A poor second half effort did the Raptors in against a very good Warriors team at the ACC.

Here are some thoughts on the game…

Warriors 114, Raptors 102

- I know a lot of people will simply look at this game as the Raptors losing to a better team, but Toronto’s effort and desperation levels were nowhere near where they needed to be to give themselves a chance in this game. When the Raptors lost to a bad Cavs team on Saturday night, I actually thought the effort was there, but the late game execution was not. Against a good Warriors team, the Raps just looked lazy on both ends of the floor and almost disinterested at the most crucial points of the game.

- On Saturday, the Raptors quickly blew an 11-point fourth quarter lead with Kyrie Irving resting on the bench. On Monday, after battling back from a double-digit deficit in the third quarter to actually take the lead, the Raptors then let the game slip away from them again with Stephen Curry out of the game (he left with an apparent foot injury) and David Lee, Klay Thompson and Andrew Bogut all sitting on the bench. By the time Golden State’s starters checked back in, the Warriors were in control and the Raptors showed little fight.

- A big chunk of that early fourth quarter lapse occurred while John Lucas ran the second unit (Kyle Lowry sat out due to back spasms). I obviously understand the need to rest your key players for the first few minutes of the fourth quarter, but Dwane Casey seems to wait way too long to bring his closing unit back in the game or to make key fourth quarter substitutions. Case in point, when Lucas checked in to start the fourth, I was thinking, “If JL3 can just give the Raptors three to four solid minutes at the most and keep things close until Calderon gets back in, the Raptors could be in good shape with Curry out.”

Well at the 9:00 mark, the Raptors were only down three, and Casey should have thought about bringing Calderon back in then. At the 8:00 mark, the hole had grown to seven with Lucas running a stagnant offence and Calderon should have definitely been back in the game. Instead, Casey waited until the 6:07 mark to make the change, and by that time, the deficit had grown to nine. It wasn’t an insurmountable hole by any stretch, but it still shouldn’t have taken half the fourth quarter – with the Raptors shooting 1-of-10 to open the final frame – to get Jose back in.

- Having said all of that, when Calderon finally did check back in, it was some of the most uninspired play from him I’ve seen all season. He was slowing things down to a crawl on offence despite the Raptors playing from behind and looked absolutely awful again on the defensive end, where Jarrett Jack dominated him in the fourth. It was just downright ugly.

- Aaron Gray put together a performance for the ages for a guy of Gray’s limited skillset. He finished with 22 points on 9-of-12 shooting to go with 10 rebounds, two steals and an assist in over 31 minutes of action. Gray did most of his damage by grabbing offensive rebounds and finishing putbacks, but hey, on a night when quite a few Raptors failed to show up, I’m not going to take anything away from him. He had a great game and that’s the end of it.

I do still believe this though.

- DeMar DeRozan’s passing, offensive reads with the ball in his hands and his overall court vision were all things we saw major improvements in during his impressive start to the season, but we also saw those improvements taper off through the first few weeks of January. Well it appears as though DeMar has taken that court vision to a new level, as DeRozan finished with a game-high nine assists compared to just one turnover and has now recorded 25 assists over his last four games. His own scoring remains inconsistent and he settled for too many jumpers tonight en route to a 7-of-18 performance from the field, but at least we’re starting to see that development again.

- The Warriors controlled the inside tonight, out-rebounding the Raptors 49-37 and outscoring them in the paint by a ridiculous margin of 62-34. Ouch.

- As mentioned in the pre-game thread, if Andrew Bogut can stay healthy in the middle and if Curry can stay upright, the Warriors look like a team that can make some noise and maybe even cause an upset again in the playoffs. A lot of people ripped him last season, but Mark Jackson deserves some serious Coach Of the Year consideration right now.

- It boggles my mind that some Raptors fans were talking playoffs again before this game because of the Rajon Rondo injury in Boston. You know who should be thinking playoffs? Philadelphia, the ninth-place team in the East that rallied from a 19-point second half deficit and a four-point deficit in the final nine seconds against the Raptors to win the season series. Raptors fans have no business scoreboard watching for the eighth seed right now, and I’ve maintained that since they blew huge leads to the then eighth-place Bucks and ninth-place Sixers in two losses that came five days apart. If by some outside chance the Raps begin to beat good teams while also taking care of weak teams to get back within 2-3 games, then we can talk, but I don’t understand why some fans I talk to just seem to assume Toronto will beat up on weaker teams to set up “big” games against the teams they’re chasing.

Is it impossible? No, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

Raptors Player Of the Game: Aaron Gray – 22 Pts, 9/12 FG, 4/4 FT, 10 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 TO in 31:36

Warriors Player Of the Game: David Lee – 21 Pts, 10/17 FG, 1/2 FT, 12 Reb, 7 Ast, 3 TO in 44:05