Zan in the Key
Fans Get it Right
The fan voting for All-Star games in sports has a tendency to go terribly wrong. Players get in who have name value and often the most deserving players do not make it.
Well, the fans got it right this year (at least in the East) where Kyle Lowry was voted in over Dwayne Wade of the Miami Heat.Nothing against Wade, he is actually having a decent year, but Lowry has been phenomenal. He is the heart and soul of the Raptors and has led them to top spot in the Atlantic Division and top three in the East.
He deserves to be there.
It was great timing to see the team receive this news while in Lowry’s hometown of Philadelphia. The team got together and watched the announcement live together at Lowry’s offseason home.
Kudos as well to Raptor Nation who came together at the 11th hour and helped Lowry overcome a huge deficit in votes to reach the spot as starter. If Bieber actually understood how twitter works Lowry would have won by a much larger margin.
Raptor fans are the best! We The North!
Finding the Right Formula
The Raptors had a rough home stand and got off to rough starts against both the Sixers and Pistons
Until Sunday night, DeMar DeRozan was not the same player that started this NBA season. In the first month of the season he looked like a sure-fire All Star before injuring his adductor longus tendon.
Before the injury DeRozan was hitting shots, driving the lane, getting to the foul line and making life incredibly difficult for opposing defences.
Since returning he hasn’t looked the same. He wasn’t able to get buckets in the lane, he was settling for jump shots and he wasn’t getting to the charity stripe (a huge part of his game).
The last two games have seen DeRozan play more like he did in the early part of the year. In the last two games he has scored 49 points and more importantly has taken 23 free throw attempts during those two wins. In the previous 7 games, since his return, he had only managed 22 free throw attempts. The difference has been huge.
Raptor fans are clearly going to have to be patient with DeRozan, but the signs are there that he is returning to form.
Not coincidently, the games that DeRozan has played at his best have ended in Raptor wins.
Shake it Up
The starting lineup has gone through a few incarnations this year with DeRozan hurt, but it may be time to shake it up on a more consistent basis. Terrence Ross has been far from his best the last few weeks in the starting five and may be better coming off the bench.
Amir Johnson might need a move as well.
This isn’t to say they are not useful players or that they don’t have a purpose late in games, but the raptors have been getting off to terrible starts (as they did on Friday and again last night) and cannot keep doing that. The Raps might be able to get away with a sloppy start against the Pistons or the Pacers, but there is no way they can do that down the stretch against teams they are fighting for position with.
Terrence Ross has been dreadful of late. There have been countless blogs out there bashing Ross and it’s hard to argue with many of them. He just hasn’t been effective. In fact, the last two games he played important valuable minutes coming off the bench. He still had opportunities to hit open threes and his defense looked sound against the second unit. He seems better suited to playing without the pressure.
Greivis Vasquez has been great when called upon to spot start for Terrence Ross. His three-point shooting opens the floor and he is able to allow Kyle Lowry more shot opportunities by playing the point. This might be the way to go moving forward.
Patrick Patterson, likewise, may have earned himself a starting spot as the “go-to” big for the Raptors. He is consistently closing out games for the team and might be a better choice to start them as well. He is defensively sound, makes smart plays and has the ability to really stretch the floor.
Despite his excellent play against the Pistons and again last night against the Pacers, Amir looks wounded to me. He could use a stint on the bench to get himself healthy and playing fewer minutes every game will keep him fresh come playoff time.
Casey called out his team this week for a perceived lack of effort. Ross and Valanciunas have been the biggest targets of that anger, but as a whole the team seems to be waiting for the problems to fix themselves and they’ve consistently played down to the level of their opponent.
Casey was right to call them out. Since DeMar has come back this team seems to be on auto-pilot. They are going through the motions and possibly assumed that DeMar’s return would immediately rectify any issues they were having. It has not.
The Raptors responded against the Pistons and held on for a big victory, They looked much better last night on the road in Indiana but in the words of Chris Rock “that’s what you’re supposed to do”. The Raps are supposed to beat these teams, they shouldn’t be overly confident because of wins they are supposed to get. Now comes another stretch of games against inferior opponents. The team must take advantage of the schedule or risk falling in the East.
I want to start off by saying I think Dwane Casey has done a great job as coach of the raptors this season. He’s got the team working hard, he preaches defense and trusts his best players to make the winning plays at the end of the game.
But what the hell is doing with Jonas Valanciunas?
Jonas has been a consistently solid post presence for the Raptors and has been begging for more playing time, but his minutes have been consistently inconsistent. Even in a game where he is shooting over 50% he is pulled out for large stretches of the game, especially in the fourth quarter. This was the case again on Sunday where Casey yanked Jonas in the fourth quarter in favour of a smaller lineup, even though the “Big Lithuanian” was dominating the paint for the Raptors.
Yes, the matchup against a smaller Detroit team didn’t make sense during the fourth quarter, but Jonas earned those minutes. Casey should have put Jonas back in the game during the fourth quarter when Amir was struggling. Of course Amir hit the big free throws at the end of the game, but it should have been Jonas in the game.
This is a player the team is likely going to build with going forward. He is very hard to guard inside for most opponents and his defensive game is getting better.
Yes he gets into foul trouble (as he did last night), and yes he can become a little too “complainy” with the officials, but this is a 7″2′ monster inside the paint. He scorched the Pistons inside on Sunday night and then sat out the 4th quarter. He did the same against the Pistons on Jan. 12th and has the potential to do it to any team on any given night. The Raptors should be looking for Jonas early, as they did on Sunday night, and cannot forget about him in the second half.
Jonas deserves more time.
Zan Tabak Herald