In their best defensive effort of the season (perhaps the victory in Indiana was better), the Toronto Raptors put the clamps on the Dallas Mavericks for a 95-74 victory. A day after Andrea Bargnani said the Raptors were “the worst team in the NBA,” Toronto came out looking like an inspired group. Perhaps that was a result of Bargnani’s comments, or perhaps it was a result of Bargnani’s absence from the lineup…

Here are some thoughts on the game:

Raptors 95, Mavericks 74

-Raptors fans gave Vince Carter a raucous booing when he checked into the game halfway through the first quarter. Despite what some people say, the majority of Raptors fans have not forgiven Vince – nor should they. He didn’t give 100% in his final season in Toronto, and that is unacceptable and unforgivable when you are earning $15+ million per year to play a game. The icing on the cake tonight for Toronto fans was Carter going 1-for-8 from the field as his Mavericks fell easily.

-Jose Calderon is a far better shooter at home. Coming into this game, Jose was shooting 43% from the field, 47% from three-point range and 100% from the free throw line at home. On the road, he’s shooting 40% from the field, 43% from three and 93% from the free throw line. Tonight, he finished 5-of-9 from the field and 2-of-4 from three.

-Calderon’s play-making is much more effective when he initiates the offence early in the shot clock. Far too often, he slowly brings the ball up the floor and then turns his back to the play as he calls for a screen. By the time anything of significance has happened, there is usually 10-12 seconds left on the shot clock. If that initial pick and roll doesn’t lead to anything, Toronto is left scrambling to get a good shot. This style of offence leads to high assist totals for Jose, but a very inefficient system. Against Brooklyn, Calderon’s slow-paced offence resulted in many stagnant stretches. It also made it very difficult for DeRozan to get into any sort of rhythm (he finished with 11 pts). Tonight, Calderon worked at a faster pace, and though he finished with fewer assists, the offence thrived.

-Ed Davis has the most polished post-up game on the Raptors, which is both slightly depressing but also a testament to his back-to-the-basket game. One thing that makes Davis so effective, is that he rarely gets his shot blocked. Only 4.1% of Davis’ field goal attempts get blocked. The league average for power forwards is 7.6%. Amir Johnson, by comparison, gets 8.9% of his shots blocked.

-Davis continued his excellence on the glass, pulling down eight boards in 23 minutes. Right now, there are three power forwards (who get significant minutes) that have a higher total rebound rate than Ed Davis. They are Zach Randolph, Kevin Love and Reggie Evans. That, is the ‘who’s who’ of rebounding, and Ed Davis is on the verge of joining that class.

-DeMar DeRozan was aggressive from the opening whistle. He took the offensive load on his shoulders in the first half and finished the game with 14 points, four rebounds and four assists. DeMar’s third quarter block on Chris Kaman was a momentum-changing play. Toronto hadn’t scored in over three minutes, but they came down the floor after DeRozan’s block and nailed a three-pointer. DeRozan won the battle of former USC shooting guards, as OJ Mayo finished with just 10 points on 2-of-8 shooting.

-Terrence Ross found some rhythm with his jump-shot in the first half. He also threw down a beautiful alley-oop from DeRozan in the second quarter. Ross is already a superior talent than any wing player not named DeRozan on this team. Toronto should get them both in the starting lineup, since this is going to be their tandem on the wing going forward.

-Mickael Pietrus had a very positive impact in the third quarter. He has a tighter handle than I remember from his days in Orlando and Golden State. There is no reason he shouldn’t continue to earn him minutes every night, whether it’s off the bench or as a starter.

-Alan Anderson returned to the lineup after missing 17 games with a foot injury. He showed a lot of rust (0/8 from the field), but his presence will make this team better. He can score off of the bench and his defence rivals that of Pietrus.

-Linas Kleiza’s deep-shooting is a valuable asset to the second unit, as he can play as the small forward or a “stretch-four”. Kleiza finished tonight’s game with a team-high 20 points on 5-of-11 three-point shooting. His scoring will be necessary with Bargs and Lowry out of the lineup.

-The Mavericks didn’t make one three-pointer all night. It was the first time since 2004 that Toronto didn’t allow a three-pointer at home. The defence did a good job of getting out to shooters while still bringing some help to defend Chris Kaman in the post. The Mavericks’ offence is relatively inept with Derek Fisher at the helm, but it’s clear Toronto’s defence is better without Andrea Bargnani. In his absence, both Toronto big men bring help defence and both big men make an effort to box out. Those two changes alone, make this a significantly better defensive squad.

-It was a pleasant change to see the starters getting significant rest in a situation that wasn’t a blowout loss. No starter played more than 32 minutes and the bench played a key role in this victory. Toronto’s bench outscored Dallas’ bench 53-27.

Raptors Player Of the Game: DeMar DeRozan – 14 Pts, 6/13 FG, 1/3 3PT, 1/2 FT, 4 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Blk , 2 TO in 31:35

Mavericks Player Of the Game: Chris Kaman – 15 Pts, 7-18 FG, 1/2 FT, 5 Reb, 1 Blk, 3 TO in 26:44

The Raptors look to start a winning streak when they host the Rockets on Sunday afternoon. If they can catch Houston sleeping, the Raps then have three winnable games against Cleveland, Detroit and Orlando. Given how weak the Eastern Conference is, I have not written off this season for Toronto (they are 7.5 games out of 8th). Tonight can be a turning point if the Raptors build on this performance. They need to set the tone and establish the hard-nosed, blue collar attitude they had last season. If that happens, this team is one healthy Kyle Lowry and one Andrea Bargnani trade away from climbing back into the Eastern Conference.

Comments (24)

  1. I’m happy for the team even though I don’t like the potential ramifications games like tonight could have on the jobs of Colangelo and Casey, respectively.

    It really is amazing how different they look without Bargnani in the line-up from pretty much every aspect. They don’t look out of position defensively, their overall effort level seems consistently high throughout the game and the offense feels a lot more fluid with no one dominating the ball as much as Bargnani and Lowry do.

    Hopefully, fans realize that there should be no going back at this point and they should try to move Bargnani come hell or high water without foolishly holding onto him to exert the most possible value when he has next to none.

  2. Really enjoying the blog, keep up the great work

  3. Hey Joseph, I love the blog. Why can’t the raptors amnesty Bargnani? I mean Bargs hurts this team way more than he helps us. Get him off the books. Combine that with Calderons 10mil coming off the books and we have over 20 mil of additional cap space next year. What do you think? By going amnesty on Bargs we don’t have to take back any nonsense Gasol salary in return. Nobody is willing to give up good young players or a decent pick back for Andrea. His act is too well known around the league after 7 years.

    • The ideal choice would obviously be to get something of value in return, even if it is just a couple of average players on cheaper deals plus a draft pick. Having said that, if the Raptors can’t find a good deal for Bargnani this season and he continues to stink it up, then I’d have no problem amnestying him. I’m THAT tired of his act.

      • The ideal choice is something Colangelo would never do. Name the last time he traded FOR a first round pick?

      • Pairing Bargs with Dwight Howard, or another defensive minded center would unlock some of his value.

        In the Raptors case, the best case would be for Val to get there in 2-3 years. By then Bargs is just too old. He needs to be on the Lakers right now. They are desperate for 3 point shooting, have Dwight to compensate for his defensive shortcomings, and will have Nash around to set him up as well.

        The problem is, there isn’t anything on the Lakers that I’d be interested in. Outside of Nash and his reasonable contract.

        I would love a couple of picks and an expiring for him if a three way deal can be worked out. Maybe give the Lakers Jose and Bargs, they ship Gasol somewhere, and we get something useful down the road back.

        The really sad part of a trade like this would be Jose and Bargs would save the Lakers season, and both would look like stars, instead of the highly skilled, highly flawed players that we know them to be. It would make the Raptors look like even more of a joke this year, but ultimately, I think would be really helpful.

        I really enjoy watching JV and Ed Davis play together, and want to see Lowry, DD and Ross with them as our starting 5. Fields, Kleiza, Amir, Lucas and possibly whatever we get back from a Bargs/JC trade can back them up.

        That would salvage the season for me. I could still cheer for wins with this starting 5. I’d know that even if we didn’t get them, this squad would be our future and would still be benefiting from playing and growing together.

    • The amnesty clause is a nice ace up BC’s sleeve, but I still think Bargnani has some trade value at this point. Even if the Raps pick up a late first-rounder for him, that’s better than amnesty because of the asset acquired and because Toronto wouldn’t be on the hook for any of his salary. If they amnesty Bargs, Toronto still has to pay a large portion of his salary. I truly believe that with Davis and Amir playing behind him, any way to remove Bargnani will be addition by subtraction, so if there are no deals out there, amnesty might be the way to go. Could BC swallow his pride enough to do that? I’d like to see Bargs in a 6th man role before they amnesty

      • I’m not 100% on this so rip me apart as soon as you see I’m wrong, but if they do amnesty him and they have to pay his salary, who cares if it doesn’t go against the cap? That is the main issue isn’t it? The cap? MLSE is a wealthy organization and paying that off would be no big deal AT ALL, and the saving grace that comes along with it is that it won’t count against the cap.

        I’m at the point of letting him rot on the bench even when he’s healthy or trading him for a couple of picks. I can’t see good players coming back for him, because he is not a good player going the other way.

    • Don’t you still have to pay him if you amnesty him? He’s still on the books, his salary just doesn’t count towards the cap? So it’s much more desirable to trade him for something useful.

      • Not certain, but I think you have to pay him the difference between what he is owed, and what the team that picks him up is offering him. If there would be a demand for him from multiple teams, maybe the Raptors would only be on the hook for 2/3rds of his salary.

        Also, as I understand it, the luxury tax is only for how much your team’s salary is over the limit at the end of the season. I know this doesn’t affect T.O., but would OKC have been able to keep Harden and amnesty Perkins at the trade deadline? Just curious.

  4. Sorry Oliver. Didn’t look to see who posted the game recap.

    • For the future, just remember, Oliver = Player names bolded.

      • Actually, we’re both doing that…the confusion lives on

        • Really? Man, you guys are something else.

          Oliver’s even learned to post a teaser to the recap/preview like you do instead of posting the entire article on the main page so there are no more differences.

  5. Whatever happened to the Jose Calderon trade speculation? I don’t really think he sucks and he might be a better PG than what some other teams have, so why not try to trade him? Is it because he is overpaid? I have a lot of questions about the contracts B.C. hands out, but this guy seems to have some potential trade value, especially if he were in a packaged deal. Trade him along with Bargs so maybe they can get a better draft pick.

  6. This was a fun game to watch. When they had the 20 point lead in the 3rd I was still expecting a meltdown but unlike usual I wouldn’t have been too upset because they were really playing like a team, defending well, and hustling. The only reason we escaped that 7-8 minutes of no scoring was because of the defense.

    As to what happens when the injuries heal up? That should be interesting. I really hope the team excels without Bargs so that this game isn’t just treated as an exception (even though the defense is clearly better). However, I still think Lowry can help out if he can just slow down a bit. I know it’s a bit too idealistic, but if he can mix in Calderon’s game with his own, he’ll really help out the team. Basically only attack the rim and be aggressive in spurts, or at the right times, while moving the ball around like Calderon does and still mixing in some drive and kicks. I know that’s asking a player to completely change his game, but I still think Lowry can fit into this team (minus Bargs) and he just needs some…chemistry? I’m not sure.

    With that being said, Calderon is just amazing. He sucks at defense, he goes through shooting droughts, the offense stalls with him sometimes…etc…but he still knows how to run a team. The team just seems like it has better chemistry when he’s a starter.

  7. I wonder what people would do when Bargnani returns from being traded.
    a) would people even care to boo him?
    b) would people even remember Mr. Primo pasta man?
    c) does Primo really think people will buy their pasta with Bargnani being their spokesperson :)

  8. Is the Raptors prestige really so damaged throughout the league that we can’t find decent value for Bargnani – a first overall pick no less – in a trade?

    I mean, I’m all for trading him and moving on. The fans don’t want him here, and he doesn’t want to be here either but I can easily see Bargnani becoming one of the most dangerous sixth men in the league on a good team, albeit overpaid.

    Imagine him coming off the bench for a team like the Spurs or Clippers or Knicks. His skillset could clearly help push some teams over the top, so why does a Bargnani trade mean the Raptors have to get fleeced? Are teams shying away from him because of his contract, or the fact that the Raptors have been bottom-feeders for a while now?

  9. honestly, i’d kind of love the raptors to trade bargnani for ron artest and the lakers’ first-round pick

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *