The Raptors got a big effort from all five of their starters and and found a way to grind out an ugly victory over the 76ers in Toronto.

Here are some thoughts on the game:
Raptors 90, 76ers 72

- The Raptors starters combined to score 79 of the team’s 90 points, with Dwane Casey electing to keep a tight rotation that only saw eight players get minutes and saw the bench trio of Kyle Lowry, Alan Anderson and Mickael Pietrus combine for just 50 minutes. On a night where the Raptors were down four players, they desperately needed the big effort from their starting five.

- Landry Fields made his return to the starting lineup and put together a very complete game of 10 points, 11 rebounds, three steals and an assist. Fields’ shot still looked wonky (he finished a decent 5/10 from the field), but he did the little things that his game is largely built on. In addition to his 11 rebounds at the small forward position (Fields is known to be a good rebounder at the wing), Landry continued to move beautifully off of the ball and set some solid off-ball screens, creating more space for DeMar DeRozan at the two-spot. For a player like DeRozan, an extra bit of space created by his teammates moving smartly off the ball can make quite the difference, and I think it was an underrated aspect of why DeMar was able to score 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting tonight.

- Speaking of DeMar, I liked his post-game comments regarding the final Raptors possession of the game. As you may have seen, Dwane Casey was shouting for the Raptors to dribble most of the shot clock away up 16 in the final 30 seconds, but Jose Calderon ended up finding Fields for a big alley-oop while the Sixers were all just standing still. Casey didn’t seem thrilled about it and you can bet Doug Collins and the Sixers weren’t thrilled about it, but here’s what DeRozan had to say after the game: “I’m gonna ride with my teammates right or wrong. That’s just me…when we’re out there on the court you know it’s a fight until the end of the clock.”

We could reference the multiple times earlier this season that the Raptors stopped playing well before the final buzzer, but either way, DeRozan’s camaraderie and loyalty to his team is appreciated. I wonder if the Sixers will have the last play in the back of their minds when the two teams wrap up their season series next Friday night in Philly.

- Amir Johnson had a monster game for the Raptors tonight, following up his 19-point, nine-rebound, three-block performance against the Thunder with 19 points, 12 rebounds, five assists (how about some of his passes tonight?), a steal and a block in 40 minutes of action against the 76ers. Talk about bouncing back from his scoreless, foul-ridden performance against the Kings on Friday.

- Ed Davis had another impressive performance of his own, posting 17 points on 8-of-14 shooting to go along with nine rebounds in about 35 minutes of action. With Andrea Bargnani and Jonas Valanciunas out and with Aaron Gray failing to give the Raptors much off of the bench so far this season, Toronto has had to rely on the combination of Davis and Johnson many nights, and for the most part, the pair has delivered. With Ed and Amir manning the post together, you know you’re going to get smart and efficient offence inside, solid rebounding and an honest effort on the defensive end. It’s not as pretty as some of the more skilled big men combos in the league, but it’s fundamentally effective nonetheless.

The one thing I worry about is the amount of minutes Davis and especially Johnson are logging right now.

- Jose Calderon started the night slowly, but ended up with yet another masterful offensive performance at the point and his team-leading ninth double-double of the season. Calderon finished with 14 points on 7-of-12 shooting, 11 assists and zero turnovers. It was the third time this season that Calderon has dished out at least 11 assists without committing a turnover. Perhaps even more impressive and just downright ridiculous, Calderon has recorded 54 assists and just five turnovers over his last six games. I’d say a nearly 11-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio over a six game span is pretty impressive, no?

- Based on how well Jose was running the Raptors offence and how off his game Kyle Lowry looked tonight, I had no problems with Lowry only logging 17 minutes. Kyle was fine defensively, but looked out of sorts offensively, passing up some open shots that he usually knocks down. For what it’s worth, Lowry apparently left without speaking to the media, so given his past, you have to wonder if he’s getting fed up with his bench role. Having said that, none of the regular Raptors beat reporters mentioned anything about it, so you also have to wonder if the whole “he left early” thing might just be getting blown out of proportion.

- Perhaps the fact that they actually had a negative point-differential despite their 10-6 start should have been a bad sign of things to come for the 76ers, but Philly has been awful over the last month or so. Wednesday’s loss to the Raptors was their fifth straight overall and their 16th over their last 21 games, dropping them to 15-22 on the season and closer to teams like the Raptors, Pistons and Magic than to any of the eight current playoff teams in the East. Even worse, they’ve been getting spanked lately…

By the way, that was the season Philly went 9-73. I’m not putting it all on him, but if the Sixers don’t respond soon, would anyone be surprised to see Doug Collins let go?

- The Raptors might be an atrocious 6-14 against the Western Conference (something they will have to improve to stay in the race), but they’re a respectable 7-8 against fellow Eastern Conference opponents, have now won five straight games against Eastern Conference teams (albeit bad ones) and play eight of their next nine games against teams from the East. Now you know why January is seen as such a crucial month for the Raps if they are going to legitimately enter the playoff discussion.

Raptors Player Of the Game: Amir Johnson – 19 Pts, 6/11 FG, 7/8 FT, 12 Reb, 5 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk, 1 TO in 40:02

76ers Player Of the Game: Thaddeus Young – 16 Pts, 6/12 FG, 4/6 FT, 7 Reb, 3 Ast in 37:38

Comments (46)

  1. Pietrus blows, Fire Colangelo , trade for Cousins , Gay blows, Ed Davis is good

  2. Lowry left without speaking to the media tonight so no matter how we spin the point guard situation/rotation/minute disparity, the shit is about to hit the fan.

    Casey has to be more proactive than he was with the starting small forward position in which he basically waited until the team struggled to make a change.

    • Just saw that now on rotoworld and threw a couple of lines about it up. I just assumed he wasn’t interviewed post-game because he didn’t play a big enough part in the game, though with Lowry’s past, obviously could be an issue, and there was the one possession in the second quarter I believe where he was either yelling at Anderson or Pietrus to move. I’m surprised none of the regular Raptors beat guys tweeted anything about it, which makes me think it might not have been that big of a deal.

      • Ech this is what I was worried about too. You don’t want to cater to guys with bad attitudes, but Lowry is without question the most talented player on this roster and 17 minutes is unacceptable IMO. We saw what happened in Houston where Lowry viewed his benching as a sign of disrespect (and it is to a certain degree) so this should come as no surprise to Casey and the staff. As you said @PBI, he needs to be proactive here because he might lose Lowry forever and that kind of talent doesn’t pass through Toronto very often

        • Completely agree. Calderon is the one that should be playing 17 min a nite. Lowry is the better player and should be playing 36 min/nite. Casey needs to wake up. Enough Said.

        • I don’t care who the better play is you just don’t change a winning team. The team has gone 9-4 with Calderon starting and I know he isn’t the only reason they’re doing well but for now there is no reason to change things. Calderon had a solid game today with 19 points, 11 assists, just 1 turnover and most importantly a +/- of 20. Lowry, on the other hand, looked lost and his numbers show that, not to mention the play where he dribbled around in circles forcing Ed Davis to pick up that offensive foul!

          Lowry might be the more talented player but he still has to earn his spot. He came into the season as a starter, now Jose is doing his thing. He just needs to suck it up and keep working hard. If he’s not OK with that, trade him away. He’s not Chris Paul or Deron Williams and there’s many other PG’s out there that can do what he does.

          • Try and look at the bigger picture…This isn’t just Calderon = 9 wins and Lowry = 4 wins – end of story.

            Think back to all the years that Calderon has been with this franchise. He couldn’t win the job decisively over TJ Ford, Jarrett Jack or Jerryd Bayless and there is a reason for that….it’s called defence.

            There are not many other PG’s that can do what Lowry does, I promise you that. He’s miles ahead of Deron Williams

          • No, I disagree. The argument that the team would not have won those games if lowry was starting is ridiculous. Those wins had more to do with who they were playing than with calderon starting. Granted, they played well as a team but lowry starting would not have ruined that. Regardless, this is a shitty team with either calderon or lowry starting. However, lowry offers more and gives the team a better chance to win games against better teams if he is playing the majority of the minutes. Also, I would argue it is harder to find a pg that can do the things that lowry can then to find a calderon type.

          • Definitiva blind. Lowry is just worst tan Calderón!!

          • @ad: I didn’t say that team would not have gone 9-4 if Lowry started. We all agree that the team as a whole is playing much better, it’s not down to one individual change. Calderon played a key role but of course he’s not the only factor (schedule, chemistry, etc.). Lowry is a good player but Calderon is simply playing too well WITH the team winning to justify benching him.

          • @Tony
            I don’t understand your reasoning “if they are winning don’t change things”…you mean like changing Pietrus for Fields. Pietrus was there through the 9-4 stretch, he was replaced and they still won. Also, before last nights (barely win over a struggling team that played 8 games 3 of them back to back since Dec 23rd) the Raps have been 3 losses and 1 win in the past 4 games – how is that winning?

        • @ Oli
          I 100% agree. And, I will ad – since Lowry has come back from injury he has toned down his aggressive play and that’s because of all the fans, coaches and media whining to play more like Calderon (but score a bunch too) and because the Raps won 5 games against piss poor teams. It’s a shame. Lowry needs to incorporate “some” of Calderon’s style into his game, not play exactly like Calderon. It’s not his game and IMO his explosiveness, taking over games when needed and shot hitting is missed. We all know JC will be traded in a month (or less) time that’s why he is starting (to show case him) BUT don’t piss off the guy who is most likely going to be your starting PG moving forward.

        • I do not want to be agressive but are you blind? or maybe you do not want to see??

      • @Oliver: Are you really suggesting that Lowry is better than D-Will ??

        • I think very highly of Lowry but more to the point have you watched Deron this season??

          • Struggles aside, he’s still a much better player than Lowry will ever be. I mean let’s be honest, D-Will is in another tier of players.

          • Couldn’t disagree with you more. Lowry is much more well-rounded than D-Will. Deron isn’t interested in defence and never has been. That’s more than enough to put him behind Lowry

          • Dude you’re nuts. 3 times all-star, 2 times Olympic gold medalist with Team USA. Kyle Lowry will probably retire without your average fan knowing he existed 10 years later. Let’s be honest here, Lowry is good but he ain’t that good!

          • I’d expand Oliver’s comment to:
            Have you watched Deron for the last THREE seasons?

          • Seriously? Better than Deron Williams? lmao Wow I bet you were a huge Ricky Davis fan

  3. Regardless of how Calderon’s been doing, Casey needs to put Lowry back in the starting lineup. Calderon is simply not the longterm solution for this team. The only reason why Calderon seems to be outplaying Lowry is because he’s been with the team for an eternity and the chemistry’s there.

    Bynum’s the reason the 76ers are sucking. But alas, Collins is probably going to be the scapegoat for the GM.

  4. Calderon’s trade value isn’t gonna get much higher than it is right now.

    • Yep, and if starting Jose is a smokescreen to up his value, I sure hope management informed Kyle of it and that he is on board with it.

      Otherwise, they are just nuts for not starting Lowry all the time.

      Plus, 17 minutes last night was a slap in the face. Just watch what happens from about the time the Raptors had 44 points. Jose got torched about 8 times in a row. Casey really should have pulled him after the 3rd time. That said, at least Jose was getting most of the points back on the other end. No complaints at all about his offensive production. But he really needs Dwight behind him to cover up his defensive lapses and shortcomings.

      • I didn’t see Jose get torched 8 times so maybe it was another game. I did see him shut Holliday down by making him dribble in circles in the offensive zone (3rd quarter I believe) and when he managed to get a shot up it was all air. It just amazes me how people slag his defence. Is he the best defensively? No but nowhere the liability some represent him to be. On floor decision making is not Lowry’s strength and even when Jose makes a bad decision it results in a late 2 pointer. Maybe you guys who don’t see his value on this team should go back to watching hockey.

  5. Doug Collins is a good coach – that roster is a mess.

    That final shot is only an issue if the shot clock is off, which it wasn’t. The Raptors HAD TO shoot the ball one more time, and the entire Sixers team had quit playing and was shuffling around between their 3 point line and half court.

    • Yep I agree, there was absolutely nothign wrong with that final play. No matter what, the 76ers still had one more possession and should have played defence. Instead, Nick Young fell asleep on Landry. If anything Collins should be blaming him.

      • I doubt lowry is mad . You could see him on the bench every play cheerig or clapping . Every time out he would high five calderon and it showed him talking and laughing with barny “barny probly asked what defence means ” but none the lesss he looked fine . If its not broke dont fix it

        • @Chuck d
          “If its not broke, don’t fix it”…so under that reasoning we should keep Pietrus in the starting line up. He’s been starting the whole time the team has gone 9-4 – why replace him with Fields then?

  6. Man, I’m surprised at the anti-Calderon posts after last night’s game. I’ve been strongly pro-Lowry, but last night the offence looked TERRIBLE in the third quarter with him running things, totally stagnant, then picked up right away when Calderon checked back in. Yanking him for Lowry would have made absolutely no sense. Big difference seemed to be that Jose was actually running the whole offence while he was out there, constantly yapping at his guys, directing traffic, etc…, which I didn’t see from Lowry at all. I’m still pro Lowry, but it’s on him to pick up his performance and outplay the guy ahead of him.

  7. @ Oliver, if you’re saying Lowry is better than D-Will on defense, then yes I agree with that.

    But D-Will is still, hands down the better all-around PG.

  8. Some great points on the Lowry Calderon debate. The team has started to win against weaker competition, exactly the reason why people should not be giving up on Bargnani yet, he struggled against really good teams. He is still a decent player and trading him away for nothing, aside from being MLSE mantra, give players who are useful away for free pick up bad contracts = good trade mentality. We need to keep him unless we get a trade worth doing.

  9. I’ve never understood all this conflict among fans about Calderon and whoever the other PG is who is ostensibly so much better than him at any given time. Calderon’s a solid player, and sure, the case could be made that Lowry needs more minutes to be effective, but Calderon is certainly not the millstone that so many fans seem to feel he is. Usually fans develop an affection for long-term players who try hard and are passionate about the team, but not poor Jose. I hope they trade him somewhere where he will be appreciated what he offers, not excoriated for what he doesn’t. Also, I don’t really understand where this idea that Lowry is a top-flight point guard comes from. Good defender, decent shooter, but he still hasn’t come anywhere to proving he deserves elite status. Both of them deserve significant time on the floor because PG is definitely not the Raps’ weakest position.

    • I wouldnt say calderon is underappreciated. In fact, I would say he is overrated by a large portion of the fan base. What has the team won with him as the pg the last 5 or 6 years? Nothing. If he was that good, the team would not have been so shitty the past several years. Now, its not all his fault, of course, but I do think a significant problem has been penetration by opposing pgs and calderon not working opposing pgs hard enough on offense. Calderon is essentially a pick and roll pg with little else to offer on offense besides occasional hot shooting. His drives to the rim have been few and far between this year. He continually gets exposed on d. Sorry, calderon just isnt that good despite his high assist totals sometimes. He is a very good backup pg. Thats what he is.

      • Some would argue that Lowry might be the same, a solid backup or borderline starter. Anyway, I didn’t say Calderon was a superstar, just “solid”, which he is and will continue to be for another team soon enough, off the bench (likely) or starting. I also agree that he’s lost his willingness to get to the basket, which he used to possess as a younger player. The answer to the franchise’s woes he most certainly is not, that I agree with. I do find it interesting how polarizing his presence is for fans.

        Now, Bargnani is a dog and I think anyone with sense appreciates that fact!

        • I for one am one of those fans who hates on Calderon whenever I get the chance. I don’t think he is a terrible player; he just doesn’t play both ends of the court. The Raps have been terrible for years and one constant about the team has been JC; not saying is the reason they lose so much but I don’t think he can handle the minutes of being a starter. He will make a very good back up PG for another team and only then will fans realize how underrated he is. But this team needs to change in it’s culture of losing and I personally feel JC has been a central part in it all. Sort of a backhanded compliment for JC; I’m just looking for some change on this team.

      • OK, got it. All of Calderon’s good points don’t make up for his weak points. All of Lowry’s bad points don’t cover up the fact his magnificence on defence and willingness to drive to the hoop will someday win us games.

      • Well actually Steve Nash is a pick and roll point guard. When you can pass as well as these types of players can they tend to use that skill. Seems to me he got 2 MVPs for that and as far as I’m concerned should have had 3. There is more to being a good PG than driving to the basket. To get Lowry more floor time I would put him at the 2 to spell DD. Then he can drive to the basket all he wants. He’s also a decent rebounder which would add to his value when he plays there.

      • You definitely never played or understood basketball don’t you? Or maybe you are Kyle’s litlle brother?

  10. Fire colangelo while we are at it, why wait until the end of his third year. He doesn’t deserve it.

  11. Dunno why everyone harps calderon for not being a good defender . . Its not like every single point guard in the leauge can stop a break down . Its called help defence and when you have barny as your help yea of course calderons gonna get tourched . But now when he does get broken down you had j.v ed davis or amir actually rotating and helping a hell of alot more then barny ever would . Why there defence is so much better without barny

  12. Casey played it smart. Brought in Fields and went with what worked. Hard to find fault. MP has been struggling and the front line is not exactly bristling with scoring punch. You have a passing PG and no one to put it in. It had to be either Fields or Anderson and he has been playing well with Lowry so Fields it was. Considering everyone’s night I would say that was just good coaching.

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