Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Raptors win 97-91; Calderon notches 19 assists

Jose Calderon attempts to find Jonas Valanciunas off the pick and roll. Raptors won 97-91
(Photo courtesy of AP)

The Toronto Raptors continued to roll, with a 97-91 victory over the Detroit Pistons. Jose Calderon tied his record (and the team record) with 19 assists. He had nine in the first quarter, just two shy of Doug Christie's record of 11. Demar DeRozan had the team high of 23 points, including two three pointers. For the Pistons, Greg Monroe had a monster of a game, scoring a career high of 35 points.

The big story of the night for Detroit was not their young center's great game, but free throws. The Piston's missed 12 shots from the charity stripe. The Raptors probably had a bit of luck on their side as far as free throws are concerned because it would have been a whole other ball game if they weren't off from the line. Rookie Andre Drummond missed five free throws and that has been an issue with him all season as he has shot just 41% from the line.

The Raptors did have some issues in this game though. One thing that stood out to me was their shot selection down the line. In the final five or six minutes when they were up by 10, they chose to start shooting three pointers to increase the lead. Not a bad move if you're hitting them, but in this case, they were not. They needed to work the ball inside and try and get the higher percentage shot. Had they done this, the game would not have been as close as it was. Hopefully Dwane Casey will mention this to the players as it might end up hurting them in the future.

Post Game Thoughts

- Another great game by Jose Calderon. Making it harder on Casey when Lowry returns
- Valanciunas had a good game, scoring 12 and grabbing 7 boards. He's starting to come around.
- No Landry Fields again tonight. Gotta think Casey just doesn't want to ruin a good thing. As the saying goes, if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

Raptors VS Pistons Pre-Game

Red-hot Raps look for fourth straight win

The Toronto Raptors take the court at the ACC against the Detroit Pistons tonight in the second night of a back to back for the Raptors.The Raptors, who were down on their luck and looked well onto their way to a top three pick in the upcoming draft, surprised the league by picking up three consecutive wins after losing two of their top players. The Raptors have held opponents to just 89.6 PPG and have scored 103.6 PGG over the stretch. It seems as if something as clicked in this Dwane Casey coached team, a coach who stresses defence. The key for them will be a healthy Kyle Lowry, who is a very good defender when healthy, and somehow incorporating Andrea Bargnani.

Pistons having rough December

The Pistons had started out the season 5-12, which is not impressive(unless your the Raptors), but certainly was par for the course for them. They have a young team and will probably take another season or two to really form into a playoff team. With two future all-stars in Greg Monroe and Brandon Knight, and a player with huge potential in Andre Drummond, the future is bright for the Pistons. Unfortunately, the Pistons have slid down in the standings, only winning two of their last ten. Of those ten, one-hundred points has only been reached three times by the Pistons. The Raptors will need to play the defence we've seen from them recently to get a win. The Pistons aren't to be taken lightly, despite their poor record.

Drummond vs Ross?

Tonight we see round two of the eighth and ninth overall picks of the past draft. Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo caught a lot of heat for the questionable choosing of Terrence Ross, a jump shooting guard, over Andre Drummond, who was slated to be the number one pick in that draft before he had a lackluster season at UConn. Many people felt that the Raptors didn't need another jump shooter and would have preferred to take the chance with Drummond. At this point that argument is still up in the air but Drummond has looked impressive. Averaging 6.5 points per game, 6.4 rebounds per game and over a block a game in just eighteen and a half minutes. Ross has shown bright spots, but his shot has been hot and cold. If he can raise those shooting percentages (39% from the field and 28% from downtown) he should be able to carve out a nice spot in the rotation. I will give him credit for his defence and athleticism, both have been spectacular so far.

Raptors bench getting it done

The Raptors bench has been coming up when it counts during the winning streak. They've scored 161 points of the 311 scored by the team. That's an excellent average of 50 points a game for the bench. The Raptors need that production to continue winning given that two of their big scorers are out for the next little while. Alan Anderson has led the way, averaging 14.6 points off the bench during the stretch, despite going 0-8 in the win over the Mavs.

Game notes of interest

- This is the second meeting between these two teams this season. The Pistons won the first game 91-90.
- After not playing last game despite being dressed, I'd expect to see Landry Fields tonight.
- The Raptors haven't won four in a row since last November.

Projected Starting Lineups

Toronto Raptors                                         Detroit Pistons

PG- Jose Calderon                                                                               PG- Brandon Knight
SG- Demar DeRozan                                                                            SG- Kyle Singler
SF- Mickael Pietrus                                                                              SF- Tayshaun Prince 
PF- Ed Davis                                                                                         PF- Jason Maxiell
C- Jonas Valanciunas                                                                           C- Greg Monroe

Another PG Controversy in Toronto?

Recently there's been some chatter on the topic of the Raptor's starting point guard. Kyle Lowry suffered a tricep injury last week against the Trailblazers and for the second time this season, Calderon has been given a shot at the starting spot. He's made about as good of a case for himself as one can. But it might not be enough.

Jose has been involved in a lot of trade rumours as of late, and quite frankly he is the Raptors biggest trade piece. There are a few teams out there(mainly the Lakers) who could use his services (though with Steve Nash coming back, that could possibly be the worst defending PG combo in the NBA). If Bryan Colangelo wants to acquire that long awaited legitimate stating SF he'll likely need to deal Calderon/Bargnani together to get that.

When you compare the two players from a numbers perspective, the two aren't that far off. Jose is averaging  10.1 points per game, 7.1 assists, 2.4 rebounds, and 42% FG. Lowry is averaging 15.8 points per game, 5.8 assists, 5.6 assists, with a slightly worse 40% FG. When the Raptors acquired Lowry, he was advertised as a guy who was going to be a bulldog on the court, rebound the ball exceptionally(for a 6'0 tall guard), and score the ball. He's been almost exactly what  fans have wanted as a PG, minus a few poor games where he has seemed almost disconnected. When he was 100% healthy, he was by far the best player on the court for the Raptors. Jose has had some huge games, but has been inconsistent off the bench. When starting, he is averaging a double-double and has looked amazing. He's been hot during the Raptor's three game winning streak, averaging 18.3 points and 7.6 assists during the stretch. 

Even Dwane Casey has now come out and said "We'll cross that bridge when we get there", when asked about Lowry's return. It's unfortunate that both players need to start to be effective, because Lowry and Calderon could be a great 1-2 punch.

No matter how you look at it, it seems we have yet another point guard tussle here in Toronto. Calderon has beaten T.J. Ford, beaten Jarrett Jack, and beaten Jarryd Bayless. Time(and Dwayne Casey) will tell if he can take down Kyle Lowry.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Raptors Continue their winning ways 113-99; Calderon has another big game

The Raptor Rap Up

Canadian Tristan Thompson defends Jose Calderon. The Raptors pulled out their 3rd straight win, 113-99.
(Photo Courtesy of Mark Duncan/AP)

Going into Tuesday nights game, a lot of Raptor fans felt their team had a good shot at a win. They were right. The Raptors cruised to a 113-99 victory over the Cavaliers, led by Jose Calderon's 23 points. Calderon, who has been coming up big since the injury of starting point guard Kyle Lowry, led the way from the get go with 11 first quarter points. He's doing his absolute best to take over the reigns as starting point guard when Lowry returns. Calderon was rumoured to have requested a trade last week, but recently was quoted saying, "I made up my mind, I want to be the guy, I'm here, this is my team". He also added that it doesn't matter the amount of minutes he gets, he just wants to be here. 

The Raptors started slow, being down 6-1 less then three minutes in, but picked up the pace. They started trading buckets with the Cavaliers in the second quarter, and were looking for that spark to come along and give them the edge. They found it in Alan Anderson, who had two early threes (Anderson finished with 18 points along with five three points on seven tries). The Raptors went on a 14-9 run to end the 3rd quarter to give them the lead. After having some trouble keeping leads in the 4th quarter, the Raptors actually managed to hold off Cleveland, outscoring them 35-23 in the final frame. 

Overall, a great team game by the Raptors. They had a total of 25 assists in the game, which is what is needed to win games. The whole team got involved, and it turned into a win. 

After the buzzer thoughts

- Near perfect game for the Raptors, did everything required to win.
- Defence looked good, especially in the 4th quarter. Needs to remain that way if the Raptors want to gain ground.
- Anderson is turning into a great bench player. A pleasant surprise.
- Good game from John Lucas III. He is realizing that he needs to make the most of these situations and is playing very well for a third stringer.
- Valanciunas only played 18 minutes, but had 8 points and 7 rebounds along with only the one foul. Deserves more minutes against Orlando
- No Landry Fields, although he was available. Surprised he didn't get a few minutes when the game was out of reach.

Raptors @ Cavaliers Pre-Game

             Kyrie Irving as the next Batman?

Stop that man!

Tonight we get to witness a battle of the bottom-feeders, as the Raptors(6-19) take on the Cleveland Cavaliers(5-20).  The Raptors look to win three games in a row for the first time since early April of last season. It won't be a walk in the park for the Raps, as Kyrie Irving has been on fire so far in December, averaging 26 points a game(note, he's only played in four due to the broken index finger he suffered last month), including a 41 point effort in a 103-102 loss against the Knicks on Saturday. The match-up of Jose Calderon and Irving will be key. If Calderon plays his usual lackadaisical defence, and Irving is on like he was at MSG, we could see another 40 point night from Irving. He's averaged about 11 points on 23% in his career against the Raptors but that is unlikely to hold up forever.

Valanciunas going through the motions

After a promising start to his NBA career, Jonas Valanciunas has hit the metaphorical "rookie wall" as of late. He has only managed to score more than five points three times in December, after doing so eleven times in November. Although it probably isn't much to lose sleep over, one thing that is troubling is his lack of involvement on the offensive end. It seems that the guards on the team will sometimes just flat out ignore him when he's open, usually after he comes and attempts to set up the pick and roll. I don't know if it's just a coincidence, or maybe some of the players just aren't accustomed to having a big man like Jonas who can run this play, but something needs to be mended so he can get more looks. Regardless, his future in this league looks very bright.

Game notes of interest

- The Cavs are the NBA's second worst home team this season, only winning three of ten. 
- Then again, the Raptors are the leagues WORST road team, taking a dismal one win in fifteen tries. That may or may not cancel out the above note..
- Landry Fields will dress for the Raptors tonight for the first time in over a month. Fields had a nerve issue in his hand, which is apparently to blame for his .208% from the field. We'll see tonight if he's any better. At the very least, this means more Elaine Alden sightings at games.
- Dion Waiters is back for the Cavs tonight. The rookie of the year candidate has been incontinent with his scoring, but has managed to have some big games for the Cavaliers and can light it up from downtown.


                                 Projected Starting Lineup

Toronto Raptors                               Cleveland Cavaliers

C- Jonas Valanciunas                                                  C- Anderson Varejao
PF- Ed Davis                                                                PF- Tristan Thompson
SF- Mickael Pietrus                                                     SF- Alonzo Gee
SG- Demar DeRozan                                                    SG- Dion Waiters
PG- Jose Calderon                                                      PG- Kyrie Irving