Game No. 61: Raptors 102, Hawks 86

The Raptors’ inexplicable late-season surge got ridiculous when they beat the Celtics 84-79 on Friday night. It elevated from the ridiculous to the surreal when they spanked the Atlanta Hawks 102-86 on Sunday night. We weren’t planning on recapping this game, but I realized it would be downright negligent of me to not give this upset a proper breakdown and try to figure out why this collection of unproven youngsters and unknown D-Leaguers were emerging as the biggest spoiler in the final month of the regular season.

1. DeMar DeRozan drew a shooting foul on the Raptors’ first possession of the game and his aggressiveness over the past two games got him to the line for 24 free throw attempts, of which he made 20. As he’s developed a decent mid-range game and worked on increasing his shooting range over his career, the fact remains that he needs to get to the line at least seven times per game if he’s going to be an efficient scorer. DeMar has averaged a career-high 5.4 free throw attempts this season. If you’re curious, there are six players who have averaged seven or more FTAs per game this season: Dwight Howard, Kevin Love, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Blake Griffin.

2. Alan Anderson has garnered most of the attention among the Raptors’ three D-League additions, but point guard Ben Uzoh is starting to pique my interest based on his length and defense. At six-foot-three, he’s a decent height for an NBA point guard, but it’s his six-foot-nine wingspan that makes him a difference-maker on the defensive end. Over his past two games, he was largely responsible for Rajon Rondo and Jeff Teague combining to score just 10 points on 4-for-11 shooting. As far as I’m concerned, the Raptors’ third point guard job is his next season if he wants it.

3. Joe Johnson is a really good NBA player who simply had a bad game (seven points, 2-for-12 shooting) but he’s going to be a significant reason why the Hawks don’t have a chance to become legitimate contenders over the next few seasons. He’s paid like a top-10 player but he’s top-30, at best, and he’s only going to decline from here now that he’s in his 30s. With four years and $89 million left on his contract, he’s certainly not tradable.

4. What are we to make of these last two impressive wins with no Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon or Jerryd Bayless in the lineup? It’s almost enough to make you think that a team coached by Dwane Casey can only really succeed if none of the players getting regular minutes are clear defensive liabilities. Then again, why wouldn’t that be a good guideline for the construction of any basketball team? This isn’t rocket surgery, people.

5. Atlanta Hawks’ local TV host Andre Aldridge is clearly impressed by what he’s seen from Dwane Casey and DeMar DeRozan:

6. Do I need to take sides in this “Tank Nation” vs. “Winning Mentality” debate or am I allowed to have mixed feelings about the Raptors’ recent success? First of all, I think this concept of teams needing a winning mentality is pretty close to nonsense. Teams have a winning mentality when they have the talent and coaching to win games. As for Tank Nation, the Raptors were going to have a less than 10 percent chance of winning the Anthony Davis Lottery even if they lost all these recent games, so I’m not going to get too broken up about it. What I’m taking out of this is that the Raptors might have a NBA head coach who can seriously be considered among the 10 best at his profession. Have we been able to say that about any coach in the history of this franchise?

Raptors Player of the Game: DeMar DeRozan — 35 Min, 23 Pts, 8-15 FG, 7-11 FT, 4 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl

Hawks Player of the Game: Josh Smith — 33 Min, 26 Pts, 11-20 FG, 4-7 FT, 8 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Stl, 2 Blk

Comments (18)

  1. Judging by the Raptors’ point differential, they’ve been playing worse than they “really” are all season. So this surge should not be that much of a surprise.

    Think of it this way… at least it is getting less and less likely the Raptors will lose the lottery and end up drafting lowering than they should, according to their record. And BC does have a better track record of drafting at 9th than he does at 1.

    • Well, that is the problem now isn’t it. These pussies in Atlanta almost guaranteed that the Raptors are drafting ninth. Had a pretty good tank going until we brought in these 10 day players – to up the level of tanking – but it didn’t work out that way.

      Ah well, no chance they tank harder than Detroit or New Jersey in those last games.

      Might as well spank Atlanta’s pansy asses again.

      /end tank :( tank failed After BC makes his #9 pick, fire his ass.

  2. Terrible timing for these wins as New Orleans is on a three game winning streak and Cleveland, Sacramento, New Jersey and Detroit all have won over the last 3-4 days so I’m a little frustrated because the Raptors could have been closing in on the Top 3 if they lost these last two games but you can’t do much else but just laugh these wins off.

    Colangelo has literally done everything in his power to sabotage any hope this team has of winning let alone competing in any games through the end of the season but they just keep finding ways without their two best players and three 10-day guys. Incredible. I still hope they lost out to end the season but it’s probably not going to happen at this point.

    Great observation on Uzoh, I noticed the same thing during today’s game as well. He’d be a pretty good fit in Casey’s system as a back-up who can come in when Casey wants to apply pressure and coming off a season where the Raptors burned nearly $3 million on Anthony Carter and Rasual Butler, why not have Ben Uzoh back as a third string point guard and Alan Anderson back as the 2nd or 3rd wing off the bench for peanuts?

    Also, did anyone else do a double take when they heard Devlin mention that Joe Johnson has been selected to SIX STRAIGHT All-Star games? What?! Where was I when this happened?

    • What makes Johnson’s All-Star streak a bigger joke is that Josh Smith has NEVER played in an All-Star Game. Smith gets punished because he makes a few boneheaded decisions every game, but he’s a much better player than Johnson overall and he has been for several seasons.

  3. I don’t know whether or not Dwayne Casey really is the b.ball genius people like to talk about.
    What’s for sure, there seems to be a conflict of interests behind the curtains, nor uniformity of intents in the team, with Casey’s not going in the right direction.
    This must be said: he’s following his ego in trying to win games, and not making his team any real favour.
    Coherence, please: we cannot complain about things going against the Tank Theory, and then not to point our finger against the main perpetrator.

    • Well, I have to disagree. Casey IS going in the right direction. But BC’s moves to create a tank season were shot down by Casey’s superior coaching of the scrubs he has been given to work with.

      IF BC was actually trying to create a tank season, and not just totally incompetent (still in question), then I have high hopes for the future. With BC and Casey both pushing the team to greater success next season, I think we should be able to take Atlanta’s playoff spot next season. Top 4 will be in reach if Val is as good as expected and we get the good Bargs back.

    • Winners try and win. Losers lose. It’s that simple. Do you really want someone running the team that thinks losing is acceptable? It Casey had participated in the idiotic fan driven tanking scheme there is no way I would want him as a coach.

  4. 6-It’s the curse of MLS – everything turns to shit.
    They can’t lose when they need to, and can’t win enough when it counts.

  5. I find myself screaming “GO LEAFS GO” as our eliminated team scratches and claws their way into 9th place and a crappier pick.

    As for “team cohesion”, how are the regulars feeing as these 10days play twice as hard as they ever did? Resentful? Inspired? Or (most likely) “I got my $$, who cares?”

    • I don’t think it’s merely a situation where the D-Leagues are “playing harder” than the regulars. Aside from Bargnani (in some games), what Raptor could we really accuse of not playing hard for most of the season?

      The difference is defense. When you take Bargnani and Calderon out of the lineup, the Raptors’ defense improves significantly. Combine that with the fact that DeRozan is in a groove and Alan Anderson has been a surprise and you get this resurgence.

      • Unlike Smitch, I always thought defense is all hustle and concentration. Both of which can be turned on and off.

        And if you are correct, wtf are we gonna do? Anex Caldy and trade Bargs? I’d much rather watch what the last two games had than the past 3 years.

      • Its beyond me how the organization continually fails to recognize this. Is the team really much worse without them? Lets not forget that Jose and Bargnani combined account for 20 mil+. With a salary cap between 55-60 mil thats over 1/3rd of the cap.

  6. “rocket surgery”??

  7. Even with Bargs and Calderon in the lineup, this team’s defence has been a lot better than in previous years. Casey has shown again, as have coaches like Skiles and Thibodeau, that you can take pretty much the same group of guys and get them to play harder and/or more smartly on D. What it says about players who need extra effort coaxed out of them is another issue. Sounds like the brass are going to gamble that Bargs is going to be the guy he was for the first 13 games of the season going forward. We’ll see.

    I have mixed feelings about the late winning also, but outside of Davis at #1 which would have been a miracle anyway, I wouldn’t bet a a lot of money that guys taken 7-9 aren’t going to be better than some guys taken between 2-7. Seriously, would it really shock anyone if Jeremy Lamb turns out to be as good or better than Beal?

    I can’t root against beating the Celtics, ever.

  8. It should also be mentioned that Boston and Atlanta both laid pretty big eggs in both these games. For whatever reason, they were disinterested for long stretches and key players (JJ, Rondo) were disengaged for the entire 48 minutes. Grain of salt, people.

    That said, lets give Casey a defensive team and play to his strengths.

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