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Join Date: Dec 2007
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Daily Raptor Dish - 19.03.11
Three-feat for Raps
Bargnani joins Raptors’ three-pointer club
Nowhere near as accomplished as Boston’s Big Three and certainly not as hyped as Miami’s three-headed monster, Toronto does nonetheless feature its own terrific trio.
When the triumvirate of Andrea Bargnani, DeMar DeRozan and Jose Calderon plays at a high level and is on the same page on the same night, triumph is often not far behind.
At least the Raptors give themselves a chance when their best three players are stepping up, and when enough of the secondary pieces elevate their games.
With so little margin for error and so few finished products on the roster, it’s almost imperative for Bargnani, DeRozan and Calderon to emerge as the best.
And on some nights, depending on the opposition’s quality, even their best isn’t good enough.
But three definitely is the key for Toronto’s hoopsters, who faced one of those must-win moments Friday night when the road-challenged Washington Wizards, a team that had one away win under its belt, came to town.
When you consider how little energy the Raptors took with them to Motown two nights earlier, and given the daunting nature of a looming five-game road trip, losing to the Wizards was not even an option.
Raptors Blog by Doug Smith
Bargnani is oft-maligned for a tendency to float on defence and an unwillingness to hit the glass with any tenacity and correctly so. But no one can dispute the fact he’s an excellent NBA scorer, now able to hit from mid-range as well as long-distance and the fact he averages 22 points a game against teams who set their defences to stop him speaks to his ability.
He will never rebound like Reggie Evans or defend like James Johnson, but he will score and someone has to do that part of the game, as well.
“Thirty-three points on 15 shots? That’s about as efficient as you can get,” said Triano. “He played extremely well, was patient, didn’t panic when smaller guys guarded him, took it down lower, faced up.
“You could tell from the beginning of the game when he put it on the floor he was aggressive going to the basket.”
Now, it’s not like the Raptors were playing a good team in the Wizards, who are approaching historical ineptness with a 1-31 road record this season.
Washington was without Nick Young, Andray Blatche, Rashard Lewis and Josh Howard — all injured — and played like they can’t wait to get the season over with for long stretches of the game.
But the Raptors are hardly a juggernaut themselves and they were full measure for the victory.
Besides Bargnani’s 33 points, the Raptors got 30 from DeMar DeRozan, the second time in two weeks the two have each had 30 or more in the same game. The last time, however, was the triple-overtime loss to New jersey in London, England.
“That’s the quietest 30 I’ve seen in a long time,” Triano said of DeRozan. “When I got the stats at the end of the game, I was surprised it was 30. Didn’t panic and, again, you take 15 shots and you score 30 points, you’re doing all right.”
Empty spaces in Raptors’ garden of dreams
I remember talking to Jay after a game earlier this season, the one where they got a really tough shot for DeMar on the sideline on a last possession to try to win a game, and him lamenting that night they he had so few options (a lot of guys were out with injuries) that he really didn’t have many plays to call that would have worked.
I remember him grabbing a notebook and saying what he might have done, had he had the right guys, was start Leandro in the backcourt, get him a couple of screens to create some space, hit him with a pass on the fly and see what he could do. Maybe one of the screeners would come open but, mostly, maybe he’d just be too quick to chase down and he’d get a good look.
Less than 10 seconds left in the first half, Raptors call a 20-second timeout to set up a last play and what do they do?
Put two guys in the backcourt to set screens if needed, curl Barbosa off them, hit him with a pass in full stride and he was simply too quick for the defence. He went almost the length of the court in about four seconds, made a layup and got fouled and all I could think was Jay had stored that play in his mind and when he had the chance, he broke it out.
And it worked.
DeRozan leads Raptors past depleted Wizards
These are signs of the times at the Air Canada Centre, where hundreds of seats were vacant Friday night as the Toronto Raptors defeated the Washington Wizards 116-107. Toronto attendance is averaging just 16,350 per game this season, the lowest in the franchise’s 15-year history. They have sold out just four games; nights when a significant proportion of fans came to ogle the visitors, the Los Angeles Lakers or Boston Celtics, or Raptors’ defector Chris Bosh.
With their 19-49 record, the Raptors sound grateful that fans are showing up at all.
“It’s definitely shocking, in a positive way, to still have support,” said reserve forward Julian Wright after practice last week. “To be realistic, and I’m not being blunt in a mean way, but we’re not winning. We’re not doing well. So we’re not a product that entices people to come out to the games.”
The Raptors have no playoff hopes and no certified stars. Three seasons ago, 19,400 fans routinely packed the stands to see Bosh lead the home team into the first round of the 2008 NBA playoffs. Average ticket sales have dropped every year since.
“Clearly team performance is the primary driver here,” general manager Bryan Colangelo wrote in an e-mail. “Beyond the obvious, including the loss of Bosh and the disappointment of last season’s late collapse, the current trend is not entirely unexpected given our plan to rebuild and the volume of losses we are experiencing.”
The Raptors currently stand 18th out of 30 teams in attendance rankings; not horrendous considering the team is faring better at selling tickets than 10 other franchises with superior win-loss records. But Toronto is also a much larger sports market than franchises saddled with the same attendance problems, including Indianapolis, Detroit, Charlotte and New Orleans, which help make up the bottom third of NBA attendance rankings.
Concerned officials at Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment now have the daunting task of luring fans back. One strategy is to appeal to their budgets: next year’s season-ticket prices will drop by about 10 to 15 per cent across the board. They are also increasing the number of price points to give buyers more options.
“The best way that we can respond is through team performance and also offering value to our fans,” said Beth Robertson, MLSE’s senior vice-president of ticket sales.
During an interview on the arena video board, Jackson was asked to name his favourite all-time Toronto Raptors player. After several uncomfortable seconds, the 62-year-old finally settled on . DeMar DeRozan. The second-year guard responded to the praise with a strong performance.
DeRozan made 11 of 15 field-goal attempts and finished the game with 30 points as Toronto beat Washington 116-107.
Washington is 1-31 on the road this season, which is a major reason why they sit 14th in the Eastern Conference ahead of only the Cleveland Cavaliers. Toronto is 2½ games ahead of Washington. The Raptors and Wizards have a combined record of 35-100.
Earlier in the week Raptors head coach Jay Triano said DeRozan was trying to do too much to carry the team.
"I think he's trying too hard," Triano said following Monday's practice. "He's trying to be aggressive and sometimes he gets a little bit too ambitious with the basketball.
"I think the kid is going to have games where he's putting it on himself and putting it on his shoulders and trying to score a little bit, and unfortunately he hasn't gotten a couple calls the last couple games and hasn't played that well."
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Wizards vs. Raptors: Toronto hands Washington its sixth loss in a row
When Toronto Raptors guard DeMar DeRozan made two free throws to give his team an 11-point lead with about six minutes remaining on Friday, it seemed like it would be a good time for the undermanned Washington Wizards to accept that they didn’t have enough bodies, or energy, to keep going and just fold.
Instead, they had one more run, inspired by whatever hustle they had in reserve, and pushed back by scoring nine straight points that made their opponents nervous and the home fans at Air Canada Centre start to boo. Veteran Maurice Evans had a steal and two-handed dunk to bring the Wizards within two less than three minutes later, but the hard push only served to set up a greater disappointment, as they lost their sixth consecutive game, 116-107.
“You show that promise and you always get everybody excited, but that’s the potential of what this team can do, even depleted and short-handed,” Evans said after scoring 15 points off the bench, including 11 in the fourth quarter. “If we play the right way and we play with energy and effort, we can contend on the NBA level.”
With the Wizards missing their two scorers in Nick Young and Andray Blatche, two key veterans in Rashard Lewis and Josh Howard and other scoring option in Cartier Martin, the best that the Wizards can hope for these days, it seems, is to avoid an embarrassing blowout. No amount of spunk or aggressive play can compensate for a consistent disparity in talent, but the Wizards (16-51) at least made an honest effort with a starting lineup that saw three rookies who all scored at least 20 points.