After winning just four times through their first 23 games of the season, the Raptors have now won four times in their last four games since then, without their two most talented players in the lineup for any of those contests.

Here are some thoughts on tonight’s game:

Raptors 97, Pistons 91

- The Raptors just seemed to be in control of this game from the midway point of the first quarter on, and though they never really took a commanding lead, they appeared to have it in hand. The Pistons were able to keep it closer than it should have been with their presence on the glass, crashing the boards for 22 offensive rebounds and out-rebounding the Raptors 44-33.

- Some of those missed rebounding opportunities came as a result of Jonas Valanciunas, who otherwise enjoyed a solid performance of 12 points, five boards and a block in 27 minutes. Valanciunas couldn’t seal a couple of easy rebounds and had at least another two or three just go through his hands. I don’t know if it’s just that he’s still too anxious or perhaps that he gets his hands on so many loose balls that it’s almost impossible to secure them all, but whatever the case, once Jonas starts securing those extra opportunities, he’s going to be a walking double-double in this league.

- Before we get into individual performances, the Raptors’ defence needs to be lauded. By holding the Pistons to 91 points on just 41.7 per cent shooting, the Raps have now held opponents under 100 points in five straight games, limiting the Nets, Mavericks, Rockets, Cavaliers and Pistons to a combined 43.6 per cent shooting over that span. The rebounding needs to improve – as does the Raptors’ inability to defend without fouling – if they’re going to become a complete defensive team, but it certainly seems that the “Casey Effect” is back.

- Jose Calderon continues to dazzle as a starter, following up last night’s season-high of 23 points with tonight’s season-high of 17 assists. That now makes 21 career games of 15 assists or more. The rest of the Raptors franchise combined has 19. Calderon had nine assists after the first quarter (on 11 made field goals for the Raptors) in this one.

- Speaking of impressive performances, DeMar DeRozan continues to show the impressive evolution of his game, particularly on the offensive end tonight. Last week, I wrote about how DeRozan has struggled in the past when Toronto’s other offensive options are sidelined, but a more confident DeMar seems to be as comfortable as ever taking on the offensive load right now. He didn’t contribute in as many other areas tonight, but his 23 points on 19 field goal attempts don’t tell the whole story. DeRozan worked in the post, flashed his increasingly dependent mid-range game, and even hit a couple of first half threes that looked very, very smooth. He’s still far from a perfect offensive player or a finished product as an overall basketball player, but it’s hard not to be encouraged about the guy’s future right now.

- On the topic of a nice shooting stroke, enter Terrence Ross. The rookie scored nine points on 4-of-6 shooting in just 11 minutes tonight, making the most of his limited floor time. Ross will have to outplay some of the veteran players ahead of him in the wing rotation to earn more minutes, but if he can start to find an offensive groove to match his defensive awareness, the kid will find himself on the court in crunch time situations soon enough, as we saw Sunday against the Rockets. Over the last five games, Terrence is averaging just over nine points on 45 per cent shooting in about 19 minutes per game. I continue to believe that Raptors fans are underrating how good Ross can be going forward.

One play, in particular, stuck out to me tonight. Ross got the ball beyond the three-point line with just five seconds on the shot clock on a broken play, and instead of panicking or jacking a three, he put the ball on the floor and attacked the basket for a layup that just beat the buzzer.

- While I’ve always admired Amir Johnson’s hustle, I’ve also been frustrated by his inconsistency and lack of focus. Tonight, we got the full Amir experience. Johnson was pretty bad through three quarters, but helped the Raptors seal the game with some pure hustle plays down the stretch. Most notably, in his first play back after leaving the game with an apparent ankle injury, Amir deflected a pass, nearly came up with the steal, dove on the floor for the loose ball, then proceeded to win the jump-ball, all while playing with a bit of a limp.

Sometimes he’s frustrating to watch, but no one can ever deny the guy’s heart.

- Alan Anderson had a tough shooting night through the first three quarters, and yet when the Raptors needed a bucket the most, who else but the 30-year-old journeyman was there to knock them down? I continue to be amazed by the journey from 10-day contract guy to pre-season afterthought to fourth quarter specialist for Anderson, who is legitimately staking claim to the “glue guy” role everyone (including myself) thought was destined for Landry Fields. By the way, Anderson is making $854,389 this season compared to Fields’ cap hit of $6.25 million.

- John Lucas III still isn’t shooting the ball well at all, but he’s at least starting to give the Raptors good overall minutes at the point. Lucas is moving the ball when he enters the game, and the last two nights, his defence and steady play off of the bench have helped the Raptors either hold a lead or extend their lead early in the fourth quarter.

- Greg Monroe had a monster game tonight, and I generally like his hustle, but he’s a pretty poor defender who I’m starting to think is one of those typical players who puts up gaudy numbers without actually doing much to help a team win. Though I guess in fairness, he’s never had much help on some horrible, horrible Pistons teams.

- Over 17,000 people showed up at the Air Canada Centre tonight for a Wednesday evening matchup between two teams that came in with a combined 14 wins. It’s one thing when you get big crowds for the marquee teams and players, but the Raptors have been getting some pretty big crowds for even the weaker, no-name teams so far this season, and considering how bad this team has been, that’s a testament to the passion and loyalty that exists among the diehards in this market. I know it’s still a long shot, but if the Raptors can somehow find a way back into the Eastern Conference playoff race this season, the ACC will be a madhouse.

Raptors Player Of the Game: DeMar DeRozan – 23 Pts, 10/19 FG, 2/4 3PT, 1/2 FT, 2 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 TO in 37:15

Pistons Player Of the Game: Greg Monroe – 35 Pts, 14/22 FG, 7/8 FT, 10 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 TO in 34:36

The Raptors are in the midst of their first four-game winning streak in over two years (November 2010), and fans are justifiably thinking about grabbing a fifth straight W on Friday night against the Magic. Orlando has won four straight themselves and are playing some surprisingly good basketball, so while I certainly think the Raptors are capable of beating them, I don’t think anyone on this team or anyone who roots for this team should be looking past the Magic.

Either way, it should be a pretty good matchup between the Eastern Conference’s two hottest teams. And yes, I just said that.

Comments (32)

  1. Victories Baby!

  2. This is definitely fun and the fact that they are doing it without Bargnani had made it all the more enjoyable.

    Although, I still chuckle when people call this a young and developing team when we have a coach who simply refuses to play our young players during important parts of the game even if they are amongst the best options to have on the floor. We’re not going to improve much if Calderon, Anderson, Kleiza, Pietrus, etc. are playing such prominent roles on this “young” team.

    • Do you watch the games? Ross has been on the floor at the end of the games plenty of times. VC is getting big minutes for a rookie. Of course they are still going to play their veterans. The rookies still have to learn from someone. Ed Davis gets big minutes and he’s in his 3rd year. Who the hell are you going to put in for Calderon? You play the best players and who is playing well. Wow. So dumb.

      • I don’t have a problem with playing their veterans or whoever is deemed to be the best option. I just have a problem with the front office staff and coaching staff of this organization constantly calling it a young and developing team when they have shown that they don’t prioritize developing their younger players as much as they should.

        We had the same problems with (James) Johnson, Bayless, Ed, etc. last season that we are having with Val, Ed and Ross this season when it comes to inconsistent playing time which is okay because they are trying to win. But, just like last season, they are half assing both where you have a coach trying to win at all costs and a GM insisting that he would commit more to developing some of the younger talent.

  3. Drummond did not make 7/8 ft not even in his dream!

  4. Now would be a great time to start dishing off players like Jose, long duece Linus, Amir . ( obviously Primo)
    Let’s not kid ourselves, they could easily get cold and go on another 9 game skid , at which point we’ll all be crying about how hopeless the team is again. The stock is high , maybe its time to sell now so were not fucked again.
    But not with Colangelo pulling the trigger.

  5. I know JV is our future, but sometimes he really has bricks for hands. It might be that we see him next to a great rebounder (Ed), but he misses so many opportunities.

    I was really impressed with Monroe, he has to be one of the top ten post scorers. Possibly behind Lopez, Randolph, Duncan, Jefferson, Cousins, Gasol, Bynum, and Howard.

    • I agree Jonas has shown hands of stone. His timing on catching passes has been poor at best.

      While I still think Jonas has a bright future in the NBA, I think he’s clearly shown that playing ‘professionally’ in Europe does not give a young player an edge when coming into the NBA.

    • Yeah guys, he looks weak last times. I think its because of his work in gym with weights. he looks tired. he cant jump as he did before, hands are slow. i believe he will get some rest and be power!

  6. Not to sound too negative but I feel like they are getting as many people as they are because there is no hockey. Yes I realize they are different sports, but when the rich want to spend their money, sometimes the sport in front of you doesn’t matter. Its just something to do…

    Happy with the win though and should be another W on Friday.

    • That’s the more reasonable conclusion one would reach as to why they are getting 17k for a game between two “crappy” teams.

      The fact is, there currently is NO OTHER major sport going on in this city right now…what other venue/event is going to be an option for an “outing” for people with money to spend?

      Knowing how “hockey-mad” this city is and having been to Raptor games where the majority of the people you sit around don’t know who certain players are or who cheer the loudest when they get their free pizza – I think it might be too strong a statement to imply that this market has a sizable portion of die-hard fans that go to all games.

      • Thats 17,000 by MLSE accounting, which means free tickets and inflated numbers, (have you seen the whole sections of empty seats ) The Raptors are 4th out of T.O 5 teams, just ahead of TFC, which is not saying much. Some Raptors game don’t even hit the 100,000 mark. They have a long way to go yet.

        • They are 4th out of 5 teams as it relates to TV numbers. They are just a head of TFC. Leafs do 1.6 million, Argos do 750,000, Jays do 500,000 Raptors do 125,00 and TFC gets 75,000

    • Didn’t they also introduce tiered pricing for home games this year? It’s entirely possible tickets for this game were just cheaper and that drove attendance.

    • This is kinda off-topic, but did anyone watch the first few minutes of Sportsnet Connected after the game? The FIRST thing they show is highlights of a charity hockey game. This is one of the many reasons I watch TheScore over the other 2 networks. I know Canadians love hockey but sports media in this country can be quite a joke sometimes.

      • With NBA TV, there’s no reason to watch The Score anymore. The only time I watch TSN or Sportsnet is when a Raptors game is on (or soccer!)

  7. Quote of the night had to be M. Grange on twitter: ‘Stuckey makes the game look hard’. On a more serious note, what team in any league is going to trade for Bargnani? Either Colangelo does something stupid or he gets amnestied and ends up playing for Benetton in Italy with a hair-sweater jersey on. Right?

  8. Since I started with my online business I earn ($)62 every 15 minutes. It sounds unbelievable but you wont forgive yourself if you don’t check it out. Big44.c(om)

  9. Again, not to be too negative on the attendance figures, but another reason why there were so many people at this game was because TFC season ticket holders who renewed before a certain date received free lower bowl tickets to what in all honesty was a pretty unattractive mid-week match-up.

    • Haha…MLSE business acumen/marketing at its finest. Why can’t they put that same effort into building a championship team on the court/ice/pitch?

  10. It’s funny how little love Jose gets from the writer of this blog (and others) despite his numbers during the Raptors four game winning streak. In the last 4 games, he’s averaged:

    16.5 PPG, 10.3 APG, 5.3 RPG, and just 2 turnovers per game despite doing most of the ball handling.

    For an unathletic guard who can’t create his own shot and just “dribbles around the court before passing it off to DeRozan with 4 seconds left on the shot clock”, those are some pretty damn good numbers. Not to start a Calderon-Lowry thing because I think both are great point guards but if Lowry had put up those same numbers during a Raptors four game winning streak, you know people would be having orgasms about how good he is.

    I’ve said it before. Jose has his cons as a basketball player but please give him the credit he DESERVES when he goes on insane runs like these.

    • Definitely agree, +1

    • Ppl have been giving him the credit he deserves lately, but when you look at the big picture, it’s hard to get excited anymore when this team has made absolutely no long-term strides with him running the point. If he was consistently good, the raptors surely should have won at least one playoff series with him when Bosh was here.

      • That being said, I love Calderon’s work ethic and how hard he competes ( I can do without the ear-to-ear smiles when we’re getting blown out though). Even though this team should trade him, I would never boo him or ill-wish the guy. He’s still one of the best players to put on a Raptor uniform, despite his flaws.

      • Well if you want to look at the big picture, for the past 4 years, we’ve had almost no quality wing player since Vince left. We’ve also had no real quality big men either (not counting Bosh because he wasn’t really a post player). Maybe Calderon and the PG position in general is not the problem for the Raptors, maybe we’re just missing all the other pieces.

        Don’t get me wrong, Calderon is not and will never be a Chris Paul or Deron Williams type of point guard, but he’s been very consistent these last four season and to blame the Raptors failure on him when the rest of the roster is made up of guys like James Johnson, Sonny Weems and Mickael Pietrus is very unfair.

        • It’s a classic idiot fan response. Bad team? Blame the best player!

          I’ll never understand why many Raptor fans seemed intent on blaming Calderon and Bosh for a 30 win team. They should have blamed the talentless scrubs who kept them from getting to 50 wins, not the good players who were keeping us out of the basement.

          • Are you actually retarded? Have you even been watching this team the last 6-7 years? Did you even watch the 2 pathetic playoff appearances we had? You know the one in NJ where Calderon turned the ball over on the last play…

            Calderon and Bosh are good, but they are NOT clutch. When a team has 2 supposed great players, and the team can’t even compete in a 1st round playoff series TWICE (allowing 40 pts in the 1st quarter of almost every game), you don’t blame the role players. You blame the players that are making big money that are supposed to be carrying the team.

            Learn something about pro sports before calling ppl out.

  11. Couldn’t agree more

  12. My greatest fear is that the Raptors make this modest win streak last over 10 games, the higher ups at MLSE panic thinking the tall forehead that constructed the Raptors remains somewhat future-less and quickly sign Colangelo to a 7 year 35 million dollar contract extension.

    Other than that, this mini-renaissance has been kind of fun, especially since it has happened because of addition by subtraction with the absence of Colangelo’s Italian pet project.

  13. Bryan Colangelo must have restricted powers, if he hasn’t made a deal by now!!! The Raptors needs to unload Lowry and Bargnani, two separate trades if necessary. I feel that if Lowry goes, Calderon becomes the starting PG, you will see Bargnani do better. Which also means you can trade him closer to the trading deadline.

    First job, get rid of Lowry, he has shown he is not a team player and the team is better off without him. Addition by Subtraction. They could also demote him to the D League once he is ready to come back…to make sure he stays healthy.

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