Watching the Raptors one night after watching a potential first overall pick from Canada dominate on national TV is like downgrading a Nexus 5 to a Motorola Razr. One is exciting, dynamic, full of hope and the other was last cool in 2006. So you'll have to excuse me if I fail to do a good job of conveying how well the Raptors played tonight.
Toronto looked to be on a mission right from tip-off. Clearly, the backlash from that horrid Rockets game lit a fire under the team and it all started with Rudy Gay and DeMar Derozan. Rudy was playing with a visibly different mindset -- looking for teammates, and not worrying about his own point total. That, in addition to some stifling defence, gave the Raptors a 26-20 lead after the 1st Q. The bench was able to hold the fort when the 2nd quarter came around, as the Raptors actually managed to extend the lead to 55-44 going into the break.
Of course, at this point, we witnessed the perpetual failure to make adjustments on Dwane Casey's part, as the Grizzlies came out with an attacking mindset. They managed to tie the game up at 70-70, and much like everyone else, I was thinking "here we go again". But shockingly, one Dwane Casey timeout later, it was ALL Toronto from that point forward. The Raptors even got a couple minutes of garbage time out of it, and I saw one more minute of DJ Augustin than I wanted to.
- Rudy Gay, DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry - I'm just going to lump them together for tonight. I saw some nice chemistry between them, and best of all, great shot selection. Rudy Gay really filled up the stat sheet in all areas. He shot a decent percentage (8-18), to the tune of 23 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 steals and 2 blocks. This was his best performance of the season. Demar and Kyle had solid games themselves -- 21 and 6 assists for Lowry, 18 and 4 assists for Demar. It was one of the few times we've seen all of them have good games simultaneously. Let's hope that trend continues.
- The Bench - Let's face it, the bench has deservedly taken a ton of criticism for their play this season. Today, I thought they were all fantastic. Hansbrough played a key role in shutting down Randolph, Terrence Ross continues to look good defensively, and Dwight Buycks is miles better than DJ Augustin and Julyan Stone. A pretty solid, if unspectacular performance by them all.
- Dwane Casey - Another one of the main whipping boys of the season so far. I thought Dwane Casey had a solid game today. He shortened the bench, in order to keep the effective starters in the game as much as possible. He called timeouts at the right times to stop the bleeding. And he made adjustments at the right time when the Grizzlies were looking to make a run. Good job by him today.
- Jonas Valanciunas - He's going to be very good some day, but he got taken to town by Marc Gasol. The least effective starter tonight, only 4 points and 7 boards. Gasol had his way with him defensively too, with an 18-10-4 statline. Chalk this one up as a learning experience for JV.
- Nothing on the Raptors side to complain about, but these Grizzlies look nothing like the team that made the WCF a season ago. They seem to really miss Lionel Hollins. The defence looks leaky, the depth is lacking, and besides Mike Conley, they have no one remotely threatening on the perimeter. Tony Allen was one of their better offensive players tonight, need I say more?
Aaron Gray is fifty shades of terrible.