Archive for the ‘Sonny Weems’ Category

You weren’t expecting anything else, were you?

Once again, the Raptors got off to a decent start on the shoulders of hot shooting by DeMar DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani and the usual intensity of Amir Johnson. Bargnani and DeRozan combined for 21 points in the first quarter, and the Raptors scored 29 points on the Spurs in that first frame, but they gave up 31.

Unlike Tuesday night in Milwaukee, the Raptors actually kept their hot shooters involved through the second and third quarters, as Andrea and DeMar continued to build on the solid games they were putting together.

Aside from an early scare that occurred when Amir Johnson sprained his ankle (Amir did return in the second quarter), the Raptors enjoyed a pretty successful first half, all things considered. They scored 56 points, were down just four against the league-leading Spurs and shot nearly 58 percent in the half. But the Spurs lead the league in wins for a reason, and they showed it in that first half with picture-perfect passing and ball movement that resulted in them shooting 62.5 per cent.

This was one of the rare instances this season where Toronto’s opponents’ efficient shooting had little to do with the Raptors’ lack of resistance.

The third quarter was the highlight of the night for the Raptors and their fans (unless you were really amped for Leandro Barbosa’s pizza-clinching free throw in the final minute). Roberto Alomar and a big Sonny Weems alley-oop jam seemed to liven up the crowd, and the Raptors used the energy to stage a 13-2 run that actually had them up by three heading into the fourth quarter.

But the fourth quarter is what usually separates the men from the boys, the contenders from the pretenders, in this league. Or in this case, it’s what separates a 44-win team from a 14-win team.

The final quarter was basically an elite, veteran team asserting their will and pulling away from a very poor, young team. The Raptors were held to just eight points in the first nine minutes of the quarter and were outscored 30-16 over the course of the fourth, as DeJuan Blair out-muscled the Raptors’ big men to provide San Antonio’s X-factor. It also didn’t help that Toronto decided to go away from Bargnani and DeRozan at this juncture of the game.

In the end, what was supposed to happen happened, though the Raptors did continue to prove that a young team will get up for a clash with an elite team more easily than they will for a battle with a fellow cellar-dweller.

Bargnani scored 29 points and was fantastic, offensively, looking more like the player who dropped 41 at Madison Square Garden than the guy who couldn’t keep up with Luke Harangody. Though Andrea’s rebounding total of two can definitely be called into question, specifically on some failed box-outs in the fourth quarter.

DeRozan finished with 25 points and was equally as impressive as Bargnani. It was encouraging to see the youngster get to the free throw line seven times, after going three straight games without a single trip.

Another positive for the Raptors was the play of Leandro Barbosa, who scored 20 points and looked comfortable on the floor, despite playing in only his second game after a long layoff.

As for the negatives, besides the team losing for the 15th time in 16 games, Jose Calderon continued to shoot the ball poorly, Amir Johnson sprained his ankle, Sonny Weems still looked lost on the floor for most of the night and Ed Davis didn’t exactly have one of his best performances. Although with Ed, he did take a nasty spill in the third quarter, and seemed to be having problems with his left wrist after that.

Another Raptors-related note I wanted to pass along was a scolding that Jay Triano looked to be delivering to DeRozan. In the second quarter, Triano called a timeout, and when the players sat down, Jay walked up to DeMar, and looked to be pretty pissed about something. I was nowhere near close enough to hear what was said, and it may not have been negative at all or it may not have even been directed at DeMar, but it definitely looked that way.

Lastly, I wanted to finish with some praise for the almost flawless Spurs. You’ll often hear that the best defensive basketball teams work like all of the players are connected on a string. There was a sequence of defensive possessions throughout the game where the Spurs demonstrated this better than any other team I have seen in person. To be honest, it was beautiful to watch as a basketball fan.

And yes, defence can be beautiful to watch. Let’s just hope we get first-hand experience of that in Toronto…in our lifetimes.

Raptors Player of the Game: DeMar DeRozan – 37 Min, 25 Pts, 10-18 FG, 5-7 FT, 4 Reb, 4 Ast

Spurs Player of the Game: DeJuan Blair – 36 Min, 28 Pts, 14-21 FG, 11 Reb, 1 Stl (Blair scored 14 of his 28 in the fourth quarter. He was his team’s most dominant player in their most dominant quarter)

Goat of the Game:  Sonny Weems – 34 Min, 8 Pts, 4-9 FG, 1 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 Stl, 3 TO (How Sonny got 34 minutes tonight is truly a mind-boggling question. For the record, Julian Wright played less than a minute)

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One of these men is an NBA centre; the other is not

If you’re not a hardcore Raptors fan or Bucks fan, then I hope to God you didn’t tune in to this ball game between a 14-27 team and a 19-30 team. Because believe me, the two teams played to their…um…potential.

First of all, the game was played in front of a dead-silent building, “filled” with 11 975 fans and the players on the floor did nothing to excite them. From a Raptors perspective, this game was downright ugly.

Sure, DeMar DeRozan got off to another hot start, Amir Johnson crashed the glass and Leandro Barbosa made his return. But as a team, the Raptors shot 16-of-45 from the field in the first half, and struggled to score 38 points in the half. Luckily for them, the Bucks were almost just as awful, and so the Raps trailed by just two at the break.

If there was a play to sum up the first half, it came in the first quarter. Amir Johnson grabbed an offensive rebound, three times in a row on one possession, and all of them came off of a Jose Calderon miss. And that brings us to Calderon, who may have had the worst quarter of his career in the first 12 minutes. Jose went 0-for-6, with zero points, one assist and three turnovers, and it was only a sign of things to come.

Again though, the Raptors were lucky, as they came out of the half down 40-38 in a game that they should have been out of already.

The third quarter was incredibly frustrating to watch as a basketball fan, let alone a Raptors fan. Forget that the Raps only scored 20 in the quarter or that both teams were sloppy. What was frustrating was that it took 11-and-a-half minutes to get the only Raptor that was shooting well, DeRozan, a shot in the third quarter. And it took a three-on-one fast break to get him that shot attempt.

Instead, Andrea Bargnani and Jose Calderon clanked jumper after jumper while DeRozan wasted away in the corner. Now I know that part of the problem is that DeMar needs to be more assertive and demanding on offence, but as a teammate, when you know only one guy on your team is feeling it on a particular night, how do Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon and Sonny Weems combine for 46 shot attempts (of which they combined for just 13 makes), while DeRozan gets just 13? It doesn’t add up, and I don’t know whether to attribute it to poor coaching, ignorant/negligent players, or just overall stupidity from all involved.

Back to the game itself. I could mislead you by telling you that the Raptors were in a close, eight point game heading into the fourth quarter, or I could tell you the truth. Everyone who has watched this team this season could tell that towards the end of the third quarter, the wheels began to fall off, and the Bucks were about to take total control in the fourth.

Lo and behold, just three minutes into the fourth, we had a 13-point game, and mere minutes later, the Bucks were holding a very comfortable 18-point lead. In the end, the Raptors managed just 16 points in that final quarter, and actually outdid themselves (in a craptacular way) by scoring less in the second half than they did in that lousy first half. This all led to the final 18-point margin of defeat.

No matter how you slice it, the Raptors never had their heads in this game.

Aside from DeRozan, who finished with 18 points, I thought Amir Johnson brought his usual hustle to the table and Leandro Barbosa had a decent return from injury.

Amir was hampered by some familiar foul trouble and had an uncharacteristically inefficient night on the offensive end, but he, at least, looked alive on the floor and did grab 11 rebounds in just 24 minutes. Barbosa finished just 4-of-11 from the field, but he made a few nice plays and showed a willingness to attack the paint that hasn’t been seen around these parts since Barbosa went down a few weeks ago.

And if you’re thinking, “what about DeRozan attacking the paint?” Then I must remind you that DeMar has now gone three straight games without a single free throw attempt.

Oh, and before I leave you, how about this? After setting an NBA record with at least one three-pointer made in 986 consecutive games, the Raptors fell a little bit short of that record in their latest streak. On Tuesday night in Milwaukee, Toronto’s new three-point streak ended…at six games. There’s a reason this team is dead last in three-point shooting.

Raptors Player of the Game: DeMar DeRozan -39 Min, 18 Pts, 9-13 FG, 7 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl

Bucks Player of the Game: Andrew Bogut – 30 Min, 14 Pts, 6-8 FG, 2-3 FT, 5 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl, 5 Blk

Goat of the Game: Jose Calderon – 32 Min, 6 Pts, 2-15 FG, 0-3 3Pt, 2-2 FT, 4 Reb, 7 Ast, 2 Stl, 6 TO

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If we knew it, then the Raptors players and coaches had to know it. If they couldn’t end their 13-game losing streak at home against the Timberwolves, their streak could reach Cavaliers territory.

The Raps came out with a solid offensive first quarter, but their usual lack of defence prevented them from opening up a large lead.

A good sign was that Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan, who have struggled recently, were hot in the first quarter, combining to score Toronto’s first 10 points and 19 of their 33 in the quarter. Minnesota’s five turnovers in the game’s first four minutes and seven in the first quarter also helped the Raptors put up 33 in that first frame.

DeRozan and Bargnani failed to get involved in the offence in the second quarter, and the Raptors’ offence, overall, became sloppy, helping the T-Wolves make a run. The Raps were caught napping for most of the quarter, until a 16-9 run to end the half sent them to the break up four.

The Raptors had their opportunities to extend the lead and really open up the ball game throughout the night, but the T-Wolves found a way to keep it close. Two plays that stick out were the last plays of the first and third quarters. A buzzer-beating Minnesota three at the end of the first quarter was the difference between a five-point Raptors lead and a two-point lead. Later, the Raps looked poised to head into the fourth up eight, before a buzzer-beating tip-in by the Wolves cut it to six. As small as they seem, those five points were a factor in keeping things interesting.

The major factor working to keep the game close was Minnesota’s fury of threes. They made 12 three-pointers on 30 attempts, and seemed to make one every time Toronto started creeping away in the fourth quarter.

What the Raptors did in that fourth quarter though, which they were unable to do in their previous 13 games, was come up with timely stops and make big “response” buckets when they couldn’t stop the Wolves. The final spread of 11 is probably appropriate for how this game went. The Raptors were clearly the better team, but the T-Wolves did just enough to avoid getting embarrassed.

On to the portion of the post where we look at individual performances. Where else to start but Jose Calderon? On a night when he had no true backup point guard, Calderon tied a franchise record (that he already shared with Damon Stoudamire) with 19 assists.

As a team, the Raptors ball movement and willingness to share really stood out, as they racked up an astounding 35 assists on 46 made field goals. Trey Johnson and Julian Wright were commendable in spot-relief of Jose at the point. The other team-stat that leaps off of the page is that the Raptors out-rebounded the league’s best rebounding team.

Amir Johnson continued his solid play by shooting an incredibly efficient 8-of-10 from the field and coming four assists shy of a triple-double. DeRozan used his aforementioned hot start to finish with 20 points on 10-of-13 shooting, though his zero trips to the line for the second straight game might become a concern. The other member of the “Young Onez,” Sonny Weems, probably played his first good game since November. Weems finished with 18 points and shot the ball well, but it was his willingness to move the ball and share the rock instead of taking ill-advised shots that stood out to me.

Bargnani finally broke through with a 30-point game, but you still have to take his game tonight with a grain of salt. Andrea continued to shoot the ball poorly (going 10-of-26 from the field) and ended up jacking up seven three-pointers. He also committed five turnovers. He did seem a little quicker and less hesitant with the ball in his hands, but the numbers beyond his point-total suggest he still isn’t up to full speed.

Raptors Player of the Game: Amir Johnson – 36 Min, 19 Pts, 8-10 FG, 3-3 FT, 12 Reb, 6 Ast, 3 Stl, 2 Blk

Timberwolves Player of the Game: Kevin Love – 37 Min, 20 Pts, 5-11 FG, 3-6 3Pt, 7-8 FT, 15 Reb, 2 Ast (Love recorded his 35th consecutive double-double and during the ball game, word got out that he will be commissioner Stern’s selection to replace the injured Yao Ming at this year’s All Star game)

Goat of the Game: Michael Beasley – 13 Min, 4 Pts, 2-7 FG, 0-1 3Pt, 1 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 TO

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Between the usual injuries, a lack of practice time, being stranded in Indiana for a period of time and getting to Atlanta late (not to mention a 13-34 team playing on the road against one of the East’s better teams), this was one of the very few nights I would actually accept excuses from the young Raptors.

But in the first quarter, you would have a hard time faulting Toronto’s effort. The Raptors were in a close game for the entire first period, getting solid contributions from most of their bodies. On the (sore) back of Amir Johnson, who led the way with eight points and four rebounds in the first 12 minutes, the Raps looked to head to the second down 25-24, before a Joe Johnson buzzer-beater sent them to the second quarter down four.

If there was one thing you could complain about throughout the first half, it was the usual piss-poor Raptors defence. As usual, a mix between man-to-man and zone defence did nothing to slow down the efficient Hawks, who shot 57 per cent in the first half. Atlanta deserves credit more than the Raps deserve to be dumped on though, as the Hawks did a fabulous job of sharing the ball, racking up 17 assists on 24 made field goals in that first half.

The combination of a big night from Joe Johnson, their lights out offence and the defensive post presence of Al Horford, Josh Smith and Zaza Pachulia made it easy for the Hawks to slowly run away with the ball game, and they headed into halftime up nine.

The third quarter was difficult to get a read on. It seemed like the Raptors were being outplayed, out-hustled and about to be run out of the gym. They trailed by as many as 12 at one point. And yet you looked at the score after three and realized that in the end, Toronto had actually made a dent in the deficit over the course of the quarter.

Regardless of how close the game was (75-69) heading into the fourth, or how close the Raptors had kept it for most of the night, you knew, or at least should have known, that an inevitable (13th straight) loss was on its way. Maybe you didn’t see it getting as large as an 18-point deficit in the fourth quarter, but you knew where this was going.

Overall, I though the Raptors’ effort, considering the circumstances, was alright, and they ultimately lost a road game to a much better team. However, a couple of glaring negatives stuck out for me.

First, what the hell is wrong with Andrea Bargnani? Fine, we already knew his effort was inconsistent and his game was frustrating, but we also knew he could flat out score, even on an off night. So the fact his shot (4-of-12 tonight) and overall scoring has gone missing for a solid month has to be concerning. If he’s not scoring, then what in God’s name can Andrea do on the floor? And if I hear Jay Triano continue to talk about how he’s been banged up or playing too many minutes as an excuse instead of calling out the faltering big man, I may just puke.

If you needed a sequence of events to summarize Andrea’s recent play, it came in the third quarter. Bargnani missed a runner, actually did what we want him to do and grabbed his own rebound, then proceeded to miss a 10-foot jumper that hit the side of the rim. Yeah, you get the point.

Sonny Weems, the only Raptor even close to being as frustrating to watch as Bargnani, continued to make a mockery of the coaching staff with a selfish 5-of-14 night that still “earned” him 33 minutes.

In the month before his injury and the string of games since, Weems has made far too many poor decisions on the floor and is playing me-first basketball, which doesn’t mesh with a young team trying to grow together. Honestly, D-Leaguer Trey Johnson has a much higher basketball IQ than Weems. If this is what Matt Devlin meant when he shouted “Sonny’s back!” in the first quarter, then yes indeed, Sonny is back.

Another negative was seeing Jerryd Bayless, one of the few guys bringing a consistent effort, go down with a sprained knee. If Bayless misses time, and Barbosa isn’t back yet, will we see the return of Sundiata Gaines, or will Julian Wright fill in as a point-forward?

On to the positives of the night. No Raptor shone brighter than Amir Johnson, who continued his recent hot streak with a 20-point, 13-rebound performance that included him hitting his first seven shots. Amir’s emergence over the last week or so and his ability to avoid foul trouble might be the best thing we’ve seen during this ugly streak.

Another thing I liked tonight was seeing DeMar DeRozan turn a negative into a positive. DeRozan looked to be in store for another rough night at the office as he struggled through foul trouble in the first half. But give the 21-year-old credit. He came alive in the second half and finished with 16 points on a respectable 8-of-17 shooting, though his lack of free throw attempts was definitely a concern.

While some of the problem is just DeMar hitting a wall, you have to wonder how much of it has to do with Weems’ return to the lineup and starting five. The two may be best friends off of the court, but it’s painfully clear to see that Weems takes a lot of DeRozan’s shots and space away on the floor.

Raptors Player of the Game: Amir Johnson -40 Min, 20 Pts, 8-11 FG, 4-4 FT, 13 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 Blk

Hawks Player of the Game: Joe Johnson -39 Min, 37 Pts, 15-21 FG, 5-8 3Pt, 2-3 FT, 2 Reb, 8 Ast

Goat of the Game: Andrea Bargnani – 27 Min, 12 Pts, 4-12 FG, 0-2 3Pt, 4-4 FT, 5 Reb, 1 TO

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If you tuned in to watch the 10-36 Timberwolves host the 13-34 Raptors, you got what you expected, or at least what you should have expected from two of the worst and coldest teams in the NBA. In fact, you probably got more than you expected, in a sick, twisted way.

Matt and Jack had to spend the entire first quarter talking about the contingent of Canadian/Raptors fans in attendance in Minnesota (which was nice to see and equally impressive) because there was no basketball game in front of them to talk about. Seriously, the first quarter was highlighted by the Raptors shooting 35 per cent, the T-Wolves shooting 29 per cent, and a dream one-on-one matchup between Alexis Ajinca and Darko Milicic.

From a Raptors perspective of disgrace, things were just warming up. On my count, the Raps shot 5-of-23 in the second quarter, refused to take a step in the paint on offence or move a muscle on defence, let the T-Wolves go on a 13-0 run and as you can tell, played with no sense of urgency, or pride for that matter, whatsoever.

Even worse, the team seemed to feel no shame for their atrocious first half display. In fact, Jay Triano’s halftime interview was totally calm, as he talked about how his team was doing fine defensively and just not making shots on offence.

Jay clearly wasn’t aware that those watching his interview had also actually seen the first half.

Toronto responded with their worst quarter of the night, and headed to the fourth down 21, shooting a feeble 27.6 per cent after three quarters.

Trying to bask in the glory of just their 11th win of the season, the Timberwolves enjoyed every minute of the fourth quarter. They hit some threes at the beginning of the quarter, laughed as the Raptors clanked jumpers and then got to watch Martell Webster take the ball from the three-point line, drive straight down the middle of what passes as Toronto’s defence, and throw down this jam. That made it 91-65 Minnesota, and it became painfully clear for Raptors fans that they were watching one of the worst performances in franchise history.

The Raps went on a bit of a run in the dying minutes to make the final score look somewhat respectable, but that’s typical of an NBA blowout. This game was ugly from the get-go, and only one team chose to jump up and fight for a rare victory.

The Raptors had no effort out of the gates, and no fight when they needed it. No matter how you slice it, they just didn’t want the victory. If you’re going to come with the “all pro athletes want to win” argument, then I suggest you review the game film from Saturday night.

The only player in black who demonstrated an ounce of competitive spirit was Ed Davis, but it’s hard for a 21-year-old rookie to carry a team. The other guy you can usually count on for an honest effort, Julian Wright, didn’t see the floor until there were seven minutes remaining in the game, because Jay Triano thought Sonny Weems had earned his way back into the starting lineup, gave him 28 minutes and went to Trey Johnson when Sonny needed a break. As if Jay hadn’t given Raptors fans enough reason to call for his head.

Then there’s this gem. After the game, Triano praised his team’s defence, even though anyone who saw the game knows the defensive effort was laughable and the Wolves simply missed a lot of makeable shots. But Jay wasn’t done. I kid you not, Jay said he thought his team “battled.” How does management allow Triano to insult fans’ intelligence like that, time after time?

You may have noticed that DeMar DeRozan has hit a bit of a rut after his stellar month. It’s no coincidence that this coincides with Sonny Weems’ return to the lineup. Both players have similar skill-sets, and it’s become clear that DeRozan thrives without Weems running alongside him. For the sake of DeMar’s development, hopefully there’s a team out there willing to give Sonny a chance to end the season with them.

Raptors Player of the Game: Ed Davis -25 Min, 15 Pts,  7-10 FG, 1-4 FT, 11 Reb

Timberwolves Player of the Game: Kevin Love -24 Min, 21 Pts, 6-10 FG, 2-4 3Pt, 7-8 FT, 12 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

Goat of the Game: Andrea Bargnani – 32 Min, 15 Pts, 5-24 FG, 0-5 3Pt, 5-6 FT, 3 Reb, 3 Ast, 2 Stl, 3 Blk