In the Paint
Join Date: Dec 2007
Daily Raptor Dish - 28.02.2011
Mavs too much for Raptors
Mighty Mavs remind young Raptors why they’re still on top
Since Colangelo’s first attempt to construct the franchise — which saw him build around jump shooters who tended to be soft and/or defensively challenged — has not been a rousing success, the next generation Raptors appear to be fast, athletic and aggressive at both ends of the floor.
The group that took the floor against Dallas fit the bill. With leading scorer Andrea Bargnani forced to the sidelines with the flu, it is possible the starting frontcourt of James Johnson, Amir Johnson and Ed Davis was the most athletic in team history. That trifecta, along with high-flyer DeMar DeRozan and the steady but floor-bound Jose Calderon got the Raptors off to a surprisingly outstanding start.
In his third start since coming over from Chicago, James Johnson was everywhere in the first quarter, playing solid defence, dishing out clever assists and rebounding the ball with authority. Johnson had five rebounds and three assists after one quarter and energized the crowd as Toronto surged to an 18-3 lead. Johnson showed his leaping ability on a big-time slam and several rebounds, while DeRozan’s finest sequence came later, when he blocked a shot at one end, ran the floor and finished with a rattling jam at the other.
He finished with eight points, seven rebounds and seven assists with a couple of blocks.
Dallas had few answers for the Johnson & Johnson combo, with Amir, benefiting from James Johnson’s passing, starting the game with one miss on seven attempts while Davis banged away with the far bigger Chandler.
Yes Bargnani’s scoring helps and the team is now 1-6 without him, but the team managed to shoot 52.3% for the opening half without him and more importantly, held Dallas to 38.8% shooting, outrebounding them 26-21.
Raptors Blog by Doug Smith
The Raptors cannot win one-on-one games but they revert to them because of the tendency of most players to try and do something themselves rather than involve others. The kids on the Toronto roster still need to learn how to fight through tough times as a team.
“Tonight we saw again that we can compete against everybody,” said Jose Calderon.
“I know we’re young and we make some mistakes sometimes and maybe that’s why they beat us tonight. They played better in the second half as a veteran team.”
Dirk Nowitzki had a great night with 31 points and 13 rebounds, but it was the Mavericks guards who shredded the Raptors.
Jose Barea had nine assists off the bench, Jason Terry had five and the understated Jason Kidd had seven as the Mavs backcourt spent almost the entire game in the paint attacking the basket with ease.
“I thought Dirk was very unselfish. He still takes 20 shots but he sets the screen and if you help, then he’s going to pop for a jump shot and if you don’t, then the guy’s turning the corner and getting into the lane,” said Triano.
“Late in the game we tried to switch it, move, see if we could trap it a couple of times. We went under, we tried to switch, but at that point, the floodgates had opened.”
The absence of Bargnani had plenty to do with Toronto’s offensive woes in the second half as well.
Without a shooter on the floor to stretch the defence, the Mavericks finally started to pack the paint — which took away the effectiveness of Amir Johnson, who led the Raptors with 21 points — and lock down on Toronto’s biggest threat.
“I don’t think they let DeMar DeRozan have an easy catch all game,” said Triano. “Jason Terry did a heck of a job denying him over the whole court. He had to really work to get it.
Mavericks ace Nowitzki sinks Raptors
Must have been half a dozen times or so Sunday that we saw James Johnson grab a rebound and take off leading a break, sometimes even waving off Jose to tell him to get up the floor.
And everyone’s fine with it.
All season long, Jay’s been talking about wanting a second ball-handler on the floor for exactly those instances so they can get going into their offence without having to wait for whichever point guard is on the floor to go back and get the ball.
Now, it’d be nice if DeMar (who is a relatively bad rebounder for someone so athletically gifted) was able to help out a little bit, too, but Johnson is giving the team exactly what it needs with his ability to get out in transition.
Raptors collapse against Mavericks
Nowitzki has been incredible this year, with his MVP candidacy lacking merit only because of his nine-game absence due to a knee injury. Nowitzki is averaging 22.7 points per game in reduced minutes and shooting a career-best 52% from the field, a figure Raptors coach Jay Triano called “crazy.” Nowitzki hit 11 of his 20 field-goal attempts in Toronto.
“That’s one of the things that’s most impressive,” Triano said. “He’s not just a great scorer but he’s a scorer that doesn’t just shoot volume shots to get his points. He finds way to score his points regardless.”
That formula is changing, though. In his fifth season in the year, Nowitzki was averaging 4.5 three-point attempts per 36 minutes. That number hit a nadir of 1.4 last year, bouncing back to a modest 2.6 this year.
A good post defender can still thwart him — Amir Johnson forced him into a wayward hook shot in the second quarter — but he defines versatility, after coming into the league as primarily a shooter. By the time the third quarter rolled around Sunday, Nowitzki had already lost Johnson twice with up-and-under moves.
“If you look at our roster now, I’m like the third, fourth best shooter on the team,” Nowitzki argued dubiously. “We’ve loaded up with shooters: [Peja] Stojakovic, [Jason Terry] has always been one of the best shooters in the league, and everyone else [is] shooting the ball. I’ve got to play an all-around game. Mostly I’m [using] a mid-range game. There are not that many threes anymore unless I’m wide open.”
Despite the increased versatility, Nowitzki can still rain in jumpers over players big and small. The Raptors’ 7-foot-2 Alexis Ajinca was the unfortunate soul destined to get burned by some of Nowitzki’s rainbow-arced daggers to start the fourth quarter, giving Dallas a cushion never to be given away.
Dirk powers dozing Mavericks to eventual rout of Raptors, 114-96
There are occasional glimpses of promise amid the torrent of misery in this trying season for the Toronto Raptors, and often that creates a hope that typically ends in more frustration.
They got another dose of all that during Sunday evening's 114-96 loss to the Dallas Mavericks, blazing out to an early 19-point lead only to watch it slowly disappear when a more talented opponent shifted its game up a gear.
The Raptors (16-44) led 22-3 at one point in the first quarter and were up 57-50 at the break. But with forward Dirk Nowitzki and guards Jason Terry, Jose Barea and Jason Kidd executing a brilliant pick-and-roll game in the second half, the Mavericks (43-16) flew past their hosts and cruised to a sixth straight win and 16th victory in 17 outings.
“We had energy, we had the game,” said Amir Johnson, who paced a balanced Toronto attack with 21 points. “The first half we did great, the game was going our way. We just came up short — it was almost like we gave the game away. ...
“It definitely is frustrating but all you can do is get better and learn from your mistakes.”
Upon landing in Canada, the customs form asks whether your trip north of the border is for business or pleasure.
The Mavericks needed one that said: all of the above.
Work? Hoo-boy, was there ever work to be done after they played hooky during the first six minutes of what was a very odd game from tip to buzzer.
But in the end, everything was quite pleasurable for them as they drop-kicked the Toronto Raptors, 114-96, Sunday evening.
This probably wasn’t supposed to be this hard. The Mavericks fell behind by 19 points in the first quarter but ended up ahead by 23 in the fourth, coasting to their biggest comeback win of the season. They rallied from 15 down to beat the Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 25.
“The best thing is that kind of woke us up,’’ Jason Kidd said. “We didn’t play any defense for the first five minutes, so we found ourselves in a hole. But not one guy broke and tried to do it by himself. Guys stayed in the system, and once we got the game close, we felt it was just a matter of time that we could break it out our way.
“Hey, there were times in the past when we might have said, ‘That’s it. Let’s get through customs and get out of here.’”
Yeah, like last year at about this time. On a Sunday afternoon last season, the Mavericks fell behind by 20 against the Raptors and never recovered, losing by 22. That Toronto team had Chris Bosh. This one has far less in the way of firepower, as evidenced in the second half when the Raptors scored only 39 points.
As a result the Mavericks rolled past them like the snow blowing sideways outside of Air Canada Centre.