Games like these against a quality Western Conference opponent -- and defending champions no less -- are much tougher, on paper, than say: a home date against the Boston Celtics. They're not easy wins to pick up, but they're also much better in terms of measuring Toronto against quality opposition. The Raptors could have easily lost this game in the fourth quarter and I would still have come away encouraged just by their effort and level of play.
Instead, they shoot 43.2 percent, and come away with their second straight victory against a West playoff team. Not bad considering how the week started.
Onto the notes and quotes:
- We have to start with James Johnson, right? The Greivis Vasquez in the starting lineup experiment ended last night. Johnson attacked the rim and finished around the basket all night, on his way to 20 points on 8-for-10 shooting in 30 minutes. He did airball two jumpers during the game, but it was apparently to set us up for this:
This man https://t.co/aZf8l0PvEN— Raptors Republic (@raptorsrepublic) February 9, 2015
- After the game, Johnson on his corner three: "Just took it with confidence. I felt like Kyle wouldn't throw that pass to me if he wasn't all the way confident about it."
- Dwane Casey on the switch to put Johnson in the starting lineup: "For defensive purposes, to matchup with Kawhi Leonard...He came through with flying colors."
- JV: 16 boards
- Afterwards, Tim Duncan praised Valanciunas' play, but also admitted he missed a lot of easy looks. Duncan finished 3-for-14 from the field. The Spurs shot a season low 33.3 percent from the field
- The last in-bounds play for the Spurs -- after I think 17 timeouts -- was meant to be a back screen for Manu Ginobili to get open, with an option to Kawhi Leonard.
- This would have been Gregg Popovich's 1,000th career win. When asked if he would treat this one any different before the game, Pop simply stared at the reporter and said, "give me a break."
- After the game, Pop answered a few questions, and then there was a lull in the media scrum, and then Pop asked us, "you guys get paid for this?" Some of us do, I think...
- That's 2-0 for the Raptors during this brutal stretch of eight in a row -- sandwiched by the All-Star break -- against quality opponents. Sure feels a lot better than after back-to-back losses to the Bucks and Nets.
- JV: 4 blocks
- Louis Williams, better known as Lou Williams, went scoreless in 15 minutes.
- At practice on Saturday, Casey talked about how he prefers a nine-man rotation than ten. With Johnson in the starting lineup now, it'll be interesting to monitor the bench minutes for Lou, Greivis and Terrence Ross. All three played around 15 minutes tonight, you figure some nights one of those three might see a DNP or very limited minutes.
- For a second there, this was going to be a Marco Belinelli revenge game.
- Tim Duncan was also asked by a reporter afterwards if "they really wanted to get this win for Pop". His wide-eyed response: "I don't know what you're getting at, we don't try to win for any one person." Pop has trained him well.
- One more left before the All-Star break. Washington visits on Wednesday
- BTW, any Dragon Ball Z fans?