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Yup, that's "Super Fan" in England

The 17-44 Raptors and the 17-43 Nets took their “talents” across the pond to play the first NBA regular season game in Europe, and through the first few minutes, the coolest thing I saw was not basketball-related, but rather an overhead view of the o2 Arena, which is the largest dome in the world.

Alright, enough ripping on two woeful teams, let’s get to the action.

The crowd seemed to be in the game from the opening tip, as they were very responsive to various plays and even sounded slightly pro-Raptors through a television.

DeMar DeRozan continued his recent trend of starting ball games with a hot hand, as he led the way with 10 points after one quarter. James Johnson provided some solid defence early, but took a couple of suspect shots in that first quarter and was 0-for-4.

The real story of the first frame was that it lacked much excitement and that the Raptors could not contain the Nets inside, leading to a 27-23 New Jersey lead after one.

But the second quarter was a different story, as Ed Davis provided an early spark off of the bench, the Nets got sloppy and the Raptors’ offence started clicking. By the time Toronto’s run and the first half came to an end, the Raptors had erased the small deficit and actually jumped out to a four-point lead of their own at the half.

Whatever Avery Johnson (and maybe Sam Mitchell) said to his team during halftime, it worked.

The Nets came out firing in the third quarter, jumping back into the lead with a 17-6 run. But before the Nets could really start separating themselves from the Raptors, Toronto responded with a run of its own, led by Andrea Bargnani’s eight third quarter points.

The Raps took a three point lead into the fourth, looking for the first regular season win in Europe in NBA history.

Unfortunately for the Raps, their worst quarter of the night was to come. New Jersey started the fourth the same way they started the third, on a big run (20-6) to take the lead. Only this time, there would be no letup for the Nets, as the lead just kept growing. DeRozan and Bargnani tried to make things happen and start a late rally, but it was too little, too late, as the Nets picked up their first victory with Deron Williams in the lineup.

New Jersey outscored Toronto 38-22 in that final quarter and 69-52 in the second half.

There weren’t many positives for the Raptors in this ugly collapse, but DeRozan’s 30 points on 19 shots and perfect free throw shooting shone bright. DeMar hasn’t just been improving his numbers by chucking more shots, he’s become a much more efficient scorer over the last little while. And about those perfect free throws: DeRozan’s 6-for-6 night from the stripe makes him a perfect 28-for-28 over his last seven games.

Another positive was the Raptors’ bench, which dominated the Nets’ bench. Ed Davis, in particular, was solid off of the pine, racking up 12 points, eight rebounds and three steals in 22 minutes. Jerryd Bayless, who has been struggling lately, didn’t break out of his funk with surreal (or even good) numbers, but he played great defence at the point of attack and stayed within himself, which is really all he has to do to stay on the floor.

It was interesting to see the Raptor mascot getting some love from the Brits during a break in the third quarter, for a comical dance routine that has become so common at the ACC that fans are numb to it. I guess when you have an NBA team in your backyard as long as Toronto has now, you forget what it was like to not have pro basketball around. Everything about it is probably cherished and celebrated, including mascot dance routines. And if you needed an indication of how boring today’s game was, I believe me wasting a paragraph on “The Raptor’s” dancing sums it up.

Raptors Player of the Game: DeMar DeRozan -34 Min, 30 Pts, 12-19 FG, 6-6 FT, 3 Reb, 2 Ast

Nets Player of the Game: Kris Humphries – 36 Min, 18 Pts, 8-14 FG, 17 Reb, 1 Ast, 4 Blk

Goat of the Game: Leandro Barbosa – 20 Min, 8 Pts, 3-9 FG, 0-2 3Pt, 2-2 FT, 2 Reb

Comments (12)

  1. Claderon was the goat of the game. You can’t give it to a bench player who had little impact on the score for both sides…

  2. Jose didn’t play well, but i certainly would call him the goat of the game. The guy did have double digit assists (again). As much as it hurts me to say it, I think Amir probably was the goat of the game for the Raptors. He was put in a bad position having to defend Lopez, who is taller, bigger and stronger, but even when he wasn’t defending Lopez, Amir didn’t play well.

  3. Assists can be a very overrated statistic. When the ball is in your hand on every half court set, they are not overly difficult to come-by. It can be as easy as passing to a guy for a jumpshot – a pass that you or I could make. Rarely does Jose make great passes that I would consider ‘earned’ assists.

  4. Assists can also be very underrated. Calderon gets the ball to people in a spot where they have a good chance to score. It’s an art. The Raptor’s offense typically falls apart when he’s off the floor. Assists don’t have to be flashy to be well-earned.

    Rondo is another good example of a point guard who often just makes good hard passes that lead to an immediate open shot. Very solid.

  5. Bargnani is an overrated statistic.

  6. Graeme,

    Anything can be an overrated statistic. Everything depends on circumstances. 20 ppg on a bad team is not necessarily 20 ppg on a good team. But Calderon is an excellent PG who consistently makes those around him better on offense. What he does, which is an underrated skill, is run an offense well. It’s a skill only a handful of PGs in the league really know how to do. As Eugene stated, Calderon knows how to get the ball to the right person in the right spot. Calderon could be a better defender, and he could be better at manufacturing offense, but Calderon is one of the best in the league at getting the ball where it needs to be. There’s a very good reason Calderon is among the league leaders in assists, and it’s not simply because he has the ball in his hands most of the time. It’s because he’s very good at his job.

  7. You know what is actually an overrated stat? Assist to turnover ratio. Turnovers are as much about trying to draw fouls and the refs mood at the moment.

  8. When you’re outplayed by Sundiata Gaines in the final quarter of a basketball game, you’re not ‘very good at your job’. I know so many people, even at a recreational level, who can make good, crisp passes to the right guys at the right times. Btu, what they can’t do, is break down a defense and create glaring opportunities for their teammates. They also cannot play defense. These, truly, are the qualities of Jose Calderon. He’s the only player on the Raptors that I could foresee playing pick-up basketball with and not seeing having a major impact on the game. That’s a scary thought…

  9. sundiata gaines got an NBA contract because he scored a buzzer biter against cleveland.

  10. You’re judging a player based on one game? In fact one quarter of one game. Jose usually plays well against the top PGs in the game, and Jose outplayed Chris Paul in the New Orleans game. Obviously Paul isn’t good at his job, either.

    I think you’re vastly underrating Calderon. Especially if you think that he wouldn’t have a big impact on a pickup game. The guy would completely dominate. He’s not a guy that is great at breaking down the defense, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a good PG. It says something that he consistently has a positive impact when he is on the court. What Calderon does is easy to overlook because he doesn’t do anything spectacular, but whenever he leaves the court, the offense usually struggles.

  11. Chris Paul has been terrible this year, likely due to his unwillingness to play for the Hornets anymore. I can’t think of too many top guards that Calderon has outplayed. I don’t know where you get that assertion from.

  12. I said he has played well against other top PGs and that he outplayed Chris Paul. And over the course of his career, Calderon HAS played well against many of the top PGs. You can take a look at the stats on that.

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