Dwane Casey has instilled more than just a catchy slogan in "Pound the Rock" with his Toronto Raptors. He has instilled a never be satisfied attitude as well. In the past in the pre-season, regular season or whenever if this team won 5 out of 6 games it would be cause for celebration. Not anymore. Even in victory the Raptors are finding flaws in what they have accomplished. Take the game last night as an example. The Raptors closed out the Bucks in the fourth quarter and won going away. They got to the line 36 times primarily through Jonas (10) Lowry (8) and DeRozan with (10).
Does Dwane Casey feel happy with that, which is something that will serve this team well given the style he wants to play? Not so much he was much more focused on the turnovers his team committed in the first have that totaled 14 in all. There has been a lot of talk of how the culture for the Raptors has been changed. Here is a direct example of that. There are a lot of excuses and valid ones as to why the Raptors have committed so many turnovers.
There is the fact this roster has had a major overhaul and has a new point guard in Kyle Lowry that was playing in just his third game. There is the fact Casey wants to bring in a new up-tempo style offense to blend with his new point guard and the overall talent on this roster. Doesn’t matter though as Kyle Lowry when asked about the turnovers was pretty blunt. He was asked what coach had to say at halftime about it. He replied “What do you think he said.” About the turnovers in general his response was initially three words. “Can’t have it. “
They say that all good point guards are a reflection of their coach on the floor. An extension of the values and ideals of that coach on the floor is what they represent. It is clear already that Kyle Lowry and Dwane Casey are a solid fit. Both demand a lot of themselves and everyone else. They both are not the type to make excuses.
You totally understand why the Raptors were willing to do what it took to bring Kyle Lowry to Toronto. Together these two have already made an impact on the Raptors locker room. I walked out of that locker room tonight and had to remind myself the Raptors actually won this game.
It is not to say that this team was devoid of the things they have been doing right. They do take pride in those things but it is more a greater understanding of this is just a piece of a puzzle to a larger goal. They have not let the level of the opposition change in what they are looking to accomplish. They are focused on what they are looking to do. Along the way they totally shut down Brandon Jennings and in the second half responded to the problem of turnovers with just 5. Amir Johnson said even that was not acceptable.
Aside from this mental change there has been the emergence of Jonas Valanciunas who has been everything the Raptors could hope for at this point. He had 4 blocks in this game. I can’t even remember the last time a Raptor blocked so many shots in a game. Sure it might have happened but it is a rare event. I have a feeling with Jonas it will be a consistent contribution. Even if he doesn’t get the block totals on a given night he will always be challenging shots. He is doing all of this with doing a solid job of staying out of foul trouble.
He even looks like he will be a nice fit on offense. Kyle Lowry when asked about him said that no one even gets upset with him for any mistakes. The reason being he has been impressing people with how far along he actually is. The mistakes he may make on either end of the floor are never based on a lack of effort. That will earn you a lot of respect from everyone.
The main concern remains Andrea Bargnani. He had a decent night tonight. He had a much more efficient 7-15 from the field and 17 points. He also was 3-6 from beyond the arc. Everyone just assumes that Andrea Bargnani needs to lead this team in scoring. It would be nice if that was the case without question. If Andrea isn’t scoring really why is he out there? That said DeMar DeRozan seems to be finding his way to the line and consistently leading this team in scoring. The Raptors are a much more balanced scoring team now or at least have the potential to be.
Was nice to see Quincy Acy get to log some minutes but those will likely be hard to come by.
Raptors get another win, no big deal as they take the Bucks 104-95.
Dwane Casey talked about his rotation in the pre-game and if you expect these are the guys in the rotation that will not be clearly defined. Casey expects to have a rotation that will have 9 possibly go as deep as 10 on some nights. However, those 10 names may not always be the same ones given the match-up.
Think based on what we have seen these 8 guys are going to be in that mix most of the time
F- Ed Davis
F/C- Amir Johnson
PG- Jose Calderon
After that you have to think John Lucas will find a way to get on the floor when this offense is not firing. If we see teams with big rosters you likely see Arron Gray. Here and there you can expect to see Terrence Ross. Ross of late has had a sore knee and then was out tonight with FLU like symptoms.
Have I reached the point where I am sold that this is a playoff team? No. Am I sold they will bust their asses trying to be one? Yes. The change is noticeable. Last year was a good start but this year is another step in the right direction. The start of the Raptors schedule is far from easy and how this team attacks that challenge will be the next measuring stick.
Had a chance to catch up with Toronto’s Tallest Zombie Amir Johnson and Ed Davis who is not a fan of getting dressed up for Halloween. Lots of other good stuff from Casey and others. You will hear some of this in This Week in Raptorland. We may also do a starting 5 with the Amir Interview I just have to check to audio quality.
All in all, a great night at the office for yours truly. I have not walked away from the ACC feeling this good about the Raptors’ future in a long time. Will see come Halloween if that feeling is a legitimate one.