Episode 43 of RAPS TALK (03.18.13) - So...the Raptors playoff hopes are pretty much done for this season. On this week's podcast, we catch up on the last few weeks with the Raptors, talk about the future of Andrea Bargnani, discuss the Raptors Harlem Shake, we have a #TEAMJACKDANIELS update and we also have our regular segments "Hoop Heads Humour of the Week" and "The Wenningtons of the Week."
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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: RAPTORS 114 - BUCKS 122 SEASON RECORD: 23W-37L
POUND THE ROCK STAR #1: AMIR JOHNSON
LINE: 19 pts (9-11), 1-2 FT, 9 reb
From the first tip right up until about three minutes left in overtime Amir Johnson was the motor keeping the Raptors going, taking high percentage shots and making things difficult for the Bucks with his defense. Andrea Bargnani and Landry Fields were a great help to Amir’s cause early on with their size and active hands creating points off of turnovers. Amir had 9 points by halftime but went scoreless in a poor 3rd quarter by the Raptors before scoring 10 in the fourth. Even though Amir Johnson fouled out he was a key factor in trying to keep the Raptors playoff hopes alive.
POUND THE ROCK STAR #2: ALAN ANDERSON
LINE: 21 pts (8-20), 4-5 FT
None of Alan Anderson’s points were as important as his dunk to tie the game at 104 with 1.6 seconds left in the 4th quarter sending the game into overtime. Anderson’s role in keeping the Raptors in the game with 21 points in 29 minutes of playing time was invaluable especially with Rudy Gay out with back spasms. Averaging 24 minutes and 11 points this season its good to know he can elevate his game when Toronto is short handed and he is getting more touches. Should this be the end of the Toronto’s playoff chances, Raptors management should feel good knowing a player like Anderson is capable of performing well under pressure when his number is called. No doubt a topic of conversations with trade rumours likely to resurface at the end of the season.
POUND THE ROCK STAR #3: JOHN LUCAS III
LINE: 16 pts (6-9), 4-5 3pts
With less than 20 minutes of playing time John Lucas was able score 16 points on 66% shooting and 80% from 3 point range. DeMar Derozan was clearly no slouch with 18 points and 9 assists of his own and my only concern is that it was done with a little under 48 minutes on 6-21 shooting. There was no doubt a monkey wrench thrown into the Raptors new system with the temporary loss of Rudy Gay and more pressure will understandably fall back onto Derozan. This is why John Lucas III will remain coach Casey’s favorite go to bench player by staying ready to play at full speed the way the coaching staff and fans know he can when the team needs him the most, like he did tonight.
SHOUTOUTS TO THE Bucks:
LINE: 29 pts (12-21), 5-5 FT, 11 reb, 2 stl
Ersan Ilyasova has averaged 11.6 points and 6.5 rebounds this season and improved to 15 points and 7.5 rebounds in the month of February helping keep the Bucks playoff hopes alive. No doubt asked to fill the void left by Andrew Bogut, Ersan Ilyasova welcomes contact under the rim with his 6’10 235 pound frame and balances it with a decent mid range jumper should his defenders ever question his ability. His tip in of a missed shot with seconds left in the 4th quarter giving the Bucks a 104-102 lead is another example of his endless hustle and determination. Extra points go out to him after clocking in nearly 40 minutes in an uptempo game which can often be a challenge for big men.
With a little under two months left in the NBA season the Raptors will have to forget the bad calls and the “could have, should have and would have” moments that littered their record throughout their first 20 games. The Raptors currently sit at the 9th spot in the East tied with the Philadelphia 76ers and 6 games behind the Milwaukee Bucks. If the NFL is a “game of inches” then the Raptors mantra is about winning games “decided by stats” with variables all less than 10.
The Indiana Pacers are force to be reckoned with and have won 4 of their last 5 games and are tied for 2nd in the East. The season series between these 2 teams is 2-1 in favor of the Raptors. One can only hope that the with the Pacers losing the first of back to back games, a day off for the Raptors and a concentrated effort that they can win the season series at 3-1 tonight.
In order to make that possible there are a few important things Toronto will have to do and the room for error is very small.
Bench Mob: All season long we have had great break out performances from the likes of Alan Anderson and John Lucas III. It’s always fun to watch a bench player have a game where everything goes their way and it makes for a great story. The key is turning these one-off situations into a common occurrences. By all accounts Andrea Bargnani should be leading the charge off the bench with Landry Fields and Terrence Ross should they get the playing time. The Raptors bench averaged 18 points in their last 3 losses and averaged 25 in their last 2 wins. Before you say that small of a margin doesn’t make a difference, all 3 losses mentioned above were by an average of 7.6 points.
Free Throws: Every team needs to shoot well from the line to stay in close games. Although the Raptors are doing great in that category averaging around 80% as of late, the truth is they will need to stay around or above 85% as they did in their last 2 wins. The Raptors lost by 6 points to the Wizards and that just so happens to be the exact number of free throws they missed that night. I know asking a team to shoot 100% from the line is unrealistic however getting to the line which Toronto already does a great job of doing, will have to be better. With a few more free throw opportunities or a higher free throw percentage it could make all the difference. With Toronto tied for 6th place in free throw percentage among all NBA teams there is nothing to frown at and proves they have what it takes to make that extra push and turn close games into wins.
Turnovers: Every team wants keep their turnovers down and its obvious the Raptors keep themselves in every game when they keep their turnover numbers low. Only New York and Philadelphia average less turnovers than Toronto who themselves average 12.7 turnovers per game. As shown by their last 3 losses going even slightly over that number to 14.3 can make a huge difference. Indiana is a tough defensive team so passes will need to be sharp and the Raptors will have to avoid charges and fouls under the basket because the Pacers are in no way afraid of contact, they welcome it. Photo via Raptors HQ