Archive for the ‘Jerryd Bayless’ Category

Game No. 36: Grizzlies 102, Raptors 99

It seems that whenever the Raptors and Grizzlies get together in Toronto, fans are treated to entertaining ball games and great finishes. Friday night at the Air Canada Centre was no different, as the teams traded runs and leads from start to finish before Memphis eventually pulled away in the final seconds.

At the end of the day, Raptors fans at the ACC got another solid effort from the Raps, another great basketball game, and another “good loss” for Tank Nation. Other than falling a point short of free Pizza Pizza, that sounds like a pretty good Friday night to me.

Now here are some thoughts on the game.

1- What a performance from the Raptors’ bench. If you want to know how the Raptors hung with a Western Conference playoff team in this one, look no further than the play of Toronto’s reserves. Jerryd Bayless, Leandro Barbosa, Linas Kleiza, Ed Davis and Jamaal Magloire combined to score 54 of the Raptors’ 99 points on over 62 per cent shooting, with Bayless, Barbosa and Kleiza scoring 43 between the three of them. In addition, every Raptor that came off the bench finished with a positive plus/minus.

2- As good as the bench was in this game, the starters may have been that bad. No Raptors starter scored more than 14 points, and while the bench shot over 62 per cent and had all five players on the positive side of plus/minus, the five starters combined to shoot 18-of-40 and were all on the negative side. After coming out of the gates flying to open the ball game, the five man starting unit never really clicked again after that.

3- Jerryd Bayless finally shook off some of his lingering rust with a very efficient 18 points (on 5-of-9 shooting) in just 18 minutes of action. Perhaps most encourarging was the fact that Bayless also dished out four assists without committing a single turnover. Hopefully this is the start of another impressive run for the 23-year-old, similar to the one he went on before re-aggravating his ankle injury. After all, I don’t think any of us can say for certain that Bayless has earned himself a spot on next year’s roster just yet.

4- Speaking of a guy who continues to shake off the rust, Linas Kleiza turned in yet another impressive outing on Friday night. Just two nights after scoring 21 points on seven-of-13 shooting in New Orleans, Kleiza put up 12 points and seven rebounds against the Rockets, though his three turnovers in 27 minutes were a cause for concern. If both Kleiza and Bayless can get back to the way they were playing before they left the lineup in February, the Raptors will boast a more than capable bench.

5- A few words on the Grizzlies. After an up and down start to their season (lose six of nine, win seven straight, lose seven of nine), Memphis finally looks to be playing consistent basketball, with their win at the ACC bringing them to 9-2 over their last 11 games (five of those wins have come against teams currently holding playoff positions). That little run now has the Grizzlies up to fifth in the Western Conference with a 21-15 record, just 1.5 games out of third place. And that’s largely without Zach Randolph in the lineup. If they can maintain a top-10 defence (currently 10th with 97.8 points allowed per 100 possessions) and reintegrate Randolph into their offence without much disruption, the Grizz may only be at the beginning of their climb up the West standings. Do I think they are as good as the Thunder? No, but they are deep enough and balanced enough to make another deep run this Spring, and yet they seem to be flying under the radar again.

6- Ed Davis hit a mid-range jump shot in the first half of this game, which actually got me thinking, has anyone noticed that slowly but surely, Davis has started to hit his short-range and mid-range jumpers? I feel like at the beginning of the season, Ed was bricking anything that wasn’t a layup or a dunk, and now seems to be hitting the occasional jump shot from time to time. I’m not going to pretend I think Davis is a capable mid-range player or anything close to it, but I would say it’s an encouraging sign to see some glimpses of it in his offensive arsenal. I’ve said for a while that if he can hit a short to mid-range jumper and gets consistent minutes, he could be a walking double-double. But it’s up to Ed to earn those minutes and expand that offensive game.

Raptors Player of the Game: Jerryd Bayless – 18 Min, 18 Pts, 5-9 FG, 1-3 3PT, 7-7 FT, 4 Ast

Grizzlies Player of the Game: Rudy Gay – 40 Min, 23 Pts, 8-15 FG, 0-1 3PT, 7-7 FT, 12 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk, 2 TO

Game No. 34: Rockets 88, Raptors 85

The Raptors started the second half of the 2011-2012 season in similar fashion to the way they played games in the first half. A slow start, a good effort to claw back into the game and make it interesting, not enough talent to close it out or grab a W.

Now here are some thoughts on the game.

1- What else is new? Despite finally figuring out how to play a first quarter at home, the Raptors continue to come out laying eggs in their opening quarters on the road. The rested Raptors looked more like the rusted Raptors early, beginning the contest with a two-for-11 shooting display over the first few minutes and six turnovers over the span of the first quarter. Not surprisingly, the Raps found themselves down 12 after one. Toronto has now gone 12 straight road games without winning a first quarter (last first quarter win came January 10 at Washington), a horrible road recipe for a young team low on talent.

2- James Johnson, DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis had the most noticeably positive games for the Raptors on this night, but Jamaal Magloire’s contribution in his 15 minutes of action should not go unmentioned. Magloire made himself a presence in the paint on both ends of the floor, set hard screens, grabbed some rebounds and brought a physicality that I believe changed the ball game early in the second quarter, the same way he did in the Raptors’ tough loss to the Lakers a few weeks ago. Jamaal was brought home to Toronto to provide a veteran presence and give the Raptors dependable spot minutes when called upon. As bad as he’s looked at times this season, it seems like he has finally settled into his role and is now simply doing his job. And that’s perfectly fine.

3- DeMar DeRozan had another nice night offensively, scoring 17 points on 14 field goal attempts to go along with a couple of boards, an assist, a steal and two blocks. DeRozan scored all of his points through the first three quarters, however, as he was curiously stapled to the bench for much of the fourth quarter. I’m not sure if Dwane Casey was unhappy with something about DeMar’s game tonight, if he was simply sticking with a lineup that had them in a close game down the stretch, or if it was all part of the Tank Nation “conspiracy” (sarcasm by the way, as I can’t see Casey stomaching a purposeful tank). Whatever it was,  DeMar didn’t know the reason either, or he did, and just wasn’t happy with it:

 

For the record, that tweet has now mysteriously disappeared. The NBA’s twitter policy does state that players can’t tweet until after they “have finished their responsibilities after games.” The game finished around 10:30. DeMar’s tweet was sent at 11:13. Hopefully one of the beat reporters can confirm soon enough whether DeMar completed his post-game responsibilities before tweeting. Either way, expect insane reaction, massive speculation and maybe even some confusion over what this tweet was really about, if we haven’t already figured it out.

4- Speaking of guys who were riding the pine down the stretch, Jose Calderon and Jerryd Bayless sat and watched for most of the fourth quarter while Anthony Carter and Leandro Barbosa patrolled the back court for Toronto. Again, part of that was probably just Casey sticking with a lineup that was working, but it obviously also had to do with Jose’s off night and Jerryd’s atrocious night. I didn’t think Calderon was that bad on the offensive side, but he wasn’t giving Casey much on the defensive end. As for Bayless, he had just four points (on six shots), two rebounds and two assists while committing an ugly five turnovers in only 12 minutes. Jerryd never looked like he had his head in this game.

5- Houston’s general success doesn’t shock me, as I did predict they’d be one of the eight teams that would make the playoffs out West, but I thought they would be the kind of team that has to scrap out games in late April to get in. That still may very well be the case, but as of right now, the Rockets are more concerned with getting home court in the first round than they are about just getting in. At 18-7 since January 13 and 21-14 overall, Houston is currently tied with the Lakers for fourth in the conference. They have no one scoring more than 18 points per game and no one grabbing even eight rebounds per game, but the Rockets are very well balanced, are obviously playing hard for Kevin McHale and are getting some outstanding point guard play from Kyle Lowry, who came into this game averaging 15.6 points, 7.6 assists, 5.3 rebounds and two steals per game, while boasting a Player Efficiency Rating over 20.

6- We’re all hoping that Ed Davis can finish off this season the way he finished strong in his rookie campaign last year, and Tuesday night in Houston was definitely a step in the right direction for him. Davis had been playing better heading into the All Star break, and continued his improved play tonight with five points on just two field goal attempts (made them both) and a ridiculous 15 rebounds (plus a block) in only 22 minutes of floor time. I don’t have a problem with how Amir Johnson played tonight, but given that Davis is starting to find some consistency and that I believe Amir’s energetic bursts are best suited off of the bench, I’d really like to see Ed get some starts until Bargnani is ready to return.

***

At the end of the day, the Raptors competed and had a chance to tie the game in the final minute on the road against one of the hottest teams in the NBA, and a team that looks like a playoff club in the Western Conference. In their last 11 games, the Raptors are just 3-8, but none of their eight losses have been by more than seven points and four of those defeats have finished as one-possession games. Tank Nation has to be smiling right now.

Raptors Player of the Game: James Johnson – 34 Min, 16 Pts, 6-12 FG, 0-2 3PT, 4-4 FT, 8 Reb, 3 Ast, 3 Stl, 1 Blk, 2 TO

Rockets Player of the Game: Kyle Lowry – 38 Min, 26 Pts, 8-12 FG, 4-4 3PT, 6-7 FT, 3 Reb, 5 Ast, 3 TO

Make sure you come check out RaptorBlog on Wednesday, as we’ll post a great interview that theScore’s Glenn Schiiler recently did with Jose Calderon.

Game No. 32: Bobcats 98, Raptors 91

I wrote earlier on Friday about how even Tank Nation subscribers wouldn’t be able to take anything out of a loss to arguably the worst team in NBA history. Hours later, it’s officially a reality, as the Bobcats snapped a 16-game losing streak with a win in Toronto, “improving” to 4-26 after 30 games and 2-16 on the road.

This has to be rock bottom, right?

Now here are some thoughts on the game:

1- My first thought is this, that the Raptors, as poor a team as they are, even without Andrea Bargnani and Linas Kleiza, are still a better team than the Bobcats. But they’re not better by enough of a margin to be able to coast by the Bobcats, or anyone else in the NBA for that matter. The incredibly frustrating thing about this loss is that the three or four times the Raptors decided to play hard in this game, they actually went on mini runs and started to build a lead. Then they would simply stop playing, almost as if they thought a six point lead against Charlotte would be enough. This team has to realize that as nice as solid efforts against teams like the Celtics, Lakers and Spurs are, those efforts will never excuse absolute duds like this. The Raptors we saw on this night deserved to be booed off of the floor.

2- One bit of good news for the Raptors is that they got one of their walking wounded back in the lineup in Jerryd Bayless. Bayless attacked the basket in his short stay on the floor and generally looked like his fearless self, but the bad news is that he played just five minutes in his return. I’m hoping this was just a precautionary decision by Dwane Casey, and not a sign that this injury is going to nag Bayless in one way or another all season. The guy was playing so well before he went down again, it would be a shame if he can’t get back to 100 per cent any time soon.

3- Another positive in this game for the Raptors was the crowd. Considering some of the larger crowds Toronto has had this season, 15,575 might not sound great, but if you ask me, getting over 15,000 people to spend their Friday night watching two teams with combined records of 12-48 is actually a minor accomplishment. Maybe “Naughty By Nature” or the “Fan Night” deals on merchandise brought the crowd in, but they actually sounded into the ball game, despite the “performance,” or lack there of, from the home team.

4- I’ve mentioned before that even when DeMar DeRozan has good games this season, there is always something that seems to hold him back from having a great game. Tonight was no different. DeRozan finished with a very efficient 24 points on just 15 field goal attempts and got to the line 12 times. Those are impressive numbers for the 22-year-old. But it leaves us with more to be desired when you consider that DeMar had 13 points after the first quarter on five-of-six shooting and 18 points at the half on six-of-seven shooting. Unfortunately, foul trouble slowed down DeRozan’s big night in the second half. He’s been pretty good over the last couple of weeks, and I suppose we can take solace in the fact that his January slump is officially over, but I can’t help thinking about the “what could have been” in a lot of these performances.

5- Yes, I realize that they just beat the team that I root for, but I remain confident in saying that the Bobcats have the worst NBA roster I’ve seen in my lifetime. It’s a joke to look at. I often find myself wondering how Bobcats fans, if they exist, make it through their days or make it through this season. As bad as things are here in Toronto, I still believe the Raptors have a couple of good pieces for the future already in place, a few additional assets that are at least somewhat attractive on the market and a solid coach in place. I look at the Bobcats, and I see a sad sack collection of “talent” with no hope in the near future. Drafting Anthony Davis would obviously change things, but right now, even exciting young players like Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo don’t do it for me.

6- You know what’s getting really frustrating? Watching Leandro Barbosa make really bad decisions with the ball in his hands. On the surface, you see a 16-point performance in 24 minutes off of the bench and think Barbosa performed well, but if you watched the ending of this game, I’m sure you share my frustration. The Raptors had cut the lead to two, got a stop and were running out on a fast break, with the ball in Leandro’s hands. Everyone in the building thought Barbosa should move the ball except Barbosa himself, and the play resulted in a turnover. Just minutes later, Barbosa committed another foolish turnover at a critical moment. I accepted that this season would be full of ups and downs (mostly downs) and full of frustrating moments a long time ago, but I assumed a lot of that frustration would come at the hands of our younger players, not the seasoned vets who were supposed to be supplying the leadership on this team.

Even a boost in the Tank Nation standings isn’t enough to satisfy me with a loss to the Bobcats, but if you can find comfort in it right now, a Pistons win on Friday leaves the Raptors with the fifth worst record in the NBA. Not to mention, a Hornets upset at MSG has Toronto just 1.5 games ahead of the second-worst record. Fun times, indeed.

***

To finish, I’m going to suggest that you listen to the return of RaptorBlog Radio, which features an interview with fan-favourite and “Ultimate Raptor,” Alvin Williams. I promise you it will go down easier than anything related to this embarrassment of a game.

Raptors Player of the Game: Jose Calderon – 42 Min, 14 Pts, 5-12 FG, 2-5 3PT, 2-2 FT, 3 Reb, 8 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 TO (Amir Johnson’s season-high 15 rebounds and another balanced game from James Johnson have them in the conversation too)

Bobcats Player of the Game: Kemba Walker – 30 Min, 14 Pts, 5-15 FG, 1-4 3PT, 3-3 FT, 3 Reb, 8 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 TO (You can take your pick between Walker and Biyombo, who came up with 13 rebounds and a career-high seven blocks)

Game No. 27: Bucks 105, Raptors 99

When two teams open a game shooting as well and scoring as prolifically as the Raptors and Bucks did to open this game, it is often said that the first team to play defence wins. Well that theory was proven correct again tonight, as the Bucks picked up their defensive intensity well before the Raptors did, handing Toronto its third straight loss.

Now here are some thoughts on the game:

1- Finally, the Raptors started a ball game without digging themselves an early hole. The Raps outscored Milwaukee in the first quarter, 29-28, marking the first time in 15 games (since January 13 vs. the Pacers) that Toronto has won a first quarter. They do still have an 11-game first quarter losing streak on the road, however.

2- DeMar DeRozan had a solid game overall, but ultimately kind of fell asleep or was ignored by his teammates down the stretch. DeMar had 21 points before the end of the third quarter but finished with just 25 total and committed a very careless turnover out of a Raptors timeout late in the ball game. It was nice to see DeRozan find his long range jumper again, finishing four-of-six from deep, but you’ll remember that the last big game he had from three-point range (a five-for-eight performance against the Cavs) preceded a month long slump. A good shooting night from DeRozan should never be considered a bad sign, but his three free throw attempts and lack of a complete effort from start to finish discouraged me.

3- Speaking of discouraging signs, I did not like the Raptors’ effort on the boards. Sure, they were only out-rebounded 47-41, but how many times did we see a smaller Bucks player just stroll by and rip the ball out of a Raptors big man’s hands. It was very indicative of the kind of effort the Raps displayed tonight. At times they looked ready to go on a big run and assert their will, at other times it looked like they just wanted the game to be over, especially on the defensive end, which could not have left Dwane Casey very happy with his team. I know that wins don’t matter in the grand scheme of things this season and that losses may actually benefit this franchise down the road, but it’s still hard to watch a game like this, where the only thing keeping the Raptors from picking up a W was the lack of a consistent effort.

4- In typical Raptors fashion, it was a former Raptor, Carlos Delfino, who did the most damage. Delfino scored a season-high 25 points and matched a Raptors opponent season-high with six three-pointers. Is there any other franchise in the NBA or in North American pro sports for that matter that is so often burned by former players?

5- A few words on the Bucks. Milwaukee has a good mix of savvy and capable veterans like Stephen Jackson, Drew Gooden, Carlos Delfino and Mike Dunleavy. They have a couple of young pieces that intrigue me in Ersan Ilyasova and Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, and they are well coached by no-nonsense Scott Skiles. If Brandon Jennings could capitalize on his enormous potential sooner, rather than later, they would be a legitimate playoff team in the East. But at this stage of his career, Jennings is a shoot-first point guard that can’t shoot and turns the ball over too often, which is a terrible mix. The unfortunate thing for Bucks fans is that their veteran talent is good enough to keep them from landing a high draft pick and young talent that they desperately need, but their young star may not become an actual star until that veteran talent is gone and he has nothing left to work with.

It’s a tough situation, and one that I think will keep the Bucks on a treadmill going nowhere for the next couple of seasons.

6- Jerryd Bayless left the game and did not return with what the team is saying is a sore left ankle. It would be a deflating blow if Bayless has to miss time again. The 23-year-old was enjoying one of his best stretches as a Raptor and of his young NBA career. I’m very interested to see what Bayless can do with consistent minutes the rest of this season and how he can build on some of these recent performances. I’d hate to see another extended absence curtail his progress again. Here’s hoping that’s not the case and that it is simply what the team has called it, just a “sore” ankle.

Raptors Player of the Game: DeMar DeRozan – 37 Min, 25 Pts, 9-18 FG, 4-6 3PT, 3-3 FT, 4 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 TO

Bucks Player of the Game: Carlos Delfino – 34 Min, 25 Pts, 7-12 FG, 6-8 3PT, 5-6 FT, 9 Reb, 2 Ast, 4 Stl, 3 TO

 

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.

***

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