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…
ELIAS: The 76ers have lost 4 straight games by 18 pts or more, tied for the longest such streak in team history (Also in Dec. 1972).
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) January 10, 2013
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