The NBA: Trippin’ In Toronto

Jose Calderon and Linas Kleiza were happy beating the Rockets,
but it won't get any better anytime soon for the Raptors.
*All images are from the Associated Press.

"This team is improving. We're not going out there and teams are beating us by 30 or something like that. We're just learning the process and we'll be all right.” - Guard Jose Calderon.

The Toronto Raptors, after 39 games, after languishing in the bottom third of the East, are still learning the process.

Will they be all right?

Not in this season.

How about when Andrea Bargnani returns?

The answer is still no.

That, however, hasn’t really stopped coach Dwane Casey from trying.

The biggest hiccup he has to address? He believes the Raptors are just trying to do too much. He believes each one of his boys wants to make the hero play, the big play, the play that gets them a piece of what Jeremy Lin had before the All-Star break.

But what Casey wants the Raptors to learn is that it’ll be more difficult to make those plays if they keep on pressing the issue.

And his mindset is very simple:

"If you're a post-up player, be a post-up player; if you're a 3-point shooter, 3-point shoot. Don't try to do something else and that's what we have to recognize at the crucial time of the game, that three-minute stretch, that two-minute stretch when we just can't get anything going. I think we try to do a little bit too much and try to expand our game when we really need to simplify our game," says the former coach of the Japanese National Team.

Their record seems to give credence to this observation, too. Toronto has gone
3-18 in games that have been within five points with a minute to go.

It’s a good thin, then, that they were able to do a lot of good things in their latest win, this time against the Rockets. Their 116-point output in that game is their highest of the season, likewise for their 59.2 FG%.

That got Casey quite excited, especially since their next opponent is a very beatable Detroit Pistons team. And when Bargnani does return? It’ll be the first time the Raptors will be complete since early January.

Does this mean Toronto is poised for a late run at a possible postseason slot?

Hell no.

Not even close.

Dwane Casey will surely not push things too much. He’ll settle for simple, straight-forward execution instead of the hero plays perpetuating YouTube. He won’t harbor any Quixotic dreams of a late season surge. He’ll be realistic, painfully realistic, and the Raptors would do well to heed him. Otherwise, they’ll just be trippin’.

After the JUMP, March 7, 2012 stat-stuffers:

UTA over CHA, 99-93
Al Jefferson scored 31 points and pulled down 9 rebounds to lead the Jazz over the Bobcats in a battle of last place teams. Paul Millsap chipped in 16 points and Derrick Favors had 14 off the bench for the Jazz, who may sit in the basement of the Northwest Division, but have won four of their last five to pull even at 19-19. Charlotte, trying to win back-to-back games for the first time this season, was led by Corey Maggette's 25 points. 

PHI over BOS, 103-71
Evan Turner's second start of the season was miles better than his first. The second-year guard scored 16 of his career-high 26 points in the first half and the Philadelphia 76ers exploded for a win over the Boston Celtics in the first meeting of the season between the division foes. The Sixers moved to 23-17 and took a two-game lead over Boston for first place in the Atlantic Division. The Celtics were coming off an overtime game against Houston on Tuesday and lost for the first time in six games since the All-Star break. 

TOR over HOU, 116-98
DeMar DeRozan led six Raptors in double figures with 23 points as Toronto downed the Houston Rockets. Jose Calderon had a double-double with 17 points and 12 assists, Linas Kleiza netted 19 points and Leandro Barbosa scored 15 for Toronto, which has alternated wins and losses over its past seven games. Chandler Parsons had 19 points to lead the Rockets, who have lost five in a row since a four-game winning streak.

WAS over LAL, 106-101
Trevor Booker grabbed a career-high 17 rebounds to go with 18 points and the Wizards roared back from a 21-point second half deficit to stun the Lakers,. Nick Young's 19 points led a balanced Washington attack that saw six players score in double figures. The Wizards snapped a nine-game losing streak against Los Angeles. Los Angeles dropped its second game in as many nights.

MIA over ATL, 89-86
LeBron James scored 31 points and Miami escaped with a victory over Atlanta. James' stat-stuffing night was nearly not enough, as Atlanta got within one on two occasions in the final 30 seconds only to miss out on overtime after Jannero Pargo couldn't connect on a game-tying attempt just before the buzzer. Miami has won on back-to-back nights after a two-game skid. Josh Smith had 23 points and 6 rebounds for the Hawks, who saw their three-game winning streak come to an end.

CHI over MIL, 106-104
Derrick Rose buried a step-back jumper at the buzzer, lifting the Chicago Bulls over the Milwaukee Bucks. Rose gave Chicago its season-high eighth straight win, dribbling the clock down till the last second and hitting the shot inside the three-point line on the right side. Rose scored 30 for the Bulls, who have won eight in a row over Milwaukee, including all four meetings this season.

MIN over POR, 106-94
The Timberwolves defeated the Trail Blazers behind 29 points and 16 rebounds from Kevin Love. Luke Ridnour added 22 points and Wesley Johnson had 19 for the Timberwolves, who had lost 16 in a row to the Trail Blazers before Saturday's win in Portland. They have won five straight at home and three straight overall. Raymond Felton and LaMarcus Aldridge had 23 and 22 points, respectively, for the Trail Blazers, who have dropped four of their last five. 

NJN over LAC, 101-100
In a premier point-guard matchup between Chris Paul and Deron Williams, it was a backup point guard who played the role of hero. Jordan Farmar's three-pointer with less than a second remaining lifted the New Jersey Nets to a thrilling win over the Los Angeles Clippers. Farmar finished with 16 points while Williams had 21 points, 10 assists and six rebounds for the Nets, who are 5-5 over their past 10 games. The Clips have now lost three of their last four games. 

OKC over PHX, 115-104
Russell Westbrook finished with 31 points and 10 assists, and the Oklahoma City Thunder overcame a 16-point second half deficit to take down the Phoenix Suns. James Harden and Kevin Durant netted 30 points apiece and Serge Ibaka grabbed 20 boards to go with 18 points for the Thunder, who have won 14 straight at home and 11 of 13 overall. Marcin Gortat scored 28 points and had 11 rebounds while Jared Dudley contributed 17 and 11 for the Suns, who saw a three-game winning streak snapped. 

SAS over NYK, 118-105
Tony Parker netted 32 points and handed out 6 assists, and six other Spurs scored in double figures in San Antonio's dismantling of the New York Knicks. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili both finished with 17 points, while Gary Neal had 12 for the Spurs, who improved to 2-2 on a seven-game homestand. Carmelo Anthony scored 27 points on 24 shots as the Knicks fell to 0-3 on four-game road trip. 

CLE over DEN, 100-99
Kyrie Irving drove the length of the floor, weaved through three Nugget defenders in the paint, and banked in the game-winning layup with four seconds remaining as Cleveland defeated Denver. Antawn Jamison scored a game-high 33 points to go with 9 rebounds and Irving finished with 18 points and 8 assists for the Cavaliers, who snapped a six-game skid. Denver saw its four-game winning streak end in dramatic fashion. 

SAC over NOH, 99-98
Isaiah Thomas's layup in the closing seconds lifted the Sacramento Kings over the New Orleans Hornets. Thomas finished with 12 points, while Marcus Thornton had a team-high 25 and Tyreke Evans contributed 13 for the Kings, who kicked off a franchise record nine-game homestand by snapping a four-game losing streak. Jarrett Jack scored 25 points for New Orleans, which dropped its third straight game.

MEM over GSW, 110-92
Rudy Gay had 26 points and 12 rebounds as the Grizzlies cruised past the Warriors. Marreese Speights added 18 points while Marc Gasol had 17 and 12 rebounds for the Grizzlies, winners of five in a row. Monta Ellis and Klay Thompson scored 16 apiece to pace the Warriors, who have lost three of their last four.

Super Scorers (Top scorers of the night!)
Antawn Jamison (CLE) – 33
Ersan Ilyasova (MIL) & Tony Parker (SAS) – 32

Antawn Jamison and the Cavaliers have fared
a lot better than most people thought they would.
Ragin’ Rebounders (Top rebounders of the night!)
Serge Ibaka (OKC) – 20
Blake Griffin (LAC) & Trevor Booker (WAS) – 17 

Dynamic Dishers (Top playmakers of the night!)
Steve Nash (PHX) – 13
Jose Caldero (TOR) & Mike Conley (MEM) – 12 

Steve Nash is on his last stretch in the NBA, while
Russell Westbrook is just getting started.
Terrific Thieves (Top thieves of the night!)
Chris Paul (LAC) – 5
A LOT with 4!!!

Boomin’ Blockers (Top blockers of the night!)
Byron Mullens (CHA) – 5
Ekpe Udoh (GSW) – 4 
A LOT with 3!!!

Sharpshooters (Top 3-point shooters of the night!)
Randy Foye (LAC) – 5
James Harden (OKC), Roger Mason (WAS), & JR Smith (NYK) – 4 

March 7, 2012 First Five
C – Al Jefferson (UTA) – 31pts, 9rebs, 5asts, 1stl
F – Ersan Ilyasova (MIL) – 32pts, 10rebs, 1ast, 1blk
F – LeBron James (MIA) – 31pts, 11rebs, 2asts, 2blks, 1stl
G – Russell Westbrook (OKC) – 31pts, 10asts, 4stls, 3 treys, 3rebs
G – Derrick Rose (CHI) – 30pts, 11asts, 8rebs, 1stl, 1blk

Ersan Ilyasova has proven to be a big lift for
Bucks in the absence of Andrew Bogut.

Honorable Mention:
Rudy Gay (MEM) – 26pts, 12rebs, 5asts, 1stl, 1blk
Blake Griffin (LAC) – 28pts, 17rebs, 2asts, 2stls, 1blk
Kevin Love (MIN) – 29pts, 16rebs, 3asts, 3 treys

Daily Zap:

*Game recaps were compiled and compressed from the Sports Network.

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