The Raptors took down the worst team in the NBA on Friday night but there were some positives to note.
Here are some thoughts on the game:
-Watching a team that is eliminated from playoff contention can be fascinating at times because you see which players begin to coast and which players maintain their effort level through all 82 games. There is no question as to which category Amir Johnson falls under. The 25-year old pulled down a career-high 21 rebounds and brought the same flat out hustle that we’ve seen all season. This is a great stat to give you an indication of the impact Amir has had for Toronto this season…
Raptors this year, Amir on court: +160. Amir on bench: -266.
— Alex Rucker (@Alex_Rucker) March 16, 2013
-There is no question that Amir deserves to be the starting power forward for Toronto on opening day in 2013-14. The depth behind Amir and Jonas Valanciunas needs to be addressed. The Raptors would be wise to acquire a frontcourt player that can play the four or five spot.
-It was nice to see Rudy Gay have an efficient night shooting the basketball while fighting through back pain. He finished 11-of-16 from the field for a game-high 28 points. He was very assertive with his dribble which led to confident jump shots and finishes around the rim, though he did get a little casual when passing out of double teams, leading to a game-high six turnovers. However, Gay was engaged on the defensive end, highlighted by his big block on Bismack Biyombo early in the first quarter. The play of the game, though, was this monster dunk Rudy threw down all over Biyombo:
-It was a rough night for DeMar DeRozan, as Gerald Henderson got the best of him at both ends of the floor. DeMar had trouble beating Henderson off the dribble and had trouble containing Gerald on defence. However, DeRozan should be given credit for getting to the line eight times and not forcing his jump-shot (5 FG attempts), which was clearly off target. DeMar also contributed with four rebounds and four assists (including two great first quarter passes to Valanciunas and Gay).
-Terrence Ross had a very positive impact in 24 minutes of playing time. He finished an impressive drive early in the fourth quarter and his jump-shot was on point all evening. He also showed that he is more capable than DeRozan of guarding the smaller two-guards like Henderson and Ben Gordon. This is one factor that will really play in Ross’ favour if and when Toronto decides which shooting guard to move forward with.
-Kyle Lowry and Toronto’s offence in general ran far too many isolation plays. Even when using a small lineup, there can still be screen and rolls. They just become small-on-small screens which are often as effective because guards aren’t usually adept at being the second defender in a screen-and-roll.
-Sebastian Telfair came out looking for his own shot but he quickly realized it wasn’t going for him and started getting his teammates involved, finishing with a team-high five assists. Telafir may be making a case to be the backup point guard heading into next season.
-Jonas Valanciunas was very effective in his 21 minutes of action. He defended the paint, grabbed six rebounds and converted his opportunities around the basket to finish with 10 points on 5-of-6 shooting.
-The Raptors clearly cranked up the defensive intensity in the fourth quarter, holding the Bobcats to 10 points and 7% shooting from the field. When people discuss the future of this team, it’s easy to fall into the mistake of only looking at the offensive potential/fall backs. But there are some incredible athletes on this roster that could and should make Toronto a top-10 defensive squad in the future.
Raptors Player Of the Game: Amir Johnson – 12 Pts, 5/11 FG, 2/2 FT, 21 Reb, 2 Stl, 3 Blk, 6 TO in 44 minutes
Bobcats Player Of the Game: Gerald Henderson – 22 Pts, 8/17 FG, 5/6 FT, 7 Reb, 2 Ast, 3 Stl, 1 TO in 43 minutes