Game No. 34: Rockets 88, Raptors 85

The Raptors started the second half of the 2011-2012 season in similar fashion to the way they played games in the first half. A slow start, a good effort to claw back into the game and make it interesting, not enough talent to close it out or grab a W.

Now here are some thoughts on the game.

1- What else is new? Despite finally figuring out how to play a first quarter at home, the Raptors continue to come out laying eggs in their opening quarters on the road. The rested Raptors looked more like the rusted Raptors early, beginning the contest with a two-for-11 shooting display over the first few minutes and six turnovers over the span of the first quarter. Not surprisingly, the Raps found themselves down 12 after one. Toronto has now gone 12 straight road games without winning a first quarter (last first quarter win came January 10 at Washington), a horrible road recipe for a young team low on talent.

2- James Johnson, DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis had the most noticeably positive games for the Raptors on this night, but Jamaal Magloire’s contribution in his 15 minutes of action should not go unmentioned. Magloire made himself a presence in the paint on both ends of the floor, set hard screens, grabbed some rebounds and brought a physicality that I believe changed the ball game early in the second quarter, the same way he did in the Raptors’ tough loss to the Lakers a few weeks ago. Jamaal was brought home to Toronto to provide a veteran presence and give the Raptors dependable spot minutes when called upon. As bad as he’s looked at times this season, it seems like he has finally settled into his role and is now simply doing his job. And that’s perfectly fine.

3- DeMar DeRozan had another nice night offensively, scoring 17 points on 14 field goal attempts to go along with a couple of boards, an assist, a steal and two blocks. DeRozan scored all of his points through the first three quarters, however, as he was curiously stapled to the bench for much of the fourth quarter. I’m not sure if Dwane Casey was unhappy with something about DeMar’s game tonight, if he was simply sticking with a lineup that had them in a close game down the stretch, or if it was all part of the Tank Nation “conspiracy” (sarcasm by the way, as I can’t see Casey stomaching a purposeful tank). Whatever it was,  DeMar didn’t know the reason either, or he did, and just wasn’t happy with it:

 

For the record, that tweet has now mysteriously disappeared. The NBA’s twitter policy does state that players can’t tweet until after they “have finished their responsibilities after games.” The game finished around 10:30. DeMar’s tweet was sent at 11:13. Hopefully one of the beat reporters can confirm soon enough whether DeMar completed his post-game responsibilities before tweeting. Either way, expect insane reaction, massive speculation and maybe even some confusion over what this tweet was really about, if we haven’t already figured it out.

4- Speaking of guys who were riding the pine down the stretch, Jose Calderon and Jerryd Bayless sat and watched for most of the fourth quarter while Anthony Carter and Leandro Barbosa patrolled the back court for Toronto. Again, part of that was probably just Casey sticking with a lineup that was working, but it obviously also had to do with Jose’s off night and Jerryd’s atrocious night. I didn’t think Calderon was that bad on the offensive side, but he wasn’t giving Casey much on the defensive end. As for Bayless, he had just four points (on six shots), two rebounds and two assists while committing an ugly five turnovers in only 12 minutes. Jerryd never looked like he had his head in this game.

5- Houston’s general success doesn’t shock me, as I did predict they’d be one of the eight teams that would make the playoffs out West, but I thought they would be the kind of team that has to scrap out games in late April to get in. That still may very well be the case, but as of right now, the Rockets are more concerned with getting home court in the first round than they are about just getting in. At 18-7 since January 13 and 21-14 overall, Houston is currently tied with the Lakers for fourth in the conference. They have no one scoring more than 18 points per game and no one grabbing even eight rebounds per game, but the Rockets are very well balanced, are obviously playing hard for Kevin McHale and are getting some outstanding point guard play from Kyle Lowry, who came into this game averaging 15.6 points, 7.6 assists, 5.3 rebounds and two steals per game, while boasting a Player Efficiency Rating over 20.

6- We’re all hoping that Ed Davis can finish off this season the way he finished strong in his rookie campaign last year, and Tuesday night in Houston was definitely a step in the right direction for him. Davis had been playing better heading into the All Star break, and continued his improved play tonight with five points on just two field goal attempts (made them both) and a ridiculous 15 rebounds (plus a block) in only 22 minutes of floor time. I don’t have a problem with how Amir Johnson played tonight, but given that Davis is starting to find some consistency and that I believe Amir’s energetic bursts are best suited off of the bench, I’d really like to see Ed get some starts until Bargnani is ready to return.

***

At the end of the day, the Raptors competed and had a chance to tie the game in the final minute on the road against one of the hottest teams in the NBA, and a team that looks like a playoff club in the Western Conference. In their last 11 games, the Raptors are just 3-8, but none of their eight losses have been by more than seven points and four of those defeats have finished as one-possession games. Tank Nation has to be smiling right now.

Raptors Player of the Game: James Johnson – 34 Min, 16 Pts, 6-12 FG, 0-2 3PT, 4-4 FT, 8 Reb, 3 Ast, 3 Stl, 1 Blk, 2 TO

Rockets Player of the Game: Kyle Lowry – 38 Min, 26 Pts, 8-12 FG, 4-4 3PT, 6-7 FT, 3 Reb, 5 Ast, 3 TO

Make sure you come check out RaptorBlog on Wednesday, as we’ll post a great interview that theScore’s Glenn Schiiler recently did with Jose Calderon.

Comments (16)

  1. Watching that game, and seeing Jonny Flynn with another DNPCD got me thinking. He would be a great player for the Raptors to target as a potential Calderon replacement if Colangelo decides to move him.

    Assuming no one else picks up Flynn by the deadline, he would be an absolute steal if the Raptors could get him for one of those Calderon/Barbosa mid-late first round draft picks.

    • Jonny Flynn is a shorter version of Jerryd Bayless, but worse defensively. I’ve never understood why so many Raptor fans have wanted this guy. He’s not a pure PG, doesn’t shoot well and was one of the worst defensive PGs in the league while in Minnesota.

      I’d rather use that first round pick (way too much for Flynn) on a guy like Kendall Marshall or Myck Kabongo (if he comes out), guys who actually know how to run and offense and make their teammates better.

      • I’m just being realistic. Flynn has potential, and teams like LA still see it. There’s a reason he went as high as 6th overall, and it wasn’t because he can’t play. If you can get him for cheap, they should give him a shot.

        The problem is, he’s just been in one bad situation after another. Give the guy a break. Minnesota was one of the worst run organizations for a long time, and it was also the 2nd worst defensive team his rookie season under Kurt Rambis. So of course his defense is going to look worse than it actually is. Him being labelled a terrible defender is just a false perception people have of him as of right now.

        I agree about Marshall. I’ve actually thought for a while now that BC wants to use any Calderon/Barbosa picks as leverage to strictly get Kendall Marshall in this year’s draft. Getting both Barnes and Marshall would be a fantastic draft grade from me personally.

        One problem, the potential picks won’t work, no matter how you use them. That’s important to remember.

        One, because the Raptors would be silly to use a top 5 pick on him. So that rules out that posibility.

        And second because Marshall, at the very worst, is going to be a late lottery pick. You won’t get him past 15th or 16th, I gaurantee you that. Some even have him as high as 10th.

        Which means you aren’t going to get him even for two mid-late first rounders without giving up something more. To me, thats just not worth it. Especially a team like Phoenix, who needs to replace Nash. Do you think they’d pass on a PG like Marshall as the best possible replacement? I certainly don’t. They would take him in a heart beat at 9th or 10th if he’s there.

        He’s easily the best point guard available this year. He isn’t going to drop down anywhere near to where Toronto can get him. And as far as Kabongo, he would end up late first round where Toronto can get him. But, it’s very likely he stays another year at Texas to increase his draft stock.

  2. Happy 6 year anniversary to Bryan Colangelo and the Raptors!

    • PGs often drop, and who really knows where he’ll go. He’s a very good passer, but he’s a poor shooter and isn’t an elite athlete, and he isn’t the type of PG a lot of teams are looking for now…
      http://basketball.realgm.com/wiretap/219265/Kendall_Marshall_Draws_Mixed_Reviews_From_NBA_Execs

      DraftExpress has him going in the middle of the first round. NBADraft has him at 11, but they also have Michael Kidd-Gilchrist going 9th, and I think he’s the second best player in the draft. If he falls out of the top 5 I will be absolutely shocked (if he enters the draft).

      As for Harrison Barnes, I’m so-so on him. I think he’s going to be a good, solid pro, but I don’t see him being the type of impact player the Raptors desperately need. If the Raptors don’t get Anthony Davis, then Kidd-Gilchrist is the only other player having the type of impact the Raptors need.

      The thing about Barnes is he’s solid, but not spectacular in any area. I see him a lot like a Sean Elliott. A borderline All-Star who could do a lot of things and who you’d love to have as your third best player (or possibly even 2nd) but if he’s your best, then you’re pretty much screwed. Or in the same position the Raptors are right now.

      • RIght. NCAA tournament also plays a huge role in where guys end up in the draft. North Carolina is my pick to win it all, but Marshall is going to be drafted in the lottery regardless of how well they do.

        Like I had said, I don’t see how a team like Phoenix, or even Utah at this point passes him up. I would be completely shocked to see him go outside the lottery, let alone those two teams.

        For the Raptors, it’s obviously dependant on where they end up, and whats left for them. Purely dependant on that. I would think Raptors will get either 3rd or 4th, thats why I used Barnes-Marshall as an example of my best-case scenario for them. Filling two needs if they were to get, say, 4th and 18th (Assuming they trade both mid rounders of Barbosa/Calderon for 18th).

        But, number 1, if you get that, is clearly Davis, but 2-5 are all debatable. Though, I like Drummond at number two, and I think he goes there even if the Raptors get #2. Move Jonas to PF if you have to.

        I’ve said before, Davis, Barnes, Gilchrist could go 1-2-3. But Robinson and/or Drummond could easily find their way to top three depending on the team. But as you had said, I think Gilchrist is a top-5 regardless as well.

        You can’t go wrong with either player, really. But assuming I was left with Barnes and Gilchrist to pick from for the Raptors 3rd overall, its very tough. But, I think I like Barnes better just as a pure scorer.

        • Players can learn to shoot. The reason I like Kidd-Gilchrist is that he seems to have that extra drive and competitiveness that separates the good from the great. And he’s shown incredible leadership, too, which is another plus.

          Barnes is a good all around player and should be a good pro, but, as I said, he doesn’t have any really exceptional qualities. He’ll be an excellent complimentary player, but the Raptors don’t have anyone to compliment. That’s what they need more than anything.

          • The thing about Gilchrist is that I haven’t seen a lot of what he can actually do in the half court. A lot of his baskets have been fast breaks from stops on the defensive end, and those are the easy ones. But I really do like his offensive rebounding, I’ve seen a lot of that.

            It would be nice to see what he could do without all those talented players around him, I’m sure he would score a lot more. But of course, the same can be said about Barnes as well. He could easily get 20-25 PPG without Zeller and Henson.

            Like I said though, you can’t go wrong with either player. Looking at it now, I think worst case scenario is they get 4th pick and have to take which ever of the two is left over. Of course, I’m still hoping for #1 or #2.

  3. BP,
    obviously for Flynn to be buried on the bench in Houston, after being benched and traded by the lowly Timberwolves who drafted him, is not really a sign of such a great player. Moreover, I red somewhere – more than once – people referring to him like a clear bust.
    Of course, for you, he’s better than Calderon by definition. That’s how the Raptor fans normally think and judge: wrong.

    • Actually, he’s just had terrible luck so far. Not a draft bust at all, considering he’s only 23 and has only played one full season so far.

      And if you think I’m wrong, there’s a reason why the Raptors have targeted him not only since the draft, but have continued to pursue him from Minnesota before he got traded. So, clearly I’m not the only one who thinks Flynn would be an ideal replacement.

      He actually played fairly well his first year in Minnesota. Which shows when he gets the minutes, he can be a pretty good player.

      Second, he got injured last year. And because Ridnour had been playing good, they weren’t going to give him the starting spot back.

      Third, Flynn got traded because he was really only a rental player for Minnesota. The Wolves knew that once Rubio was going to be in the NBA, he was going to be the starter. That’s why they traded him last season, so that Rubio would get the minutes.

      Fourth, he’s playing behind Lowry, and Dragic right now. Not a situation where he can get a whole lot of minutes when both are capable starters on a lot of teams. When Lowry is getting all-star consideration and almost 36MPG, and Dragic almost 20 MPG, theres not going to be a whole lot of minutes left over for Flynn.

      So who’s to say I’m right or wrong. Until it were to happen, no one is right or wrong.

      Clearly, you obviously have never seen the guy play.

  4. Casey is a clown. That is all.

  5. I was a little frustrated that we didn’t push hard at the end of this game, Cater should not be on the floor at the end of the game regardless of how bad Calderon is playing.

    My two cents on Flynn? I would love for Toronto to pick him up for cheap and give him a run. The issue is that both Bayless and Flynn are the same type of PG and I am wary of not having a true pass first on the roster who can come in and calm things down and focus on getting our shooters clean looks.

    • Scott, you bring up a decent point. They are fairly similar, in that they are scoring point guards. Although I think Flynn has a little more potential than Bayless.

      And as far as Houston, I’m positive they would give him up for relatively cheap. They just don’t need him with Lowry and Dragic. That’s why the Lakers are trying to get him with their first rounder. If Toronto can get any first round pick for Calderon or Barbosa, I’m sure that would be enough to get him. Play him for the last part of the season and see how he plays in Casey’s system.

      What’s the worse thing that can happen? They find out that he’s not capable of being a starter, but a decent role player.

      Best case scenario? They find their future point guard they desperately need.

      Definitely a low risk, high reward type move IMO.

      • I agree with you BP if it’s low risk, it’s worth investigating, if there are Wilson Chandler rumors then Johnny Flynn rumors shouldn’t be outrageous.

        The Rockets are one of the smarter teams out there and a chance to either acquire another pick or move up in the 2012 draft would be worth Flynn in my eyes.

        If we did get Flynn I would like to see him play at the off guard position alongside Calderon (if he’s still around) He has to be better then Gary Forbes or Rasual Butler right?

        I keep seeing Solomon Alabi at the bench, are we only keeping him around because we can’t meet the league minimum for dressed players or what? He should be back down in the D-League or getting minutes. Seems like a waste being on the practice squad.

        • Not sure Flynn playing the off guard would work to their advantage. He’s only 6’0, small even for PG.

          Not sure Scott. I thought when they drafted him, they would use his size. At 7’1, 250lbs he is the 2nd biggest body the Raptors have outside of Gray. He isnt even playing the garbage minutes most nights in a blow out.

          I’ve always wondered why the NBA doesn’t make better use of its minor league affiliates like the rest of the sports leagues. Although it’s use is increasing, it’s not nearly as useful as I think it could be.

  6. I’m guessing Casey wasn’t happy with DeRozan’s defense. He’s improved it a great deal this season (something that isn’t really talked about) but last night I saw far too many defensive lapses, for my liking.

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