1) in case anybody has forgotten, we could have had Kyle Lorwy this offseason. Not an "oh I wish", or a maybe -- it was offered, we rejected to keep our draft pick, so they went and traded him for a lesser one (thus proving we could ahve had him for ours). And you wonder how we remain bad.
2) the only reason this one was close was that we could not find anyplace to hide our little guards all night long. Whoever Brooks guarded became their goto man. When they subbed in Lowry against Jimmer in the 4th it was a slaughter (also btw another reason I wanted Lowry, imagine he and Reke together in the backcourt, where could any team hide their 180lb PG?)
3) Cousins had a big game, largely by keeping it simple. Set up as often as not. Only a couple of wild attempts. Not many jumpers, not many long drives. Stayed in control.
4) Reke came back from the terribly timed injury and the jumper was rebroken...until it came time to win it, when he promptly drained back to back threes to win the game. defense was great throughout.
5) Was less selfish play throughout, and rotations were suddenly much better. See? Maybe you can teach dumb dogs new tricks.
Stats: 33min 12pts (4-7, 2-2, 2-2) 2reb 7ast 0stl 1blk 0TO
Salmons ( B ) -- amongst the many, MANY things that went wrong Saturday in Clipperland, the sight of John Salmons in full on regression, dribbling around in circles trying to go 1 on 1 like a superstar was one fo the worst. Amongst the many things that looked much better tonight, the sight of John Salmons fully embracing his roleplayer role and notching 7 assists was among the best. He set up Cousins for his first bucket of the game, and set up Reke for his last two, finding him for the back to back backbreaking threes in the final 2 minutes that won this one for us (in an encouraging development, we went to an all defensive Reke/Salmons/JJ backcourt to try to close this out, with Reke and Salmons splitting PG duties, and Salmons setting Reke up for both threes). In between the early and the late there were only a few plays when he overdribbled, most of his scores came on passes from teammates, rather than off this own dribble -- a critical roleplayer requirement -- and he hit back to back threes himself in the late 3rd. Defensively we were playing a lot of games with our three perimeter guys switching assignments, and John was somewhere in between Reke, who was great for much of the night, and Brooks, who was punished all night long. Didn't feel enough punch here to push this any higher, but he played an important supporting, key word there is supporting, role tonight in this win.
Stats: 34min 13pts (6-11, 0-0, 1-1) 10reb 1ast 1stl 0blk 1TO
Thompson ( B- ) -- played a strong first half in which he and Cousins just dominated the Raptors inside, and then almost completely disappeared after half until coming up with a little flip with 50 seconds to go to put us back up 6. Wasn't consistently challenging Bargs on his jumper, but tonight it did not matter as Bargnani was in full on frilly panty mode and completely worthless to the Raps. Meanwhile Jason was just being more physical and outworking the Raps frontline as he and Cuz has something like 25pts 14rebs by halftime. But in th third as the Raps stormed back Jaosn disappeared, and the few attempts we made to get him going with some pick and roll action with Reke ended in messes. Made his way back on the court fairly early in the 4th, as our coach abruptly decided to use normal rotations, and Hayes was too ineffective and TRob too wild to convince him to hold out longer. Generally stayed out of the way again until that play at the :50 mark, when he nearly turned the ball over, but scooped it back up and flipped up the shot to restore our 6 point lead and really pout the heat to the Raps. Real tale of two halves here. First half was a B+ or maybe even A-. Second half much less. Could have called this a flat B, going half a grade less.
Stats: 37min 25pts (11-18, 0-1, 3-3) 13reb 1ast 0stl 1blk 4TO
Cousins ( A- ) -- maybe DeMarcus should have crises of confidence more often. First couple of possessions started shaky again and you were shaking your head as he got blocked in the post to start, then turned it over the next time. But I think his teammates really helped get him giong this time (we were generally more unselfish than our 18 assists would imply), as he was set up by Brooks, then Salmons, then Reke on consecutive possessions for easy layins and dunks, and he was off and rolling. Seemed reluctant to shoot the jumper early, but when he finaly fired, he bounced it in too. Mostly though he and JT just beat the Raptors euro-weenies to death int here, pummeling them on the glass and in the post. And Boogie rarely stepped out of that zone, only making one or two of his wild forces, rarely settling for jumpers, and working the ever more prominent pick and roll sets we have, intermixed with post ups. Had particular success with the latter against Amir Johnson, as he was simply too big and powerful for the tweener PF/C and overwhelmed him repeatedly down the stretch. Like JT had a down stretch in the thrid as the Raptors swarmed and took away our inside game, but unlike JT, DeMarcus stepped back up and was one of the guys carrying us down the stretch -- in fact late in the game was even doing a real nice job defensively getting back in transition, showing on screens and handling switches. In fact really, most of the areas of slop that have been overwhelming his game were addressed tonight. Staying minus here just because despite the big numbers and strong interior work throughout, this maybe felt more extremely solid than completely dominant. But it was still a game to remind all the sudden naysayers why you wait on a talent of this caliber, and hope he figures it out.
Stats: 34min 23pts (7-16, 2-4, 7-12) 2reb 2ast 1stl 2blk 2TO
Evans ( B+ ) -- Reke came back, and about 90% of the good stuff we were seeing the weeks before his injury was still there. He was aggressive yet in control, his defense was flat smothering, we were running stuff through him much more than the assist numbers indicate. But the 10% that wasn't there in the first half was the jumper. Or actually any shot as he was just simply having a bad shooting night whether it be on pullup jumpers, or even his FTs. Thing is, that aside form one force in the first half whee he was just searching and seemed to throw it up out of stubborness more than anything, the jumpers looked pretty good. The game looked pretty good. We had him bouncing around on the perimeter defensively trying to stamp out whichever fires Brooks was starting byb getting torched. He smothered Lowry and forced him into a tunover on the side, stopped a break, added a beautiful little wraparound pass to JT on the break, and the other way when it wasn't a jumper it was a series of seriously aggressive drives. In fact after halftime he largely gave up on the jumper and starting passing on it to just slam inside HARD drawing foul after foul. Think the punishment actually tired him out as you could see him panting by the mid third, and I thought he lost his edge late in that quarter as the Raptors stormed back. Returned pretty much on time in the 4th as Smart was abruptly coaching like nhe was in the NBA, and Thornotn was making it easy for him by having a terrible night. Reke was very strong down the stretch, one embarrassing episode where he waved JT and Cuz out of the post in order to take Amir Johnson 1 on 1 and then lost the dribble and got stripped by the big guy aside. He retied things with a big physical drive, and then picked the perfect time to finally hit a jumper as all of a sudden on back to back plays with 2 minutes to go and the game tied, Salmons found him spotting up at the 3pt line and he drained both shots like they were his shots and he did it all the time. For the cherry on top came up with a nifty defensive play on Lowry (we finally moved him back onto him for the final 3 minutes after Brooks and Jimmer got absolutely torched), flying by him trying to challenge a three point attempt, and then reaching back wiht one of those lng arms to block the shot anyway from behind, politely nicking it as Lowry brought it back behind his head preparing to release. Power (I would actually say distorting power) of 3pt shots on display here, as despiute doing a lot of good things, this grade was going to be held bakc some until the two big backbreaking threes. But with them all of a sudden he notches 23 on 7-16 shooting, and with the rest of his game tonight this became a strong return.
Stats: 33min 11pts (2-8, 1-3, 6-8) 1reb 4ast 1stl 0blk 3TO
Brooks ( D+ ) -- well, not all of the starters could have a strong game, although it must be said that again with Brooks its as much about him staying out of the way and letting the other guys play their game as it is about Brooks' numbers himself. And the problems were more on the defenisve side of the ball than on the offensive. On offense he was erratic, hitting a few shots, setting up Cousins and JT for occasional layups inside, but also going through stretches when he shot when he should have passed, and passed when he should have shot. The real issue though was on the other side of the ball, where he just got killed. Sometimes it was poor defense, he kept losing Lowry off screens for instance and not exactly busting his butt to recover and challenge. But by far the larger problem was this: Brooks is small. And just as importantly physically weak. And so Lowry overpowered him physically, and when we tried to hide him on noted non-scorer Pietrus, the Raptors eventually figured it out and smartly started running Pietrus into the post, where he scored virtually everytime. We just had no place to hide Brooks, and so late in the game we actually finally gave up and went to a Reke/Salmons/Johnoson all size/defense crew to get things under control and finish it out. Brooks was back in the final 30 seconds for the intentional foul game with a chance to pad his stats, but missed several of the FTs. So as noted, not at all a strong game, but his presence still seems to be helping our stars, and hence us. Its not like Derek Fisher or Mario Chalmers have all those career starts for actually being great players themselves. Sometimes its just about fit and team.