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

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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

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Podcast: 2014 NBA Trade Deadline Summary

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Just when it seemed like the 2014 NBA Trade Deadline would pass with a fizzle the Indiana Pacers dropped a bomb that might have changed the landscape in the Eastern Conference. McNeill and Cheel talked about Indiana’s monster trade, Brooklyn not caring about the luxury tax, the Cavaliers and Lakers not being logical, remorse for Thaddeus Young and bunch more.

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2014 NBA Trade Deadline Tracker

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This page will have updates on trades and rumours leading up to the 2014 NBA trade deadline.

A Look At The NBA After The All Star Break

Most NBA teams have approximately 30 games left but there are still a lot left to be decided.

Well, in the Western Conference at least.

According to the favorite odds and lines on the All–Star Weekend in the past week or so, the Eastern Conference looks to be a two-team race with the Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat running away with the conference. Both teams look poised to meet up again in the Eastern Conference Finals. It doesn’t take NBA post All-Star Weekend betting tips to know that the Toronto Raptors or Chicago Bulls don’t pose a legitimate threat to either of those teams.

But going back to the West, the Oklahoma City Thunder have a lot of question marks surrounding them. Head coach Scott Brook has shown a willingness to bounce Kendrick Perkins out of his starting five, only to put him back in again.

There’s also questions about when Russell Westbrook will return to the court and if he will be able to stay healthy. After going under the knife three times in the past 12 months there are genuine concerns about whether his body can hold up.

The current conference champs, the San Antonio Spurs, might be playing their last season with Tim Duncan as whispers of The Big Fundamental retiring after this season were started by George Karl this week. Throw into the mix that Tony Parker is out for an undetermined period of time and the Spurs have their fair share of question marks surrounding them too.

The Los Angeles Clippers are trying to grab the torch but their lack of depth have them in the mix to add some key pieces over the next 24 hours.

Portland started off the season great but have come back to earth with a hard thud. They are 4-6 in their past 10 games and have shown when their three-point shots aren’t falling they are a beatable team.

On top of that, Portland’s defense has looked shaky.

The Houston Rockets are probably the most likely team to supplant Oklahoma City or San Antonio, but they need to address their need for a stretch power forward still. They are putting Omer Asik out there as trade bait but it remains to be seen of a team like the Philadelphia 76ers will bite and trade them Thaddeus Young.