The Raptors scored their first win of the season on Sunday night as the backcourt of Lowry and DeRozan proved too much for Minnesota to handle. For the second straight game, the pair combined to score over 40 points and tonight they complemented that with a combined 14 rebounds and 6 steals. Andrea Bargnani had a brutal game and he will need to make more of a contribution if Toronto is going to hang with Oklahoma City on Tuesday night.
-Terrence Ross sighting! Ross was the first player off the bench after getting the dreaded DNPCD in last night’s game against the Nets. He had one assist on an unselfish swing pass and he showed a little bit of ball-handling in the 2nd quarter, which was a pleasant surprise. It’s still not a good sign that the 8th overall pick is getting so few minutes (7 tonight) on a team that plays with such a deep rotation.
-DeMar DeRozan’s jump shot continues to shine. As I talked about in my post on DD’s offence, expect his jumper to revert back to the above-average form of 2010. He faces looser defence and gets more open looks as a result of being the 2nd/3rd option behind Lowry and Bargnani. He also isn’t being forced to take difficult jumpers at the end of the shot clock, as he was last year when Bargs was out. DeMar still brought his usual aggressive approach to the offensive end, finishing the game with 6 free throw attempts. He spent a lot of time hanging around the basket looking for rebounds tonight, which will make Raptor fans happy. He appears to have a renewed commitment to the glass this year and hopefully it continues. Through three games, DD is averaging 5 rpg. Be sure to tune in to Monday’s RaptorBlog Radio podcast, as I’m sure there will be a heated debate regarding DeRozan’s contract.
-I can’t say enough good things about Kyle Lowry. He communicates, he’s a leader and he’s a flat out baller. He plays a very physical style at both ends of the floor, which leads to free throws on offence and steals/deflections on defence. His jump shot appears to have improved from last year, as he is shooting a fantastic 8-of-16 from downtown. I don’t see any significant weakness in his game.
- I’m beginning to get scared that Lowry will lead this team in rebounding. If there continues to be a 5-man frontcourt rotation, nobody up there will post big rebounding numbers. So far this season, Lowry has been admirably filling some of the rebounding void left by Bargnani and others. However, if the starting point guard leads the team in rebounds, the entire organization should be embarrassed. Lowry’s 7.3 rpg are unfortunately leading the team right now.
-Andrea Bargnani hasn’t found his stroke yet this season. The worst part about Bargs struggling from the field is he allows it to affect the other parts of his game. It seems as if he becomes more interested in defence and rebounding when his jumper is falling. As a result, he finished tonight with a disgusting line of 10 pts on 4-16 shooting and one rebound. Dwane Casey might have sent Andrea a message by limiting him to 24 minutes.
-Landry Fields continued to struggle on Sunday and I’m beginning to wonder how long the leash is for Fields as a starter. He is 3-for-14 from the field this season and he isn’t looking for his shot consistently. He made a nice baseline cut early in the 4th quarter and followed that up with a confident pass to Amir on the pick-and-roll. However, there needs to be more than a handful of assists and rebounds each night, if he wants to stay in the starting lineup.
-I like Alan Anderson because he always provides a consistent effort and he has a very well-rounded game. He is a professional scorer and can defend wing players as well as anyone on this roster. Tonight, Anderson scored 18 points in 31 minutes while Fields had just 5 in the 21 minutes he logged. Anderson has a better jump shot than Fields and the other aspects of his game aren’t far behind – if they are behind at all. Anderson may be the guy to displace Fields, if things continue on their current course.
-Jose Calderon is a fantastic offensive complement on the perimeter, but he does the Raptors no good if they can’t find a scrub on the other team for Jose to guard. He is a neutral impact if every bucket he produces is cancelled out by one he gives up on defence. In the first half he was exposed by JJ Barea and Alexey Shved.
-Amir Johnson is one of the best roll-men in the NBA. Last year, Johnson ranked in the top 10 of the league in points per possession as the roll-man.
-Valanciunas was schooled several times tonight by the 295-pound Nikola Pekovic. Jonas was called for a couple ticky-tack fouls early in the 3rd quarter, but it was clear he was unable to defend Pek one-on-one. JV remains very raw on both ends of the floor. It would be nice to see him get more playing time in order to expedite his learning curve, considering the fouls haven’t been a huge issue.
-Toronto’s bench had a significant impact on this game. The bench produced 42 points tonight as Dwane Casey went with an 11-man rotation. Casey said his rotation will vary night-to-night but it certainly is a luxury to be able to go 11 or 12 deep, when necessary.
Raptors player of the game: Kyle Lowry – 22 pts (8-10 FG), 7 reb, 5 ast, 3 stl & 2 TO
Timberwolves player of the game: Andrei Kirilenko – 17 pts (6-7 FG), 6 reb, 3 ast, 3 blk & 2 TO
The Raptors travel to Oklahoma City for a game on Tuesday night. The Thunder are still figuring out their rotation without James Harden, but they are likely going to continue playing with a chip on their shoulder as the whole league fawns over Harden. We may see a lot of Dominic McGuire, as I’m concerned Landry Fields doesn’t have the length necessary to bother Kevin Durant’s jumper.
Toronto heads to Dallas on Wednesday night, before returning home for games against Philadelphia and Utah.