10 things I saw from Raptors-Cavaliers (Jan. 11) – The Defeated
Doppelganger: Fred VanVleet did his best Lowry impersonation with a career performance off the bench. FVV hit 8–11 with 6 threes, many of which extended the lead in the second quarter where the Raptors obliterated the Cavs by a score of 35–16. FVV was confident in every move he made, whether it was finishing over soft interior defenders or pulling up from three in transition. He even cuddled up to DeRozan on the bench. He’s really Lowry without the booty.
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9 days ago
Final Score: Cleveland Cavaliers fall to the Toronto Raptors 133-99 - Fear The Sword
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The Cleveland Cavaliers came out flat against a team missing it’s key players. The Toronto Raptors eviscerated the Cavaliers 133-99 without the services of Kyle Lowry or Serga Ibaka.

With Lowry out with a tailbone injury, and Ibaka suspended, the Raptors still had absolutely not trouble scoring on a porous Cavs defense. Even with DeMar DeRozan scoring just two points in the first half, Toronto still breezed to a 25 point lead in the first half.

Isaiah Thomas followed up his 3-11 performance against Minnesota with a 0-10 first half and just four points overall. But he wasn’t the only one that struggled. Jae Crowder, J.R. Smith, and LeBron James all offered up no resistance on the perimeter, while Kevin Love struggled to get going offensively.

Things didn’t get much better for the Cavs in the second half. The defensive effort was terrible, as Toronto’s younger players stepped up in a big way to make up for the absence of their veterans. Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam in particular were impressive, as their energy routinely lead to easy baskets against a disengaged Cavaliers defense.
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9 days ago
Raptors emerge as their best selves, run over LeBron and the Cavaliers 133-99 - Raptors HQ
Each and every Raptor played to their best selves tonight against the Cavaliers. The final score, an impossible 133-99, somehow does not even capture how thorough and fun this game actually was. LeBron James did what he could, he led all scorers with 26 points — but it was not nearly enough to stop the entire Toronto squad.

Without Lowry, Delon Wright and Fred VanVleet needed to step up — and so they did. For his part, Delon stranded the Cavs’ Isaiah Thomas on an 2-for-15, 4-point island; meanwhile VanVleet dropped a career-high 22 points, on 6-of-8 from deep shooting, and became the catalyst for the team’s offensive explosion.

Without Serge Ibaka, Jonas Valanciunas took to laying down all kinds of abuse on the Cavaliers undersized starting frontline of Kevin Love and James. He had nine points and nine rebounds in the first, a double-double at the half, and finished with 15 points and 18 rebounds in a mere 18 and a half minutes.

Buddies Jakob Poeltl and Pascal Siakam did what they do best, running the floor, picking their spots, hustling into every corner. They finished with a combined 28 points and 19 rebounds, while shooting 5-of-8 and 7-of-10 from the floor. Both got to have their breakouts (along with FVV) on national TV too. (Cheers to Jak getting the classic Kevin Harlan call.)
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9 days ago
Woz Blog: Young Raptors run circles around shell-shocked LeBron and the Cavs | Toronto Sun
DeRozan said the team was shell-shocked without Lowry against Miami, but figured things out from that debacle and used it against Cleveland.

C.J. Miles, the best quote on the team, with apologies to DeRozan, weighed in eloquently on DeRozan’s improvements this season: 

“He’s continued to add things to his game. Everybody talked about the three-point thing, I don’t think he did it for them, I think it was more for him but it feels good to shut people up. He’s continuing to just excel,” Miles said.

Miles shooting the ball well and turning in what might have been his most complete peformance as a Raptor so far was a good sign, as was Norman Powell looking a little bit looser.

Jakob Poeltl was fantastic.
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9 days ago
Killer V’s: Raptors give LeBron, Cavaliers taste of their own medicine | Toronto Sun
DeRozan only had two points by the half, but was leading the Raptors with seven assists through the first 24 minutes. He would go on to finish with a modest 13 points and a team-high eight assists. More impressively he had to play just 29 minutes in a game in which many expected him to have to carry his team.

The scoring came from everywhere on the roster, first Jonas Valanciunas who had nine points and nine rebounds six minutes into the game before he had to sit down with some early foul trouble. He would return briefly in the second quarter to reach a first-half double-double with 11 boards and 11 rebounds until a third foul put him back on the bench.

The Raptors merely turned to the next guy whether that was Fred VanVleet leading the second unit with a career best 22 points or Pascal Siakam looking to atone for a couple of key defensive gaffes earlier in the week with a 16-point performance.

The Cleveland Cavaliers coming off their worst defensive performance of the year having lost by 28 to Minnesota is normally not a team you want to face. Take two key players out of your lineup and the anticipation would have to be even less.

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) drives to the net against Toronto Raptors forward OG Anunoby (3) during second half NBA basketball action in Toronto on Thursday, January 11, 2018.
But as talented as this Cavs team, and it is talented although not as much as it was a year ago, it’s very clear they are not close to making that talent work for them just yet.
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9 days ago
SIMMONS: Role reversal for Raptors in beatdown of Cavaliers | Toronto Sun
So, what happened? Role reversal broke out. Casey’s Raptors played the part of the playoff Cavaliers. And the Cavs played the part of last spring’s dismal Raptors. Toronto basically won a hugely one-sided game without the injured Kyle Lowry, without the suspended Serge Ibaka and with minimal contribution from the pending all-star DeMar DeRozan.

They crushed the disinterested Cavs without their three best players, in essence, and there was a certain symbolism as the first half came to an end. The Raptors led 65-40 at the half, and from the three-point line, where the Raps were embarrassed into change last playoff season, Toronto had scored 21 points from three, the Cavaliers had scored none.

There is not a lot of real interpretation that can come from a night like this, but those numbers still have to mean something. When they were more than 100 points down to the Cavs from three last May.

It means something when Norm Powell, missing in action, starts hitting threes.

It means something when C.J. Miles hits four threes in the first half. Only once in the past two and a half months has he been anywhere near this effective.

And the spunky Fred VanVleet knocked down three from three-point land in the first half. He tied LeBron James in first half scoring, the game’s top scorers, two names rarely found in the same sentence.
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9 days ago
Raptors can only enjoy ‘dis’ win to a point | Toronto Star
But THIS was disrespect. Cleveland had been in town for two full days before Thursday, and were playing a Raptors team without either the injured Kyle Lowry or the suspended Serge Ibaka. The Cavaliers could have come in and done the Raptors the courtesy of a screw-you game. Instead, Toronto scored the most points in regulation in franchise history, and the Cavaliers should have been fined for resting all their players on national television.

“We’re so fragile,” said LeBron James, after a 133-99 Raptors blowout. “I don’t know where it went wrong, or whether the switch went back. But we have to go back and find it.”

“I never really get concerned. We’ve got to be better, we know that. But until we play better defensively, offensive, sharing the basketball,” said Cavalier coach Tyronn Lue. “If guys have agendas, we’ve got to get rid of our agendas and play the right way.”

No, no, no. Not buying it, guys. The Cavaliers do this every year. They stop caring for a while, because caring is hard, and playing 100 games a season is hard. They fool around. They got drilled 127-99 in Minnesota in the game before this one, by the way. They have lost six of eight. Asked what concerned him most about those two games, LeBron said, “That I haven’t played in the fourth quarter, and we’re getting our ass torn up. Excuse my language.”

There was a lot to ask forgiveness for. Thursday night on a nationally-televised U.S. broadcast, Cleveland mostly looked like a 40-and-over league team playing the first run of the night in a cold gym at the Y. Last year, the conversation about the Cavs hitting the switch didn’t really get going until March. Spring comes earlier every year.
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9 days ago
Raptors bench runs wild on Cavaliers | Toronto Star
In a matchup usually dominated by stars such as DeRozan and James, some of the lesser-knowns made the difference. Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl, Norm Powell, Fred VanVleet and Lorenzo Brown (who played 35 minutes in the G League Showcase earlier in the day) were the engineers of a game-turning 18-2 run in the second quarter.

“It should give them confidence,” Casey said of his second unit’s performance. “It should give a guy like Norm Powell, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl, all those guys confidence to know that, ‘Hey, I belong, I’m a big part of this team,’ which they are. I think it sends that message to everyone in the locker room.”

The Raptors’ desire was apparent from the get-go, as were the holes in the Cavaliers’ lethargic defence. Jonas Valanciunas dominated early, putting up nine points and nine rebounds in little more than six minutes. He would double that rebound total by game’s end while finishing with 15 points.

But it wasn’t until the backups assembled in the second quarter that the possibility of back-to-back blowout losses for the Cavaliers, who lost by 28 points to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday, took shape. Powell and VanVleet put up eight points each, with Siakam reaching double digits; the crowd, growing more excited with every dunk and rebound, gave Poeltl and Brown a rousing sendoff when they subbed out with five minutes left in the quarter.

When the Cavaliers pushed, the Raptors pushed back; their slimmest lead of the quarter was 23 points, boosted by an 11-point push from DeRozan and VanVleet reaching a career-high 19 points — he wound up with 22. The Raptors drained 18 three-pointers, the most the Cavs have allowed this season.
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9 days ago
4 Raptors difference-makers against the Cavaliers - Sportsnet.ca
While Delon Wright has benefitted most directly from Lowry’s two-game absence, VanVleet is the Raptors point guard who’s made the most of the extra playing time, following up a quietly strong outing against the Heat with the best game of his career two nights later.

The undrafted NBA sophomore delivered an immediate impact off the bench in the first quarter, sneaking behind the Cleveland defence and making a great in-air adjustment for a nifty layup under the net before pulling up for a transition three-pointer moments later. And he brought all kinds of energy in the next frame, quarterbacking Toronto’s bench unit as it starched an overwhelmed Cavaliers lineup.

“I think that was one of our advantages tonight, especially the second unit — just playing fast,” VanVleet said. “The first unit did a good job of setting the tone defensively, and we came in and continued that — got stops, played in transition.

“We’ve got to use that as one of our advantages — our youth and speed and fresh legs. We’ve got to take advantage of that.”

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Gotta See It: Valanciunas interrupts VanVleet scrum with familiar sign
That effort from VanVleet — he had 13 points in the first half — and the rest of Toronto’s second unit made the biggest difference in this one, as the Raptors went to the dressing room at halftime with 36 points off the bench while the Cavaliers had 40 as a team.

And when you’re shooting like VanVleet was Thursday, the last thing you’re going to do is stop. He added three buckets from distance in the second half, finishing 6-of-8 from three-point range with a game-high — and career-high — 22 points.

And as the game wore on, VanVleet made it his mission to get teammates involved, particularly the slumping Norman Powell, who enjoyed his best night in weeks with 14 points and a plus-23 in 27 minutes. Late in the game, VanVleet told Powell he probably could’ve scored 30 if he wasn’t being so generous with the ball.
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9 days ago
Raptors getting calls on young pieces ahead of NBA trade deadline - Sportsnet.ca
Of course, any GM or front office leader wouldn’t be doing their job if they weren’t pursuing the best talent available. For example, the Golden State Warriors have been reported to be expected to pursue Paul George in free agency this summer even if they know their chances to ink him are invisibly thin.

It remains to be seen if a player of that calibre will be available at the deadline this season— Clippers centre DeAndre Jordan is the one marquee name that comes to mind— and more importantly whether or not a team like the Raptors, who have seen efficient and consistent production from their homegrown talent en route to the second-best record in the East, would be wise to part with a package of prospects and picks for a player they may not need.

To trade for the sake of trading, rolling the dice on a fresh face or two, may have made sense for Raptors teams of the past, but not one that is carving a real identity built around the depth and development of it’s young pieces.

“Growth is what we preach,” said Ujiri. “How are we getting better? Is OG [Anunoby] getting better? Is Pascal [Siakam] getting better? How are those guys going to be next year? What experiences are they gaining? How are they going to play, knock wood, when we make the playoffs? How do Jakob Poeltl or Delon Wright or those guys, how do they continue to grow? Sometimes we are looking for something outside that’s actually inside with us.”
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9 days ago
Raptors' blowout win over Cavaliers an encouraging sign of things to come - Sportsnet.ca
t was only one game but the Raptors’ astounding 133-99 win over the Cavaliers, who rinsed Toronto from the playoffs in a sweep a year ago and in the Eastern Conference Finals the year before that, will be at the very least a reassuring touchstone should the Raptors’ season run through Cleveland again.

Can it be a template?

That would be ideal. The 133 points was the most the Raptors have ever scored in a regular-season, regulation-time game. The Cavs looked demoralized and confused.

That the Raptors did it without two starters – Kyle Lowry missed his second game with a bruised tailbone and Serge Ibaka was serving a suspension – only made the point even more powerfully.

“It should give them confidence,” said Raptors head coach Dwane Casey. “It should give a guy like Norm Powell, Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, Jakob Poeltl – all those guys confidence, to know ‘Hey, I belong. I’m a big part of this team,’ which they are. I think it sends a message to everyone in the locker room.”

They held the Cavs to 38 per cent shooting and 23 per cent from three after Cleveland shot 46 per cent from deep against them in the playoffs last year. James had 26 points, but was held well below his season averages in rebounds and assists while Toronto shot 50 per cent from the floor, made a season-high 18 threes and out-rebounded the Cavs 63-35.
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9 days ago
Do the Raps finally have the roster to knock off the Cavs in a playoff series? - Video - TSN
Playing their first game on national TV south of the border this season, did the Raptors turn some heads with their blowout win over the Cavs? Does Toronto have the roster to knock off Cleveland in the playoffs should the teams meet again this year? ESPN's Dave McMenamin and Josh Lewenberg discuss.
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9 days ago
Raptors make a statement with blowout win over the Cavs - Video - TSN
TSN NBA analyst Sam Mitchell breaks down the Raptors' statement win over the Cavaliers, and discusses the dazzling performance of Toronto's bench players. Mitchell also weighs in on LeBron James showing his frustration in the game and what Cleveland needs to do to turn things around.
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9 days ago
Podcast - The Raptors are Definitely Making the Finals - Locked On Raptors
In Episode 259 of Locked on Raptors, Sean Woodley and Sahal Abdi (Raptors Republic) jovially recap the Raptors’ 133-99 curb-stomping of the Cleveland Cavaliers, pick out their favourite Toronto performances of the night, and try to pinpoint any aspects of the game that will be meaningful in the event of another Raptors/Cavs playoff series.
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9 days ago
The Raptors just smoked the Cavaliers, but whatever it means will be lost come playoff time - The Washington Post
It was the latest impressive performance from a Raptors team that is on pace for the best record in franchise history, and the latest clunker from a Cavaliers team that has now surrendered its three highest point totals of the season in its last three games, and sits 29th among the 30 NBA teams in defensive efficiency halfway through the season.

It would be easy to look at the details of that last paragraph and decide that this year will be different; that Toronto will be a force come playoff time, and that LeBron James’s run of seven straight trips to the NBA Finals will not extend to eight.

The truth, though, is that despite the very different ways both teams performed Thursday night, they find themselves in exactly the same place: toiling through an 82-game regular season with the knowledge that nothing that happens before the playoffs begin will truly change how people view them.

“You are talking about the regular season and the playoffs, and they are two different things,” Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan said when asked about the psychological effect of a victory like this one. “I’m sure the next time we play them, they are going to remember this game.

“It’s going to be a whole different type of game, and we have to be ready for that.”

The fact that Toronto hasn’t been ready for that the past several seasons left the Raptors determined to make changes heading into this season. In recent years, it felt like Toronto was replaying the same season over and over: excel in the regular season behind the individual brilliance of Lowry and DeRozan, then fall apart in the playoffs as each crumbled under the weight of opposing defenses over the course of a seven-game series.
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9 days ago
DeMar DeRozan knows Cavs will want to avenge Raptors rout - USA Today
DeRozan credited a strong offensive flow for how the game unfolded. He revealed some concern about the potential "shell shock" of not having starting point guard Lowry in the lineup, but the entire team contributed in his absence. The Raptors bench provided a season-high 76 points, and the team had 31 assists on 53 field goals.

"The guys did a great job, " said DeRozan, who scored 13 points with eight assists and three rebounds. "We all passed the ball extremely well, we got a lot of great looks, back doors. We were moving the ball. It showed that we all came together and we understood what we had to do."

The nature of the victory was an encouraging sign for the Raptors, but DeRozan reiterated it's merely one regular-season game on an 82-game schedule. After an abundance of personnel changes in the offseason and beyond, the version of the Cavaliers who lost on Thursday is different from the team that bounced the Raptors from the playoffs in consecutive years.

Time will tell whether this game was a flash in the pan or if the Raptors will consistently get the better of the Cavaliers this season. DeRozan knows LeBron James and company will be out for vengeance next time around, and he said it's on the Raptors to be prepared.

"You can never overlook them, underlook them no matter how they play, no matter what the score of a game is," DeRozan says. "At the end of the day they've got their experience to be able to turn it on. They've got a guy on their team that understands what it takes. So, really, we can't feed too much into it. They're continuing to be themselves, continue to get better, and next time they come around, be prepared."
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9 days ago
Cleveland Cavaliers still deserve benefit of the doubt, but look more vulnerable than past seasons | Cleveland.com
The Raptors certainly looked more equipped to threaten the three-time champs on Thursday night.

During the 34-point blowout, the Raptors canned 18 triples, the most Cleveland has allowed all season. It's not a one-game outlier either. With a new philosophy and some roster tweaks, the Raptors rank top 10 in both makes and attempts from long range. They were 21st and 22nd in those respective categories last season.

Last May, Toronto's predictable, isolation-heavy offensive attack couldn't even take advantage of a flawed Cavaliers defense, averaging just 101 points.

On Thursday, Toronto scored a franchise-high (in a regulation game) 133 points -- even without starters Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka.

DeMar DeRozan, the Cavs' primary target, was blitzed constantly, just as he was last postseason. Only this time, Toronto's supporting cast made the Cavs pay for the risky strategy. Seven players reached double figures in scoring, showing more balance than last year's series.

DeRozan, one of the league's leading scorers, tallied just 13 points. That should've led to a blowout. It did. Just not the way many expected. The added attention opened outside shots for teammates and gave Toronto's bigs second-chance opportunities. Starting center Jonas Valanciunas had six offensive rebounds. Jakob Poeltl pulled down four.
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9 days ago
Delon Wright can be the difference maker the Raptors need - Raptors HQ
The bulk of Wright’s minutes this season have come with various iterations of the bench unit, but he has played 87 minutes with the big three (Ibaka, Lowry, DeRozan). That lineup is +34 in those minutes, which, outside of the starting five, is the best four-man plus-minus that includes all three stars. The short-term plan will be for Wright to slide into Lowry’s place for the games that he misses, but there’s an argument to be made that he should play major minutes with the big guys even after Lowry’s return. And especially if he can continue to develop his outside shot and maintain a decent long-term long-distance percentage, he can change the way the Raptors do business down the stretch.

In Monday’s late collapse in Brooklyn, we saw what can happen to the Raptors in tight games as they clutch up and feed the ball to DeRozan for late-game isos. Twice in that game, quarters ended on DeRozan misses, and the shot at the end of regulation was taken in stifling double-coverage. As much as DeRozan may be proving with each passing day that he is an elite scorer, the league as a whole is moving away from Kobe-ball. The loss to the Warriors in October was an example of what happens when a one-dimensional boxer meets one who’s the class of the division. The Warriors stuffed Lowry and DeRozan on three successive plays while Curry and Durant reeled off an 10-0 run to close the game out. The Raptors were like a puncher who kept going in with the heavy right, but had no jab. DeRozan may be the best scorer on the team, but at some point game theory — and specifically the value of surprising your opponent — has to come into play. Up against the best of the best, they needed to find another weapon.

If Delon can use these extended minutes to expand his playmaking, shoot more threes and — perhaps most importantly — earn the long-term trust of the starting unit, he can become that weapon. A closing lineup where every Raptor is dangerous with the ball in his hands and a threat from three-point range has a chance to hang with the best offensive units in the league. Lowry, DeRozan, Ibaka, a new-and-improved Wright, and C.J. Miles/OG Anunoby can be that unit. It might not rebound at all, but the Raps’ late-game lineups already don’t, and with DeRozan’s improvement with the three, that suddenly starts to look like a modern NBA unit that can threaten offensively from any spot on the floor.
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10 days ago
LeBron’s Cavs loom over everything Raptors want | Toronto Star
As for the slumps, they seem so often to be about a team that’s bored, that’s saving itself, that’s waiting to gear up when it has to. Frye, one of the wisest veterans on a team jammed with them, scoffed when this idea was presented.

“That’s not an excuse,” he said. “Who doesn’t like winning? F--- that. I like winning: every day, every game. I just think sometimes you play a lot of games, and sometimes you just don’t have it.”

But they have it when it matters, and the swagger and laughs outweigh any worries. LeBron James hosted a birthday party for Dwyane Wade at Drake’s new restaurant Tuesday night; at the end of Wednesday’s practice a Cleveland staffer imitated various free-throw techniques to laughs from the players. The Cavs speak well of the Raptors — Thomas called Toronto a very good team, and Lue said they look really good. Frye spoke admiringly of DeRozan in particular.

But they also speak admiringly of themselves, and ooze confidence. Jose Calderon, the former Raptor, talked about Cleveland’s unusually extensive camaraderie on the road, and marvelled at the roster’s depth. Frye talked about the team’s shooting beyond LeBron, pointing to all the gunners available. Cleveland is second in the league in made threes per game, and fourth in percentage at 37.9 per cent. Toronto, in its new style, is eighth in makes, and . . . well, 27th in percentage, at 35 per cent.

“We’ve had our way with a bunch of teams (in the playoffs),” said Frye. “It’s just, we’ve got a lot of guys who shoot threes. And it’s rare, in this day and age: to have vets that are ready in those situations to shoot the three and shoot them at a high clip is pretty amazing.”

And Calderon spoke about LeBron, who at 33, in his 15th season, should probably win his fifth MVP.

“What makes him better: we talk about DeMar’s (work ethic), same strength,” said Calderon. “I’m usually the first one in the gym. I like to drop my kids (at school) and go in and do my thing. He beat me a few times. He’s the first one there. He works. When you see that work from your best player, it’s like it demands a lot from players, coaches, even front office. Everything’s got to be ready, because I want to work, work, work. And that makes you be better. That pressure of, we have to win.
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10 days ago
Ujiri: Raptors' lack of U.S. national TV games 'a bunch of BS' - Sportsnet.ca
“We don’t play as many of the so-called ESPN games, why is that? We’ve had one of the best records the last five years in the league so I don’t understand why the NBA does not give us, I think it’s a bunch of BS if you ask me, that they don’t give us more games.”

The Raptors have made the post-season four years in a row and look poised to make it five, though they’ve never made it to the Finals. They’re currently sitting in second place in the East, above the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“Honestly, if you haven’t won an NBA Championship you are not in the same category as Cleveland and Golden State,” said Ujiri. “But otherwise, I think we compete well with the other teams and they haven’t done anything to surpass us, we think. We feel strongly about that one, we are not scared of anybody. All the other teams that they are putting ahead of us, do I respect it? Yeah, it’s everybody else’s opinion but we are here to compete.”

This weekend’s pair of matchups against the Cavaliers and Warriors will surely get some national attention—especially if the Raptors can win.

“I could really care less about what all these people say and the whole ‘disrespect’ thing. I feel for our players, I feel for our organization. What do we need to do? We need to win a championship. That’s what we need to do and hopefully we can continue to build and grow and get to that level because all these other teams built and they grew and they got to that level too,” said Ujiri.

“I think it’s a bunch of BS that we don’t play on as many national so-called TV games as we should.”
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10 days ago
Stopping Cavaliers the ultimate test for new-look Raptors - Sportsnet.ca
For all the talk locally about a “culture reset” and shifting the way they do things offensively due to their post-season struggles, figuring out how to compete defensively against the likes of the Cavaliers was a big part of the soul-searching also.

What were they doing to allow teams like the Cavs feel so comfortable from beyond the three-point line and what can they change to fix it?

“This summer we spent a lot of time coming up with different ways to guard the pick-and-roll and limit the rotations we were having to make defensively,” said Raptors assistant coach Rex Kalamian, who serves as the club’s defensive coordinator. “A lot of problems defending the three come from having too many bodies guarding pick-and-roll and getting caught in rotations.”

The Cavs represent the ultimate test. In their four-game sweep of Toronto last May, the Cavaliers shot an astounding 46.6 per cent from three, converting on 61 of 131 attempts. Their offensive rating was 120.3 per 100 possessions, far outpacing the current Golden State Warriors’ 113.2 mark, which will be the highest ever recorded if it keeps up.

Against the Raptors, in other words, the Cavaliers were better than the best offensive team ever.

This season, the Cavaliers have continued the same path as they are third in the NBA in three-point attempts with 33.9 and second in makes with 12.5 a game.

But Toronto (28-11), which enjoys a 2.5-game advantage over the third-place Cavaliers (26-14) in the East, isn’t the same club either.

“They’re different,” said Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue. “They have a lot of young guys playing well. Offensively they’re doing a good job moving the basketball, moving bodies and defensively they look pretty good also. It’s kind of a makeover for those guys, but they really look good playing the game.”
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10 days ago
Raptors need Ibaka to put team before temper - Article - TSN
Yes, toughness can be a great thing and it’s something the Raptors organization has lacked for most of the 17 years that have gone by since Charles Oakley wore purple.

However, these disputes have not come as a result of Ibaka standing up for or defending his teammates, but rather his temper getting the best of him. Three of them have now cost him games. In other words, these displays of toughness aren’t helping the team. They’re hurting the team.

The league has changed a great deal since the Oakley types policed locker rooms and threw down on the court. Certainly Ibaka isn’t the only tough player left in the league. He’s not the only physical player. But he is one of the only players that have continuously faced disciplinary action for crossing a strict line, drawn by both his team and the NBA.

The Raptors need Ibaka to play tough, it’s one of the biggest reasons they traded for him last February and gave him $65 million over the summer. There’s more finesse to his game than there was early in his career, especially on the offensive end, where he’s turned himself into one of the league’s best three-point shooting bigs.

Still, much of his value comes on defence, where he remains a deterrent at the rim. He was acquired to be a difference maker, the piece they were missing and one that might be able to take them to the next level in the playoffs, where they’ll need his toughness more than ever.

However, they need him to play smart. They need him to do a better job controlling his emotions and channelling them in a beneficial way, a way that will help them win games and keep him on the court.
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10 days ago
Handing out midseason awards in the NBA. | Sports on Earth
For your consideration… Raptors rookie OG Anunoby's stats don't jump off the page, but as a starter on one of the top teams in the East, he has been a difference-maker, especially on the defensive end. Lonzo Ball is shooting just 35.3 percent from the field (and we assume you know about all of the headlines his dad has been generating), but he is averaging 10.2 points, 7.0 assists and 6.9 rebounds as a rookie. His court vision has been impressive, as advertised. The Bulls weren't sure what they were getting in Lauri Markkanen, but he has been a bright spot in their rebuilding plan and is up to 14.9 points and 7.6 rebounds as a rookie. The most encouraging part about Markkanen has been his confidence and assertiveness on the floor. It's been a while since the Mavericks have found an impact player in the draft, but Dennis Smith Jr. (14.0 points, 4.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists) certainly qualifies as one.
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10 days ago
Sneaky MVP candidate and evolution make these Raptors different | New York Post
Toronto is currently top five in both offensive and defensive rating, and third in the NBA in net rating, trailing just the Warriors and the Rockets. They are outscoring opponents by an average of 7.4 points per 100 possessions — considerably better than the Cavaliers and the Celtics.

It starts with DeRozan — the three-time All-Star who, much like his team, always has seemed to be an afterthought. Not anymore.

An underrated MVP candidate, DeRozan has upped his game tremendously, expanding his range and proving to be a much better passer in the face of double-teams and traps.

The 28-year-old is averaging 25.3 points and a career-high 5.0 assists, while shooting 48 percent from the field and a career-high 36 percent from deep. His confidence beyond the arc is rising steadily, as he nailed a season-best five treys in back-to-back outings last week, including a franchise record 52-point performance on New Year’s Day against the Bucks.

In Tuesday’s 90-89 loss to Miami, which snapped Toronto’s undefeated January, DeRozan’s would-be game-winner with three seconds remaining was spoiled by Wayne Ellington’s layup just before the buzzer.

DeRozan’s offensive development mirrors the entire team’s improvement. The Raptors are playing with far more pace than ever before, averaging 100.6 possessions per 48 minutes, good for 10th in the league. They are attempting the fourth most 3s per game at 31.9, compared to 24.3 last season and 23.4 in 2014-15.

“It’s a fun way to play,” coach Dwane Casey told the Toronto Sun of the Raptors’ new approach before the season. “That’s the way the game is going, it’s harder to scout. The game is so sophisticated now that teams scout you so well, they know exactly what you’re going to do before you even get the rest of the sentence out of your mouth as a coach. They’re prepared because of video, internet, whatever it is.
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10 days ago
10 things I saw from Raptors-Heat (Jan. 9) – The Defeated – Medium
Missed opportunities: Raptors weren’t so hot when it came time to execute. First off, they needed two timeouts just to inbound the ball. After it was finally in, the Raptors struggled to work the ball to DeMar DeRozan, who was promptly doubled. He found Norman Powell wide open but he couldn’t convert. The next play, Powell cuts right to the rim on a baseline inbound and bricks a layup.
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11 days ago
Raptors lose last second to physical Heat, 90-89 - Raptors HQ
While DeRozan’s effort might not be suspension-worthy, you’d expect Ibaka to miss games as a repeat offender (he notably threw fists with Robin Lopez late in the 2016-17 season). With Kyle Lowry already day-to-day, and some of the most anticipated games of the Raptors season on the direct horizon — Cleveland on Thursday and Golden State on Saturday — there’s no other way to say it. This sucks.

The loss is just the second of the season for the Raptors at the Air Canada Centre, as they fall to 28-11 overall.

On a night without Lowry, Toronto clearly missed a few of his intangibilities. While the first quarter was played close, the second quarter was marred by the Heat getting to the glass early and often. The disparity in rebounds — 64 to 37 — is the story of the game. Toronto was simply unable to deal with the interfering length of Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo.

Adebayo, in fact, had the game of his young career for Miami. He scored 16 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, five of them offensive, and had five blocks. Spoelstra showed a few looks with him and Whiteside together, and while the Heat’s $100-million big was just 6-for-16, he too had an impactful 15 rebounds. Jonas Valanciunas was competitive in his minutes, but only had 21 of them, as his pick and roll coverage was simply too poor to keep him out there to bang with Miami’s twin towers. Jakob Poeltl and Lucas Nogueira just weren’t strong enough.

Also pivotal for Miami was Goran Dragic, the pest who always seems to get the mental edge on Toronto. His 24 points led Miami, and he also had 12 rebounds. (Sensing a theme?)

While the second quarter was the most egregious on the boards, the third quarter saw some life from the Raptors. An 11-2 run started the quarter, with the starters showing strong defensive energy. OG Anunoby was particularly revelatory, showing deft footwork on one possession guarding Dragic, forcing a fallaway miss after a series of jukes and jabs.
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11 days ago
Raptors fail to execute, fall to Heat in dying seconds | Toronto Sun
There is no mercy in the cut-throat world of the NBA and no one gives any team any breaks when the back end of a back to back is played.

There was a dust-up between Raptors’ Serge Ibaka and the Heat’s James Johnson, a third-quarter melee that led to both players being ejected.

In the seconds following the final whistle being blown, DeMar DeRozan and Goran Dragic got into it.

Dragic plays on the edge and anyone who watched the second-round series two springs ago between the Raptors and Heat might recall how Dragic under Toronto’s skin.

“Back to back, it doesn’t matter,’’ began head coach Dwane Casey when asked about his team’s effort before the game turned wild late. “We got in at 3 am, it doesn’t matter because nobody cares. I know Miami didn’t care.

“We didn’t do the things. They got 20 offensive rebounds. We hold a team to 40%, but again it’s attention to detail, hitting someone before a shot is missed. We didn’t do those things. And then you put yourself in a position (to pull off a win) and you can’t execute, you can’t carry out things you have to do.

“You put yourself in that position, but it started well before that. Hats off to Miami. We didn’t play well enough to win.”
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11 days ago
Raptors can’t steal win against Heat without Lowry | Toronto Star
The absence of Kyle Lowry certainly diminishes what the Raptors do and how they play and cuts a deep swath through the roster. They looked discombobulated most of the night and absolutely missed their all-star point guard.

But they were also hammered 64-37 on the boards, gave up 20 offensive rebounds for 17 second-chance Miami points, were beaten to nearly every 50-50 ball and generally played in slow motion.

“I mean, the whole game is completely different without Kyle. It’s everything. Everything,” said DeMar DeRozan, who had 25 points, including a basket with 3.1 seconds left that gave Toronto an 89-88 lead. “You can kind of tell with our ball movement wasn’t all the way there like it normally be when Kyle’s out there. Like I said, he’s a general on the floor. He sees things when they need to be called. That’s no excuse.”

Still, the Raptors had a chance to win, losing when Miami’s Wayne Ellington took advantage of an egregious defensive mixup to finish a game-winning layup with 3/10ths of a second left.

What made it worse was the Raptors had a foul to give on the play but Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby were so far from Ellington they couldn’t touch him in time.

“It wasn’t executed,” Casey said. “I’m not . . . don’t know exactly who made the mistake but, again, we had a foul to give down the stretch, we wanted to make sure we executed.”
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11 days ago
Free Association: Is DeRozan the greatest Raptor of all-time? - Sportsnet.ca
On this episode, Donnovan and J.D. discuss the title of “The Greatest Raptor of All-Time” and wonder if Delon Wright could be the future point guard in Toronto.

The guys tip off the show by discussing if DeMar DeRozan has surpassed Vince Carter as the best player in franchise history (1:40).

Later they discuss proper fan etiquette when wearing a jersey (10:55).

At the end of the podcast, the guys discuss if Wright is the Raptors’ future at the one (19:25).
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11 days ago
Could suspensions be coming for Ibaka and DeRozan? - Video - TSN
The NBA on TSN panel discusses what happened in the final three seconds of Toronto's stunning defeat to Miami, the positives for the Raptors' despite the tough loss, and whether Serge Ibaka and DeMar DeRozan could be suspended for their heated exchanges with James Johnson and Goran Dragic.
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11 days ago
Podcast - Raptors/Heat Crossover w/ Wes Goldberg - Locked On Raptors
In Episode 256 of Locked on Raptors, Sean Woodley and Wes Goldberg (Locked on Heat) team up to discuss Tuesday’s Raptors/Heat match-ups and where both teams sit around the midway point of the season. They discuss Josh Richardson and Norman Powell’s divergent paths this season, who the best player on the Heat is, whether or not DeMar DeRozan deserves Most Improved Player consideration and much, much more.
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11 days ago
Without Kyle Lowry, shouldn’t Raptors’ margin of error be smaller? – The Athletic
In giving the Raptors what could have been the decisive lead on Tuesday night, DeMar DeRozan made the wrong play. It was a play that violated the ethos of the stylistic shift the Raptors are trying to make, and a mistake he made over and over again.

Getting a screen from C.J. Miles, DeRozan exploded to his right. His defender, Miami swingman Josh Richardson never abandoned his primary assignment. Miles’ defender, Wayne Ellington did, momentarily. In the Raptors’ win over the Bucks on New Year’s Day, once DeRozan saw two men shifting to him, he made the pass immediately. However, this was not Lowry, out of the game with a bruised tailbone and back spasm that he suffered on Monday night in Brooklyn. It was Miles, the dynamic shooter who has struggled to find his niche in the Raptors’ rotation.

It is impossible to say how much that played a factor in DeRozan’s decision-making, other than this was a different DeRozan than we have seen in a long time. DeRozan was forcing himself into the paint constantly, and not getting fouls. The result: a relatively inefficient 25-point-on-29-field-goal-attempt evening, a throwback performance, and not in the good way.

It would be easy to say that DeRozan following up his miss with a putback was beside the point except, again, it almost gave the Raptors the win. Ultimately, after a horrendously defended final play, the Heat won 90-89.

After the game that featured a greatest hits of Raptors mistakes — failures to inbound, getting bludgeoned on the boards and bricked three-pointers, oh my! — the looming thought was this: Shouldn’t the Raptors’ margin of error, without Lowry playing and after winning an overtime game the night before, be smaller?
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11 days ago
Toronto Raptors miss Kyle Lowry in frustrating loss to Miami Heat - Sportsnet.ca
But the Raptors’ will to win is strong, as is DeRozan’s. Despite trailing by 12 late the third quarter, Toronto kept hovering around, holding the Heat to 40 per cent from the floor – good enough to win most nights.

But you have to score to win, and the Raptors were struggling without Lowry’s command.

Finally DeRozan, the Raptors’ scoring leader, shook off his early struggles to rip off nine points in last four minutes of the fourth quarter including baskets that gave Toronto a one-point lead with two minutes left and again with 3.1 seconds left.

It looked like it would be enough to steal a win at home facing some difficult circumstances.

But then the weirdness started. Leading by one with two minutes left the Raptors got a pair of stops and two golden opportunities to close the door on Miami. DeRozan kicked out to the struggling Norman Powell – getting some minutes in Lowry’s absence – who missed a wide-open three. The Raptors got the ball back, ran an inbounds play for Powell that got him a layup with 30 seconds left and he missed that too.

“It definitely is (frustrating),” said Powell who finished 2-of-8 and is shooting 29 per cent from three on the season. “I spend countless hours on my game knocking down shots, working on finishing around the basket every single day. I definitely thought the three I took was going in for sure and I don’t know what happened on the layup I feel like [the defender] slapped the backboard or something because it was perfect off the glass and it missed funny.

“You really never see misses like that.”
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11 days ago
3 troubling stats from the Toronto Raptors' loss to the Miami Heat - Sportsnet.ca
Miami grabbed 20 offensive rebounds

Rebounding was by far the biggest discrepancy between the two teams, and explains how Miami managed to pull this win out despite being held to 40 per cent shooting, including 4-of-22 from beyond the arc. Letting a team recover 20 of its misses, and end up with 17 second-chance points, isn’t found in too many winning formulas.

“It’s attention to detail,” Casey said. “Hitting someone before the shot’s missed. We didn’t do those things.”

Ibaka’s third-quarter ejection — following a scuffle with Johnson that Ibaka didn’t provoke but didn’t de-escalate either — certainly didn’t help. He was leading the Raptors in rebounds at the time with five.

Neither did the fact the Raptors played on the road the night prior and didn’t land in Toronto until 3:00 a.m. ET Tuesday morning. Every team deals with rough stretches of the schedule. But circumstances like that are always going to take sap some vigour when it comes to the hardy elements of the game, like battling on the glass.

Still, the Raptors played three centres Tuesday (Jonas Valanciunas, Lucas Nogueira, and Jakob Poeltl) and they combined for only four boards. Raptors guard Norman Powell had six on his own. Delon Wright had seven.
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11 days ago
Woz Blog: Serge Ibaka filling third star role for Raptors | Toronto Sun
Ibaka is also fourth in the East in blocks per game, is shooting a solid 50/37/76 (field goal/three-point/free throw percentage) as a stretch big man. He sits in the Top 10 in the conference in plus/minus (DeRozan leads all and OG Anunoby and Kyle Lowry also rank way up) and trails only Al Horford and Joel Embiid amongst big men in that category. All of this is also taking into account that Ibaka had a really slow start to the year (including 29% shooting from beyond the arc and 50% shooting at the line in November). He’s turned it around and is helping to carry the Raptors.
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12 days ago
New offense, new Demar DeRozan, new bench: Surging Toronto Raptors deserve more of your attention
Anunoby, the 23rd pick in June’s draft, only fell to Toronto because he suffered a season-ending knee injury last January while playing at Indiana University. But Anunoby’s defensive tenacity (9th among all small forwards in ESPN’s defensive Real Plus-Minus) and 3-point abilities has been perfect alongside the aforementioned Raptors quartet.

“I knew I could contribute right away,” Anunoby told The Comeback, “so just getting healthy was the biggest thing for me. And I knew everything would fall into place after that.”

Toronto is 21-5 since Anunoby entered the starting lineup, and the current five-man unit is outscoring opponents by 16.3 points per 100 possessions while on the floor, per NBA.com.

“His maturity level is off the charts for a rookie,” Casey said.

Another essential element in this successful Raptors start has been the continued growth of their young second unit, and how it’s developed chemistry and quickly grasped the team’s new offensive scheme. That began, according to backup point guard Delon Wright, when the Raptors instructed their young players to learn and work out together during the offseason.

While guard Fred VanVleet, forward Pascal Siakam and center Jakob Poeltl played in the Las Vegas Summer League last July, Wright and wing Norman Powell joined them to practice together. Those workouts extended to L.A. and Toronto and carried over into the season, where reserve players are finding success. The second unit bought into the system, Wright said, and are now rotation mainstays.

“I think the young guys are trying to make a concerted effort to be one of the better benches in the NBA,” VanVleet told The Comeback.
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12 days ago
Tuesday game preview: Miami Heat at Toronto Raptors | Toronto Star
Hassan Whiteside has often played well against Toronto, averaging 14 points, 13 rebounds and 3.3 blocks. That promises to be a lot to handle for Jonas Valanciunas, who has averaged 11 points and eight rebounds in 15 previous meetings with the Heat.
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12 days ago
Raptors-Heat tipoff | Toronto Sun
The Heat haven’t been healthy all year and they aren’t quite there yet, but they are on a bit of a roll having won four in a row including a just-completed three-game sweep at home of Detroit, New York, and Utah. The Heat will still be without both Justice Winslow and Dion Waiters for tonight and the next road game in Indiana. The Heat don’t have Toronto’s offence but defensively they are holding opponents to 102.2 points a game which is a couple less than the Raptors are averaging. This will be the first of three meetings with the Heat this season. Miami has not won in Toronto in a franchise-long five straight games.
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12 days ago
Dinwiddie drops career-high but Nets fall in another controversial ending: 114-113 - NetsDaily
Once again, the Nets found themselves in a close one down the stretch against one of the best teams in the East. Despite trailing by 12 in the first half, the Nets battled back and cut this thing down to one by half.

Then, the Raptors found their groove again and went on a 7-0 run, bringing them up by 11. Another game of catch up late.

The Nets answered strong and hit six 3-pointers in the fourth and tied this thing at 107 apiece following a gritty bucket from Allen Crabbe.

Unfortunately, Crabbe was down in pain holding his knee. He walked off on his own power, but he was in noticeable pain. Fortunately, he returned in overtime.

Dinwiddie hit three 3-pointers and scored 21 points in the second half, including three clutch 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. Tied at 107 apiece, DeRozan missed a contested fadeaway and this one headed to OT.

DeRozan was 1-of-5 in overtime before nailing a tough and-one to put Toronto up by one.

It was then that Dinwiddie took the ball hard to the hole on the following possession, but missed on a physical play all around as time expired.

Game over.

And so, the Nets have. become the first team since the 2012-13 Spurs to play five straight games decided by three or fewer points.

The Nets shot 39 percent on the night – 12-of-33 from 3-point after hitting only four in the first half. Allen Crabbe hit 4-of-6 and scored 20 on the night. Jarrett Allen finished with 14 points, while Rondae Hollis-Jefferson grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds to go along with 14 points.

DeRozan was lethal all night. He finished with 35 points on 14-of-30 shooting. Kyle Lowry finished with 18 points and 11 assists but was carried off the floor in overtime after a hard fall. He underwent an X-ray while his teammates won it
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12 days ago
Of heartbreak and respect: Spencer Dinwiddie speaks (and well) - NetsDaily
“The other thing that is very frustrating as well is we have these meetings, right, as teams or with PA about respect and so we want to treat everybody with respect because everybody is doing their jobs and they’re trying their best including us. We turn the ball over. Calls are missed, whatever it is. But when you approach somebody, and they shush you or they wave you off like you’re not a man or something of that nature, that’s also very frustrating.

“To already be in the position of feeling like you’re not getting the same respect, whether true or false, it is an opinion at the end of the day. It’s very subjective. That is an opinion. But to have that and not just in one case, but time after time. And like I said, to be shushed if you’re not a man. Those are the things that are really frustrating for guys on this team for sure. Especially games that are so hard fought that come down to the last second.”
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12 days ago
Raptors beat Nets 114-113 in overtime, but lose Kyle Lowry to injury down the stretch - Raptors HQ
The Raps opened overtime blowing a switch, leading to a wide open dunk for Dinwiddie, who had 21 points in the second half. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson then scored to put the Raps in a hole. The offense was stagnant and isolation based; the first bucket for the Raptors came after DeRozan missed a long two and Delon Wright snuck in for a tip in. Lowry helped energize the team with a pair of huge rebounds, the first of which coming as he climbed the ladder to rip the ball from Harris. The second was an offensive rebound — and we know how that went. He looked to have hurt either his back or his butt and will be evaluated shortly. He didn’t return after to the game.

After Lowry’s unfortunate exit, DeRozan would give the Raptors back the lead with a tough and-one bucket. With Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam and Serge Ibaka combining for a tough stop on Spencer Dinwiddie to end the game, it would be a lead the Raptors would hold. DeRozan, the hero from start to finish, would end the game with 35 points, six assists, and four rebounds. Lowry would go out with 18 points and 11 assists.

It was a tough game, and it will make tomorrow’s game against the Heat even tougher. But on the bright side, a win is a win, even one that has to be ground out like this. The Raptors ultimately took care of business.
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12 days ago
Raptors beat Nets, but Lowry hurt in OT | Toronto Sun
Initially, this note was going to be about having to play your starters long and late on the first night of a back-to-back.

But watching Lowry go down in obvious pain and have to leave a game that very easily could have been over almost four minutes earlier has to sit wrong with a number of Raptors.

As DeRozan pointed out after the game, you have to give the Nets credit, but when you consider the lead the Raptors had and the number of mistakes that had to be made in order to give the Nets four open three-pointers in those final three minutes, the level of frustration has to spike.

And that’s to say nothing of the impact it will have Tuesday night when the Raptors host a rested Miami almost assuredly without Lowry in the lineup.
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12 days ago
Raptors’ Kyle Lowry knows his time is coming, if he can stay healthy | Toronto Star
With the season approaching the halfway mark — and with Lowry having played in all 38 games, including his 18-point, 10-assist performance Monday — Lowry said the reduced load has offered a notable boost to the liveliness of his legs. But it hasn’t been an easy transition. And it’s early.

“The body feels great now,” Lowry said Sunday. “But ask me in the playoffs, ask me later in the season . . . I won’t really know the effects until later on in the year.”

On Monday, thanks to a pesky Nets squad that fell behind 13-1 early but fed off a strong performance from third-year guard Spencer Dinwiddie, who had 31 points and eight assists, and battled back to force an extra frame, some heavier-than-average minutes were required. Still, even with overtime Lowry had only logged 38 minutes.

Monday’s alarming moment aside — and Casey pointed out that Lowry is “a tough kid” who’s absorbed plenty of knocks in his prosperous career — it’s hard to imagine the effects of conservative player deployment won’t help Toronto’s cause. Injuries will happen, but the move has also allowed for the blossoming of Wright and VanVleet, who’ve emerged as key contributors and who’ve been rewarded with more minutes as a result.

DeRozan, who led the Raptors with 35 points on Monday, has seen playing time reduced modestly — by about one minute a game, on average. And as much as it might seem like a footnote, Casey sees moderating the Lowry-DeRozan workload as “a huge deal.”

“I think what people are missing with Kyle is the sacrificing of the number of shots, the number of minutes,” Casey said. “I mean the first few games of the year he’s champing at the bit wanting to get in there. Every star player I have ever had, whether it’s Kevin Garnett or Dirk (Nowitzki), whoever, has talked about, ‘I want to have less minutes.’ But when competition comes and the competitive spirit comes out, they are not thinking about minutes.
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12 days ago
Takeaways: Things only get tougher for Raptors as Lowry injury looms - Sportsnet.ca
It didn’t have to be like this

The Lowry injury puts an exclamation point on it but this was a game the Raptors had in some version of their control throughout the fourth quarter but couldn’t nail it down. They were leading by nine with 3:27 left, but the Nets kept coming as did the Raptors’ defensive breakdowns. In short order: A wide-open corner three by Quincy Acy, a blown pick-and-roll coverage that allowed a Spencer Dinwiddie layup; some good ball movement by the Nets to set up a three by Dinwiddie, who finished with 31 points and eight assists; and finally the Raptors losing Joe Harris for an open three in transition. In the space of 1:35 the Raptors lead was down to two.

Meanwhile, the Raptors were becoming overly reliant on DeRozan isolations. He scored on four of them, but missed on his last two in regulation, including a low-percentage look at the buzzer. There was more of the same in overtime with the ball movement a thing of the past and DeRozan trying to stuff it down the throat of the defence. He was 1-of-5 in overtime before converting the winning three-point play and the last of his 35 points on 14-of-30 shooting. The effort tied Vince Carter’s club record for most 30-point games in Raptors history with 91.
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12 days ago
DeRozan recognized after career week - Article - TSN
Recently, he’s been playing with a heavy heart, which makes this run he’s on that much more commendable. On Sunday, Steve Simmons of the Toronto Sun reported that DeRozan’s father, Frank, is battling kidney disease. DeRozan flew home to Los Angeles in between games late last month to be with his family. You wouldn’t know it from watching him, on or off the court. It’s been business as usual for Toronto’s budding superstar.
 
Those that have paid attention know DeRozan’s been trending upwards for a while now, particularly over the last year as he’s taken his all-around game to new heights. One measure of his consistency over that stretch: DeRozan has now won Player of the Week honours in each of the NBA’s last seven full months, dating back to the start of last season.
 
Known for his tireless work ethic, DeRozan told Wojnarowski that he would wake up and begin his workout routine at 4:15 AM every morning this past summer. On New Year’s Eve he was in the gym getting extra shots up, something that’s become an annual tradition for him.
 
In addition to the areas in which DeRozan already excelled – scoring from the mid-range, attacking the rim and getting to the free throw line – the 28-year-old has shown continued improvement on the defensive end and with his three-point shot.
 
A career 29 per cent three-point shooter, DeRozan has hit 26 of his 49 attempts from beyond the arc over the last nine games – the most threes he’s ever taken or made in a nine-game stretch.
 
Following Monday’s game in Brooklyn, DeRozan and his team begin one of their toughest stretches of the regular season – a 12-day span in which they’ll face seven consecutive opponents currently at or above .500. To put that into perspective, only six of their previous 20 contests came against teams with winning records.
 
With the spotlight on them more than usual, especially on Thursday when the Cavaliers come to town – a nationally televised game in the United States – and then again against Golden State on Saturday, the Raptors have an opportunity to prove they’re for real, and DeRozan will be at the forefront of it.
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12 days ago
Podcast - About Kyle Lowry's Butt w/ Vivek Jacob - Locked On Raptors
In Episode 255 of Locked on Raptors, Sean Woodley and Vivek Jacob (Raptors Republic, Sportsnet) break down a Raptors OT win in Brooklyn, discuss Kyle Lowry’s scary fall and what a long-term absence would mean for the rotation, and look back at a big win in Milwaukee on Friday night.
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12 days ago
An old problem involving Jonas Valanciunas results in a new problem with Kyle Lowry for Raptors – The Athletic
Valanciunas had another monstrous offensive game. After outscoring and out-rebounding the Bucks in the third quarter on Friday, he put up 21 points and 13 rebounds against the Nets. The Raptors looked for him early, and often.

Then came the dilemma that has existed alongside the big centre for almost the entirety of his career. The Raptors had a six-point lead with more than six minutes remaining, and the Nets were bound to put five shooters on the floor. Valanciunas had been so good that it would have felt wrong to keep him out of the game. Of course, it would come at the expense of footspeed, which would result in open three-pointers for one of the most trigger-happy teams in the league.

Valanciunas had his moments in that fourth quarter. He had a layup off of a feed from Lowry, and might have tipped in a rebound if Ibaka did not do it before. However, the Nets just got more with him out there. On one play, he did not even attempt to get out to Acy. On another, he got down low in transition to stop the layup, but the Raptors just did not match up. That is not entirely Valanciunas’s fault, but he gives up some of the Raptors’ ability to switch and get out to shooters in those very situations.

“We felt like we could dominate the boards with JV in there as a big,” Casey said. “When you’re in that situation, you still have got to close out to three-point shooters if they have a (centre) who can shoot the three. If they’re beating us down the floor, that means all five men have to sprint back. Sometimes it works. It worked for us (against Milwaukee). But you’ve got to dominate. You’ve got to dominate the boards and then sprint back and match up in transition.

“They did a good job of racing it down our throats to get back in the game.”
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12 days ago
Raptors 905 head into G League Showcase eyeing another championship: Mid-season report card – The Athletic
Bruno Caboclo – B
Details: Agreed to fourth-year assignment

Caboclo faced a tough decision after a shaky pre-season that saw him leapfrogged in the Raptors rotation by Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby: Stay on the bench and wait for scraps in which he’d have to make a statement, or accept a fourth year of G League assignments in hopes of continuing to improve on and extend his NBA experiment. He chose the latter, requesting the assignment before the Raptors could ask. It’s been a mixed bag, as most things with the Caboclo gamble have been.

What he’s shown with some level of firmness is that everything the Raptors saw in terms of defensive potential was accurate. Caboclo’s been one of the most important pieces on the league’s No. 2 defence, smothering wings with his length, improving his timing and decision-making helping at the rim and even playing some centre. The 905 allow just 98.1 points per 100 possessions when Caboclo’s on the floor, he’s blocking 5.52 per cent of opponent shots when he’s on the floor and he owns a 2.14-per-cent steal rate. Only one other player in the league can match those block and steal rates, and as a result, Caboclo ranks second in the entire G League in Defensive Win Shares and in the top 20 for Defensive Box Plus-Minus.

Things have come slower on the offensive end, where Caboclo’s been given a green light to the tune of a 23.1-per-cent usage rate. He’s posting a career-best 53.3 true-shooting percentage, but that’s hardly efficient. And while he’s doing a better job finishing through contact and hitting the offensive glass for easier looks inside, he’s hitting just 32.5 per cent of nearly seven three-point attempts per game. It’s important he continues to take these shots, and his confidence has only occasionally waned. Still, for the NBA-ready defence to earn him NBA playing time, he’s going to need what’s likely to be his biggest NBA skill, shooting, to become more reliable. He’s at 32.2 per cent on 773 career long-range attempts now across pre-season/Summer League/NBA/G League.
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12 days ago
Toronto Raptors: How a Kyle Lowry trade would have changed everything - Tip of the Tower
Most Toronto Raptors fans are familiar with the story of Masai Ujiri’s attempts to trade Kyle Lowry during the 2013/14 season. If the New York Knicks had agreed to the deal, it would have likely sent the Raptors’ franchise headed in a vastly different direction.

The Raptors wouldn’t have been the beneficiaries of Lowry’s development into a three-time NBA All-Star and one of the best point guards in the league. It could have also resulted in the loss of another one of their stars.

DeMar DeRozan admitted on Monday that if Lowry had gone to the Knicks, he would have asked for a trade. Rudy Gay had just been moved, and DeRozan was disillusioned with the direction of the franchise.

The three-time All-Star recounted a conversation he had at the time with Lowry. As reported by the Canadian Press via Sportsnet, he told his teammate: “If you get traded, I’m going to ask for a trade too.”

No doubt, Toronto Raptors fans don’t want to think about how things could have turned out if Lowry and DeRozan left. However, you imagine the team wouldn’t have embarked on the most successful period in franchise history, which has included three Atlantic Division titles, four consecutive playoff appearances and a first ever trip to the Eastern Conference finals.

Instead, Lowry’s move to New York fell through and the Raptors started to win.
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12 days ago
Toronto's Return to Relevance Has Healed the Vince Carter Wounds - VICE Sports
For Carter, there's been no change in how he feels, only in how he's been received.

"Nothing changes. I still love being here, whether it's 10, 12 years ago, or today. I still love being here," he said after the game. "There's nothing like it. I was telling the young guys when you come in, there's nothing like it. I've been on two different sides of [it]—there's nothing like it. But it's still a place that's near and dear to me.

"It’s a great feeling being here, nothing has changed. It's just, at that time, I felt it was unfortunate people didn't know that and didn't understand that. Here now, it's just a great feeling. Nothing has changed for me."

Since Carter landed in Memphis a few seasons ago, the mood for these games has shifted. Any residual boos have felt either playful or misplaced, and the franchise has taken steps to prime their supporters for an eventual welcoming of Carter back into the Raptors family.

This summer, they flirted with bringing Carter back as a player. Sacramento's offer of $8 million was something a tax-strapped Raptors team couldn't match, and more importantly to Carter, neither are the 14 minutes per-game the still-hungry, still effective 40-year-old gets to play. He's unsure if he'll play another season as the league's elder statesmen, a decision that changes by the day. What's clear to him, and to anyone who's been following along the last few years, is that his career is ending in Toronto, some way or another.

"It'll happen, for sure. Somehow, whether it's one day or something, it'll happen," Carter said. "It's supposed to happen, I think. I can say that now. I've had a lot of people say it's supposed to happen, so now I guess I have to believe."

Had he said this five years ago, it would have seemed ludicrous. At that point, the Raptors still hadn't gained a footing in the post-Vinsanity NBA, and Carter stuck out as emblematic of all the problems that plagued the franchise for nearly two decades. Around that time, the Raptors stumbled into some unexpected success, flipped all that negativity about being the league's unwanted northern outpost into a bold and galvanizing marketing strategy, and saw DeRozan and Kyle Lowry reach heights Carter teams never touched, like winning a seven-game series, a trip to the conference finals, or what will be a fifth consecutive playoff appearance.
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4 weeks ago
On another Vince Carter return (and maybe the last) - Raptors HQ
Also, the Raptors are good (and fun). It’s easy to move on from a bad relationship when your new one is even better. Toronto may feel differently about Carter if they perpetually wallowed as, say, the Minnesota Timberwolves have in the post-Garnett era. Instead, they had the happy accident of Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan becoming one of the best backcourts in the NBA, and have enjoyed continuity and organizational smarts from Masai Ujiri.

For me, having Carter join that core, even for a short stretch, would be more meaningful than a 1-day contract at the end. Vince has admitted he doesn’t want to join a championship contender and not play, but wouldn’t there be a spot for his skill set with the Raptors?

It would be a nice bow on what’s been a surprisingly enjoyable season, so far, for the Raptors. Toronto will undoubtedly honour Vince Carter when his career is finished, but getting use out of him would make it even more sweet.
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4 weeks ago
More from Valanciunas, extra rest: 5 things on the Raptors’ holiday wish list | Toronto Sun
This one is a given the way the Raptors are operating and the only thing that can derail it are injuries or the team’s young second unit forgetting what has made them successful.

The likes of OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet, Delon Wright, Jakob Poeltl, Pascal Siakam and Norm Powell have to continue to put in the work they have and begin each day knowing only maintaining their level of play to date will get them the continued experience they need to improve on that level of play.

Anunoby gets a special mention here because he’s going through it for the first time, the only true rookie in the group, and doing it alongside a veteran starting five.

Complacency in him or any of the young Raptors is a dangerous thing and must be avoided at all costs.
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4 weeks ago
Advisory council officially a success for Lowry, others | Toronto Star
Lowry said he came away from the meeting with a new appreciation for how officials see the game thanks to the conversations he had with McCutchen, who ended a 25-year on-court career last week to become the NBA’s head of referee training and development.

While it takes one of the league’s best officials away from in-game duty, Lowry thinks refereeing will be better off because of McCutchen’s teaching abilities.

“I got to communicate with him very well, my respect level for him got even higher,” Lowry said. “I’ve always had respect for him but to be able to be with him and talk to him, not in a hostile environment, was even better.

“I think the thing about Monty is his communication is awesome. The way he explains things is big, he was able to verbalize the things he sees in action on the court to off the court and that’s a big thing. I think the young officials can learn a lot from that.”

The relationship between players and officials during games has always been contentious and argumentative and hit a nadir earlier this month when referee Courtney Kirkland was taken out of the officiating rotation for a week after a physical confrontation with Golden State’s Shaun Livingston. But the work the advisory council has done — mostly getting players away from the intensity of a game to discuss each other’s viewpoints more rationally — has made a difference.

“I think the communication has been a little bit better, I think the hostility with the referees has been a little bit better,” Lowry said. “We just talked and opened the door for all types of things to be changed.”
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4 weeks ago
The Raptors Advent Calendar - Days 8 through 1 - Locked On Raptors
With one faulty eighth-overall draft pick, former Raptors GM Rob Babcock altered the trajectory of the franchise — nay, the NBA — forever.

Rafael Araujo sucked so much ass. Of the 30 players selected in the first round in 2004, Hoffa ranks dead last in career Win Shares with a mark of -0.4. As a person who spent his entire career taking shots from inside — he didn’t attempt a single three — he made just 40.5 percent of his 385 career attempts. A centre by trade, Araujo blocked a grand total of 16 shots in three NBA seasons, 14 of which came in his two years with Toronto. He blocked as many shots in 111 games with Toronto as Alexis Ajinca did in 24. Greying Luis Scola blocked 27 in 76 games in 2015/16.

Seriously, what the hell was Babcock thinking.

Selecting Araujo sent a ripple effect throughout the NBA that is still being felt today. Here’s what absolutely would have happened if Babcock had done the non-idiotic thing and picked Andre Iguodala eighth instead of letting him slip to Philadelphia with the next pick.

Iguodala would have been the glue that kept the Carter-era Raptors together. Pairing Iggy with Carter, with a young Chris Bosh already, in tow would have set the Raptors up with the league’s most tantalizing young core. Carter never feels compelled to stop dunking, the Nets trade never happens and I never grow a healthy hatred of Alonzo Mourning for saying no to Toronto.
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4 weeks ago
Four reasons why the Toronto Raptors are legitimate contenders in the East | GiveMeSport
While it would obviously be optimal if they performed like they do at home at all other times, this type of clear home-court advantage could prove to be extremely beneficial in the playoffs. The Warriors, for example, absolutely dominated at home over the last few seasons and proved to be extremely comfortable in the postseason as a result. 

The Toronto fans have an ability to create a lot of noise and make things uncomfortable for opposing teams, as we have seen in recent playoff series.

The Raptors will likely be overshadowed by the Celtics and Cavaliers in the East, but it would be foolish to ignore them or dismiss them from the conversation at this time of the year.
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4 weeks ago
Kyle Lowry is an underrated star leading an underrated team - Nylon Calculus
Through all of Toronto’s success, Lowry has been the catalyst. Though DeMar DeRozan is a more skilled scorer and has greatly improved his all-around game, earning him more praise among some fans, the Raptors have historically performed worse with him on the court. The Raptors have been an average of 8 points per 100 possessions better with Lowry on the court in 2016 and 2017, although it’s been closer to even so far in 2018 as the Toronto bench has stepped up. RPM isn’t the best stat to use this early in the season, since it’s very noisy, but Lowry is quietly in the top 10 among all players again — third among point guards — and his mark of 4.66 is right around where it’s been the past five seasons. If you put a lot of stock into RPM, Lowry has been a no-brainer top-15 player in the NBA in terms of impact:

Outside of RPM, Lowry’s box-score stats have dipped slightly this year. He’s playing more off the ball and shouldering less of a load on offense, leading to a scoring average of just 16.2 points per game. Kyrie Irving has had somewhat of a breakout year in Boston and is probably a safe bet to pencil in as the starting point guard for the East in the All-Star Game (unless Biebs steps it up), but Lowry still belongs within the ranks of the top Eastern Conference point guards.

Beyond being the best player on one of the top teams in the conference he leads the group in RPM and is behind only Irving in BPM. What he lacks in scoring volume he makes up for in efficiency and rebounding.
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4 weeks ago
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