’t quite be had. There’s belief there, but also immense frustration. How many more 3-for-5 weeks, or ugly .500 ball are we going to have? Will this team ever be pushing 60 degrees, operating at full strength? Man, I don’t know.
10 days ago
The Backcourt Kids infuse Raptors with a dose of energy | Toronto Star
Not sure I’m ready to pronounce Patrick Patterson back but making three three-pointers is not to be sneezed at, even if a couple of them came in the fourth quarter when things had basically been decided.

He did look more comfortable, though, and they will desperately need at least that threat the rest of the way.

But ...

One play kind of summed up what has been a continuing issue with him this season.

He was in some high screen action with either Wright or VanVleet, I can’t remember which but it doesn’t matter, and the Mavs switched the play right in front of their bench.

That left tiny JJ Barea guarding Patterson and Patterson should have been drooling at the prospects of either rising right up to shoot over him or backing him down in the lane.

But, no. Once again treating the ball like it was a hot potato, he got rid of it back to the guard in a split second and the Mavs were able to react and get their coverages right.
10 days ago
10 things I saw from Raptors-Heat (11–3–2017) – The Defeated – Medium
Casey vs. Spo: Erik Spoelstra lost LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade with three years so he’s not sweating no loss of Lowry. Boo-fucking-hoo. Spo is now making it work with a rag tag roster. They play hard on both ends of the floor and they play smart and disciplined. They’re the 2013–14 Raptors after Rudy Gay got traded.
But again, it’s about system: The Heat and Raptors traded post ups in the second quarter, but how they got to the same result largely explained why Miami won.
Miami got the ball across halfcourt with 20 on the shot clock off an inbound, immediately flowed into high double screen, attacked the paint before kicking it out for a quick side pick and roll that got James Johnson on a mismatch. He scores.
Raptors respond by slowly getting the ball across, standing around, Norm Powell pounding the ball, swinging it harmlessly around the perimeter before Delon Wright feeds Jonas Valanciunas who makes a short contested jumper. Same result for both teams, but which offense is more sustainable?
11 days ago
Raptors-Heat: Offence hits a new low | WOLSTAT | Home | Toronto Sun
- Have heard a lot of moaning about how James Johnson was “mistreated” in Toronto by Dwane Casey and the organization. Nothing could be further from the truth. Johnson was a great team guy, beloved by his teammates, but he didn't take care of himself during his second go-round with the team and is the first to tell you his failure to earn a major role was on him. He was grossly out of shape, was often in the wrong place on the floor and made blunders. Johnson is absurdly athletic though and capable of doing remarkable things on the court. In Miami, he has lost a ton of weight (somewhere between 25-40 pounds) and has had an awesome year. When we talked to him at the ACC earlier in the year he absolved Casey and the organization of blame and while he has walked that back slightly since, he knows it is on him. It is great that he has put everything together, but it's unlikely it would have happened here. Credit to the Heat organization for what they have done this year. To lose the best player of this generation (and one of the five best of all time), then the best player in franchise history and another first ballot Hall-of-Famer in the span of only a few years would cripple most organizations. But Pat Riley, Erik Spoelstra and Co. have kept the Heat relevant through a consistent culture and focus and strong player development work.
11 days ago
Raptors need to hit reset button | Raptors | Sports | Toronto Sun

That is about the extent of the answer to what the Raptors can do now.

A tough road trip that finished with two wins and three losses is in the rearview mirror.

Kyle Lowry remains unavailable and presumably will be for at least another 16 days or so. And that is if one takes the shortest projection (from his own camp, not the Raptors) — four weeks — for how long Lowry would need to get his surgically repaired wrist back in game shape.

Chances are, and based on the conservative nature this team takes with injuries, Lowry won’t hit that four-week return. Six weeks would have him back April 11, the day before the final game of the regular season. Five weeks from surgery and he would have four games left to re-acclimate himself to the lineup.

If this is all sounding a little too desperate, consider what we have learned.
11 days ago
Raptors’ Dwane Casey curbing the over-enthusiasm of youngsters | Toronto Star
The young, emerging Raptors point guard will learn as he becomes more familiar with his role that while hitting the offensive glass may seem like a good idea, his coach would rather have him heading back on defence than going forward on offence on the off-chance at corralling a missed shot.

“If you stay too long, there goes their point guard down the other end of the floor,” Casey said this week, as the Raptors took a back-to-school approach to a welcome couple of days of practice. “We don’t emphasize that at all, our guards going to the offensive boards, unless you’re 99 per cent sure you’re going to get it.

“The percentages are against you going the other way. I liked his hustle doing that (but) we don’t emphasize that at all.”
11 days ago
Raptors' road to playoffs full of speed bumps | Toronto Star
Of Toronto’s remaining games, 10 are against teams fighting for playoff seeding or a chance to get into the post-season:

They have two against the Dallas Mavericks, who are making a late-season push for eighth in the Western Conference, and two dates with the Miami Heat, doing the same in the East.
There is one against the Chicago Bulls, who are on the periphery of the Eastern race, plus three meetings with the Indiana Pacers and two with the Detroit Pistons, who are in a muddle right behind the East’s top five.
“It makes it tougher, because you don’t have anybody who’s playing for lottery picks or anything like that,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said here Saturday. “It’s good for us, because . . . we can’t go in games and think we have a night off.”
11 days ago
Raptors Look to Tame the Mavericks: Preview, Start Time, and More - Raptors HQ
Healed By Home
On the season, the Raptors are 21-11 (compared to a meagre 17-17 on the road). The aforementioned five-game road trip did not end on a particularly strong note. It’s becoming increasingly clear Toronto will probably find itself stranded in the 4-5 matchup heading into the post-season. But this assumes they can win some dang games at home. They’ve got 16 games left, with seven on the road. Not bad odds.

The travel does begin to take its toll though. It’s hard to believe at this point that Patrick Patterson and his sore knee are 100 percent. And DeMarre Carroll sat out last game with an ankle injury. Every game is important now, but having these guys at less than their best is starting to strain the team. We can chalk up Saturday’s loss to Miami to exhaustion, but now we’re all back in Toronto, and some kind of final stand has to happen. The question is... will it?
11 days ago
Game Preview: Raptors vs. Mavericks | Toronto Raptors
Locking in, finishing strong

With just 15 games remaining in the regular season, a pair of back-to-back losses was not how Toronto had hoped to finish out a five-game road trip. Now, back on the Air Canada Centre home floor, the team is looking to refocus and lock in to finish the regular season strong.

"Look at the calendar, 15 games left (in the regular season)," DeMar DeRozan said. "That should be all the motivation we need right there. We don't have much time and every single game that we have to play is valuable. That's how we have to look at it."
11 days ago
A not unexpected result to end the trip and the rest of the weekend mail | Toronto Star
A case in point

Hate to harp on this sudden penchant for not taking shots but, man, it’s continuing.

Take last night, about four minutes into the second quarter. Fred VanVleet’s bringing the ball up in transition off a Raptors stop, he passes off to Patrick Patterson, who’s pretty open right in front of the Toronto bench.

That’s exactly the time that Patterson should have let fly with a three-pointer, it’s what he does, but he didn’t even think of it, passing the ball back to VanVleet in a split second.

Whether Patterson makes that shot or not, he’s got to at least try it. And that goes for anyone else in that same situation.
11 days ago
The Raptors gang that couldn't shoot straight really needs to shoot more | Toronto Star
Getting up the shots

It was the focus of the late game story, the overall inability or unwillingness to shoot from outside and it’s been a problem for a while.

Most of the three-pointers, and 25 is a low total in this man’s NBA, I’d say, were rushed near the end of shotclocks and there’s no was, as the story says, that DeRozan should ever lead the team in three-point attempts.

I’m not laying this on one person because it’s a team-wide issue but there’s no way Patrick Patterson should have one three-point attempt in 19 minutes and his habit of getting rid of the ball too quickly has been troubling all season.

There has to be more of a “shoot first, shoot often” mentality; it’s not selfish, it’s smart.
11 days ago
Valanciunas' commitment to defence set up monster game for Raptors centre | RAPT
It has been a little while since Jonas Valanciunas left a game feeling as good as he did following Wednesday’s win over the host Pelicans.

His high was that feeling of being back in control knowing exactly what you are doing and exactly what you need to do to help your team win games.

Valanciunas had one of those games where his defence was on point, his shot was on target and the help was on time. Those almost perfect games don’t come along often, but when they do, they can give a guy a boost and Valanciunas was in need of a lift.

“He did an excellent job (Wednesday) on both ends of the floor,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said. “He scored. He played with a lot of zip and pep in his step and that was good to see. I thought he had his head down there for a little bit (coming into the game) but I thought he played with a tremendous amount of confidence against one of the top centres in the league. Again, it’s a marathon not a sprint. He has to continue to do what he did on both ends of the floor.”
14 days ago
Raptors prepare to battle the Hawks: Preview, Start Time, and More - Raptors HQ
The Raptors offense has been, let’s say, shaky for stretches of the last seven games. Minus Kyle Lowry, as both a playmaker and high-volume efficient shooter, the Raptors have had to look to DeMar DeRozan to pour in the points. And when that hasn’t worked, they’ve scratched and clawed and gotten buckets where they could — Serge Ibaka has been consistent, Jonas Valanciunas put up a gem on Wednesday, everyone else has tried their best to chip in.

The story for Toronto has been the revamped and upgraded defense. With Ibaka and P.J. Tucker, plus the usual mainstays Patrick Patterson, Cory Joseph, Norman Powell, and, until recently, DeMarre Carroll, the Raps have looked different on that end. In the past seven games they’ve also been ranked ninth in defensive efficiency (103.9 DRTG). On the season, they’re 15th, so that’s already something of an improvement.

Tonight they take on the Hawks, or considered numerically, the 24th best offense in the league. In still other words, the Raptors should be able to clamp this team down. Let’s make it happen, guys.
14 days ago
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