After the first quarter shellacking delivered by the Lakers, I thought we might be in for a boring route, but just like against Utah, the bench came in and turned things around. In fact, this reminds me a lot of last season when the team would be down double digits after the first quarter in quite a number of games, only to see the bench bring them back. It was this that eventually caused Calderon to replace Jack in the starting lineup. Are we going to see that again? Well, we might if Calderon keeps playing like he did against the Lakers.
Calderon didn’t have a spectacular game, and he was guilty of a few too many turnovers, including one key one, but he might have been the best Raptor on the court last night. I’ve always said I like Jack, but he looks for his own shot far too much, especially on the drive, and I think he’s much better suited to the bench. The offense seems to sputter more with Jack running the offense than Calderon, and that’s because Calderon is more a true PG. One of the main reasons many fans wanted Jack to start over Jose was because of defense, but Calderon’s defense has improved quite a bit this year. He hasn’t become Rajon Rondo, but he’s no longer the liability he was the last couple of seasons. I woulnd’t be surprised to see him in the starting lineup by Christmas, if not before.
DeMar DeRozan had a horrible return home last season, and apparently decided to focus more on the game and shut out the distractions this year. It was evident in his game. It wasn’t spectacular, as his shooting percentage wasn’t great and he only got to the line once, but he didn’t back down from playing Kobe and defended him as well as anyone can. And on offense he went at him unafraid. It was another step in his development and great to see.
If there’s one criticism in DeRozan’s game the last couple, is that he isn’t getting to the line like he should be. It’s not as if he’s not driving, but he’s been avoiding the contact more, rather than seeking it. If he’s going to become a great player, it’s going to be in large part for his ability to manufacture points, and getting to the line is a big part of that.
The other player that had a great game for the Raptors was Amir Johnson. Amir had his first double-double of the season, mostly because he was able to stay out of foul trouble. He even got one more rebound (15 in total) than Reggie did, which means the PF position for the Raptors grabbed 29 rebounds. That’s incredible and a big reason why the Raptors were able to kill the Lakers on the boards, despite only 5 rebounds from the center position.
Leandro Barbosa had a great 2nd quarter. Some grumbled that Triano didn’t bring him back earlier in the 3rd, but with the starters holding their own, it was probably best to leave them on the floor. Besides, Barbosa was not impressive when he did return, including seemingly forgetting that he had teammates on the floor. On one play, he overdribbled and then forced the shot, only to criticize Amir for crowding the paint. Meanwhile, half the Raptor players were wide open because it was obvious to the Laker defenders that Barbosa wasn’t going to pass.
Lastly, Julian Wright made a brief appearance and hopefully showed Sonny Weems that there are other ways to help the team other than shoot. Wright showed why he’s got such a great defensive reputation, and even grabbed 6 rebounds in just 9 minutes. In just 9 minutes, Wright was the second best Raptors rebounder.
In other Raptor news, apparently there are “rumblings” of Toronto possibly having “some” interest in Gilbert Arenas. Hopefully that interest is if the Wizards also want to give up John Wall. That, I might do.
In other NBA news, Detroit finally won a game against the Charlotte Bobcats. Why is this news I’m mentioning? Because Detroit is a team I think will finish behind the Raptors in the standing, so it’s best to keep an eye on them. But also because Rodney Stuckey was benched for the game by head coach John Kuester. This is the same Stuckey that so many Raptor fans were clamouring over the last couple of years. Personally, I like my PGs to be able to run and offense, but not all Raptor fans agree with that.
Miami lost for the second time this season, this time to New Orleans, who most pundits probably didn’t give a great chance of making the playoffs. They’re currently undefeated. Funny what a healthy Chris Paul will do for your team. I’m a little surprised at how quickly people for got just how good he was after suffering with injuries last season.
And for those keeping track, Marco Belinelli is still their starting SG and is averaging 11 ppg on .410 shooting. At least that’s better than what he shot with the Raptors.
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