All season long, the Raptors have been talking about piecing together 48 minutes of basketball. Against the Warriors, they were able to hang around for three quarters but ran out of gas down the stretch. That will happen when trying to deal with the inside-outside punch the Warriors brought to Toronto.
In Andrew Bogut’s first game back after missing 38 due to soreness from ankle surgery, he played nearly 24 minutes and scored 12 points, one of seven Warriors to reach double figures. David Lee scored 21 points to go with 12 rebounds and seven assists, while Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry stretched the floor with 19 and 17 points respectively.
In a recurring nightmare for Warriors fans, Curry left the game in the third quarter after rolling his ankle on the foot of Ed Davis. He switched shoes, was tended to by a trainer and tried running in a back hallway with an assistant coach, but was not able to return.
Trailing by just two to open the fourth, the Raptors fell behind by nine at the midway point of the quarter and were unable to get stops down the stretch. Playing without Kyle Lowry due to back spasms, Toronto also lost Landry Fields to flu-like symptoms at the half and had to take Amir Johnson out late in the fourth after he got tangled with David Lee and crashed hard to the floor, hitting his head on the hardwood.
The bright spot for Toronto was an unexpected one, as reserve centre Aaron Gray started the game and scored a career-high 22 points to go with 10 rebounds. Even more impressive is that the 22 points were scored on 9-for-12 field goals.
DeMar DeRozan’s evolution as playmaker
While it wasn’t DeRozan’s best night offensively (shooting 7-for-18 from the floor for 21 points), his ever-improving skills as a playmaker were on full display against the Warriors. Tallying a career-high nine assists in 36 minutes on the floor, DeRozan found his teammates open time and time again. He also took care of the ball, turning it over just once.
“It’s me understanding that teams are going to play me differently,” he said. “If there are two guys on me, then someone is going to be open. Understanding night in and night out that teams are going to try and get the ball out of my hands, I just need to make the right decisions.”
Playing to the pace of the opponent
Against an athletic team like the Warriors, it was important for the Raptors to come out and set the tone. DeRozan didn’t feel that they did that. “We didn’t come out with the desperation that we needed on our home court,” he said. “We didn’t come out eager to try to jump on them. We tried to ease our way into the game and it bit us in the butt.”
Playing shorthanded, the Raptors needed to control the tempo. Instead, the Warriors dictated the pace of the game, especially in the fourth quarter as they pulled away thanks to strong efforts from rookie Harrison Barnes and reserve Jarrett Jack, with Barnes scoring seven of his 14 and Jack eight of his own 14 in the final quarter.
While the Warriors had seven players in double figures, the Raptors had six. Amir Johnson added nine points. “They play fast,” Dwane Casey said, “We wanted to come down and execute, but we did not execute at the beginning of the fourth. That was the ball game. It was the turning point.”
The pace favoured Golden State and in the end it paid off with a victory.
Points in the paint
Thanks to an added boost with the return of Bogut to the lineup, the Warriors crushed the Raptors inside, outscoring them 62-34 in the paint. While the tandem of Amir Johnson and Ed Davis had been solid for the Raptors in recent weeks, Johnson was limited to 24 minutes as Aaron Gray stepped into the starting lineup.
With the Raptors big men unable to stop Golden State, they connected on 67 per cent of their attempts from inside as compared to 47 per cent for the Raptors. Casey called the Raptors interior defence “porous” and Stephen Curry pointed to the return of Bogut and the effect he has on both ends of the floor.
“To have the guy we thought we were going to have coming into the season, he showed tonight how he can clog the paint,” Curry said. “To protect the rim and make plays on the offensive end…he is a presence.”
Injured list filling up
While Andrea Bargnani and Jonas Valanciunas inch closer to returning to the Raptors lineup, Linas Kleiza continues to deal with a sore knee and Kyle Lowry has back spasms that flared up after he tweaked his back during Saturday’s loss to the Cavaliers. Landry Fields is dealing with the flu and DeMar DeRozan definitely needs time to get his strength back after his own bout with illness.
The status on Amir Johnson for Wednesday’s game against the Atlanta Hawks will depend on how he is feeling after the hard fall on Monday night that resulted in his head bouncing off of the court. After the game, Johnson admitted it was a very painful fall.
To give their guys the chance to rest up before Wednesday’s game, the team is having an optional practice on Tuesday. Some players can come in to get treatment, shoot or work with coaches, others may elect to rest their bodies and get healthy for Atlanta.
In a rough season like this one, there always appears to be some sort of obstacle to face. Sometimes, it’s a challenge just to keep bodies on the floor.