Archive for the ‘Sonny Weems’ Category

14 886 (It looked like a lot less than that) fans ventured to the Air Canada Centre for this meeting between two teams with a combined record of 37-117. And really, when you hear numbers like that, you can’t blame fans for not scooping up tickets.

For those who did show up, they were “treated” to an excruciatingly painful basketball game. Just as there was no energy emanating from the stands, there was even less to go around on the depleted Raptors’ bench.

The Raps got off to a sluggish start for the second night in a row, and allowed the dismal Cavs to open the ball game with a big run and build confidence.

Reggie Evans was the only Raptor who seemed to know what the hell he was doing on the floor in the first half. To emphasize how horrible Toronto was in the first 24 minutes, consider that Reggie scored 10 of the team’s first 30 points.

To make matters worse, the Raptors, as usual, showed no signs of concern for the defensive end of the court. It showed in the fact that the offensively anaemic Cavs, who average just 95 points per game, had put up 60 in the first half on 60 per cent shooting and were up 20.

The ACC faithful made the young Raptors aware of their displeasure, sending the Raps to the locker room with a serenade of boos, and rightfully so.

The third quarter looked like an extension of the opening half at first, but the Raptors began to make their own run towards the end of the quarter, and a hard, flagrant foul committed on Joey Graham, by James Johnson, seemed to create a spark around the arena.

The little run had the deficit down to 13 going into the fourth quarter.

Alexis Ajinca, yes, Alexis Ajinca, DeMar DeRozan and Jerryd Bayless continued to power the Raptors’ rally in the fourth quarter, and a Sonny Weems’ three-pointer had the suddenly cold-shooting Cavs’ lead down to five.

The game went back and forth between five and 10 points after that, and  despite the fact that Bayless was keeping the Raptors alive, the 22-point hole they had dug themselves proved to be too much, as did Baron Davis’ clutch shooting down the stretch.

I’d love to say it was a valiant effort from the young Raptors, or that their comeback attempt was admirable, but the truth is that a quarter-and-a-half of good, tough basketball does not excuse their piss-poor performance through two-and-a-half quarters.

There shouldn’t be many positives to discuss after a loss to Cleveland, but there were a few bright spots for the Raptors. Reggie Evans finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds in 29 minutes, DeMar DeRozan came on in the second half to finish with 19 points and Sonny Weems finished with 17 points on just 10 shots.

But the real shining presence for the Raptors of late continues to be the emergence of Jerryd Bayless as a very capable point guard. After being sent back to the bench to accomodate Jose Calderon, Bayless still had another solid game.

If this season truly was supposed to be about youth development and an eye to the future, then one has to question why Bayless wasn’t given the start tonight with Jose coming back after an injury. The choice for the final four games should be simple: Bayless should get the nod.

Now there are those that actually claim to cheer against the Raptors right now, in order to attain a higher probability of winning the lottery. Believe me, I understand this thinking to a certain extent, but the way I see it, a home loss to a team like the Cavs undoes everything that a young team can gain from impressive wins, like the recent W’s over the Thunder, Bulls and Magic.

Speaking of the lottery situation, the Raptors (at 21-57) now sit in a tie with the Wizards for the 28th and 27th spots overall. That would mean the Raptors would most likely receive the third or fourth pick in the draft. Unless something drastic changes in the final week of the season, that’s exactly where the Raps should finish up.

If you were wondering why Amir Johnson suddenly joined the walking wounded tonight, it’s because Amir sustained an ankle injury during the pre-game warmup.

Raptors Player of the Game: Jerryd Bayless – 30 Min, 28 Pts, 10-18 FG, 2-5 3Pt, 6-8 FT, 2 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl

Cavaliers Player of the Game: J.J. Hickson – 36 Min, 28 Pts, 9-17 FG, 10-14 FT, 10 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Blk

Goat of the Game: Jose Calderon – 27 Min, 4 Pts, 0-7 FG, 0-3 3Pt, 4-4 FT, 1 Reb, 9 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk, 2 TO (I could have easily given this title to Ed Davis tonight as well)

For the first time ever, the Utah Jazz came into Toronto without Jerry Sloan, but they still carried an 11-game winning streak over the Raptors into Wednesday night’s ball game.

With Andrea Bargnani missing the game due to the flu, the Raptors sent out a much more defensive-minded and athletic lineup, and it paid off early on. The Raps got off to a good start (13-6) thanks to some solid defence and attacking the basket on offence. It was nice to see multiple players crashing the boards and following up on Raptors drives.

With the crowd getting ready to welcome Reggie Evans back to the floor, another Raptors big man went down. Amir Johnson appeared to hurt his ankle and stayed on the floor for a minute or two before leaving the game on his own legs. Amir did not return with what the team was calling a left ankle sprain.

From that disappointment, Raptors fans were then forced to watch a brutal end to the first quarter, as Toronto’s defence evaporated and Utah torched them for 31 points in the opening frame.

The Raptors recovered in the second quarter, as Ed Davis, believe it or not, led the charge offensively to spurt the Raps back into the game, even taking the lead for the majority of the quarter. But just as they had in the first quarter, the Jazz closed the second on a bit of a run, and held a 52-50 lead heading into the half.

If there were any questions regarding Reggie Evans’ health or rust factor coming into this game, they were quickly put to rest, as Reggie had eight rebounds in the first half (his first 15 minutes of action in three-and-a-half months).

The Raptors cranked up the defence again to start the second half and started to put together an impressive run of their own. DeMar DeRozan carried the scoring load despite poor shooting because he continued to attack the basket and get to the free throw line. Jose Calderon kept the Jazz defence honest by knocking down his jumpers and as mentioned, Reggie Evans picked up right where he had left off in November.

By the end of the third quarter, the Raptors had held the Jazz to just 18 points and found themselves up eight heading into the fourth quarter.

The Raptors stretched that lead out to 12 on a couple of occasions in the fourth and eventually to 14, but the Jazz made their inevitable run as the game’s conclusion drew closer. A barrage of buckets from C.J. Miles, including a couple of threes, had the 14 425 fans in the ACC groaning and getting restless.

The Utah rally was completed by big shots from Devin Harris and Al Jefferson on one end, while on the other end, Calderon proved for the millionth time that no matter how hot his shot is, it will always fail in the most clutch situations.

The Jazz had the ball for the last shot with the game tied at 94, and after Devin Harris’ shot clanked iron, Al Jefferson tapped up a Hail Mary at the buzzer that shot straight up in the air and then fell perfectly through the hoop.

In a 17-47 season, the Raptors have lost many games in many different ways, but few compare to squandering a 14-point lead at home with eight minutes remaining and then losing on a fluke tip-in at the buzzer.

Despite another disgusting collapse and heart-breaking loss at home, and despite the fact that Amir Johnson sprained his ankle, there were a few positives for the Raptors on this night. First and foremost, the Raptors’ bench was simply incredible. After dominating the Nets’ bench in London, the Raptors reserves came out and dismantled a much more formidable opponent in the Jazz, 42-9.

The other positives included Ed Davis’ 12 first half points, DeRozan’s eight rebounds and 11 free throw attempts, Sonny Weems’ 16 points in just 20 minutes and of course, the solid return of Reggie Evans. In his first taste of game action since November 26, Evans grabbed 11 rebounds in 33 hard-fought minutes.

At the end of the day, the Raptors fall 30 games below .500 and lose to Utah for the 12th straight time. Though it doesn’t take a basketball genius to see that without Jerry Sloan or a superstar point guard (sorry, Devin), these aren’t your daddy’s Utah Jazz.

Raptors Player of the Game: Sonny Weems -20 Min, 16 Pts, 6-10 FG, 2-2 3Pt, 2-2 FT, 5 Reb, 1 Stl

Jazz Player of the Game: Al Jefferson -42 Min, 34 Pts, 17-24 FG, 8 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Blk

The Raptors opened the last game of their home-stand in front of a smaller, sluggish crowd, and their go-to scorer was equally as sluggish. Andrea Bargnani looked to still be suffering from the flu in the first quarter, but luckily for the Raptors, other players came to play ball tonight.

DeMar DeRozan attacked the basket, James Johnson continued to be a steady contributor, Amir Johnson and Ed Davis provided their usual spark and Jose Calderon was absolutely lights out, racking up eight points and six assists in the first frame. The Raptors took a 27-20 lead into the second quarter, but the 14 704 in attendance either weren’t impressed yet or were being kept quiet by the whistle-happy refs.

Calderon continued to lead the charge to close out the half, as the Raptors outscored the Hornets 20-5 in the last six minutes of the second quarter, creating some energy in the building and taking a 57-42 lead into the half.

The balanced Raptors attack continued in the third quarter, as did the solid Toronto defence, leading to a 17-point lead at one point. But the 35-win Hornets were not about to fade away without a fight, and they closed the third quarter on a run of their own, cutting the deficit to 10 after three.

Ex-Raptors Jarrett Jack and Marco Belinelli started getting hot, and before we knew it, we had a three-point game early in the fourth quarter.

Just as they had done on Sunday against the Mavericks, it looked like the Raptors were ready to piss away another three solid quarters against a Western Conference playoff team.

Instead, Bargnani finally came to life, Amir, who finished with seven blocks, helped tighten up the defence and Calderon continued to torch the Hornets back-court, as the Raps did just enough to grab their 17th win of the season. The Hornets also didn’t do themselves any favours by missing a handful of layups and close-range “gimmes” in the fourth quarter.

Jerryd Bayless and Leandro Barbosa struggled to get anything going off of the bench, and Bargnani was missing in action for most of the night, but other than that, Raptors fans were given commendable performances from the rest of the roster.

Amir was great defensively and Ed Davis grabbed eight rebounds in 25 minutes, DeRozan struggled in the second half but continued to attack the rim and still finished with 17 points, and James Johnson turned in another impressive effort, finishing with 13 points, five boards, three assists and two blocks in just 21 minutes. Another positive stemming from James’ arrival is that it should motivate Sonny Weems to step his game up. Weems stepped up on Wednesday, pouring in 14 points in 20 minutes.

There were plenty of positives for the Raptors on this night, but none comparable to Jose Calderon. Jose thoroughly outplayed one of the best point guards on the planet, actually played defence and even pulled down seven rebounds to flirt with a triple-double for the second straight game. For the most part, Calderon has elevated his game to hang with some of the best point guards in the league this season.

And now the Raptors head to London, England, to give fans in Europe their first taste of top-flight NBA basketball, if you consider a meeting between teams that combine for a 34-87 record to be “top-flight.”

Raptors Player of the Game: Jose Calderon -38 Min, 22 Pts, 7-10 FG, 3-4 3Pt, 5-5 FT, 7 Reb, 16 Ast, 1 Stl

Hornets Player of the Game: David West -39 Min, 19 Pts, 7-17 FG, 0-1 3Pt, 5-6 FT, 10 Reb, 4 Ast

Goat of the Game: Emeka Okafor – 21 Min, 1 Pts, 0-5 FG, 1-2 FT, 7 Reb, 1 Stl, 1 Blk, 1 TO (You could certainly make the case for Trevor Ariza and CP3 in this category)

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Coming off of one of their most impressive efforts of the season in a win against the Bulls, and with 19 000 people jamming into the Air Canada Centre for an affair with Steve Nash and Vince Carter, the Raptors responded with a completely listless, embarrassing performance.

Andrea Bargnani appeared to be the only Raptor ready to play in the first quarter, as Nash and Carter put on a clinic. Kid Canada had seven assists in the first quarter alone, and Vince poured in 11 points, as the Suns jumped out to a 21-7 lead, and eventually a 35-14 lead after one.

DeMar DeRozan came alive in the second quarter, and the Raptors finally started showing some fight. To give you an idea of how ugly this game was, fans were excited to “only” be down 18 at the half.

The Raptors continued to build momentum in the third quarter, and actually had the deficit cut to 12 midway through the quarter. But as quickly as they had fallen out of the game in the first quarter, the Raps did again in the third. A couple of Vince Carter buckets here, a couple of Nash dimes there, and the Suns’ lead had ballooned to 24 heading into the fourth.

By then, there was nothing left to settle. The Raptors had no chance of even sniffing a comeback, the fans had no chance of even sniffing free pizza, and everyone came to the realization that the highlight of the night had been a halftime performance by Toronto legend, Maestro Fresh Wes.

Aside from the Raptors’ 50 per cent shooting night, there were no bright spots. Bargnani shot an incredible 12-of-15, but looked lost in every other aspect of the game, as usual. DeRozan provided a spark when in the game, but he struggled through foul trouble and played just 24 minutes.

The Suns out-worked the Raptors from the opening tip. They got to every loose ball, ripped rebounds out of Raptors’ hands and silenced a solid crowd early on.

The game was over midway through the first quarter. I don’t care how bad your team is, how good the opposition is or how well you played last game. When you’re out of a home game six or seven minutes into it, that’s unacceptable.

Finally, before we put this game out of our memories forever, I wanted to mention something regarding Jay Triano. For the record, I don’t think Jay is at fault for what happened tonight. We’ll never know if games like this are a product of poor coaching or the result of trotting out a gutless team.

But I will say this. There are those that randomly jump to Jay’s defence after a great effort, like when the Raptors beat the Bulls on Wednesday night. Those fans point to efforts like that as the proof that Triano is doing a great job with this young team. My question to those fans is this: If you believe it is coaching behind a young team giving a full effort and playing above themselves, then wouldn’t you also believe it is coaching behind a young team coming out flat and unprepared?

Just some food for thought.

Raptors Player of the Game: Andrea Bargnani -35 Min, 26 Pts, 12-15 FG, 2-5 FT, 4 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl

Suns Player of the Game: Vince Carter – 30 Min, 17 Pts, 7-12 FG, 2-4 3Pt, 1-1 FT, 7 Reb, 6 Stl, 1 Blk (I get the feeling the boos don’t bother him)

Goat of the Game: Sonny Weems – 12 Min, 1 Pts, 0-5 FG, 0-1 3Pt, 1-2 FT, 2 Reb, 1 Ast

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You could tell that both of these teams were coming off of the All Star break, as they were running up and down the floor on every offensive and defensive possession early on. Unfortunately, for those of use who took the time to watch this game and for the sorry people who paid money to watch it in Charlotte, that inspired play lasted for about six minutes.

The Raptors were in a tight game for most of the first quarter, but when Jerryd Bayless checked in to replace Jose Calderon late in the quarter, he spurred a Raptors turnover spree that helped the Bobcats start to pull away.

Toronto was only down six after one, but it could have been much worse, as Charlotte must have missed four or five layup or dunk opportunities in that first quarter.

The second quarter started with a bang, courtesy of this monster dunk by Ed Davis, but that was the last Raptors highlight of the first half, and one of the few high points of the night for Toronto. Charlotte outscored the Raptors, 28-17, in the second quarter, and hung 61 on the Raptors in the first half, carrying a 17-point lead into the break.

From there, the game was pretty much over. The Raptors went down by as many as 22 points in the third quarter, and never showed enough grit to get back in the game. Sure, they cut the deficit to 11 midway through the fourth quarter, but the Bobcats closed the game out on a run. And besides, if you’re idea of making a game of it is getting to within 11 points, then you’ve got problems.

You could look at the turnovers or the free throw discrepancy (Charlotte attempted 42 to Toronto’s 26) as keys to the Bobcats win tonight, but if you watched this game from start to finish, you know that the Raptors were just never really locked in after that late first quarter run from Charlotte. The Bobcats are in the thick of a tight playoff race, while the Raptors are playing for next year, and beyond that. This shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise.

It was nice to see Sonny Weems running the floor again, Andrea Bargnani grabbing rebounds and DeMar DeRozan continuing to attack the basket, despite obvious fatigue from All Star weekend. But really, no Raptor was great on this night, nor was any really bad. It was a mediocre kind of night, and it showed in the final score. I did like Jerryd Bayless’ fight in Charlotte. He started off shaky with four turnovers in the first half, and went 0-for-4 from the field. But Bayless fought through those struggles, kept attacking, and used 12 free throw attempts to finish with 11 points, 10 assists and five rebounds.

Before tonight’s ball game, the Raptors made a small but puzzling trade. They traded Miami’s first-round draft pick (which they obtained in the Chris Bosh deal) to Chicago in exchange for 2009 first-round pick, James Johnson. The 24-year-old forward hasn’t done much in limited minutes since being drafted by the Bulls, but I guess the Raptors figure he is worth a gamble on. I, on the other hand, do not think that way. I understand that Miami’s pick will likely be the 25th-30th pick in the draft, but with proper scouting, there is a better chance you can find a solid role player for the future late in the first round than there is that James Johnson will turn into that player for you.

Lastly, the Raptors are back at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday night to take on the Bulls. In two games against the Bulls this season, the Raptors have been outscored by a combined 37 points. And go figure, Joakim Noah is set to return to the Bulls lineup on Wednesday. If this game is still a game at halftime, consider it an accomplishment.

Raptors Player of the Game: Jerryd Bayless – 21 Min, 11 Pts, 0-4 FG, 0-1 3Pt, 11-12 FT, 5 Reb, 10 Ast, 1 Stl, 4 TO  (No Raptor was truly worthy of a mention tonight, but Bayless fought hard enough to go from potential goat of the game to get to this spot)

Bobcats Player of the Game: D.J. Augustin – 35 Min, 23 Pts, 8-15 FG, 2-7 3Pt, 5-5 FT, 1 Reb, 8 Ast

Goat of the Game: Leandro Barbosa – 17 Min, 4 Pts, 2-6 FG, 0-2 3Pt, 1 Reb