Last night, before the game against the Utah Jazz, a reporter began a question to head coach Dwane Casey by mentioning the Thunder's "death lineup" and saying the Raptors had arguably "the best lineup in the league, numbers-wise." He was talking about the combination of Kyle Lowry with the bench mob (Joseph, Ross, Patterson and Biyombo). It was quite an opener.
Casey's facial expression as this question was fired off was a wonder to behold. He said you can "make the numbers say what you want to say," which acknowledges the fact that, uh, the Golden State Warriors exist and the Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook combo is a legit terror. But the flip side of this statement, with regards to the Raptors, highlights the problems the team is currently having with the starting lineup. For a couple weeks now we've been harping on Luis Scola's play -- his Old Man Game has turned into a Dead Man's Game -- and the weird ups and downs of Jonas Valanciunas.
Sadly, James Johnson can be added to this heap as well. His numbers are down, his "wow!" plays have disappeared, and the relief from the crowd when Ross (how about that?) comes into the game for him is palpable. Yes, you can make the numbers say what they want to say, but sometimes you don't even have to work very hard to figure out the message.
Did James Johnson Play?
Johnson got tangled up in 49 minutes this past week, which means if you took the under, you're a winner. (Your prize is in the mail.) As for the rest of us, the abstainers or the people who took the over, it's hard not to sense a certain lack in Johnson's game as of late.
At times it feels like Johnson was genetically designed to slow down a player like LeBron James. Do you remember anything non-Kyle Lowry related from Friday's game? Johnson put in five points on Sunday night in the Detroit disaster show. Do you remember it? I was at the Utah game last night and Johnson scored one bucket. But I do not remember it.
Things are not going great.
I don't know why James Johnson was around Father Henry Carr high school when they won the TDCAA title, but I respect the hell out of this picture.
I can vouch from personal experience that FHC high school is usually damn good at basketball. I was on my high school team in grade 10 and, well, the games against FHC were... how do I put this delicately? Let's go with: lopsided affairs. Yes. They were lopsided.
Anyway, it's been some kind of week for Johnson when this is the best highlight I can come up with.
Prediction for the Week
More treading water this week as the Raptors prepare to throw the Johnson-Scola-Valanciunas lineup out there against the Portland Trail Blazers, the Houston Rockets and the Brooklyn Nets. I have a bad feeling about this Portland game given that team's penchant for moving fast (plus, gasp, Gerald Henderson is involved). But I'm much more optimistic about the Rockets and the Nets. Both teams are hapless in their own way, it just so happens the former has some good players and the latter, well, does not.
Over/Under Minutes: 51.5
We're adjusting the line downwards this week. Let's see how we do.
Have at it.