Archive for the ‘Jamaal Magloire’ Category

Game No. 26: Wizards 111, Raptors 108 (OT)

Between a putrid first half effort from the Raptors and a very Wizards-like performance in the second half, some very quiet fans in Washington were treated to quite the finish in this ball game. I refuse to call it good basketball just because it was a close overtime finish, but I will say, it was exciting.

If you’re a Raptors fan, you had to see this coming. A bad young team playing another bad young team the day after an admirable effort against the Heat and three days after beating the very team they are playing is the perfect recipe for a “trap game” or let down game.

Now here are some thoughts on the game:

1- I’ll keep referencing it as long as it continues to happen, or not happen in the case of the Raptors. That’s now 14 straight games without winning a first quarter for the Raps, who have trailed by eight points or more after 10 of those 14 first quarters. Tonight was definitely one of the uglier opening frames during this ugly stretch. The Raptors shot just 29 per cent to the Wizards’ 65 per cent, they had five shots blocked and their best player through 12 minutes was Aaron Gray. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the makings of an NBA disaster.

2- Speaking of Aaron Gray, while I joke (not really) that it’s a pathetic indication when he plays like the team’s best player, he does deserve credit for the workmanlike attitude he displays on the court. He sticks to his role and does his job, and that’s a hard attribute to find in today’s world of professional sports. Gray moves the ball when it’s in his hands, attempts a shot only when it is a clearly efficient attempt and boxes out perfectly when trying to grab a rebound. He contributed four points, four rebounds and an assist in the game’s first seven minutes. I’m fine with Dwane Casey giving Gray starts if he can continue to open games the way he has been recently.

3- Linas Kleiza came through with one of the best individual performances we’ll see from any Raptor this season. 30 points on just 16 shots, five rebounds, an assist, a couple of steals and an unbelievable bank-shot to tie the game. I was one of many Raptors fans who was disappointed with Kleiza’s play last season, and was skeptical that he could pick his game up after microfracture surgery. I am very pleased to admit that I was wrong. In general, he’s been surprisingly good since his return from surgery, but over the last four days, Kleiza has been absolutely lights out, scoring 62 points in just 77 minutes played over his last three games. Even better, he’s done it on nearly 60 per cent shooting.

4- A changing of the guard? For the second straight game, Jerryd Bayless nearly helped carry the Raptors to an improbable win while Jose Calderon watched. In a span of about 35 hours, Calderon committed eight turnovers compared to just seven assists, while Bayless scored 47 points and recorded six assists to just two turnovers. Decisions shouldn’t be made based on a two-game sample, but if Bayless can start stringing some good performances together, he will make it a lot easier to imagine a short-term future without Jose Calderon and make it easier to part with Leandro Barbosa via trade.

5- A few words on the Wizards. I know John Wall makes some careless decisions on the floor and doesn’t shoot the ball well, but he has the quickness and skill to be a star point guard in the NBA. The other thing I like about Wall is that he actually seems to care about winning, which is a lot more than you can say about a guy like Javale McGee, who seems to be more concerned with his own highlight reel than he is with the result of the ball game (saluting and celebrating dunks in games where his team is down 20 is a clear indication of this). What the Wizards need to do is find a way to get John Wall away from the “Dumb and Dumber” cast that is the rest of the Wizards’ roster, then get him a real NBA coach. With a young core of Wall, a top-five pick in 2012 and Jan Vesely, the Wizards could be a team on the rise, where as I doubt the Wiz  can go anywhere with guys like Andray Blatche and Nick Young.

6- If you watched this game, you know that Jamaal Magloire’s fumbled rebound after a missed Wizards free throw was a major contributing factor to the end result. You can now make the argument that between his airballed free throws against the Pacers last month and his butter fingers on Monday night, Jamaal has had a hand in giving the Raptors two extra losses so far this season. Add those losses to the point Scott made about Magloire in his game thread, and I’d have to assume that “Tank Nation” is loving this acquisition right now.

It’s hard to believe, but this was actually the Raptors’ last road game for 22 days. After playing 17 of their first 26 games away from the Air Canada Centre, the Raps will begin a seven-game home-stand on Wednesday that will see them play the Bucks, Celtics, Lakers, Knicks, Spurs, Bobcats and Pistons. In fact, Toronto’s next road game will come after the All Star break. I’ll be interested to see how this team handles three weeks at home.

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Raptors Player of the Game: Linas Kleiza – 35 Min, 30 Pts, 11-16 FG, 4-8 3PT, 4-8 FT, 5 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 Stl, 3 TO

Wizards Player of the Game: John Wall – 44 Min, 31 Pts, 10-19 FG, 0-1 3PT, 11-14 FT, 5 Reb, 7 Ast, 2 Stl, 4 TO

Game No. 24: Raptors 106, Wizards 89

I was very intrigued to see how the Raptors would come out to start this ball game. They had their butts handed to them on back-to-back nights by two greatly superior teams in the Hawks and Celtics, and then had to endure a day of practice on Thursday instead of the customary day off after a back-to-back.

The Raps responded and showed some passion out of the gates against the Wizards. While Toronto still hasn’t won a first quarter in 13 games, they did finish the first half up 10 thanks to some assertive and aggressive offence to go with the return of their solid defence.

Washington cut the lead to just one point midway through the third quarter, but again, Toronto responded with a spirited run to get their first home win in 25 days.

Now here are my thoughts on the game:

1- Welcome back, Amir. Amir Johnson bounced back from an ugly stretch (less than three points and rebounds per game over last nine games) with one of the best performances I’ve ever seen from him. 18 points in efficient fashion to go along with 13 rebounds, three blocks and a couple of assists. Johnson seemed to have that spring in his step again, and it was a most welcomed sight for Raptors fans. A lot of readers and commenters took my Thursday post on Amir as a suggestion that he should be amnestied. My intention was to simply point out that if he didn’t step his game up this season, his contract is as legitimate an amnesty candidate as any other on this roster, in my opinion. As I’ve often pointed out with Amir, performances like what we saw against the Wizards on Friday can be the norm for him if he stays focused and out of foul trouble.

2- That was by far the most aggressive I’ve seen the Raptors play on the offensive end this season. The wasted shot clocks and ill-advised jumpers were replaced with smart movement off the ball and hard drives to the basket. The result, aside from cracking the 100-point barrier for just the second time in regulation this season and the first time at home, was a respectable 45 per cent shooting, an eye-popping 68 points in the paint and 28 free throw attempts. I realize the Raptors won’t be able to put those numbers up against many NBA teams, but if they attack the basket the way they did against the Wizards, they’ll be in a lot more ball games, even without Andrea Bargnani.

3- One negative the aggressive offence brought to light was how poorly the Raptors are shooting free throws the last couple of games. Their 19-of-28 (67.9%) performance from the charity stripe on Friday means the Raps are just 27-of-46 (58%) from the line over their last two games. The Raptors entered Boston as a top-10 team in terms of free throw percentage and are shooting 75 per cent for the season, so let’s hope these two games have been a simple blip on the radar rather than the beginning of a decline.

4- Speaking of blips on the radar, it appears as though DeMar DeRozan’s 27-point performance in New Jersey on Sunday was just that, a blip, rather than the beginning of a climb back to respectability. DeRozan scored just 11 points on four-of-12 shooting on Friday, though in DeMar’s defence, he was once again denied a chance at more free throws by some very questionable non-calls. In three games since his outburst against the Nets, DeRozan has just 28 points on 10-of-33 shooting in 88 minutes of action. During that time, he’s gone to the free throw line just 14 times. On Sunday, he scored 27 points in 41 minutes and went to the line a career-high 16 times. I know DeRozan’s struggles seem to be documented on repeat right now, but at this point, he’s leaving us no choice. DeMar has to get it going for more than one game every few weeks.

5- These two guys may never get into another Thoughts on the Game post, so I wanted to take some time to give Jamaal Magloire and Aaron Gray some love tonight. Aaron got the start in the middle for the Raptors and provided his usual stability on the boards and the defensive end. Magloire came in for a short stint to close out the first quarter and picked up right where Gray had left off, just playing good fundamental big man basketball. The result was that the two combined to grab 12 rebounds in 17 total minutes, with Magloire adding a couple of blocks. They may not have done anything pretty or memorable in their short time on the floor, but make no mistake, Aaron Gray and Jamaal Magloire helped set the tone for the Raptors early on in this game, and the rest of the team carried that same hustle the rest of the way. If these two guys can combine for anywhere from 10-20 minutes of solid play in the middle on any given night, they will be well worth the minimal investment.

6- That aforementioned tone that Gray and Magloire helped set to start the game translated into a truly memorable team performance on the glass for the Raptors. With 61 rebounds, Toronto set a new franchise record for rebounds in a regulation game. Nine different Raptors grabbed at least three rebounds and the Raps out-rebounded the Wizards by a ridiculous margin of 24.

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It may have been against the lowly Wizards (4-19, 1-10 on the road), but entertaining home wins like this, where the fans get some free pizza, are crucial from time to time to keep everyone’s sanity in this rebuilding season. Even Tank Nation loyalists can’t be that disappointed tonight, since realistically, the Raptors don’t have a chance to finish below the Wizards in the standings unless injuries come into play.

Raptors Player of the Game: Amir Johnson – 27 Min, 18 Pts, 8-13 FG, 0-1 3Pt, 2-2 FT, 13 Reb, 2 Ast, 3 Blk (Jose Calderon’s performance of eight points, 17 assists and eight rebounds should get some consideration here too)

Wizards Player of the Game: Trevor Booker – 32 Min, 13 Pts, 6-11 FG, 1-2 FT, 7 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Blk (Nick Young and John Wall made too many careless decisions in this one to get the nod)

The Raptors are in Miami to take on the “Heatles” on Sunday afternoon, but stop by RaptorBlog on Saturday if you get a chance. I’ve got a fun post planned as part of Super Bowl weekend.

And of course, “like” our RaptorBlog facebook page to stay up to date on all Raptors-related news and new RaptorBlog posts.

Game No. 12: Pacers 95, Raptors 90

The Raptors came out like gangbusters without Andrea Bargnani. They attacked the basket, got to the free throw line early, stood tall on defence, and built up a 16-point first half lead (40-24).

When the Pacers finally did start to get it going (went on a 14-2 run), Danny Granger got himself thrown out of the game with his second technical on a really bone-headed play (more on that later). But even without Granger, and even with the Raptors playing their asses off, the Pacers’ major advantage in the talent department started to wear on Toronto, and they slowly chipped away until finally taking over in the fourth quarter.

Both teams gave a rowdy ACC crowd quite a finish in the fourth, but in the end, Jamaal Magloire just didn’t have enough left in him to even hit mesh on free throws, and the Raptors just didn’t have enough to pull out a W.

Now here are some thoughts on the game:

1- The first quarter-and-a-half was probably the best 18 minutes of basketball I’ve seen the Raptors play since opening night in Cleveland. What I found encouraging is that they were able to get out and run on offence and were able to execute an efficient offence (they were shooting over 60 per cent midway through the second quarter) without sacrificing anything on the defensive end. Obviously, they weren’t able to continue that lights out offence against a pretty good defensive team, but it was nice to see some balanced play.

2- DeMar DeRozan. Finally, DeMar bounces back with a solid game. After five mostly depressing performances, DeRozan came out and attacked from the opening tip. It’s disappointing that his 14 first quarter points only resulted in 23 total points, but it was DeMar’s first above average game in a while, so it was a welcomed sight. Hopefully he can build on this performance and string some games together. I’d also like to see him maintain his aggressiveness and focus for a full 48 minutes.

3- Ed Davis. I wrote earlier on Friday that Bargnani going down is a golden opportunity for Davis to show us something after a bit of a slow start to his sophomore season. Overall, I liked his game tonight (six points, 10 rebounds, three assists, one block), but there is no reason Davis should have had a two-of-10 night from the field. I get that Ed’s probably never going to be a big time offensive threat, and I’m okay with that. But part of what impressed me last season was how he was able to pile up some points despite offensive limitations, and it was because he was so efficient around the basket. This season, Davis is now shooting 49 per cent, which isn’t bad, but it should be much better. He’s simply missed way too many “gimmies” around the hoop.

Ed Davis is a good rebounder and a good defender who rarely makes careless plays or poor decisions on the floor and always plays within himself. He’s only 22-years-old, so there’s no reason he can’t become a great rebounder and a great defender in the NBA. If he can use his basketball IQ on the offensive end and get back to being super efficient around his offensive comfort zone, there’s also no reason he can’t become at least an average offensive presence in the post.

4- Danny Granger’s bone-headed play. Most of the time, I’m fine with trash-talk, taunting and things getting nasty, and actually wish NBA refs would let the players play. But in this case, the Pacers were coming back, had all of the momentum, and arguably their best player was already playing with one technical foul to his name. So why in the hell would Granger even risk being tossed with such a bone-headed, careless, useless decision? We get it, it was a nice block, but you just ended up making yourself look like a much bigger fool than the guy you were trying to show up.

5- With how hard the Raptors played on Friday night, it is an absolute shame that they ended up losing this ball game because of poor free throw shooting (20-of-32 from the stripe) and an offensive rebound allowed after a missed Pacers free throw that should have given the Raptors a chance to win the game on the final possession.

I’ll say this about that finish. Dwane Casey made a mistake having Jamaal Magloire on the floor for a potential game-tying possession (that ended up in two embarrassing free throw attempts), and as much as I love the job Casey has done with this young team, I’m fine with him taking heat for his big mistake. But what I don’t like is that some people I heard from and saw tweeting piled it on Casey and talked about how hard the Raps media should let him have it, when I distinctly recall Jay Triano making poor coaching decisions about once a quarter (instead of once ever 12 games) and being defended by what I presume are just hardcore nationalists. You know, those same nationalists who refuse to call what Jamaal Magloire did tonight pathetic. Yes, he rebounded, played defence and hustled, as he always does, he’s a proud Torontonian/Canadian and I’m sure he feels awful for what happened. But don’t pull punches when a professional athlete deserves to be dumped on. Call it like it is. And what it is, is pathetic.

6- If you didn’t see Scott’s pre-game thread earlier, just wanted to send out a big thank you to Complex magazine for naming us the best Raptors blog out there, and of course, wanted to thank you, our readers, for your loyalty. It’s obviously not easy to continually support or find creative ways to cover a perennially underwhelming team, but in general, I think Raptors fans and RaptorBlog does a pretty good job. If you’ve been with RaptorBlog since day one, when Scott launched it 10 years ago, then thanks for your incredible loyalty. If you’ve just joined recently or even this season, thanks for giving us a chance, and hopefully we can continue to provide you with content that keeps you coming back for more. This team will become respectable some day (possibly as soon as next season). In the mean time, we’ll keep elevating our game here at RaptorBlog. Thanks again, and if you haven’t already, ‘like’ our RaptorBlog facebook page to keep up to date on all things Raptors.

As I’ve said before, whether you’re cheering for over-achievement this season or just waiting for the ping pong balls to drop in May, one way or another, Let’s Go Raptors!

Raptors Player of the Game: DeMar DeRozan – 41 Min, 23 Pts, 8-15 FG, 0-4 3Pt, 7-11 FT, 2 Reb, 1 Stl

Pacers Player of the Game: George Hill – 31 Min, 22 Pts, 7-11 FG, 2-4 3Pt, 6-6 FT, 2 Reb, 1 Ast, 5 Stl, 1 Blk, 1 TO

Goat of the Game (first time I’ve chosen a G.O.G. this season): Jamaal Magloire – 21 Min, 1 Pts, 0-2 FG, 1-4 FT, 5 Reb, 1 Blk, 3 TO

With a condensed training camp and pre-season in the books, it’s time to take one final look at what the Raptors’ rotation looks like, or at least what I believe it to look like, before the regular season gets started on Monday night in Cleveland.

I’m basing this on both the little I saw from players in the pre-season and on Dwane Casey’s comments about certain players throughout training camp.

Let’s get to it.

Point Guard: Jose Calderon will likely start on opening night, and if he plays the way he’s capable of and shows Dwane Casey he can out-defend a pylon, he may even keep the starting job for the entire season. But Jerryd Bayless is nearly seven full years younger than Calderon, is quicker and a much better defender than Calderon, and obviously has a lot more potential than a 30-year-old. Quite frankly, the only one who can get in the way of Bayless earning the starting job this season is Jerryd Bayless, himself. His penchant for sloppy play and turnovers can hurt his minutes and his team, but if he can find away to take care of the ball, the tenacious Bayless should surpass the injury-prone Calderon on the Raptors’ depth chart in a very physically demanding season. I don’t expect Anthony Carter to make much of an impact in games, but I can definitely see Casey going to Carter if Jose and Jerryd falter. As Casey himself noted, Anthony Carter always starts as a team’s third point guard before slowly but surely climbing the charts.

Shooting Guard: DeMar DeRozan will start. That’s not even a question. The only question is who gets the majority of minutes at two-guard off of the bench. Leandro Barbosa possesses explosive speed and the ability to score in bunches, but you could also argue that his playing style clashes with Dwane Casey’s coaching style more than any other player on this roster. Barbosa should be given the benefit of the doubt to start the season, but if he gets into a habit of carelessly chucking shots and refusing to play D, wing players like Gary Forbes and even Rasual Butler can take his minutes.

Small Forward: James Johnson is by far the best defensive perimeter player on this roster, and his acceptance of his role in the offence is a nice compliment to that above average defence. Johnson will start, and I predict for the time being, Gary Forbes will be the first guy to replace James off of the bench. Rasual Butler will get a look here too, and you would have to imagine that Linas Kleiza will be given every opportunity to prove he belongs once he is ready to return to action. But overall, if I had to put money on it, I’d bet that Johnson and Forbes get the majority of minutes at the three.

Power Forward: We know Andrea Bargnani will start, so there’s no use crying over spilled milk. But we also know that Dwane Casey won’t worry about Bargnani’s feelings getting in the way of the facts. If Andrea doesn’t show a consistent competitive spirit on the defensive end and doesn’t up his rebounding numbers, and if Ed Davis has the kind of break through I think he is capable of this season, then we may very well see Davis starting at the four at some point this season, with Bargnani possibly being used as a scorer off of the bench (a role some believe the seven-footer is better suited to anyway). I assume that between the two of them, Bargnani and Davis will get nearly all of the minutes at power forward, with Amir Johnson splitting time between the four and five.

Centre: My gut tells me that Jamaal Magloire will get the first couple of starts. My head tells me Casey might go with Aaron Gray for a short period after that. But my heart tells me that Amir Johnson should and will be the starting centre at some point this year. If Casey absolutely wants a true centre to start all season long, then we may see Solomon Alabi get a start before Amir does, but the coach did mention in a recent scrum that Amir Johnson can play centre. If Casey continues to believe that, and Amir plays well enough to warrant it, don’t you like this team better with Amir Johnson starting ahead of Magloire, Gray and Alabi? Though I guess in the grand scheme of things, as along as Johnson is getting more minutes than those three, which he will, then it doesn’t matter whether he’s starting or coming off of the bench.

That’s how I see the Raptors rotation shaping up this season, barring any major injuries or transactions. As I’ve said in a number of recent posts, if this team performs as poorly as most of us believe they will from a wins and losses standpoint, then watching how players like Bayless, Davis and Amir fight for a bigger piece of the pie that is the Raptors’ future might be more exciting than the actual outcomes of the games. It will be really nice to see a team whose minutes are properly distributed according to work ethic and defence for a change, something we haven’t seen on a consistent basis in about five years.

On Monday, theScore’s Glenn Schiiler went one-on-one with Raptors head coach Dwane Casey, president and general manager Bryan Colangelo, and players Andrea Bargnani, DeMar DeRozan and Jamaal Magloire at Toronto’s annual Media Day.

Every Raptors fan should take two minutes out of their day to watch this collection of soundbites. There were some interesting things said, but the one person who said a couple of things that really stood out to me was Dwane Casey.

Everyone and their grandmother knows what this season is going to be about for the Raptors. Colangelo has gone out of his way to let (warn) fans know that this is going to be a ‘building’ year that is more about continued development and implementation of a new culture than it is about wins, losses and the playoff race.

However, one thing Colangelo stressed in the lead-up to training camp was that no matter the team’s overall record, they would have no choice but to compete on every single possession with Casey at the helm. While it’s all talk until we see that new found work ethic consistently displayed on the court, it is something Raps fans are surely looking forward to.

As I’ve stated in some of my recent posts, I understand that another high draft pick (in a loaded draft-class) is more valuable to the long-term success of the franchise than one season of over-achieving. What I want to see is a Raptors team that plays defence, that leaves it on the court every single night and ensures their opponent is going to leave the court battered and bruised before they leave the court with a 30-point win over the Raptors.

I also want to see a Raptors team that takes some pride in defending their home court at the ACC, where Raps fans have proven to be more than loyal over the years.

So, as you can imagine, hearing Dwane Casey tell Glenn Schiiler that “nobody’s going to come here and kick our butts in our arena” was music to my ears. The other quote that really caught my attention was Casey’s statement that “defence travels well.”

Like I said, until we see these philosophies translate into on-court performance both at home and on the road, these catchy little tidbits mean nothing.

But I can’t remember the last time I was excited about the style of play a Raptors head coach was going to implement. If Casey can fulfill his prophecies and turn these Raptors into a hard-nosed, smash-mouth defensive team that proudly defends their home court, Raptors fans may rally around their new coach more than they do any individual player this season.

If the Raps can get off to a surprising start, I give it a week before #poundtherock is a consistently trending topic in Canada.