Observations From Toronto’s Locker Room After Beating Phoenix 104-100

Here are six observations, notes and quotes from Toronto’s locker room after they beat Phoenix 104-100:

  • It’s amazing the amount of respect the players have for Doug Smith. After the game, Smith was able to pull DeMar DeRozan aside and he got some quotes from him that the rest of us media folks couldn’t get. Yet another example of why Smith is one of the best in the business and why I have a ton of respect for him.
  • Amir Johnson spent a lot of time after the game soaking his left ankle. To me, it’s clear he’s gutting out minutes right now. He’s a warrior for the Raptors and his hustle and desire is something that rubs off on his teammates.
  • I’ve learned the trick to chatting with Kyle Lowry is asking solid questions. If you throw lame or generic questions at him he’ll give a brief answer. But, if you ask something that piques his interest or gives him a chance to shed light on something, he’ll likely give you a good quote back. Some media bristle at this, but personally, I like how Lowry challenges us media grunts to step our games up.
  • Dwane Casey on the Phoenix Suns getting hot from beyond the arc: “Again, it’s not a mystery that this is one of the best three-point shooting teams in the league. They can get back in any game just like that. That’s they way they’ve been for two years now. So, nobody should be surprised that they are going to come down (the court) and pull-up (and shoot). It seems like we were (surprised).”
  • Weird vibe in Toronto’s locker room tonight. On the one hand, the team escaped with a win to push their record to 12-2. However, it was clear talking with the players they were grumpy with choking up a big lead in the fourth quarter. None of the usual joking around between teammates that normally happens after wins. More of a somber, business approach tonight once the media got into the locker room.
  • The shoe game of Greivis Vasquez, DeMar DeRozan and Terrence Ross makes me jealous. I wish I had a fraction of their kicks.

Observations From Toronto’s Locker Room After Thumping Milwaukee 124-83

Here are seven observations, notes and quotes from Toronto’s locker room after they beat Milwaukee 124-83:

  • Bruno Caboclo stole the show after the game. The media scrum waiting for him was huge – one of the largest of the season for any player – and Lou Williams and DeMar DeRozan took turns joking with the rookie. Caboclo soaked up every second with a huge smile on his face.
  • Caboclo on getting into his first NBA game and the reaction he got from the crowd: “I had butterflies in my stomach.”
  • Somebody texted Caboclo a picture after the game that had him in a Raptors jersey hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy.
  • A casualty of the Caboclo scrum was Jonas Valanciunas’ post-game drink. Valanciunas wasn’t happy that it made a mess on a couple pairs of his kicks.
  • DeMar DeRozan on Bruno Caboclo: “The crowd got into it and I’m pretty sure he was happy. That’s definitely a memory he will have for forever.”
  • Lucas Nogueira was a popular player after the game, too. He was joking around with the media and he had a couple of reporters laughing.
  • Dwane Casey: “If we are going to be an elite team – or grow to be an elite team – we need to make sure we take care of business. Whether it’s a quarter, a possession, or whatever it is, we need to keep that business like mindset and not get caught up in all the craziness around us.”

Observations From Toronto’s Locker Room After Beating Memphis 96-92

Here are nine observations, notes and quotes from Toronto’s locker room after they beat Memphis 96-92:

  • DeMar DeRozan was fired up after the win and was yelling while walking up the tunnel and into the locker room. What was he saying? I couldn’t really make out exactly what he was yelling. All I could decipher was a bunch of smack talk about beating one of the NBA’s top teams so far this season.
  • Kyle Lowry did a live NBA TV hit after the game. I’m not sure if it will air in Canada due to NBA TV Canada’s post-game coverage of the Raptors. Weird, I know.
  • Lowry had a cute moment joking around with DeRozan’s daughter after the game. Just another example of the strong bond on and off the court between Lowry and DeRozan.
  • Dwane Casey on playing a flu-plagued Grizzlies team: “These games against a wounded animal are always the toughest to play because those players are playing with no pressure.”
  • The media scrum for Vince Carter after the game was intense. Besides a couple dumb questions – props to Carter for dismissing them and quickly moving on – Carter was open, honest and funny while dealing with the media.
  • Vince Carter on the ovation he received following the video montage: “It was amazing. They asked me earlier how I would feel or how would I react. You can’t prepare for that whether it was a surprise or you knew it was coming. It was just an amazing feeling and to just be in the moment. See it. Kind of relive it. As it was happening you see all of the stuff and all of the people you played with. As each play was happening I could remember it like it was yesterday.”
  • Dwane Casey on Chuck Hayes: “He knows who he is. He’s one of the best big man defenders in the league. He has a low centre of gravity and he knows how to use it.”
  • Legendary Sports Illustrated scribe Ian Thomsen was in the Raptors’ locker room after the game. I can’t wait to read what he writes on the team for SI.
  • James Johnson DeRozan’s fiancee were joking around comparing walking casts.

Observations From Toronto’s Locker Room After Losing 100-93 To Chicago

Here are seven observations, notes and quotes from Toronto’s locker room after they lost 100-93 to Chicago:

  • This was the first time all season Toronto’s locker room had a somber vibe to it. Terrence Ross didn’t want to look at the stat sheet and nobody was laughing or joking around. The team clearly took this loss hard and from talking with players it’s clear they were embarrassed about the loss and how the third quarter in specific played out.
  • Dwane Casey on Pau Gasol’s big game: “One of the things we wanted to do was take the 3-ball out and to a certain extent we were able to do that as they were 4-15. Coming into the game they were one of the top 3-point (shooting) and transition teams in the NBA. We just felt like we were going to make him score and make it as hard on him as we could, but not go into a double team and leave (Mike) Dunleavy and (Jimmy) Butler and all of those guys open on the weak side. We went to more traps there in the fourth quarter, but, again, he’s good at what he does and he made it hard on us.”
  • Jonas Valanciunas compared the loss to a “cold shower” because it will humble the team a little bit.
  • James Johnson on what the team can learn from this loss: “You find out you really aren’t as good (as you think).”
  • Greg Stiemsma has some slick “gator” dress shoes he wore out of the locker room.
  • Speaking of shoes, Greivis Vasquez has a pair of white and another pair of red Maryland kicks. He has taken a Sharpie to the red kicks.
  • Former teammates in Houston, Kyle Lowry and Aaron Brooks, met up in the tunnel after the game to chat for a bit.

Observations From Toronto’s Locker Room After Beating Orlando 104-100

Here are 11 observations, notes and quotes from Toronto’s locker room after they beat Orlando 104-100:

  • Lucas Nogueira was in a great mood after the game and borrowed a reporters recorder for a mock interview with Greg Stiemsma. Also worth noting is Nogueira was rocking the purple shirt fans were given at the game last Friday.
  • Dwane Casey: “We can’t be annoyed when teams come out and give us their best shot.”
  • Greivis Vasquez and Terrence Ross appear to be in a battle to see who has the flashiest kicks. Both players had bright neon kicks in their lockers.
  • Speaking of kicks, you probably can’t tell on TV that Vasquez takes a Sharpie to his shoes and writes motivational stuff on ‘em. Pretty cool, though.
  • Vasquez on Toronto’s defence tonight: “I think our focus wasn’t there and that’s on the players. We should have been more focused. It was a test for our character and we got the win, but it wasn’t pretty.”
  • Patrick Patterson wasn’t happy with Toronto’s effort on the defensive end tonight: “For the first half, pretty much the first three quarters, I thought the lack of effort was pretty much shown throughout those time periods. Our inability to communicate meant we couldn’t stop them in transition or from getting easy buckets in the paint and at the perimeter when they were shooting 3’s. We know they are a 3-point shooting team and a transition team, but, with that being said, we were unable to follow the scouting report.”
  • Orlando shot better from beyond the arc (48%) than Toronto did from the field (45.5%). Ouch.
  • Dwane Casey explained what Orlando did to slow down DeMar DeRozan: “They changed up matchups. They were bringing two and a half guys over on him. (Nikola) Vucevic wasn’t really double teaming, but he was meeting DeMar halfway. It made it tough on DeMar. The good thing about it is he found people and he moved the ball. He started passing the ball and then when we got him in some good mid-screen rolls and that really helped us in that situation.”
  • Dwane Casey on the game being too quick for Jonas Valanciunas: “Yeah, when they had (Channing) Frye at the five and (Tobias) Harris at the four, yeah, it was really quick. That’s one of the reasons why he put Patrick Patterson at the five and James (Johnson) at the four and tried to match down to them. That helped us because they came out and were pushing the ball down the floor and they really pushed the tempo on us. That’s one of those things where I thought we had to go to a smaller lineup.”
  • Valanciunas was openly mocked by his teammates for his choice in shirts. Personally, I admire a man who is confident enough to wear a shirt covered with bright pink flowers…
  • Vasquez: “We need to remember we are nobody in this league just yet.”

Observations From Toronto’s Locker Room After Beating Washington 103-84

Here are eight observations, notes and quotes from Toronto’s locker room after they beat Washington 103-84:

  • Amir Johnson was limping through the locker room with his injured ankle secured with a tensor bandage, yet he still had a huge smile on his face. it’s amazing what a big win can do for a players emotions. Despite the setback in the second half tonight, after the game Johnson told the media that he’s hopeful of being able to play on Sunday against Philadelphia.
  • DeMar DeRozan was rocking this epic shirt while talking with the media.
  • Actually, speaking of emotions, this was the most jovial the locker room has been all season. Players were ribbing each other and the atmosphere was upbeat. In fact, Terrence Ross had a tough time getting through his media scrum because he was getting ribbed by teammates and even some members of media from across the locker room.
  • Amir Johnson has been using a shuttle board this week to work on his ankle and help with his range of motion.
  • Ross bristled briefly and appeared flustered when he was asked what it was like matching up against Paul Pierce again. His teammates, however, howled as the question was asked. My assumption is Ross took that playoff series against Brooklyn to heart and there’s a chip on his shoulder to prove he can stop Pierce. Mission accomplished tonight as Pierce was held to eight points while going 3-11 from the field.
  • DeMar DeRozan on wearing the purple jersey tonight: “Oh, man. It meant a lot. Especially to me as a kid who was amazed with the jersey.”
  • Derozan wasn’t the only fan of the purple jerseys as Amir Johnson gushed to the media: “I grew up loving those (purple) jerseys so it was an honour to wear ‘em tonight.”
  • Greivis Vasquez doesn’t only dish out assists on the court. After the game, James Johnson recruited Vasquez to give him a hand buttoning up the wrist buttons on his shirt.

Observations From Raptors’ Locker Room After Beating Thunder 100-88

Here are five observations, notes and quotes from the Toronto Raptors locker room after the team beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 100-88:

  • Amir Johnson was rocking a black OVO jacket that was also Canada Goose. Impressive. Also impressive – and very Canadian – was the lumberjack look Lou Williams was rocking with a red flannel shirt.
  • Lou Williams was struggling to unplug his phone charger from the top shelf in his locker. He had to get Chuck Hayes to give him a hand. #ShortGuyProblems
  • It never fails to amaze me what finely-tuned athletes eat. After the game Patrick Patterson was scarfing down some Pizza Pizza. I shouldn’t judge as I ate some myself before the game… but sat in front of my MacBook pro instead of burning calories while playing 35 minutes.
  • Dwane Casey wasn’t impressed with the defensive effort from his team: “Sometime this year we are going to find some defence from somebody, somewhere. I don’t know when, but we are going to find it.”
  • Kyle Lowry was in an ornery mood after the game and wasn’t too chatty with the media. I kept waiting for him to break into a Rasheed Wallace inspired, “both teams played hard.”

Observations From Raptors’ Locker Room After Beating Hawks 109-102

Here are eight observations, notes and quotes from the Toronto Raptors locker room after the team beat the Atlanta Hawks 109-102:

  • Dwane Casey has a funny analogy about how it only matters what you do when the popcorn’s popping. It’s his way of saying big players step up in big moments when fans are packed in the stands. After the game Casey was asked about Amir Johnson being ready to play when the popcorn was popping and couldn’t resist letting loose with this great quote: “He put butter on it and salt and everything else. He was ready to roll tonight and I was really happy with his energy.”
  • Lucas Nogueira never stops smiling. Literally.
  • Amir Johnson: “We have a lot of things to clean up. They shot the hell out of the ball and we were lucky to get the win.”
  • Greivis Vasquez was wearing combat boots and Wu-Tang socks. Awesome combo.
  • Speaking of fashion, Lou Williams was wearing a Hawaiian-esque jacket.
  • Terrence Ross on the fans: “I mean, you can’t really explain it. You just have to experience it. It’s unbelievable how they mobbed out like this.”
  • DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry are proud dads. DeRozan has a prominent picture in his locker of him kissing his daughter while Lowry has a big picture of himself watching TV with his son.
  • Tyler Hansbrough: “I feel much more comfortable this year. I came into training camp having already learned all of the plays so I was able to pick up on things a lot faster than I did last year. I’m really comfortable this year and I hope I can continue to bring a spark off the bench for this team.”

Observations From Toronto Raptors Locker Room

Here are some observations, notes and quotes from the Toronto Raptors locker room after the team beat the Boston Celtics 116-109:

  • Jonas Valanciunas was rocking a Mike Tyson shirt.
  • DeMar DeRozan: “Honestly, I don’t worry about nothing anymore. My confidence is that high. I feel like I can do anything once I’m on the court. I’m not trying to put any limitations on my game when I’m out there on the court.”
  • Bruno Caboclo was showing teammates a video of Leandro Barbosa crossing over an opponent. Terrence Ross couldn’t get enough of the video clip.
  • DeRozan gave Valanciunas some friendly ribbing over his beard.
  • Dwane Casey wasn’t ornery, but he wasn’t happy with the defensive effort from his team. I expect the team to go through a bunch of defensive drills during practice this weekend.
  • Kyle Lowry still has a sign that his son made for him last season hanging in his locker.
  • Greivis Vasquez on the Air Canada Centre: “This is the best atmosphere in the entire NBA.”

Podcast: Raptors Hold On For Win Against Rockets

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Here’s audio from Patrick Patterson, Greivis Vasquez and Dwane Casey talking about Toronto’s win over Houston.

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Toronto Raptors Talk About Clinching A Spot In The Playoffs

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Dwane Casey, Amir Johnson, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan talk about how much making the playoffs meant to them and the team.

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Game Notes: Foul Trouble Dooms Toronto

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GAME NOTES

* Washington tried sticking a bigger defender in Trevor Ariza on DeMar DeRozan which meant Bradley Beal was stuck guarding Terrence Ross. It worked well in slowing down DeRozan (two points in the first quarter) but Ross had a field day shooting 3’s over top of Beal (2-4 from beyond the arc and a game-high six points). Washington got Martell Webster into the game for Beal but it didn’t cool down Ross as he quickly popped a three in the eye of Webster. Ross finished the first quarter going 3-5 from beyond the arc.

* Toronto went an impressive 5-9 from beyond the arc in the first quarter. However, 45% of their field goal attempts (9-19) were from beyond the arc. They only attempted two free throws.

* Amir Johnson, Kyle Lowry and Patrick Patterson fouled out of the game. This forced Dwane Casey to give Jonas Valanciunas minutes after he sat him for most of the second overtime and it didn’t work out well. Marcin Gortat swatted two of his shots and Valanciunas looked lost defensively. Tyler Hansbrough was quickly brought into the game to replace Valanciunas.

* Andre Miller has given Washington’s bench a huge upgrade. Miller had 11 points and he helped Singleton have one of his best games so far in the NBA (13 points and nine boards). Singleton isn’t going to give away his minutes to Drew Gooden without a fight.

* Terrence Ross has moments where he looks lost or has mental lapses (like most young players), but watching John Salmons start the second half shows just how much Toronto relies on Ross as a defensive presence as Toronto’s top wing defender. Salmons just wasn’t up to the challenge and was repeatedly beat off the dribble.

* Loved the leg kick from Greivis Vasquez in the fourth quarter after his 3-pointer tied the game at 85. Vasquez was feeling it in the second half and finished the game with 26 points. Easily the best game he has had as a Raptor.

* Amir Johnson sent the ACC into a frenzy with his windmill dunk late in the fourth quarter.

* Kyle Lowry hit the deck hard at the end of regulation. He was slowing getting to his feet and even slower hobbling to the Raptors’ bench. Somehow he returned for overtime and had a big impact on Toronto winning the game. After in the locker room he was limping and grimacing.

* Jonas Valanciunas and Austin Daye had an elaborate pre-game dance/handshake. With Daye being traded to San Antonio, tonight Amir Johnson stepped in for Daye. The best I can do to explain it is to say it involves running, toe taps, finger snaps and jumping.  Yes, it looks as funny as it sounds.

* I don’t think either team was happy with the referees tonight…

* It was tough to stifle a laugh when I saw Andre Miller’s legs wrapped up in towels in Washington’s locker room. It reminded me of an old granny in a rocking chair keeping her legs warms with blankets.

* Amir Johnson was rocking some pretty sweet Superman Jordans after the game.

THEY SAID WHAT?

“John Salmons in a very quiet leader. He’s like E.F. Hutton. When he speaks people listen because he rarely speaks but when he does it’s profound.”
Dwane Casey

“I’m not happy because I scored (26 points) or I hit a couple three’s, I’d rather win. I’d trade all the personal stuff for a win.”
Greivis Vasquez

“Your body hurts a little bit more when you lose a game like this.”
Amir Johnson

“The hardest thing to do is develop (young players) and win at the same time. Luckily we’ve got some wins and these guys are developing at the same time. It’s tough to do because a lot of time those guys are in there when they don’t really deserve to.”
Dwane Casey

“I feel really sad. We’ve got to learn from mistakes. I feel really bad right now.”
Jonas Valanciunas

“We go out there every single night to win. We don’t go out there and compete and say, ‘oh, we gave it out best shot.’ We go out there and try to win every single game.”
Kyle Lowry

PODCAP

Audio from Dwane Casey, DeMar DeRozan, Greivis Vasquez, and Amir Johnson.

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Game Notes: Raptors Saved By Another Second Half Rally

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GAME NOTES

* There’s no doubt Jameer Nelson is the heart, voice and leader in Orlando’s locker room. His voice was constantly booming through the locker room during pre-game media availability and he appears to be highly respected by all of his teammates. Great example of what a veteran should look and sound like on a young team.

* Greivis Vasquez wrote on his shoes tonight to draw attention to the political unrest in Venezuela.

* It was a small crowd when the nationals anthems were being sung but the fans that were here were loud and feeling patriotic. There were a bunch of whoops and hollars during the Canadian national anthem tonight due the mens national hockey team winning a gold medal this morning. Something else that caught my attention is there were nearly twice as many fans wearing Canada gear than Raptors’ stuff.

* Tobias Harris was on fire in the first half! Toronto tried Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson and Patrick Patterson on him to no avail. Harris started the game shooting 6-7 from the field and had a game-high 14 points at halftime. He finished with a team-high 28 points.

* In the first quarter DeMar DeRozan saw a lot of different looks from Orlando. They had Tobias Harris, Maurice Harkless and even Jameer Nelson spend time guarding him. DeRozan had seven points at halftime while going 2-6 from the field. In the third quarter he did a better job coming off screens and attacking the rim off the dribble which helped him go 4-4 from the field while scoring nine points. He finished with 24 points.

* Toronto started the third quarter on a 23-10 run which helped them open up a 64-51 advantage. During that stretch they went 9-11 from the field and went 12-14 overall in the quarter. Thanks to a dagger from Kyle Lowry at the end of the quarter Toronto had a 36-24 advantage in the third quarter.

* Amir Johnson limped to the training room at the 5:41 mark of the third quarter with a sprained right ankle. He didn’t return to the game and is listed as day-to-day. He was limping around the locker room after the game but seemed to be in good spirits. I’m not a doctor, but I’m assuming he won’t play in Cleveland.

* On a night where Amir Johnson left with an injury and DeMar DeRozan had a slow start, Kyle Lowry put the team on his back. He was the emotional leader for Toronto (once again) and stuffed the stat sheet with a game-high 28 points, six assists and four dimes. He also earned the love and adoration of fans for scoring the 100th point of the game and ensuring they would get free pizza tomorrow.

* DeMar DeRozan doesn’t lack confidence. I tried talking with him about adjusting to having a taller defender on him and he quickly shot that idea down by boasting: “They didn’t slow me down. I just missed easy shots.”

* The air horn that’s now playing after every made three-pointer by Toronto is annoying. Yes, I realize I sound like an old man. No, I don’t care.

*Kyle O’Quinn is playing himself into a nice contract this summer. He’s an unrestricted free agent and as a 6’10 energy guy who plays with a lot of toughness he’ll be in demand. Tonight he stuffed the stat sheet with 10 points, five rebounds, four assists, three fouls and a steal.

* Amir Johnson loves wearing Roots sweats because “it’s like wearing pajamas.”

LIES, DAMNED LIES, AND STATISTICS

3 – Heading into the game DeMar DeRozan needed three assists to tie his career high (204) which he set last season. He dished out four assists tonight.

7 – DeRozan is one of seven players in the NBA averaging more than 25 points per game this month (he’s averaging 25.1).

9 – Nine players on Orlando’s current roster were born after the franchise played it’s first game on October 13, 1989. Those nine players are; Maurice Harkless, Tobias Harris, Doron Lamb, E’Twaun Moore, Andrew Nicholson, Victor Oladipo, Kyle O’Quinn and Nikola Vucevic.

11 – Toronto has 11 home wins so far since January 1.

24 – Kyle Lowry scored 24 of his 28 points in the second half.

91 – Toronto has outscored their opponents in the second half in 13 straight games. They have a +91 scoring margin (672-581) in those games.

2010 – The last time Toronto was six games above .500 was February 24, 2010.

THEY SAID WHAT?

“The only issue I would have is if he could play defence and box out.”
Dwane Casey on coaching a player who is gay

“I thought we started setting better screens in the second half. I thought he was more assertive in the second half coming off of the pick-and-rolls attacking. In the first half I thought we took one dribble and kind of settled and then gave it up instead of being aggressive. I thought it was an adjustment we made at halftime to come off (a screen) with two or three dribbles instead of making a decision after one dribble. I thought that adjustment DeMar made was huge for him and Kyle (Lowry).”  
Dwane Casey on adjustment that helped DeMar DeRozan have a better second half

“They didn’t slow me down. I just missed easy shots. I don’t look at it as nobody slowing me down or make tougher shots. I just missed shots and I couldn’t really get into a rhythm because I got those three quick fouls.”
DeMar DeRozan when I asked him about adjusting in the second half to having a bigger defender in Maurice Harkless guarding him

“We need to come out with more energy and not ease ourselves into games. We’re not that good of a team to ease ourselves into games. We’ve got to come out and play hard-nosed and with intensity from the start.”
Kyle Lowry on how to fix the slow starts currently plaguing the team

“I think we set basketball back 15 years with how we played in the first half.”
Dwane Casey

PODCAP

Audio from Dwane Casey, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.

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Game Notes: Toronto Ends Cleveland’s Winning Streak

 

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GAME NOTES

* Dwight Buyucks was on the court nearly three hours before the opening tip working with Jama Mahlalela. Impressive work ethic. Dwane Casey is always stressing the importance of being ready to go even when it doesn’t look like there will be minutes and Buyucks is doing just that.

* It’s always kind of weird when an NBA player eats dinner in the media room. They are obviously welcome, but since it’s such a rare occurrence, it always catches me off guard (like when I was a kid and saw a teacher anywhere outside of school). Tonight Carrick Felix dug into a big plate of pasta across the table from me while I was doing my pre-game research.

* There was a big debate in the Cavaliers locker room before the game was if it’s a three, five or ten second rule when you drop food. The Aussie, Matthew Delladova, found that it depends on what country you’re from. North Americans were unanimous that it’s a five second rule but the players felt even that’s too long.

* Toronto got off to a rough start shooting 22% from the field (5-22) in the first quarter. They had almost no dribble-penetration and only a few entry passes into the post. Instead, Toronto heaved a lot of ill-advised deep jumpers or three’s. Five of Toronto’s 22 first field attempts in the first quarter came beyond the arc and they only scored four points in the paint in the entire quarter. All four of those points came from Tyler Hansbrough off of dunks.

* Attempting more three’s (seven) than free throws (four) is always a recipe for disaster. That’s how Toronto started the game in the first quarter and things didn’t get much better in the second quarter as they failed to shoot a free throw but launched four more 3-pointers. Going into the half attempting 11 three’s but only four free throws is horrible.

* Kyle Lowry sat on the bench late in the first quarter grimacing and grabbing his right leg/thigh. The team trainer rushed over to check on him and Lowry quickly sent him away. Lowry returned to the game early in the second quarter and looked fine.

* Why do the Raptors continue to pout and complain after not getting a foul call? It just shows up the refs and prevents them from getting the benefit of the doubt next time. Plus, when Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas are demonstrative they will get hit with technicals like Valanciunas got in the third quarter. Refs ain’t got time for that.

* Great halftime ceremony by Canada Basketball Hall of Fame to honour Andrea Blackwell (played 17 years with Team Canada from 1979-96), Candace Clarkson (Bronze Medal at World Championships in 1979 and Olympian in 1984) and Bill Coulthard (Gold Medal at Senior Canadian Championships in 1952 and Olympian in 1952).

* After halftime, Steve Novak doesn’t sit down on the bench until he makes a three-pointer. Needless to say it doesn’t take him long to drain a three.

* Toronto started the third quarter being aggressive trying to score in the paint. 18 of Toronto’s first 25 points in the third quarter were scored in the paint. When Patrick Patterson decided to switch it up and drain a three, Mike Brown had seen enough and called a timeout. By then Toronto had opened up a 71-58 lead.

* Anthony Bennett nearly climbed the back of Patrick Patterson as he soared for a dunk attempt late in the third quarter. Would have made for a filthy dunk and a great poster.

* Greivis Vasquez gave Toronto a big spark off the bench today. He lead Toronto’s bench in +/- with a +8 and seemed to be playing with a bounce in his step that he has been missing. Maybe it was the three that he hit early in the game that helped boost his confidence.

* I’m impressed with Amir Johnson’s hockey knowledge. He was talking with a couple of us media grunts after the game and seemed genuinely excited about Canada playing for a gold medal on Sunday.

LIES, DAMNED LIES, AND STATISTICS

1 – Toronto only played played hard for one half and still won the game. They stunk it up in the first half (39 points while shooting 32% from the field) but found a way to steal this game thanks to an impressive third quarter.

3 – Tyler Zeller had three blocks in the first half.

4 – Cleveland will get their chance for revenge in four days when these two teams play again in Cleveland.

12 – Number of made field goals by Cleveland (12) before DeMar DeRozan (0-5) or Kyle Lowry (0-4) made a shot from the field.

16 – Toronto only scored 16 points in the first quarter and then had 16 points in the paint in the third quarter. The fact Toronto decided to play a little nasty while being physical and trying to score in the paint is the reason this game turned around.

37 – Toronto scored 37 points in the third quarter after scoring 39 points the entire first half.

78 – It took 78 games last season for Toronto to get their 30th win. This season it only took 55. Progress!

THEY SAID WHAT?

“I still have nightmares about it.”
Dwane Casey talking about Kyrie Irving’s buzzer beating shot last season

“They’ve got some nice talent. The big kid, (Patrick) Patterson, is good. He’s an inside-out player. He’s played well enough to move Amir Johnson to the bench. They’ve also got Tyler Hansbrough who is a tough son of a gun. Their bigs are really good and then they’ve got Kyle Lowry. I can’t praise him enough and I think the team takes on the character of Kyle. They’ve got some length and athleticism. DeMar DeRozan is talented. Dwane Casey is doing a nice job and these guys are trying to do it defensively first.”
Mike Brown on the Toronto Raptors

“We had to give our bigs a wake-up call in the second half. And they did. You’re going to have nights like that. It wasn’t from a lack of trying or lack of effort. They’d touch a rebound and fumble it out of their hands. Miss a rebound here. Miss a put-back there. All at once they allow the offence to dictate how they’re playing and how they’re feeling about themselves. So they turned it around in the second half. We reminded them that there’s more to the game than the offensive end.”
Dwane Casey

“He was very intense. He played tough and showed growth. He’s going to have ups and downs but tonight he was just really intense. He really kind of lead us with his intensity.”
Kyle Lowry on Jonas Valanciunas

“Give Toronto credit, I thought they came out in the second half and played extremely hard. I thought the big kid (Jonas) Valanciunas was a big difference in the second half. For us to give up 37 points and expect to win on the road in the third quarter was tough. I thought the was we came out was flat in the third quarter, but then to our guy’s credit they stayed with it. We missed some free throws and some shots that we normally make. We tried to make a little run getting our defence betting going into the fourth quarter to give us a chance but Toronto had built too big of a lead.”
Mike Brown

“He’s been working on his right and left hand. I really don’t know what one he is. I don’t know if he knows.”
Dwane Casey on Tristan Thompson

PODCAP

Audio from Dwane Casey, Kyle Lowry, Terrence Ross, Jonas Valanciunas and Amir Johnson.

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Nets Snap Thunder’s Home Winning Streak

Brooklyn Nets – 110, Oklahoma City Thunder – 93

The Oklahoma City Thunder suffered its third home loss of the season at the hands of the revitalized Brooklyn Nets Wednesday at the Chesapeake Energy Arena.

The Nets jumped out to an early first quarter advantage and eventually saw their lead grow to 23 points late in the first half. However, the Thunder battled back in the third quarter and tied the game off a Kevin Martin three with 7:11 left in the contest.

Brooklyn didn’t let up and went on a 24-6 run to close out their 17th win of the season.

GAME NOTES

  • The Nets shot nearly 70% from the floor in the first period with Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson combining for 22 of their first 33 points. Johnson torched Oklahoma City going 5-6 in the period including 2-3 from long range. The Thunder looked lackadaisical defensively and at times in the period it seemed Thabo Sefolosha was playing defense by himself.
  • Brook Lopez had his way with Thunder frontcourt. He scored 10 of his 25 points in the first quarter, setting the tone for the entire game. The Nets outscored the Thunder in the paint 42-36 and outrebounded them 38-34. Lopez proved to be a tough matchup for Kendrick Perkins with his ability to knock down the mid-range jumper and play outside the paint.
  • The Nets lost to San Antonio Monday thanks to an atrocious third quarter in which they were outscore 30-5. It was more of the same against Oklahoma City. The Thunder cut Brooklyn’s 16-point, halftime lead to four going into the final 12 minutes. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant combined for 20 points in the third and the Thunder outscored the Nets 27-15. Brooklyn came out of the locker room and mirrored Oklahoma City’s lethargic first quarter play.
  • Johnson continued to carry the Nets down the stretch with 13 of his game-high 33 points coming in the second half. A lot has been made of Johnson’s contract and he’s been called a paper-giant on more than one occasion. However, Johnson proved he could play up to his salary against the Thunder. He was easily the MVP of the game.
  • Deron Williams and Westbrook consistently went after each other throughout the game. Williams has been criticized for his perimeter defense, but he gave Westbrook everything he wanted. Westbrook finished with 26 points and 10 assists, but turned it over six times. It wasn’t until the third period that he finally got into a groove and Williams proved to be his biggest problem.
  • The Thunder resorted to isolation offense down the stretch. It was partly out of frustration and partly due to Brooklyn’s feisty defense. The frustration mounted to the point Durant couldn’t take it anymore and fell victim to a double-technical ejection, the first of his career. Durant had choice words for referee Danny Crawford as he walked off the court after a Perkins offensive foul.

PLAYER OF THE NIGHT

  • Joe Johnson: 33 POINTS / 11-19 (5-10 3PT) / 5 REBOUNDS

STAT OF THE NIGHT

  • OKC: 19 TURNOVERS (30 POINTS)

OBSERVATIONS

  • It’s hard to see why Brooklyn is just two games over .500 after thumping Oklahoma City. They have a nice mix of talent and a true point guard in Deron Williams. They also have great size with Brook Lopez and a decent bench led by Kris Humphries. Plus, Joe Johnson has the ability to go for 30 on any given night.
  • They are now 3-1 under Carlisimo who doesn’t seem nearly as laid back as former coach Avery Johnson. He could be the right guy for the job at the moment, even though two of their wins came against Charlotte and Cleveland in Brooklyn. I could see them righting the ship and becoming a dangerous team in the East, but they can’t hang with Miami. They could make a deep run in the playoffs if they get hot at the right time, but at the end of the day, there’s no competing with LeBron and the gang.

 

QUOTES

  • “We just played two of the best three offensive teams in the league. We didn’t play any defense against one and we defended this team about as well as you can defend them.” -P.J. Carlesimo
  • “I wasn’t worried about the third quarter. I was worried whether we could keep guys fresh enough. The guys off the bench did a great job for us.” -P.J. Carlesimo
  • “Gerald Wallace is a monster. You want to talk about something that wasn’t in San Antonio? Gerald Wallace.” -P.J. Carlesimo
  • “There is no need to panic. I think every time we lose around here everybody wants to go bananas.” Russell Westbrook
  • “We had 20 turnovers and gave up 30 points off of those 20 turnovers. It’s tough to win when you play a very good team that’s hot and give them extra possessions.” -Scott Brooks