The Toronto Raptors gave it their all yesterday afternoon, but the Lake Show rolled to their fifth straight win with a 120 to 110 victory over the short-handed Dinos.
We've talked a lot this season about margin of error.
The Toronto Raptors are certainly not the most talented team in the league, so for them to get wins, especially over some of the league's elite, they need to get a complete effort from their team.
It also helps when they have a team.
Yesterday afternoon the Raps were without leading scorer Andrea Bargnani and key wing Sonny Weems, and against the team with the best road record in the league, the Dinos knew they were in for a real challenge.
However they didn't crumble, and didn't fold, and fought this one out to the game's final minutes, eventually succumbing in a 120 to 110 loss. The Lakers simply had the upper hand in terms of depth and talent, and despite a great effort from the Dinos, this one ended in Toronto's 18th loss of the season.
Lots in this game, and great to see in a season such as this, where the team should be building for the future.
I'll start with the youngsters, as Raptors' fans saw solid performances from guys like Joey Dorsey and Julian Wright, and some sensational play from Amir Johnson and DeMar DeRozan. Amir started out hot, hitting open J after open J on offence, but back spasms kept him from being as effective in the second half, as repeatedly he had to head to the locker room.
DeMar DeRozan showed glimpses of what the Raptors expect from him in the future, dropping in 23 points on the day, 11 of these from the free-throw line as he was perfect from the charity stripe. Unfortunately 19 of his 23 came in the third quarter and he failed to score a point in the fourth while being hounded by Matt Barnes. He was also a team high minus 17 on the day thanks to his defence of Kobe Bryant. Again, the 19 were great to see, but on a day when the Dinos were missing their main gun Bargnani, the team needed more down the stretch from someone they're banking their future on.
One player for the Raps though who had no trouble scoring in the fourth was Linas Kleiza.
Kleiza had his second straight dominant performance finishing with a game-high 26 points while also grabbing 10 rebounds. He wasn't great from long range (4 of 10), but if you watched the game yesterday, you saw how Toronto should be using him going forward. He's not athletic enough to create off the bounce or score on face-up one-on-one situations...but make him the fourth man on the perimeter after a number of bullet passes lead to an open look?
And look out.
His offensive efficiency is very much determined by the types of looks he gets.
Yesterday that extra pass many-a-time found him on the perimeter after two or three Raptors touched it, and it gave Kleiza enough space to either shoot the 3, or drive to the hoop. He doesn't have the quickest step, but that extra time as the ball swings around the perimeter allows him to get a head start on his opponent, and he's got a nice enough touch to finish in close.
It's the same idea on post-ups.
He can be absolutely lethal in close if he's got a mismatch and in a sense he's a bit of a Bargnani 1.0.
Speaking of Bargs, I admittedly watched this game thinking what if...as in "what if Andrea had played." I'm not big on using scoring as a benchmark of effectiveness, but it was brutally apparent that Toronto needed help on the offensive end yesterday, and I would have loved to have seen what Bargs could have done. Folks assume I simply "hate Bargnani" when that couldn't be further from the truth. "I hate" to see this team struggle and underachieve year in and year out, and if I'd love to see Andrea help this club rise from the Atlantic Division ashes. In fact, with his recent offensive wizardry, I'm extremely interested to see how he performs from here on out, not just on the defensive end, but on O too in terms of keeping his team afloat.
I'll leave the final praise though for Jose Calderon.
To me, numero ocho was the true MVP for the Raptors yesterday.
Toronto fought to the finish, but it wouldn't have been possible without Calderon's 12 assists, and numerous other "Gretzky assists," not to mention his 20 points and overall disposition in a game that some would have said was an automatic L.
Nope, the Jose fans saw yesterday was the one of old, the one who would find seams in the opposition's defence that no one else saw, the one who would drill shots in your face if you dared take away his passing lanes. Most impressive though was his willingness to get out and run, something the team fed off of in order to take the lead at one point, and keep this game throughout. Calderon was immediately looking for the lead pass and did a supreme job guiding the team's offence right up until the final whistle.
So what can fans expect Wednesday versus Detroit , more of the same?
Well first it would be nice to get Bargnani and Weems back but more importantly, this team needs another full team effort.
That effort was there today...
...it was just too bad they didn't have a full team to put behind said effort.