The Raptors were back at the ACC on Sunday to face the Sacramento Kings. In what was a battle of two young and struggling teams the home team managed to pull out the win with big time performances from Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan.
The Toronto Raptors needed a victory on wild-card Sunday and with some incredible offense they did just that.
Perhaps inspired by the offensive outburst in Saturday's Seahawks/Saints game, the Sunday matinee had two teams put on an offensive showcase - the final score 118-112 in favour of the home Raptors.
Facing a shorthanded Sacramento Kings team who were missing their best player in Tyreke Evans, the Raptors got out to a blinding start hitting their first ten shots and by the final buzzer things really hadn't slowed down.
The Raptors got two fantastic offensive performances from Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan.
Andrea was simply unstoppable on Sunday and he showed all of his offensive skills. This was one of those games where you almost watch in awe as Bargnani simply got whatever look he wanted and he was aggressive with the ball. He attacked the rim, hid mid-range jumpers and nailed some long range shots while making them look like lay-ups. Bargnani was causing fits for Samuel Dalembert and Jason Thompson.
Much like Andrea, DeMar put on an offensive clinic as well. Over the past few weeks DeMar has looked like a completely different player on the offensive end. He looks incredibly confident and he is elevating his game. Although his ball handling could still use a little work DeMar is now creating space, finding his shots and perhaps most importantly - not settling for jumpers.
Down the stretch of today's game it was DeRozan's willingness to attack the rim that really helped secure the W. I have been steadfast in my belief that we can't judge DeRozan until the end of his third season but it seems like he is getting ready to turn the corner.
Combined, Andrea and DeMar carried the team to victory and what was very impressive out both offensive performances was just how efficient both players were combining to hit 25 of 39 shots.
The other clutch player for the Raptors today? Leandro Barbosa who had a huge fourth quarter and hit some clutch shots down the stretch. It was a line-up of Calderon, Barbosa, DeRozan, Amir Johnson and Andrea Bargnani that sealed the victory for the Dinos.
Not to rain on the victory parade but had this been any team other than the Kings I feel confident that the Raps would have lost this game. Once again this team's lack of defense (on the perimeter, on the inside, on the break, etc.) was readily apparent. Beno Udrih was able to get into the paint at will and the Kings had countless open looks.
None of today's victory can be attributed to defense.
At the end of the day the Raptors just happened to make a few more shots and the Kings made a few mistakes down the stretch. If Tyreke Evans had been playing would the outcome have been the same?
The lack of defense on both sides of the ball shouldn't be that surprising. Both squads are very young and still very much learning the NBA game. As Jack and Matt said on a number of occasions through the broadcast, without Reggie Evans and Peja Stojakovic the Raptors are the second youngest team in the league. Neither team really has a true veteran presence to teach these guys how to play defense and the immaturity on the defensive end showed.
Speaking of immature - let's discuss DeMarcus Cousins for a moment. If you looked at Cousins stat line from the game yesterday you would have thought he was a bigger presence in the game than he was. Saddled with foul trouble Cousins only managed 28 minutes of PT, yet still had a strong double double.
If this guy gets his head on straight just how could can he be?
Cousins was a man among boys in the NCAA and the jump to the NBA has not changed the fact that he is an absolute beast of a man with a soft touch to go along with a mean streak attitude. I actually feel bad for him that he ended up in Sacramento where there is no-one to teach him how to be a pro and develop as a player. If he had a mentor, say someone like Tim Duncan, to show him how to play, he would be a dominant force for years to come.
Let's hope his career doesn't go in a similar fashion to that of Derrick Coleman - so much promise so few results.
The Raptors now face the Atlanta Hawks and then have one more home game before heading on a brutal road stretch. They very much needed this W and can hopefully find a way to win one more at home because W's are going to be hard to find when they board the next plane.