Game No. 5: Raptors 90, Knicks 85

After a couple of late collapses in Dallas and Orlando, the Raptors went into The Garden and stole a W from the “powerhouse” Knicks (more on them later). Yes, the Knicks were missing Amare Stoudemire, but they’re also a legitimate playoff team in the East and probably one of the top 10 teams in the NBA, so beating them in New York is still impressive.

Not to mention, a lot of people would make the argument that Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler are both better basketball players than anyone on the Raptors roster right now.

All in all, it was a solid, hard fought road victory for the young Raptors, and perhaps a disheartening loss for “Tank Nation.”

Now let’s get to my personal thoughts on the game.

1- Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan showed once again that they are capable of becoming a decent scoring combination. Not great, but capable to say the least. The pair combined for 42 points (21 each) on 14-of-26 shooting and 12-of-14 from the free throw line. Both got off to hot starts in the first quarter, cooled off towards the middle of the game, then made some big shots down the stretch. For Bargnani, it caps a great road trip from an offensive standpoint, as he totaled 79 points over three games on 28-of-52 (53.8 per cent) shooting and 20-of-23 from the charity stripe.

I still want to see more rebounds from Andrea and want to see this defensive effort over a longer period of time, but after five games, it’s not a stretch to say that Bargnani is playing at an All Star level. He’s been that good.

2- Rasual Butler. Given the fact that I’m looking at this season as a building and growing year for the young core currently in place, I’ll rarely write much about some of the veterans on the team, but tonight, I’ll give Rasual Butler some love. After looking a little out of place on this team through the first four games and not being able to hit the broad side of a barn, Butler came through with by far his best performance in Raptors red on Monday night. He finished with a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds and looked to be playing his butt off on the defensive end against Carmelo Anthony. As for his shot, Rasual finally got it going, and made a couple of big time shots to stop Knicks runs before they got out of control.

3- Amir’s silly fouls. I don’t know how many more times we’re going to have to talk about it, but man, does Amir Johnson make some silly decisions on the court. I’m a big Amir fan and still think there is a lot of untapped potential in that 6-9 body of his, but he has to eventually learn to be more focused and more disciplined out there. Some of his fouls just come as a result of playing balls to the wall every minute that he’s on the floor, but some are the result of very questionable decision making. On one occasion tonight, the Raptors got a stop, were running a fast break, and never got a chance to finish it because Amir threw an arm out at his man running up the floor about 20 feet behind the play. On another occasion, the Knicks had just missed a shot, Amir went up for a 50-50 ball with Tyson Chandler, and blatantly yanked at Chandler’s jersey in clear sight of the refs. There are two fouls Amir could have saved himself from with better judgment.

4- Ed Davis’ minutes. Last week, in my “Early Numbers to Consider” post, I mentioned that I was a little surprised that Ed Davis had only averaged 19 minutes per game after two contests. After all, I was and still am expecting Davis to take a step forward this season. Since writing that, Davis has gone on to play just 46 minutes in the last three games. In total, he’s played only 84 minutes in five games for an average of 16.8 per game. When he is out there, he seems tentative on offence, and also looks to be a little more foul-prone on defence than I remember last season. I’m not sure if it’s the adjustment to the added pounds of muscle, the adjustment to a new coach, or just an old-fashioned “sophomore slump,” but whatever it is, something doesn’t seem right with Ed Davis. It will be interesting to watch how the big man responds to the first real slump of his young career.

5- A note on the Knicks now. With a defensive presence in the middle in Tyson Chandler and some familiarity between Amare and Carmelo, I think they are a much improved team from last season. To me, they should beat out the aging Celtics for the Atlantic Division crown and even win a playoff series this year. But beyond that, you’re expecting too much from this team. They’re very good, but they’re not great, and certainly not good enough to compete for a championship, as some believe they can. Quite simply, jump-shooting teams that don’t play consistent defence don’t win NBA championships, and with Anthony and Stoudemire both in the team’s long-term plans, that’s probably going to be their identity for the next few years. The Knicks are relevant again, will probably make a couple of playoff runs, but ultimately, won’t get a ring as presently constructed.

6- I was impressed with this Raptors team after their win in Cleveland and effort against the Pacers in the home opener, but I’m more impressed with them after this three-game road trip. The young Raps went toe-to-toe with three very good, very experienced teams with aspirations much higher than theirs, and for the most part, stood their ground. Sure, there was the over-celebration after clawing back but achieving nothing in Dallas, then the blown 16-point lead in Orlando, but overall, Toronto competed admirably against the Mavs, Magic and Knicks. Other than one stretch of the second quarter in Dallas or the finish to that game, the Raptors were either leading or within striking distance for the duration of every game on this trip.

When it’s all said and done, the Raps emerge from the tough trip with a 1-2 record and a 2-3 record overall. At this point, based on their play and record, they’re already exceeding my expectations.

Raptors Player of the Game: Andrea Bargnani – 38 Min, 21 Pts, 7-13 FG, 0-2 3PT, 7-8 FT, 5 Reb, 1 Ast, 3 TO (You can take your pick of Bargnani, DeRozan or Calderon for Raptors Player of the Game)

Knicks Player of the Game: Carmelo Anthony – 42 Min, 35 Pts, 13-31 FG, 4-9 3PT, 5-8 FT, 11 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Stl, 3 TO (I didn’t think ‘Melo was as good offensively as his 35 points suggest, but I’ll give him credit for hauling in 11 boards to go with his scoring)

Comments (14)

  1. Big shout out here to Jamal Magloire’s box outs. Can he please show Andrea how to do that? That and I love to see him swing his elbows around after vice-gripping that ball. Is this team getting chippy?

  2. Almost ready to climb back aboard the Raptor bandwagon, it wasn’t the losing the bothered me; it was the way the lost.

    • I know how you feel. The last few editions of Raptors teams have usually infuriated me, even the 41-win playoff team in 07-08. If this team continues to establish a hard-nosed, defensive mentality heading into next season, I think they will get a lot of fans to jump back on that wagon.

  3. Quite frankly, I wasn’t all that impressed with either team. The Raptors played gritty, which was nice, but New York has a LONG way to go before they’re a contender based on what I saw tonight. I knew they were a little thin (depth-wise) but against the Raptors they looked positively anorexic. What’s funny is that, outside of Chandler, I think the Raptors grabbed better free agents than New York did, this offseason.

    As for the Raptors, it was nice to see DeRozan finally have a good full game, and Calderon is playing as well as he ever has. Bargnani’s scoring has been impressive, and he’s scoring more inside than I’ve ever seen him, but his defense is still pretty bad.

    Neither Amir nor Davis seems to really know what they’re supposed to be doing out there. Davis is suffering from not-enough-minutes-itus, which can be seen in him forcing it way too much. He knows he’s not on the floor very long, so he never looks comfortable.

  4. Davis isn’t slumping–he simply isn’t getting the minutes to get back into the flow. Giving him spot minutes alongside the likes of Barbosa, Magloire and Carter isn’t exactly a recipe for success. Casey is doing the team a serious disservice by essentially having him rot on the bench. I mean, is this season really going to be about riding our veterans for 35-40 minutes a game in an attempt to win as many games as possible?

    • You can’t have accountability and unmitigated player development. They are opposing forces. Triano tried developing all the young kids regardless of their play and it led to a culture of entitlement. Casey is in the process of changing that. You play when you earn it.

  5. the late blown call by the refs on the Amit dunk was atrociuos and almost cost us the game . A missed call on a foul on a fast break dunk with game on the line us not forgivable and makes one really wonder if the refs have another agenda

    • The Raptors also got several poor calls in their favour, especially late in the game. The notion that the refs have an agenda during such a meaningless game is ridiculous.

  6. Joseph,

    I disagree that NY is a top ten team in the NBA.

    • I can see why you would with the way they look right now. Out of curiosity, which teams do you think are better than the Knicks right now? I’d say Heat and Bulls in the East, maybe even Pacers, and Thunder, Clippers, Lakers in the West. Not saying those are the only teams better than them, but the immediate teams that come to mind.

  7. So anyone any ideas what they’ve done to Bargs?

    My Wife reckons it was an off-season lobotomy, the lock-out provided enough recovery time.

    I reckon Casey has his family at knifepoint in an unknown location- 2 per quarter and he’ll see them alive again.

  8. “after five games, it’s not a stretch to say that Bargnani is playing at an All Star level. He’s been that good.”

    Its the first time that I read that sentence and I dont laught.

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