In the Paint
Join Date: Dec 2007
Daily Raptor Dish - 10.01.2011
Opponents' injuries help Raptors
In terms of luck in the injury department on their own roster, the Raptors are owed a little.
But they’ve had more than their fair share of injury luck when it comes to opponents.
Yesterday’s game, with the Kings playing without Tyreke Evans, marked at least the ninth time this year the Raps have come into a game and discovered one or more of its opponent’s marquee players wouldn’t be suiting up.
The list of opponents who’ve missed the Raptors this season would fill out a pretty decent all-star game.
On that list are Kevin Durant, Kevin Garnett (twice), Rajon Rondo, Dirk Nowitzki, John Wall, Andre Iguodala, Carmelo Anthony and now Evans.
In those games, the Raptors were 4-4.
Jay Triano has done his own juggling act when it comes to injuries but the argument can be made that none of the Raptors who’ve missed games this year, with the possible exception of Andrea Bargnani, are in this class.
All too familiar for Dorsey
The Raptors can’t say this in many games, but it appears they got through Sunday’s win without any new injuries and possibly without aggravating any existing one’s.
Jerryd Bayless, who based on a conversation with reporters on Saturday at practice looked like a very good bet to miss another game, wound up playing just under 15 minutes.
While he still felt discomfort from the sprained left ankle, he got through the game without re-spraining or going over on it, which is an improvement over the past few times when he has gone right over on the same ankle trying to play through the pain.
After the game, Bayless said he thought he had turned a corner of sorts Sunday and doesn’t expect to miss any more time with the ankle — as long as he doesn’t re-sprain it again, of course.
Reggie Evans is now five weeks into what was expected to be an eight-week absence and, according to the man himself, is progressing nicely. “No more walking boot, no more crutches, I’m doing a lot of walking drills and the X-rays I took were good this week. Each week has been progress,” Evans said.
He has next month circled as a likely return date.
Raptors show 1-2 punch
“You can compare his attitude to mine,” Dorsey said. “(John Calipari, who coached Dorsey at Memphis and Cousins at Kentucky) said it. He was just like me in college. Just his body language, it’s the same thing with me. But on the floor he brings it every night so it doesn’t matter what his body language says.”
Dorsey admits the Calipari link to the two players has made him pay a little more attention to Cousins than he otherwise might have, and has made a point of staying in touch with him.
“I talk to him all the time,” Dorsey said. “I tell him to keep a level head. He’s going to be a great player. He just has to stick with it and not get frustrated.”
Dorsey said he understands, to a point, the negativity that follows a guy like Cousins.
“I see why they think it,” Dorsey said. “He had it in college, too. That’s what Cal always said to me: Body language is everything.
“People can read negativity into it, thinking that you’re down on yourself, but I thought he played good tonight.”
Cousins had 18 points and 10 rebounds in 28 minutes and has worked his way of late back into head coach Paul Westphal’s good graces.
Andrea Bargnani scores 30 to lead Raptors over Kings 118-112
From a basketball perspective, the afternoon was far from clinical, more an exercise in tedium than sporting tenacity pitting two teams destined for yet another lottery season.
And yet, when one strips away the sloppy defence and stretches of sub-standard play, one will find glimpses and evidence of two emerging offensive players co-existing in a non-traditional manner.
“DeMar has the ability to be aggressive even when Andrea is on the floor,’’ Raptors head coach Jay Triano would begin post-game as his team tipped off a three-game homestand with a much-needed win.
“I think they can learn to play off each other as well.”
Perhaps they can, but one will have to become more of a presence in the post because an inside game is one of many areas that has to be addressed.
Against smaller defenders, DeRozan’s athleticism allows him to operate in the paint.
The same applies to Bargnani, who can play on the block when he’s sufficiently motivated and not prone to being intimidated by bigger centres.
Against the Kings, the Bargnani-DeRozan tandem attempted 39 attempts from the field, but they made only eight trips to the charity stripe.
Bargnani doesn’t exactly look to create for others when the ball is in his hands and DeRozan, while expanding his game, doesn’t have the necessary handles at this stage in his evolution to be a consistent creator.
The warts notwithstanding, both have shown flashes and perhaps for the first time this season enough evidence was presented to suggest Bargnani and DeRozan can both be effective.
“They’re our two best offensive options,’’ Triano added. “They both found different ways to score.”
DeRozan is at his best when he’s attacking defenders and putting pressure on defences by putting the ball on the floor.
Next to Leandro Barbosa, DeRozan is the Raptors’ best finisher in transition.
Bargnani, given his seven-foot frame, is a matchup nightmare for any opponent, let alone a Kings team whose bigs aren’t exactly the most fleet of foot.
Down the stretch with the Raptors clinging to a 110-109 lead, it was a Bargnani three-ball off a pick-and-pop sequence with Jose Calderon that tipped the game in Toronto’s favour.
Doug Smith's Blog
Now, it’s not a huge feat to beat a Sacramento team that has the league’s second-worst record at 8-26 and was missing its best player in Tyreke Evans, who sat out with a sprained ankle.
That’s why there was a feeling of relief, more than euphoria, when the Raptors won.
“Offence was good, we didn’t play good defence the whole game long,” said Bargnani. “We got better the last five minutes and that’s what got us the win.
“Like the coach always says, we’re not going to have a problem scoring the ball, our biggest issue right now is the defence. We have to get better. We cannot afford to play four quarters like this, especially at home in front of our crowds. We have to keep working on that.”
The Raptors had, for them, as healthy a lineup as they’ve had in weeks. Jerryd Bayless came back after missing two games with a sore ankle to play 15 minutes backing up Calderon, who got through another 33 minutes on a sore foot that had him limping after the game. And Leandro Barbosa, who made two huge three-pointers as part of an 11-point fourth quarter, looks recovered from a variety of ills.
And that’s why Triano was more than happy to see DeRozan remain as aggressive as he was when the injuries were mounting.
“With more guys out and when Jose’s out and when Andrea was out for a bit, he had to step up a little bit and I think it’s helped his overall game,” said the coach. “He’s starting to really come into his own as an offensive player.”
Bargnani leads Raptors past Kings
Sometimes, things don’t work
Rewind from halftime to the end of the first quarter.
Raptors turn an Ed Davis steal into an Andrea Bargnani dunk with less than three seconds to go, a good hustle play indeed.
But while they were admiring their work and congratulating themselves on their effort, the Kings inbound the ball, get it up the court while the Raptors loaf and Sam Dalembert ends the quarter with a dunk of his own.
Surprise starter, for a game
We didn’t get wind of the Joey Dorsey for Amir Johnson switch to the starting lineup until we were sitting courtside, which is our fault for not asking like we should during every pre-game session whether any changes are afoot.
But there were a couple of simple reasons, as Jay told us after the game.
“Just physical size. I also think Amir has a little bit more offence and if we go to the point where we have two of the backup bigs in we need some offence in there instead of just defensive guys and rebounding.”
Now, there’s no indication it was more than a one-off move and I still think Jay’s baseline has to be a three-man bigs rotation of Bargnani, Johnson and Davis right now with the only time a fourth is necessary being because of early foul trouble.
Which, now that I think of it, is just about every game.
DeRozan, Bargnani produce a Raptors victory
“Wake up!” a frustrated fan shouted at the Toronto Raptors milling about on defence. It was midway through the fourth quarter and about time Toronto looked alive at the Air Canada Centre.
Andrea Bargnani didn’t need the reminder.
“We didn’t play good defence all game long,” the seven-foot Raptor centre said after Toronto’s narrow 118-112 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Sunday afternoon.
“We got better in the last five minutes. That’s what got us the win.”
The Raptors’ rare W inflated their unenviable record to 13-24. It was the kind of win a team pulls off when it’s lucky enough to be playing one of the worst teams in the league, in this case, the Kings, who are last in the Western Conference and lost their 10th straight road game on Sunday. They were playing without an injured young star, 2009 rookie of the year Tyreke Evans.
“Our biggest issue right now is defence,” said Bargnani, who scored a game-high 30 points. “We got to get better. We cannot afford to play four quarters like this. Especially at home in front of our crowd.”
DeMar DeRozan added 28 for Toronto, continuing to blossom as one of the team’s top two offensive threats.
More shoddy defense takes down Kings
The game, already lacking any real prestige, lost some more shine as Tyreke Evans, the best player on either team, did not play because of a sprained left ankle. Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan did the best they could to fill that void of stars.
Bargnani had a game-high 30 points while DeRozan, who took over the offensive leadership when the Italian was out of the lineup recently, had 28.
“I think DeMar still has the ability to be aggressive, even when Andrea is on the floor,” Raptors head coach Jay Triano said. “I think they can learn to play well off of each other, too.
“They’re our two best offensive options … ”
Triano insisted before the game that the Raptors have not started to run any more plays for DeRozan now than they did earlier in the season. That may well be true, but Triano certainly was not anointing DeRozan as one of the team’s go-to players earlier in the season, at least not publicly.
Now, that has changed, and understandably. DeRozan has scored in double digits in 13 games, quite an improvement for a player that failed to reach that mark in six of 12 games before that. Over his last six games — two of which were played without Bargnani — he is averaging 23.8 points per game on 52% shooting.
Factor in the occasional free-throw binge, and DeRozan is starting to look like a player with recognizable, high-end skills. During his rookie year, that was not the case.
“Even with some of the guys that are injured, when they’re back, we still expect DeMar to be one of our top two options offensively,” Triano said. “But with more guys out, when Jose [Calderon] is out and when Andrea was out for a little bit, he’s had to step up a little bit. I think it’s helped his overall game. He’s starting to really come into his own as an offensive player.”
The biggest breakdown occurred late in Sunday's game with Toronto ahead 110-109. Beno Udrih slipped after a screen by Amir Johnson, leaving the Kings scrambling.
Andrea Bargnani, a good three-point shooter, was left open, and he made a three-pointer for a 113-109 lead with 1:01 to play.
In the timeout before the play, the Kings were reminded to stay with Bargnani. But when Udrih fell, it forced Carl Landry to worry about two players.
"It was a one-point game, and we did (leave Bargnani open), and he made it," Kings coach Paul Westphal said. "It's him being an excellent shooter, and he's still got to make the shot, but it's our breakdown to leave him open on that play. Those kinds of things, they only have to happen four or five times a game, and they can get you beat."
Bargnani finished with 30 points, and he wasn't the only Raptor to have a big game. Leandro Barbosa came off the bench to score 18 points. DeMar DeRozan had 28 points, doing a lot of damage driving to the basket.
"He's pretty good," Kings swingman Francisco García said of DeRozan. "He knows how to pick and choose his spots. He's not a great outside shooting guard yet, so he just picks and chooses when to get to the hole and got hot."
DeRozan isn't the first guard to drive seemingly at will against the Kings. Westphal said the Kings are supposed to rotate from the weak side to cut off penetration, but DeRozan was too quick for whoever the Kings put on him.
Westphal said DeRozan deserved credit for his success on drives but said the Kings have to make it tougher on guards trying to get to the rim.
"If you get a straight-line drive to the basket, it's hard to expect your defense to rotate over there," Westphal said. "You need to at least make him take at least one or two dribbles, change directions sometimes."
Last edited by LX; 01-10-2011 at 10:04 AM.