POUND THE ROCK STARS - On a nightly basis, no matter how good or bad the Raps play, no matter if they blow out a team or if they get blown out and no matter if they win or lose, these are the Raptors with the best 'Pound the Rock' status for the night.
FINAL SCORE: BOBCATS 98, RAPTORS 97 SEASON RECORD: 3W-9L
POUND THE ROCK STAR #1: JONAS VALANCIUNAS
LINE: 16 pts (8-11), 10 reb
Jonas was displaying traits from some of the best big men in the NBA while putting up more than 15 points for the second time in his short NBA career. Last night Jonas was making quick moves to the basket as soon as he received the ball, moved extremely well without the ball on offense and chased down all his own and teammates shots turning them into points or rebounds. Jonas also seemed more energetic and not once looked as if he was running in sand like some rookie big men do when they feel they aren’t getting enough touches and sulk. From aggressively posting up in the paint to setting screens for everyone to running the pick and roll with Lowry regularly, Jonas’ skill set was on full display. When trailing on offense he not only confidently shot but hit the open jumpers the defense offered him without missing a beat. If Lowry and Jonas can find the same type of chemistry that Jose and Amir have found, things are bound to pick up.
LINE: 21 pts (6-15), 5-7 FT, 8 ast
On the tail end of back to back games since coming back from injury Kyle Lowry clearly appeared to be in a pass first mentality to start the game. He seemed as quick as he normally does and made sure if he didn’t earn an official assist he would be credited by fans with the ‘hockey assist’ instead. Lowry insisted on getting his teammates involved in the first half, opting to take his shots later in the game. Becoming increasingly aggressive and driving to the basket allowed for some great free throw opportunities as well. Perhaps subconsciously making up for DeMar DeRozan’s mere 3 free throw attempts compared to his usual 5 or 6. Lowry and Jonas ran a two-man game similar to that of Jose and Amir throughout the game and truthfully, it looked great. Many of us assume that Lowry has not fully recovered from his injuries, but if last night’s performance was only at the halfway mark, I can’t wait to see him in the red.
POUND THE ROCK STAR #3: ANDREA BARGNANI
LINE: 25 pts (9-17)I don’t think Andrea’s pump fakes resulting in defenders flying past him will ever get old. I am almost tempted to make a montage of such events accompanied by the ‘Benny Hill Theme.’ In all seriousness though, it is a true sign of respect. Opponents know he can shoot and he counters this by driving to the basket. This must become a habit. No question about it. He is showing a greater ability to take defenders one on one with what seems to be better ball control and recognition of match ups. Andrea’s offence sent Mullens to the bench early with foul trouble in the 1st quarter as he was visibly frustrated by his inability to guard him. Andrea is and always has been a scorer. Rebounding and assists has never been his cup of tea. With the current roster the Raptors have, I’m perfectly fine with Andrea focusing on scoring since there is plenty of players to pick up the slack in other stat categories in the box score.
SHOUTOUTS TO THE BOBCATS:
LINE: 19 pts (8-16), 7 ast
Fast. That is all I kept thinking while watching Kemba Walker run the point for the Bobcats. At one point I asked myself if he was too fast for his own good and perhaps needed to slow down to allow his teammates to catch up. Along with his aggressive style and his preference to find his teammates shots before finding his own, his speed turns him into a very exciting point guard to watch. With those abilities, it was no surprise he made the decision to take the wheel and help his team go on a run which eventually led to the Bobcats victory. I’m not sure I want to start pointing fingers at the ‘small market conspiracy’ or the Bobcats 2012 7-59 record as the only reason Kemba Walker is not part of the mainstream Point Guard discussion, so I won’t. Fact remains he is averaging 18 pts and 5 reb per game and is no doubt worthy of some attention.
Next up for the Raps: @ Detroit (Friday)
(Photo from The Toronto Sun)
(Photo from The Toronto Sun)