Raptors Take On The New Orleans Stern's

Things have been going rough this year so you think David Stern could let us have this one? Make a phone call, refuse to clear someone to play on his team? I mean he had no problem refusing a trade right? Maybe he could order that Andrea Bargnani has to play? Alright enough jokes. The Hornets have an even worse home record than the Raptors which is saying something. If the Hornets franchise is every going to turn around being better than 3-14 at home would be a start. They actually have a better road record at 5-12. Still, given how the Raptors have performed in situations where you expect them to win, if you were a little bit afraid it would only be human.

If nothing else two losses to Wizards and one to the Bobcats has taught us anything the Raptors can not afford to overlook anyone in the NBA. The Raptors continued the trend that has gone on for most of the season with starting off slow in games. However, what might have been more concerning was some of the reactions last night based on some rather interesting choices made by Dwane Casey down the stretch. Demar DeRozan seemed less than thrilled with his seat on the bench. Given the Raptors struggles to score at times I would tend to agree. That said it was likely more about his defensive effort that saw him on the bench. While I may not endorse the moves he made I do like the idea of Casey sticking to his guns.

It will be interesting to see if anything lingers from last night in what we see tonight. But faces don't lie and there were not many happy ones on the Raptors bench last night. In what was a close games there seemed to be a general disinterest on the part of some. At some point the reality of losing sets in for a team and perhaps the Raptors have reached that point. Although to Casey's credit, he does put the guys on a given night that are willing to fight on the floor. If your not performing in his eyes your not playing. The is the accountability that has been missing on this team for quite some time.

While the Raptors have struggled with Andrea Bargnani the Hornets have been without the centerpiece of the Chris Paul trade to the Clippers in Eric Gordon. He only played two games before injuring his knee and requiring surgery. It makes the 13 games that Bargnani has played seem like a lot. Former Raptor Jarrett Jack has replaced Paul and is having a nice season averaging 14.9 points and 6.3 assists. As for the other parts to that Paul trade Chris Kaman has had 11.8 points and 7.7 rebounds. Al-Farouq Aminu barely makes it worth knowing how to spell his name with 4.9 points and 3. 9 points. Wonder how many teams will be calling the Hornets come trade deadline given the whole Paul mess prior to the season? If Hornets have a trade can Stern slip it in 5 minutes after the deadline. Technically any deal the Hornets make is already in the league office right?

While I ponder this and many other things about NBA owned Hornets a basketball game will be played. Here are some keys on the Raptors can win this basketball game:

1. Start Strong: This is a broken record by now go back and read old previews for the full explanation.

2. Ball Movement: It was sorely lacking least night at times and it led to some pretty awful choices in shot selection.

3. Demar Defense: Demar needs to have a good two way game. After last night it is important we see an engaged and active DeRozan on both ends of the floor.


Bad Start, Leads To Another Close Loss.

James Johnson opens the scoring after a turnover on the first possession of the 2nd half of the season. Rockets go on a 6-0 run until Calderon drives and finally gets the Raptors back on track. Rockets again score 6 to the Raptors nothing and it was 12-4 early. Raptors shooting was awful early in this one. Raptors were shooting sub 20% and were down 17-7 just past mid point in the first. Raps finally got it rolling a little to make it 19-13 only to see the Rocket nail a 3 and push the lead back to 9. Raptors shot 31% and trail by a dozen after 1 with score 27-15.

Raps get off to a decent start in the second and cut the lead to 7 with score 29-22 on a 7-2 run to start the 2nd. Make that 5 as back to back Barbosa buckets make NBA scouts drool that are scouting for trade deadline. Bayless gets a silly tech but the Raps keep fighting and get the lead down to 4. However, again Rockets respond and push the lead to 9 again on a Lee three. Raps just slugged along in quarter. Ed Davis seems to show up on nights the rest on the team does not. He had 10 rebounds in 1st half. Aside from that as bad as the Raptors were they only trailed by 9 at the half with score 45-36.

Raptors were doing a decent job on defense but they had little to no offense making it seem unlikely they had a chance to win. Houston gets a three from Lowery and Jose answers with a three, which was more points in one play than he had the entire first half. Houston lead 53-45 with 7 minutes to play in the 3rd. Nice throw down for DeRozan but Houston has a quick replay and the lead was 10. Martin hit a three he was just 3-13 on the night but that made the lead 13 and that might be enough to get Rockets to finally put this to bed. They had been the better team all night long but had failed to deliver the death blow. Raptors have 8-0 run to cling to life. Lowery ends that with a three and lead was 65-55. But Barbosa has an answer 3 from the corner back to a touchdown lead for the Texans/Oilers or Rockets take your pick. Raps cut the 10 point lead in half to 5 with the score 65-60.....make that 65-62 with under 2 to play thanks to a steal and slam from DeRozan. Davis a bucket near end of third but Raps fail to play defense and Dragic nails a buzzer beater on the drive. Rockets take a 5 point lead to the 4th up 69-64.

In talking with some of the Raptors after and before the game vs Detroit the common theme was this team needed to learn to win close games. Not that Raptors deserved it but they found themselves in one. Actual on defense they did deserve it. But the Raptors offense was finally showing a pulse and and had this to 2 point game 75-73. Barbosa misses a three to take the lead and there was 6 minutes to go. Another key three for Houston they have had a lot to this point this one makes it a 78-73 lead. Amir Johnson came in for Ed Davis who had tied his career high in rebounds with 15. Seemed a strange move as someone pointed out on Twitter but Amir scores and gets the Raptors back to within 2 with score 79-77. Raptors had a really strange line-up on the floor with Antony Carter at the point along with Barbosa, Johnson, Johnson and Kleiza on the floor. Demar DeRozan had not seen much if any time in fourth and seemed less than thrilled. Jose Calderon was not exactly thrilled to be sitting either. But Casey rolled with this group to the end.

Houston missed a free throw with 11.7 seconds left and Houston led 86-83. Calderon checks in and will inbound the ball. It would end up in a rush and well guarded three pointer by Kleiza and he bricks it. Rockets get fouled with 1.2 seconds left and ice it at the line with 2 free throws making the score 88-83. Back to the drawing board for the Raptors in terms of close games. Raps would score a basket but the result was a L. Houston takes it 88-85.

Wilson Chandler Saga Takes Another Turn.

Well it seems Wilson Chandler is a free man. So the story we had about him not being able to sign with the Raptors has now changed. It had been reported he would have to wait about a week that would have made it impossible for him to sign with another team. Here is the update we added to the original story from the weekend.

This ongoing saga or maybe it just seems that way, has taken another twist or is it a turn? Wilson Chandler now has the green light to sign an NBA Contract and has until Thursday to make that with another team not named the Nuggets. So that puts him back in play for the Raptors. There has been talk that Raptors are looking to move Barbosa to free up more cash to offer a contract that Denver would in effect be unable to match. It is currently believed the Raptors could only offer 4.2 million where the Nuggets would have 4.6 Million to over given both teams respective Cap Situation.

According to Chandler's agent he is only interested in a long term deal and if he doesn't get one he would sit out the rest of the year and could go to Italy and play in the spring and be ready to return to the NBA next season as a RFA. Here is a story from the Denver Post that contains more info.

Back To Work For The Raptors

Andrea Bargnani was well enough to go shake hands and kiss babies at All-Star weekend, but it would appear is not ready for basketball still. When exactly do we start to worry about this? The rest of the Raptors who won just their 4th game without him before the break have re-assembled in Houston. Not sure how many people saw the Rockets being so successful so fast in the post Yao era. Pretty sure not to many people saw Kevin McHale as a great hire. He was not exactly a great GM in Minnesota. He had two stints behind the bench as well in Minnesota with little success. In 2004-05 he was 19-12 and had a second tour of duty in 08-09 went 20-42. After taking a couple season off in the media working for NBA TV he was hired by the Rockets. Yet the Rockets sit at 20-14 coming out the All-Star Break sitting in 6th in the West.

The Rockets only representation at the All Star Game in Orlando was Chase Budinger in the dunk contest. How he got hooked up with P Diddy is another story for someone else to care about. On paper you look at this Rockets line-up and it has a few nice pieces, but it does not scream Western Conference Playoff team. They have Kevin Martin who they acquired from the Kings. He is there leading scorer with 18 a game. Some felt Kyle Lowery deserved a trip to Orlando. He has had a solid season. Luis Scola has always been a nice big body to have. They did land Samuel Dalembert in free agency. The rest of the roster is a collection of cast offs from other organizations. Like Courtney Lee, Goran Dragic, Johnny Flynn to name just three. They also have a few draft picks from last few years in Patrick Patterson and Jordan Hill and former Nets draft pick Terrence Williams.

Still it seems hard to figure out how this team wins. The Raptors have the unfortunate case of playing them in Houston where they are 14-4 and they headed into the break winning 7 of their last 10. Raptors were playing good basketball for most of their home stand but ended up 2-5. We mentioned Bargnani but Linas Kleiza has been out the last couple games as well, we will see if he is in the line-up tonight.

Jose Calderon was the most consistent player in the recent home stand with a few games scoring out of his mind. Trade rumors continue to circle around him and the Raptors continue to deny they are shopping him. They do admit that they are answering the phone when teams call. Leandro Barbosa is also likely getting some interest as well. There will be no all day trade deadline show for the NBA so we will inform you that the trade deadline in NBA is March 15th. Orlando was a team that was rumored to have interest in Calderon. But they have denied that. The Lakers might have some interest in a point guard and a guy like Barbosa wouldn't hurt them either. But unless Calderon is demanding to leave, the Raptors need to see a young point guard with upside coming back the other way. It seems unlikely they move Calderon this season given that fact. Barbosa is likely going to go to the highest bidder at the end of the day. If he were to fetch the Raptors a late first round pick or early second round pick that would be considered a win for them. It would bring a name like Myck Kabongo into the mix when you start talking draft and point guards. Kabongo is a freshman at Texas and most feel he will enter the draft. This despite having a season with the Longhorns that did not match the high expectations people had for him this season. The Raptors never had a shot at Tristan Thompson and claim that even if they did, they were not going to select him. They got their guy in Jonas. If Kabongo was on the board with a second draft pick it would be interesting if they passed on him as well being another hometown product.

We still have 33 games before we have to worry about the draft though. The Raptors 10-23 record sees them with the 5th worst record in the NBA. Washington, Charlotte and New Orleans I would think all finish worse off than the Raptors which would leave them at best 4th worst. Raptors could actually have a better chance of dropping to worse position by doing the unthinkable and winning some games. Teams like the Pistons, Kings and Nets are all right around the Raptors in the standings. When you examine the Raptors schedule it is a lot easier to see some wins for them especially once Bargnani were to return. I would think at the end of it all they exceed my 20 win forecast for them at the start of the season.

3 Keys for Tonight:

1. Aggressive Demar: This second half of the season we need to see a much more consistent DeRozan. He had a very up and down first half. It would be nice to see him start the half being aggressive and play well on both ends of the floor.

2. Battle The Bigs: Raptors need to get on the boards and compete on the glass. Scola and Dalembert will offer problems on both the offensive and defensive ends of the floor on the glass. The Rocket average 42.5 rebounds a game.

3. Shake off the Rust: Raptors had a lot of time to practice prior to the All-Star break that might help them be a little more sharp coming off the All-Star break than the average team. In a season of few practices the Raptors have had quite a few based on the schedule of late.


All Star Weekend Is Not What It Use To Be

Ratings seem to be growing but the product is on the decline in terms of All-Star weekend in the NBA. I am not sure what that says about things. I was surprised to learn that All-Star Saturday Night had it's second best ratings number in it's history. It featured the worst dunk contest in history and had all the typical sponsor driven garbage we have come to expect/accept. I fight with the idea that I am starting to feel like an old man talking about the good old days. But honestly, to compare All-Star Weekends of the past to this one it seems pretty obvious to me. The game itself was decent and you ended up with Kevin Durant as it's MVP. You had Lebron James in the running and putting down dunks better than the contest the night before.

I use to be the biggest defender of NBA All-Star Weekend as the best in pro sports. I would not be able to do that now if you paid me to do so. It has become a watered down, advertising driven side show. The NFL has talked about doing away with their Pro Bowl altogether. Football by far is the toughest sport to fit into this whole All-Star concept. The NBA fits much better in the sense players do eventually get around to playing the game to win. It takes awhile but they eventually do. Still the events surrounding the All-Star game have just been awful at the top of that list is the Dunk Contest.

Lebron James promised to enter a few years ago but still has not entered. Back in the old days you had actual All-Stars taking part in the Slam Dunk Contest. Why he refuses to enter speaks to the difference between the modern athlete and the athletes of the past. The fear of what can go wrong, instead of what can go right, rules the day now. Wilkens and Jordan never worried about it when they went head to head. They also never had 4 and 5 chances to throw down dunks. There was no glowing oufits, child actors, random things to jump over from P-Diddy to Kia car. (NBA Sponsor) It is just a side show with guys that for casual NBA Fans are unknown.

Not to mention the desire to cash in on it by having voting by through mobile devices. Which at the end of the day leads to suspect vote counting at best. Wrestling fan's will recall an event called Cyber Sunday. For those not wrestling fans it was a supposed fan driven event that allowed fans to book the various matches to a degree in a PPV. Not shockingly the WWE would influence and likely flat out manipulate the results while profiting from the voting itself. If you believe the voting on that or the NBA Slam Dunk Contest is on the level....Well I would also think you believe in the Tooth Fairy. There is a reason that we are not having elections online yet. It is far to easy to manipulate or fudge results all together.

I also use to be a strong supporter of Toronto hosting an NBA All-Star Weekend. I still am, to the point it is a great thing for the city and the country. However, by the time it gets here, if it does, I hope it isn't the same junk I saw this weekend. The game itself on Sunday is still pretty much the same. All of the stuff around it needs a complete makeover. Instead of making me more excited for the game on Sunday it made me care less about the game on Sunday.

The unfortunate thing is people watched and that will make the NBA less inclined to feel they need to change much. People seem willing to accept this kind of second rate garbage. The NBA once ended the Slam Dunk Contest for a time and maybe the time has come to do it again, if they can not compel the true stars to compete in it. I just have got sick of the side show entertainment element of All-Star Weekend. More than ever for the true fans of basketball the NBA ALL-Star Weekend has become less relevant. The weekend itself will always draw a crowd because of the collection of the NBA's best players, all being in the same place, at the same time. However, the actual product that is broadcast to the world at large is lacking and becoming more of a joke every year. If the All-Star Weekend stopped existing I wouldn't miss it. That is not likely to happen because there is to much money to be made from it. How long that remains the case is anyone's guess. Maybe people will just keep watching no matter what the NBA throws at them and just accepts it. Oh well if that is what people want to accept who am I too say no to that? Still, it seems clear to me that the best All-Star Moments I have seen will live in my memory and not my future.


This Week In Raptorland Is Born

I have said many times that the ultimate goal of the Dino Nation Blog is to be truly a multimedia site at the end of the day. This is a step in that direction as we launch our second podcast brand. This Week in Raptorland is what is called. It will take a look back at the last 7 days in all the things going on with the DNB and the Raptors. Your weekly catch up on the Raptors. We will mix in a few clips of things you might have heard in the past week along with some things you may not have heard. This along with a segment for you the readers,listeners and viewers of the DNB to not just listen to the show but be part of the show. Every week we are on the look out for a loyal DNB/Raptors fan to be our guest in the "Fan 5". It is your shot at minor fame as part of our podcast. You get 5 minutes to talk about anything Raptor related you choose and I will be your co-host and help you keep the car on the road. Enough of this writing stuff, time to get to show. Hope you enjoy it.

As far as a first effort goes, I am pretty pleased with how this turned out. Hopefully you enjoyed it as well. This is just the starting point so it hopefully keep growing and getting better as we roll. One of the biggest challenges is going to be getting you folks to interact and be a part of "The Fan 5" but it is a segment that I wanted to be part of this so you folks can be a part of the show. So get at me if you interested in being a guest for that in future episodes. Thanks to Lanny for doing a good job in getting that segment off the ground. I do realize that segment is in mono and the rest is in stereo will try and get it sorted out eventually.

Hope you enjoyed and will be looking to do more audio and video features in the future for your enjoyment.

Wilson Chandler Is Not Coming To Town

Based on some info being provided by Adrian Wojnarowski looks like Wilson Chandler is not going to be a Raptor and will only have a chance to return to the Nuggets

@WojoYahooNBA-The China Basketball Association has refused to give Wilson Chandler a letter of clearance to play immediately in NBA, sources tell Yahoo!

Chandler has filed an appeal that could take up to a week to get him free to sign. That would go past the March 1st deadline for a RFA to sign with another team. So that puts the Raptors out of the mix assuming they were even in the mix at all. Most felt Chandler was visiting Toronto as a play on his part to get a better deal with Denver.

Regardless that fact he will not be able to sign an NBA Contract prior to March 1st will make that a moot point it would appear. He may just sign for the rest of the season and become an RFA again after this year. So for now the Raptors are out. They still could be in if Chandler and only if Chandler does not come to terms on a long term deal with the Nuggets.

Update Feb 28th: This ongoing saga or maybe it just seems that way has taken another twist or is it a turn? Wilson Chandler now has the green light to sign an NBA Contract and has until Thursday to make that with another team not named the Nuggets. So that puts him back in play for the Raptors. There has been talk that Raptors are looking to move Barbosa to free up more cash to offer a contract that Denver would in effect be unable to match. It is currently believed the Raptors could only offer 4.2 million where the Nuggets would have 4.6 Million to over given both teams respective Cap Situation.

According to Chandler's agent he is only interested in a long term deal and if he doesn't get one he would sit out the rest of the year and could go to Italy and play in the spring and be ready to return to the NBA next season as an RFA. Here is a story from the Denver Post that contains more info.

Will We Ever Forgive Vince Carter?

Tonight will be All-Star Saturday Night. I debate if I will even watch it. I likely will out of some obligation to know what is going on. However, if I didn't cover the NBA in some way, I would not even bother. All-Star Saturday Night has become a complete joke to me. It is a collection of who feels like competing in the various contests. It was over a decade ago in Oakland that we saw Vince Carter put on a show in the slam dunk contest for all-time. There was nothing that would have stopped me from watching that. At the time I was working on a hockey broadcast(Shocking I know) but it was over in plenty of time to catch the Vince Carter Show. I won't lie with every V.C Dunk I popped large for each dunk as did the folks watching with me at the radio station. It was so loud you could apparently hear us on the air in the studio located a level below where we were. It is one of those moments I will never forget where I was for that for the rest of my life. Apparently, the man who made it happen remembers it fondly as well and why wouldn't he.

Vince Carter (Via Twitter) - O' Canada do you remember this day (Saturday) in Oakland when Toronto was put on the map...#memories Enjoy your Saturday!!!!!

If we are honest that night put the Raptors on the map in the United States perhaps more than any single event in the history of the franchise. Raptors fans barring an unexpected trade will not get to boo Vince Carter this year. Raptor fans boo Vince for his own actions when he here and his actions after he left. Vince himself has always said consistently he still loves Toronto. It has come off as disingenuous at times. However, it sure seems like he actually means it. People who are skeptical might think Vince is coming to the end of line and is just trying to repair his image here. That might be true. It also might just be he has matured and realized that what he had in Toronto he has never truly had anywhere else.

My feelings on Vince have never been that of hate, they have always been of disappointment of what he truly could have been. Vince love him or hate him, the fact he had and still has to lesser extend some extraordinary talent is not a debate, it is a fact. What is a debate is if he ever truly got the most out of that talent, that is another story. Based on his actions and his words the answer would appear to be no. I have always thought if Vince Carter got the most out of his talent we would have him in a conversation with Kobe Bryant, Lebron James and others as the best players in the modern game. Some feel that Vince Carter has the numbers to get in the Hall of Fame. I personally don't think of him as a Hall of Famer. He could have and probably should have been one.

Should he be recognized as the best Raptor of all time and have his number 15 hang at the ACC becomes another story and different debate in some ways. The thing that will always work against him is that infamous interview with John Thompson after he had been traded to the Nets. Vince in that interview basically questioned if he gave all he had in his time in Toronto. He felt that he didn't and said as much in that interview. It was like pouring gasoline on fire of hate that already existed for him in Toronto when he left. He after all asked to be traded and wanted to leave. Now on top of that, he was saying he wasn't sure he gave all he had in his time here. It is probably why some still hate Vince almost a decade later or at least a big part of the reason.

Still, can anyone deny that he was the one player that consistently put the Raptors on the map in the U.S. He was the top voted player for the All-Star Game numerous times. Chris Bosh has never started in an All-Star game and never had the appeal that Vince did south of the border. In many ways it is why Bosh decided to leave and head to Miami. Vince didn't have to go to U.S or a big market for anything. He had all the stuff any NBA Superstar would have in terms of publicity and advertising in the U.S. While he was the poster boy for the NBA here in Canada. Vince's reasons for leaving had everything to do with Raptor management. Some of those issues I would agree with him. He was less than thrilled with the revolving door of coaches he had played under. He didn't like the hiring of Rob Babcock. Looking back on it does anyone disagree with that?

So if we go 10 years forward from today, will we feel the same way about Vince? The debate on if the Raptors should honor him has already been debated while he is still active in the NBA. Here is something to consider, the fact the Raptors have never truly been able to replace him at the small forward or the shooting guard position. No one has come close in filling that void. The Raptors have seldom seen the light of day in the U.S media since he left. The Raptors played on Christmas Day back when they only had like 2 games on that day when Vince was here. Now the Raptors are never seen on that type of marquee. Chris Bosh made note of that during his exit. Here is the thing Vince Carter was such a show himself he made the Raptors a viable option to appear on National T.V in the U.S. Vinsanity was the biggest thing in the NBA for a time. When you combine the player and his impact on the Raptor brand that has never been seen since, it makes sense that number 15 should hang in the ACC.

The issue becomes how the future Raptor fanbase will feel about that. It is not like Vince Carter brought any titles to Toronto. But the Leafs just honored a guy that never did either in Mats Sundin. However, the feelings of Leaf fans towards Sundin is very different than how Raptors fans feel about Carter. You can argue that Carter accomplished more than Sundin. I don't ever recall anyone that was not a Leaf fan, that considered him the best player in the game or even in that argument. Vince for a stretch of time was. He brought an excitement to the Raptors that no one has since. Going to the Raptor Game was the cool thing to do in Toronto. The ACC was filled to see Vince regardless of the other team on marquee.

Will we ever forgive and forget and make peace with Vince Carter? I don't know what the answer is. I had, long ago and have never truly hated him. Fact is Vince does have a big ego and thinks a great deal of himself. However, he is not really this bad person that you would want him to be. He actually did a lot of good in his time here for charities and all of that. He is never going to be as popular as other players that struck a chord with fans like an Alvin Williams or Jerome William or even a Matt Bonner. That said, if I was making a list of people you should hate more than Vince...Tracy McGrady, Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu all would go ahead of Vince for me.

Love him or hate him, he created the most exciting period of this franchises history. It might be time to start remembering those things as much as we do all the bad things. Something to consider as you watch an All-Star Saturday Night that will not be anything close to the excitement that was created in Oakland over a decade ago.


From One Johnson To Another.

Yesterday we had James and today we have Amir. Some of the questions are the same as well we talk about the fact Amir will be an answer to a trivia question someday. We talk about how Amir has changed from his days in Detroit and what is the same. Amir is as many know the last high school player to enter the NBA. Recently on Twitter, was kicking around the idea of bringing back the high school players in some kind of H.S round of the draft. What did Amir think of the idea and what was his idea of what you could do? He tells us, along with his thoughts on how coming straight from high school has worked for him. In addition, we talk about the season with this crazy schedule, how things have been under coach Casey and his goals for the second half of the season.

Always a good time talking with Amir. He is one of the more fun guys to talk with, and is always happy to chat with us here in the Dino Nation Blog, which we appreciate. He, as I have said in this blog before, is a fun loving warrior. He plays hard and has fun and it shines through on and off the floor.


DNB Goes 1 on 1 with James Johnson

We had a chance to talk with both Amir Johnson and James Johnson last night. They are not brothers or even cousins to the best of my knowledge. But what they are is some pretty good interviews more times than not. We talk with James about the season to this point, His goals for the second half and his thoughts on one of his nicknames from fans "The Ninja" as well as thoughts on his coach.

All the practice and learning Johnson was talking about paid off with a win last night. Call him the Ninja, the Repo Man or whatever you like, but he has had a solid first half to his season. Room to improve, but Johnson looks to be a keeper in terms of being part of mix moving forward. In the starting 5? That remains to be seen, but what is evident is he can be a guy that can work well under Dwane Casey regardless of his role. He also changed my opinion of him, which as stubborn as I can be, that is not easy.

Raptors Reach Double Figures.

The Raptors came out all business on this night. Demar DeRozan leading that charge. He would have about as perfect a first quarter as you could going 4-4 from the field and 4-4 at the line to lead all scorers with 12 points in the opening stanza. He was also doing a better job on defense as well, something that was missing against the Bobcats. Raptors as a team were bringing it on the defensive side of ball holding the Pistons to just 36% shooting from the field. The Raptors were shooting a blazing 57.9%. Yet despite all of this it was just a 28-24 lead after one. Part of the reason for that was the Pistons getting on the offensive glass as they had 5 offensive boards 3 of which came from Jason Maxiell.

Raptor would keep things rolling on the right path in the second. They had some nice ball movement in this game with with 19 assists in the first half and 9 of those coming from Jose Calderon. Raptors had 19 bench points to go with those 19 assists as everyone that came off the bench to this point has points lead by Barbosa with 8. Raptors had the lead into double figures and looked dominate at times or like the only team not already on All-Star break. However the Pistons would show signs of life before the end of the half cutting the lead to 8 with a halftime score of 53-45. They had also slightly improved their shooting percentage to 40.5% while the Raptors were still hot at a 57.5% clip.

Raptors came out in the second half and picked up their effort on defense which had been pretty good to begin with. They would hold the Pistons to just 15 points in the 3rd. They had won every quarter in this game and had a 74-60 lead to show for their efforts. The fact they were the rested team and had many days to prepare for this one was showing through on the floor.

Raptors had done a fair job keeping Greg Monroe in check with 13 points and 8 rebounds for him through 3 quarters. He would have a strong final quarter scoring 17 points and having 6 rebounds. Still, the Raptors would find a way to hang on in this one. It was a real team effort in the end. Perhaps the best symbol of that team win was Aaron Gray, having 12 points and 12 rebounds. His efforts did not go unnoticed by the 17,125 that were in attendance. Late in the game the ACC rang out with MVP chants for Aaron Gray. It was a moment for sure and one that you likely never expected to see this season. The Raptors in the locker room after 103-93 win were in good spirits. While Gray was talking with the media post game James Johnson on the other side of the locker room was chanting MVP. Demar DeRozan later in talking with the media also approved of the fans showing Gray some love. DeRozan led the Raptors in scoring with 23 points and 7 rebounds.

Jose Calderon had just 5 points in this game but 15 assists of the Raptors 30 on the night. Casey had praised Jose pre-game and acknowledged the fact the phone has been ringing with many teams inquiring about Jose Calderon. That said Casey seems fine with Jose staying right where he is and after his performance last night likely nothing changes in that regard. Jerryd Bayless was back at full strength backing him up with 7 points and 4 assists off the bench in 20 minutes.

Ironically, the Raptors are right on pace with what I predicted here in the DNB as they sit 10-23 heading into the All-Star break with half of their 66 game sked in front of them. If they get a healthy Andrea Bargnani back after the All-Star break they should have no problem surpassing the modest 20-46 prediction we made at the start of the season. This was just the 4th win of the season without him as the Raptors are 4-16 minus the Primo pasta spokesman. You could make a case this team would have a decent chance at the playoffs had they had a healthy Bargnani for the full season. Even though the playoffs are still a mathematical possibility they are likely not a logical reality. The Raptor longest home stand of the season is in the books and they only manage to go 2-5 and 5-11 at home on the season. But you can feel confident that in the 2nd half the Raptors should improve on that home record and overall record if they can be healthy in the second half of the season and have the same Andrea Bargnani we saw in the 13 games he did play in during the first half of the season. That won't improve their draft stock but it will improve the individuals that will be part of this team moving forward.

Raptors also were in talks with Wilson Chandler, who is looking to return to the NBA after signing in China during the lockout. He is a restricted free agent of the Denver Nuggets. He paid a visit to Toronto to meet with the Raptors. But before people get carried away with excitement this very well could be a leverage move on the part of Chandler to get a longer term deal with his former team Denver. They would have 4.6 Million to bring him back if they so choose to do so. The Raptors could not go beyond that number with out making some sort of roster moves to do so. Chandler has till Match 1st to sign an offer sheet with another team. If not he could only re-sign with the Nuggets or sit out the rest of this season and be a RFA again in the upcoming off-season. Aside from the Nuggets and Raptors his agent says there are 3-5 other teams that his client is considering.


Rested Raptors Take On Detroit Basketball

The Raptors will not be able to say they didn't have time to prepare for this one. They have not played since Friday with that ugly loss at the hands of the Bobcats. We saw Kemba Walker in that one, a guy some Raptors fans wanted in the draft. Tonight we see another in Brandon Knight. We also get to see one of the candidates for the Raptors coaching position in Lawrence Frank. He ended up going from being an assistant coach in Boston to the head man in Detroit. It has been a long season for him, but has his team playing well of late winners of 7 of the last 10. The Pistons have played two games since the Raptors last played. They like Toronto had earlier in this home stand upset Boston 96-81 on Sunday. Last night they blew a sizable lead in the 4th and lost to the Cavs 101-100.

Detroit looks nothing like the Pistons teams that were contenders and won a title with Larry Brown over the Lakers. Since Rip Hamilton left for the Bulls really the last remaining piece from those days is Tashaun Prince. Ben Wallace is back for a second and likely final run in Detroit as well. They also have former Raptor Charlie V who has only played in just two games this season and has been plagued with an ankle injury. He along with Ben Gordon signed massive deals with the Pistons and it has been a massive failure by all accounts. Joe Dumars the former Piston legend player was at one time considered one of the best G.M's in the league. His selection of Darko, the trade to acquire Allen Iverson and these signings are just three of many reasons not many think that anymore.

Still despite all that the Pistons do have then own core of young talent starting with former Georgetown center Greg Monroe who is leading the team in scoring with 16.3 points per game and is close to averaging a double double on the season with 9.7 rebounds. We already mentioned Brandon Knight who started slow but has been showing signs of improvement after that slow start. These two combined with a number of younger players like Austin Daye, Jonas Jerebko and even Rodney Stuckey make up that core. These in short, are not your father's Pistons. Also is gone is the normal sellout crowds that were common place for Pistons. The decline in the economy in Detroit has been mirrored the decline of the Pistons. That makes for a bad combination in trying to sell tickets.

3 Keys:

Full 48: Raptors have no excuses to go flat out in this game. Having not played since Friday and this being the last game before the All-Star Break. So nothing short of a 48 minute effort will be acceptable.

Run Run Run: Take advantage of the fact you are the fresher team and push the pace of this game. Get out and run in transition. Try and wear the Pistons out and make them give in. They are also wrapping up the schedule prior to All-Star Weekend so give them a reason to punch out early.

Best D Wins: Frank was being considered for the Raptors job for the same reason Casey got the job and that is defense. Both are considered to be known for that and you can expect both with be matching wits with there limited talent to try and stop the other from having success.

I am down at the ACC for this one once again so no re-cap tonight. Also no Radio tonight as the station is doing some sort of charity try and the show has been given the week off. But I will be down at the ACC looking for some stuff to keep you entertained over the All-Star Break.


Looking Back On The Season So Far.

I have to say it has been nice to have a break form the grind of this season. Sunday I even decided to take a day off. That will change from now on at least on Sundays. We are going to starting doing a 30 minute Podcast called "This Week in Raptor Land". It will take a look back on the week that was for the Raptors. It should be something fun to try and do. Hopefully it grows into one the the staple things we do here in the DNB. As we close in on the unofficial half way mark of the NBA Season maybe I will just give some random thoughts on the Raptors. Will likely have some of that in the podcast on Sunday as well.

Raptor Surprises?

I will start with a guy that I really don't care a lot for, Jose Calderon has been a surprise to me in many ways. First and foremost, the fact he is playing at all. Given the amount of games, the schedule and the fact Jerryd Bayless has been out more than he has been in that shocks me. I am not alone in having had questions about Calderon's durability in the past. However, this season he has been there night in and night out. He has done more than been there, producing to levels we have not seen in a long time from him. It pains me to say it, but if he wants to remain and play out the final year of his deal, the Raptors might not have any better options. No point guards in the draft look to be the answer long term for Toronto at least not to start in their first season. While I haven't studied it to any great degree, there is no real stud point guard that will be a free agent in this upcoming class either. The idea to amnesty Calderon seems silly at this point. This is not to say that I would endorse going any further with Jose beyond this contract. I still think that he has had a long run here and the team has failed to produce under his leadership or lack of it at the point guard position. He too seems like he would welcome a change, maybe he hasn't said it and never will, but ultimately both he and Raptors have been unsuccessful overall. That said his numbers and durability have been a surprise. You might even be able to trade him in that final year of his contract, or the Raptors can keep him and let him walk and take a run at Brandon Jennings or someone else with the 10 million plus in cap space him leaving would create. But Calderon in a season of a lot of underachievement has overachieved to a great extent. I have even seen flashes of effort on defense.

If you had told me at the start of this season that the Raptors best pick up in the off-season would be Aaron Gray I think I would have laughed you out of the room. After a rocky start with his health issues with his heart, he has been a contributor to the team. He lacks any real skill on offense, but for a team that let it's best rebounder walk away in Reggie Evans he has helped out in that regard. He also is a decent defender, nothing spectacular but decent. He is the best signing in part based on how awful everyone else has been. Rasaul Butler has been a train wreck from the word go. Jamaal Magloire is so bad that the fact he is Canadian does not keep people from stating the obvious that he has been awful. There was lots made about him coming home and playing in his hometown of Toronto. But honestly, did any other NBA team want him at this stage of his career? If they did would they now? Anthony Carter is no Jeremy Lin. In fact he maybe no Darrick Martin and maybe only slightly more valuable than Marcus Banks. Gary Forbes might be the only guy that you would even consider, but he has barely seen the floor and is pretty much a non factor most nights. So is it by omission that Aaron Gray is the Raptors best pick up. Yes in part, but he has done something which is more than can be said for the others.

Dwane Casey's impact on this team. I admit the whole "Pound The Rock" thing didn't play with me a bit. It still doesn't to any large degree. However, the fact the Dwane Casey has been able to make progress with this group on defense so quickly is a surprise to me. I know, he won a ring in Dallas and was the guru behind there D that shut down Miami. However, this was the Raptors, a team that for the majority of their existence have been a team challenged to play even average defense. The fact he has been able to even get Andrea Bargnani to look like he is actually trying to play defense is pretty amazing. In that building of defense first mindset, Casey has brought back something that had been lacking for a long time in Toronto. Accountability was something we never saw under Jay Triano and to be honest you are left to question how much the Raptors truly respected Triano in the role of head coach. No one is questioning if they respect Dwane Casey. I recently came up with an expression I like about Casey. In terms of how he deals with the media. He is a less entertaining version of Sam Mitchell. He like Sam did tells it like it is, but just does it in a very low key way. While Sam Mitchell might have said of the loss to Bobcats, that we let the Washington Generals come into our home and kick our butts. Casey said of his great disappointment in how his team performed and failed to show up. Sam's makes the better quote, but the honesty is there from both. All the candy coating losses and players is pretty much gone. Which is something we can all appreciate.

Raptor Disappointments

Demar and Ed were suppose to be part of what made this season somewhat bearable at the end of the day. To watch them develop into part of this young core that Colangelo keeps telling us we have. Both have failed to show consistency from night to night. They also have shown very few signs of improvement. Beyond the fact that now and then Demar DeRozan can make the occasional three point shot not much has improved. While there are some very legitimate excuses as to why this has been, it does not change the fact it has been. It seems that when Ed Davis has big days, it is on days when the Raptors as a whole struggle. Case and point the last game vs the Bobcats. While DeRozan has had his fair share of issues on both ends of the floor. Andrea Bargnani not being around has shifted the spotlight to DeRozan and made his flaws more glaring and obvious. While Andrea has proven he can play some defense under Casey, the same can not be said for Demar. Also when you are playing along side the team's best defender for many in James Johnson that makes it more obvious as well. While on offense he has at times drifted away from his strengths and been exposed for his below average handling of the basketball. This off-season for both and what is left of this season, are going to be vital for both Davis and DeRozan to step up and be counted. At this point you have to say in terms of both, we have seen regression not progression.

On a team that lacks a roster that is very talented in comparison to many other teams around the league, the last thing you need is injuries. While in the brief amount of time he has played we have seen a much improved Andrea Bargnani, that does very little to help when he is not playing. In fact it does nothing at all. His injury and subsequent re-injury of his calf has been the most glaring and obvious issue. But the Raptors have seen Jerryd Bayless barely play at all on top of it. We touched on this earlier in talking about both Carter and Calderon. Missing Bayless has been also a big deal, if for no other reason than it allows Jose Calderon to have more gas in his tank. You started the season without Linas Kleiza and Aaron Gray both who when healthy have contributed. It has been a season in which we have seen very little of the Raptors at 100% in terms of healthy bodies. This is not unique to them in this crazy NBA season. Almost every team has had to endure injuries and some teams to key players like Al Horford in Atlanta who is out for the season. But the Raptors given their lack of talent to start with are hurt more by this than other teams.

Were almost halfway through this season. When I look back on this year five years from now I probably will just be thankfully that I survived it. This has not been one of the more fun times in the history of the Toronto Raptors or the NBA in general. Sure there have been moments. But aside from looking back on the start of Jeremy Lin's hall of fame career what will I honestly remember? Maybe nothing, and maybe Jeremy Lin is not even around. But at the end of the day as much as we may love basketball, this season will not be one that has made you more of a fan, it will be one that you have endured and looked for reasons to be excited. That maybe a contributing factor in the rise of Linsanity. While it is a great story it makes up for all the ugly basketball that has been seen throughout this season. There has been a lot of that. Raptor fans have seen some of it first hand just like they got to see Linsanity come to town.

But in any case we are almost halfway home in a season that from the outset had never been promised to be anything but a hard season to deal with. It has delivered on that promise to a great extent.


DNB Game In Pictures- Special Edition (MGD Party Night)

As you are all aware we held are MGD DNB VIP Contest this past Friday at the ACC. To look back on the event we present this "Special Edition" of the DNB Game in Pictures:

Thanks to everyone that participated in the contests and to our winners and the good folks at MGD for working with us once again. It was a great night and if you want to see more photos from the event head over to our Facebook Page.


Did We Really Lose To The Bobkittens? No Really?

So I had this dream that I some how ended up having to cover the Bobcats vs Raptors, on the same night host a party for readers of the DNB, and get this the Raptors lost. Wait, I am being informed this actually happened. The Raptors and deservedly so, have been praised for their effort in the last four games, despite the fact they have been 1-3 in those games. But based on their performance last night it made those 3 losses become pretty irrelevant. While it was great to see them raise their game to a level to compete with the Lakers, Knicks and Spurs, it should have carried over to a winnable game vs the struggling Bobcats. They had lost 16 in a row and brought a 1-15 road record with them to Toronto and just 3 wins on the season overall. This game was lost almost before it started by the Raptors. Dwane Casey in the post game was very honest and stated off the top he was disappointed in his team's performance. The Raptors approach to this game was the problem according to Casey. He clearly felt his team over looked the Bobcats.

This was a close game throughout never seeing one team lead by more than 8 points in it. When you consider the Bobcats who had lost their last 10 games on the road by an average of over 16 points, this was a clear sign the Raptors were in trouble. It was a lacklustre performance almost from the opening bell. The one thing that you have to do against a struggling team the Raptors failed to do. They let the Bobcats build hope and feel like they had a chance to win. Despite getting off to decent 10-4 advantage by the end of the 1st quarter the Raptors lead was just a single point 23-22. DeRozan had a good start on offence but an equally poor one on defence. His assignment on the night was Reggie Williams. Mr. Williams heading into this game averaged just over 10 points a game. He would end up on the night with 22 points shooting 9-13 from field and 4-6 from behind the arc.

Not only was Demar struggling on defence he was on top of it getting himself into foul trouble. If not for those facts, he could have had perhaps an even better night on offence which was pretty good with 24 points going 8-15 from the field. On top of that, he also had a nasty coming together with a Bobcat in the 4th Quarter that left him down on the floor for a bit. After the game he was fine and said the coming together just made him a bit dizzy, but was o.k eventually and he did comeback later. The only thing that was hurt was his pride at the end of the night.

The Raptor would trail by 2 at the half. The fans would get treated to Naughty By Nature at halftime. The Raptors likely to a verbal assault from Dwane Casey. Whatever was said didn't take long as the Raptors had wondered out before Naughty By Nature was done performing. Jerryd Bayless did return in this game but Casey said post game he felt that Bayless wasn't right in his view and did not play him at all in the 2nd half. Bayless only played a shade under 5 minutes and was 0-2 from the field making 2 free throws for his 2 points on the night.

The Raptors did respond in the 3rd to some degree but they had already made the mistake of giving a desperate team hope. The Raptors won the third quarter though out scoring the Bobcats 24-21 and took a slim one point advantage to the 4th quarter. However in that 4th the Bobcats had the hope and smelled blood and a rare chance at win and took advantage of that. They started to build a lead and would be able to hang on to it out scoring the Raptors 30-22 in final quarter and walking out of the ACC with a 98-91 win.

A couple of guys that were considered options for the Raptors in the draft were on display in this game. Kemba Walker was a lot of the people's choice for the Raptors in the draft. He had 14 points and 8 assists on the night. But the 5-15 shooting is the problem with Kemba he is struggling to shot a good percentage on the next level here in the NBA. Until Jonas Valanciunas fell into their lap the Raptors were strongly considering Bismack Biyombo from the Congo. He on the other hand looked like something the Raptors could use. Bismack laid the smack down in the form of 7 blocks to go with 8 points and 13 rebounds a strong showing for him. Still all the reports and things you keep hearing suggest that Jonas will be far better than both when all is said and done. Given how this season has gone the pressure on him to perform like it will be here from the moment he arrives and not a second later.

Jose Calderon who has been coming back to earth in terms of scoring had 14 points and 8 assists in over 41 minutes on the floor. He seemed frustrated from the losing in general in the post game. It makes you wonder if the rumours and rumblings that he wants to move on to somewhere else have some merit. How ironic would that be? A guy that has frustrated a portion of this fan base leaves out of his frustration in the franchise. Jose will never be a guy that will say he wants out publicly. He never once uttered that he wanted to be the starter in North America. If he were to survive the season as a Raptor it would not shock me if we heard news from Spain that Calderon is unhappy and wants to move to another NBA team. That is how he does things. It is also part of why I have never been thrilled with Calderon over the years.

Despite this recap of the game itself, I had a fantastic time being both media member, than host, than media member again. Our MGDDNBVIP night was a success in every way except for the one thing that is out of our hands the game on the floor itself. Thanks to all that came out and to Forest Kenney and the folks at MGD for working with us on a big event for the 2nd season in a row now. It is becoming a great tradition for us in Dino Nation Blog. They do a wonderful job in making these events a success. Will have some pictures and photos from the night over the weekend.


Bobkittens Invade ACC

I am pulling double duty today with covering the game and hosting the MGDDNBVIP Contest winners. So I thought instead of your normal preview, I would ask the guys from the Round Ball Review to handle it. See how they made out?

There was actually a valid point mixed in with all that comedy. The Raptors have indeed been playing better against good teams. It would be easy to over look the Bobcats and think this has an easy win written all over it. Raptors have made it "Fan Night" as well. On Fan Night it is usually against a bad team as some way to draw some interest. Having Naughty By Nature in to perform at halftime is all part of that. It is without saying it, a game on the schedule that both has little interest, and looks like an easy win. To prove my point when Vanilla Ice started this strange tradition of novelty Rap performers at halftime; Do you remember who the Raptors played? The Answer is the New Jersey Nets. I honestly can't remember who was here for Rob Base but I will bet it wasn't anyone good.

While they suggest in the video we cancel the season if the Raptors lose might be a tad extreme. It is worth noting the Bobcats are 1-15 on the road and only have 3 wins on the season. They are on a huge losing streak of 16 in a row. The Raptors need to make it 17 and move along to the next one. If they don't it will wipe away to an extent all the good basketball they have played of late.

Also, be honest how many of you could have named 5 Bobcats? I also wonder what those people that had the draft Kemba Walker sign in their condo window think today? Maybe they will be out at this game to see the guy they wanted the Raptors to draft? Honestly they were not alone though. He has been hot of late with 21 points in his last two games. But as the old expression goes, someone has to score on a bad team. Kemba on the season is averaging 13.1 ppg and is shooting just 36.8% from the field while averaging just 3.6 assists. That doesn't exactly sound like the successor to Jose Calderon does it?


Most Definitely Demar DeRozan Is Back In The DNB

It was a big night for Demar DeRozan last night in a loss to the Spurs. We caught up with Demar pre-game and got his thoughts on how things have been going on of late for the team and himself. Here is our brief chat prior to last night's game. At the end it cuts out a little but all you missed was "a little"

Demar does seem to have started to turn a corner in his play. I would like to say it is talking with us pre-game that does the trick, but it is probably a lot more to do with some of the things he said. The fact the Raptors have been able to practice more and learn more. The chance to get in the gym and work on things at night, something that Demar has been noted for doing often. It seems crazy that a team is still learning stuff at this point, as we approach the All-Star Break. However, this is far from a normal season. Opportunities to practice have been slim. While Demar, as everyone is will appreciate the nice break on the way in the schedule, don't think it means he believes he is tired. Dwane Casey was asked post game if he left Demar on the bench too long in the 4th quarter last night, he responded no, and suggested it might have helped Demar out. DeRozan has a bit of a different take on things.

DeRozan from post game scrum in response to if he was tired from the back to back- " I am only 22, I can play all day. It can wear on you a little bit, especially playing in two tough games like we did. You just have to come out mentally ready."

As for if he wanted back in the game earlier after his big 3rd quarter?

"Yeah I did. Try to just make that last push. we didn't have nothing to lose and I just wanted to leave it all out there on the floor."

Casey has said on more than one occasion about his desire to see Demar pack on some muscle in the off-season. Something that would likely help if the team decides to move him to playing at the small forward position more. Even if that is not the case, it will still benefit him in his ability to take a pounding and encourage him to attack the basket more and be able to finish off plays with contact.

While opinions on Demar have changed for a lot of people, he clearly or maybe we should say definitely hasn't. He still wants to be a go to guy for this team and grow into being a star player for this team. The fact he has started to show signs of improvement, at a time when the Raptors have had their best opportunity to both practice as a team and work on their game as individuals makes logical sense. It might be a sign that Demar is still on track to be the same player most thought he was heading into this season.

In terms of evaluating the progress of young players this season, it is hard to do in some ways and you feel like it's difficult to be completely fair to them. Nothing about this season has been normal. In talking with Demar at the start of this season, he saw it as just another season like his previous two. After experiencing this less than normal NBA season and off-season prior, I am not sure if his opinion has changed. However, this season has been different and it has offered a lot of challenges that if Demar becomes the success he wants to be, he may look back on it as a big part of the learning and growing he talked about.

There will be no Slam Dunk Contest this season for Demar and I am pretty sure given the grind this season has been to this point he is cool with that. I continue to have faith that he can become the player he wants to be and the Raptors need him to be, as they look to grow into a winning basketball team. It just might be a tougher journey, and a little longer one than people might have hoped. However, for someone that has come as far as he has, from the place he comes from, it won't dissuade him from working hard to get there. It took a lot of work just to get to where he is at now.

Raptors Play Tough But Get Spurs In The End

Rather than do a re-cap will just give some thoughts on my evening at the ACC watching the Spurs and Raptors. I chatted with Demar DeRozan prior to this game. We got into how the team had performed recently. Will have more on this later today in a feature on Demar but in general he felt encouraged from the play of late. The Raptors would be even more short handed than expected as Linas Kleiza had to sit this one out. Bayless is coming along and did come out for shoot around. He seems to be alright but after injuring the same ankle he is playing it safe. Trying to get it back to full strength so he can avoid a third occurrence of this injury in the future.

This game looked like it was going to be an ugly loss for the Raptors in early going. The Spurs jumped out to an 8-0 advantage. Troublesome in how they did with a couple early 3's. The Raptors would dig a deep hole but as they have done of late they kept fighting. It would have been very easy for this team to roll over and die after the first half. But Demar DeRozan came out in the second half determined to be a difference maker. The Raptors would get this game tied eventually but the Spurs would answer every Raptor push with one of their own.

Jose Calderon still had a solid night on offence but came crashing down to earth on defence. It is not the first time Tony Parker has schooled Jose and it won't be the last. Jose had 16 points and 11 assists and a couple steals. But it paled in comparison to Parker's 34 points and 14 assists which included in that was a 12-12 performance at the line.

I have always seen Parker as a guy that gets lost in the shuffle in a galaxy of great NBA point guards. He had the very public break up of his marriage but he seems back on track this season. He is going to the All-Star Game in Orlando and people got to see why tonight at the ACC. A lot fewer than saw the Jeremy Lin show the night before. Tony Parker has been doing his thing for years and not days. He has championship rings and all you could want on your resume. For as much as Jeremy Lin has dominated the attention of the media. I think Parker flies consistently below the radar. I am not sure if he ever has got his full credit for being as good a player as he is. If Jeremy Lin has as good a career as Tony Parker he would be fortunate.

Same would apply for Cory Joesph. Will also be doing a feature on him and his return to Toronto. He has some pretty nice guys to help him adapt to the NBA in Tony Parker and someone that has already had an influence in T.J Ford. It is not bad to have guys like that to learn from, Tristan Thompson also has a pretty nice role model to learn from in Jamison. Joesph has had a much different path than Tristan, but also has the advantage of a solid proven organization to be part of. He has spent some time in the D-League with Austin. But he still has just as big a smile as he did when he was in town to workout for the Raptors in the spring. The same he had playing for the national team in summer when I caught up with him here in Hamilton. It might have been a little bigger on this night though. It was no lock he would see the floor but with T.J Ford out the odds went up a little. He would get his moment late in the 2nd. He entered the game to a nice ovation and had a pretty uneventful 2:50 on the court.

But it was an experience he will likely never forget. When Tristan came to town for the first time he talked about being a kid sitting in the Sprite Zone. Cory talked in an interview during the broadcast about watching Mighty Mouse Damon Stoudamire. The Raptors as an organization get a lot of grief for their lack of success in their history. It is deserved without question. However, they also deserve credit for the fact they have made the NBA something that is a real goal for a generation of kids like Tristan and Cory and countless others. You only need to look at the NCAA today to see the amount of Canadians on the rosters in Division 1 basketball. When the Raptors and Grizzlies entered the NBA it was a big event beyond just the NBA being in Canada and having two teams. It took the game invented by a Canadian and brought it home with the greatest league in the world. Kids no longer saw their basketball heroes on just a T.V set they got to see these giants live and in person. Next time you are at a Raptor game just look at all the kids you see and imagine how that inspires their young minds. Maybe some of those kids will be having their night coming back to their hometown some day. They might even play for their hometown team. The Raptors just by existing at all have done this. Not to mention the probably thousands of kids that have went through camps the Raptors have put on for young boys and girls over the years. In covering games into my 3rd season the fact I was there to see both Tristan and Cory's debuts is a personal highlight for me. Not because of anything they did in the games themselves, just what it represents in the larger picture.

As for the bigger picture for the Raptors, you have to give them and Dwane Casey a lot of credit. I have not heard anyone make excuses for being undermanned. The Raptors have fought with whatever and whoever they have had the last 4 games. Despite just the one win to show for it, they have shown a lot of fight and been pretty fun to watch. It has become contagious at this point. If I had said in my preview that Butler and Carter would combine for 20 points, people would have questioned my sanity. But that happened on this night. What also did was Demar DeRozan having a big night and showing a real determination. This has been a tough season for Demar but it has not stopped him from having that same desire inside to improve and grow. He is starting to show some signs he might be turning the corner and getting comfortable again.

In the end it was a 113-106 loss for the Raptors the 4th loss in 5 games in this home stand that has just 2 games left, Friday vs the Bobcats and Wednesday vs the Pistons. I am going to be there for both and I hope we see the progress the Raptors have made pay off with a couple wins. This team plays like it has the last 4 games they will crush the Bobcats and Pistons going away. Let's hope that is what we see.


After The Circus Here Comes The Rodeo

We did a live chat last night so I never did a re-cap of last night's game. Jeremy Lin was the star going in and he left that way, hitting a dagger three to complete the Knicks comeback. This season the Raptors have both battled back from some large holes and blown some large leads. Last night after one of their better first halves of the season they let it all get away from them in the 4th. Jose Calderon put together arguably his best to games back to back in his NBA career. At least from a scoring prospective. Lin who had his struggles in this game came alive in the 4th and started to find some chemistry with Amare Stoudemire, returning to the Knicks line-up after the death of his brother. Only the 2nd sellout crowd of the season at the ACC, many of whom came to see Linsanity, got to see what they paid for. The Raptors gave a good fight overall but let one slip away. Lin's 3 pointer left the Raptors just .5 seconds to respond and they could not, 90-87 Knicks and the Raptors face a back to back with the Spurs tonight.

San Antonio with little hype and fanfare has quietly made their way to 2nd in the Western Conference at 20-9. They are on their annual Rodeo Road Trip with Toronto being stop 5 of the 9 games away from home for the Spurs. They are a perfect 4-0 so far with the latest win coming at the hands of the Pistons. After an injury early in the season Manu is back and Spurs seem primed to make a push at getting first place in the West.

Canadian Cory Joesph makes his first appearance here in Canada and his home of Toronto. Joseph has seen some time in the D-League, while he has been hard pressed to see any action with Spurs because Tony Parker is having an All-Star season. Also his back-up being T.J Ford the former Raptor it has been hard to find time but has to be quite the learning experience. Ford never content to be the back-up in his time here is happy it would seem to accept the role and live close to his home of Houston. T.J after being traded from Toronto fell out of favour with the Pacers and signed with the Spurs as free agent once the NBA Season got started after the lockout.

Also, when the Spurs come town, that means the return of Toronto resident and former Raptor Matt Bonner. The Red Rocket married a girl from Toronto and makes it his off-season home. He has been trying to this point unsuccessfully become a Canadian to play for the national team. He is one of the more loved figures in Raptors history. The biggest highlight that made him so, might have been a game vs Minnesota, in which he got into a mix-up with Kevin Garnett still on the T-Wolves at the time. Bonner would get ejected and leave the floor to cheers from the ACC faithful. Since leaving Toronto in a trade that landed him with the Spurs, he has become a key role player for them and can be found a top the NBA in terms of 3 point percentage for the past few seasons. He has really developed into a legitimate NBA player. He was also in the front lines as a VP in Players Union during the NBA Lockout.

Raptors have had 3 impressive performances and only 1 win to show for it. They will need a 4th impressive performance if they hope to hang with San Antonio.

3 Keys:

Value Possessions: Last night how the Raptors let the game get to that dramatic moment with Lin nailing that three was very simple. The Raptors committed far to many turnovers and it cost them in the end.

Jose vs Tony: Jose Calderon has been playing out of his mind. Even at times on defence which is something I don't think we have ever said in the DNB. Tony Parker is playing at an All-Star level and will be heading to Orlando. It is going to be a tough challenge for Calderon to compete for a 3rd straight game. Jerryd Bayless is said to be a game time decision and might make the load on Calderon a little less.

Perimeter D: Manu leads a cast of characters that can make their shots behind the three point arc. Be aware and get after them or it could be a very long night at the office for the Raptors.

I am heading down to the ACC to cover the next 3 games. Looking forward too it. That and hosting our contest winners on Friday. I figured in this NBA Season I should pull a back to back to back. Although mine is over the span of a week. Raptors are just 1-3 on this 7 game home stand despite some great efforts of late. Making it 2-3 will be no easy task at all. What will be an easier task is trying to win our final set of tickets for our MGDDNBVIP Contest that with happen sometime Thursday before Noon.


#MGDDNBVIP Contest # 3

Linsanity is invading Toronto if you have not heard. I know we still have not had the winner for contest #2 but I will be busy covering the Raptors vs Spurs tomorrow so Contest #3 will be tonight as well. Right here on the website and if you have the best comment of the night you win contest #3. We will also announce at the end of the chat the winner of contest #2. Feel free to enter both. You can only win once of course. But take your shot at both.

So come hangout with us tonight and experience Linsanity in our DNB Chat/Liveblog and have your chance to win. Make sure you are around at the end of the game to be eligible to win. Simple as that. So join us tonight for Raptors vs Knicks and you will have your chance to join us in VIP Suite on Raptor Fan Night to see the Raptors take on the Bobcats.

Join us at 6:45 for Raptors vs Knicks

Your Va-LIN-Tine's Knicks vs Raptors Preview

Happy Valentine's Day. There may not be another Valentine's Day like this ever for the Toronto Raptors. Having covered the Raptors for a normal game a time or two, the amount of media to welcome Jeremy Lin is off the charts. The last time I can remember the Raptors having to use the media lounge to hold a press conference in that room was for the Big 3 and the return of Chris Bosh to Toronto. There could be more people on hand today, for the arrival of the biggest story in the NBA this season. You almost forget that all of this Linsanity has taken place with the Knicks two biggest stars a couple weeks ago on the sidelines. Amare Stoudemire has been away from the team due to the tragic death of his brother. Carmelo Anthony may only be heading to the All-Star Game thanks to fan voting. He has been out with a groin injury.

But people only seem to care about Jeremy Lin these days. Spike Lee, the world's most famous Knick fan has turned his twitter account into basically the evaluation center for your Jeremy Lin nicknames. There is just no real comparable story that I can recall in watching basketball from being a kid back in the 80's.

The Raptors seem to like the big stage of late. They had a solid performance down in Miami not that long ago, Beat the Celtics and came oh so close to upsetting the Lakers. This may sound silly, but in terms of a stage to perform on this season, it might not get any bigger than it is tonight. Yes that includes when Chris Bosh and the Heat roll through in the end of March. Chris Bosh could only dream of having the attention of Jeremy Lin.

If we go back in time when Lin was released by the Warriors, I had thought Toronto would have been a good landing spot. The Raptors are now out in the media saying they strongly considered him. Apparently so strongly that they signed Anthony Carter instead? There is a chance we might see Carter get some minutes guarding Lin, if Jerryd Bayless is not able to go. He is a game time decision for anyone that cares about anything not related to Linsanity. Carter or for that matter Calderon don't seem like much of a match for the Jeremy Lin show. Although, the Calderon we saw vs the Lakers can hold his own scoring with Lin.

As much as I might take credit for seeing Lin as a fit for the Raptors. That was as 3rd point guard flyer that would draw some media buzz. But here is something I got very wrong. I picked the Knicks to win the Atlantic Division, and I really didn't see it as much of stretch. They did lack a point guard, but I figured they would find a way to acquire one and maybe even get really lucky and get a bargin price for Steve Nash. Instead, the Knicks lack of a point guard was glaring and until Jeremy Lin jumped into the spotlight, the Knicks were no lock to make the playoffs let alone win the division. Now you have Lin and Stoudemire expected to return shortly. Not sure if that means as soon as tonight but soon. Mello eventually will be back and that will be the test. Will these two superstars fall in line and let the Linsanity continue. Do they even have a choice at this point? Can Lin do what I thought a Nash would do and give the Knicks the balance needed for both Stoudemire and Mello to be effective. That will be the test.

For the Raptors the test on this night is pretty much how they defend the pick and roll. A lot of what Jeremy Lin does is based on his ability to work the pick and roll in the half court. He is not the world's greatest shooter from the outside yet. But did poke holes in that theory vs the Lakers. My money says that Dwane Casey is going to throw a lot of zone looks at Lin and the Knicks to see how they handle that. The Comparison of the story of Jeremy Lin and his quick rise to the biggest story in sports compares to Tim Tebow. However, the comparison stops there. Lin has not re-invented how you play the game of basketball. He is consistent for most of the 48 minutes of a game that he is on the floor. Tebow used an offensive style that has not been used in the NFL in likely 50 years and had magical finishes after horrible beginnings. That is not Jeremy Lin.

3 keys for tonight:

1. Defend the Pick and Roll: How the Raptors defend this will ultimately determine there fate more than anything else. If Lin is able to work the pick and roll with little difficulty you can expect Linsanity to continue and the Raptors to get carved up.

2. Transition D: In the system the Knicks run it is all about getting the ball and running. Steve Nash was the greatest conductor of this system. He would make the scoreboard pop like a pinball machine. Making stars out of average players. So the Raptors have to be alert in transition and avoid turnovers that can lead to breaks.

3. Attack the hoop: Knicks really lack any kind of shot blockers that you would fear. Especially minus Stoudemire. So attack them and take everything to the paint early and often. You turn this into a jump shooting contest and you are playing into the Knicks hands.

That about does it other than to remind you that we have are MGDDNBVIP Contest #2 that ends at the conclusion of this game. If you missed the video yesterday here is the guys from our Round Ball Review with the contest details:

Good Luck and after this contest will have 2 more chances to win between now and Thursday.


The Starting 5 With Ryan Wolstat

Ryan became someone I got to know in having access to games, and has been a regular guest here in the DNB since last season. He covers the Raptors obviously, but also has covered some NCAA Basketball in his work for the Toronto Sun. In today's interview we talk about the Raptors latest surge of positive play. Then the story that everyone in the NBA seems to be talking about in Jeremy Lin. He and the Knicks are the next team up for the Toronto Raptors. In addition, we look at where the Raptors sit in terms of the draft this year and based on that what will they do? This and some conversation about the trade deadline this season and if the Raptors will be actively looking to sell? If so, who might be at the top of that list. This along with thoughts on what has been a NBA season to forget in some ways, with the 66 game schedule marching along. All that and some good conversation and laughs about Ron Artest and Allen Iverson. All this and more in this edition of the Starting 5.

It will be interesting to watch how this season plays out, the one thing that seems to be universal in talking to the media and in my own opinion, is the respect for Dwane Casey and the job he has done. Thanks to Ryan for taking the time to talk with us and remember to check on the site and on Twitter for our promotion working with MGD this week. Where you and a guest could join us in a VIP Box for the Bobcats and Raptors as I mentioned off the top of the interview.

#MGDDNBVIP Contest # 2

Ok for contest number two we are going in a different direction. To explain here is J.B and Joey G from the Round Ball Review:

So you have till the end of the Raptors vs Knicks Game on Tuesday. Leave you entries in the comments or tweet them to us @Dinonationblog . Will announce the winner on Twitter and in our Re-cap of Raptors vs Knicks.


Another Lakers/Raptors Classic

This won't be your typical DNB recap. I was in attendance today as a fan not in the normal media capacity. So as such it was not like I was sitting there taking notes of the blow by blow today. This was my first time catching the Lakers as a fan or media. Never really have been a Laker fan although there were lots of them in attendance today at the ACC. I am not sure why this happens, but in general when the Raptors and Lakers have hooked up it leads to big moments. Yes we all remember Kobe's 81 even if we have tried to forget it. But there was also the time in Toronto when Shaq dropped F-Bombs live on T.V back to L.A. There have actually been some close games over the years with these two teams hooking up. It defies any real logic as the Raptors history is far closer to that of the Clippers than the Lakers. But it does make for some good games. I remember Vince Carter had one of his more memorable performances in a game in L.A as well. But thanks to the NBA Lockout this is the one time this season you will see these two teams hook up. They could meet in the NBA Finals but let's be really that isn't happening. Raptors would be a long shot to make the playoffs at best and honest the Lakers are to this point not close to a favourite in the West.

This game started off ugly and it made the fact that at least I was having an enjoyable time and the ability to have a beer didn't hurt either seem good. I wasn't keeping track but I am told by those that were the Raptors were down by as many as 18 in this one. We have seen this before a slow start and the Raptors in a big hole. So keep the brews and food coming for the 2nd half right? Not exactly. In between chatting and enjoying the atmosphere something strange was occurring. The Raptors were mounting a comeback. I would turn to the person next to me and say wow the Raptors are only down....10....7.....3. It is no secret that I am far from the head of the Jose Calderon fan club. But you know what he had it going today. The fact Pau Gasol was in purple and gold might have had a lot to do with it. Also the fact that this was an afternoon game and probably was getting beamed back to Spain in prime time likely didn't hurt. It was a classic performance for Jose.

Jeremy Lin scored 38 points to outscore Kobe Bryant the other night, but who had Jose Calderon dropping 30 and out scoring him? Anyone that says you did shame on you for lying like that. Kobe would end up being in the spotlight when this game would come down the stretch. The Raptors had come from those 18 points down to lead by 4. Time was running out and Lakers needed a big play. Here is what I am going to say about Kobe Bryant and why love him or hate him you have to respect him. Everyone from World Peace to the guy in the last row of the 500's know who is getting the ball. Dwane Casey knows it too. But still Kobe gets the ball and he makes his way to the corner and swish 3 points and you knew it was in when it left his hands. That is greatness by anyway you choose to define it. The Raptors still had a chance to win this game though. Then the unthinkable happened. Those who follow on Twitter know my opinion on Rasaul Butler. I don't hide the fact I see no use for him on this roster. He had not played in this game and was suddenly in the game inbounding the basketball for the most important play of the game. He would turnover the ball would he? That would just be to perfect of an example of why I have no use for this guy. Well Butler attempted to call a timeout at 4. Ref said no dice and it was a 5 second violation. Casey who was also signaling for the time out was furious. I was convinced he was going to get tossed from the game. He would remain to see the end which was a Kobe break to the basket on turnover and drop off to World Peace aka Ron Artest. World Peace with the dagger? In any case it was a terrible end to a fantastic game.

The Spurs will be coming into town and it made me think of the unfortunate ending to both Cory Joesph and Tristan Thompson's NCAA careers. Joesph was in that same spot needing to inbound the ball with the game on the line. He too would not get the benefit of the refs call. In both cases you can argue the point till your blue in the face that both Texas and today the Raptors got jobbed. But in reality the game is on the line don't wait till you hear 4 to call a time out. Do it at 3 and be safe. Some of you may grow tired of my wrestling references but this one fits. When you break the rules in wrestling you have a 5 count to release an illegal hold. If ref gets to the 5 you are disqualified and the match is over. So what does the intelligent heel wrestler do? Breaks the hold at 3 of course. That is where you call the time out and the problem is solved.

Make the Final:

Click on the picture of the score for all the boxscore goodies.

The other thing aside from the game itself was just how many Laker Fans were in the house. They are perhaps the best travelling team in the NBA in terms of a fan base. Not that people left L.A for somewhat snowy Toronto. It is just the Lakers fan base is North American wide and World wide. This is something I can relate to as a Dallas Cowboys fan. I remember travelling to Detroit to see the Cowboys back in their big run in the 90's when they were winning Super Bowls. There were Cowboy fans all over the Silverdome on that day. A lot were not locals though. It is a little easier to plan a trip around football than it is basketball with just weekly games normally on the weekend. In terms of the Lakers many of these fans grew up Lakers fans and didn't trade in their purple and gold for purple Raptor jersey's with dinosaurs on them. They remained loyal. As for the people not that old we live in a world that makes it pretty easy to be a fan of any team regardless of where you call home. So Laker Nation North Chapter was out in full force. Including this un-named Laker fan pictured below. This Kobe "Fan Boy" was more pumped about Kobe making the big three pointer than Kobe. In fact by his reaction you almost thought he made the shot himself. But there is only one Kobe Bryant and to watch him play is a treat be you a Laker fan or just a fan of basketball in general. He is a flat out basketball killer and when you think he has nothing left to give he shows you that your wrong.

Thanks to Jerrica who was my guest for this game for all the photos in this blog. She is someone that has been one of the many loyal folks that have supported and shown the DNB some love so I invited her to come to the game. You see going to this game was all really last minute. I was invited to the game by the folks at MGD. The reason other than being a supporter of their product for years? We are once again teaming up to give you folks that read and love the DNB a chance at a fantastic VIP experience to come check out the game this Friday with the Raptors and Bobcats. That is why I was there scoping out the place where 4 of you and a guest of your choice all over the age of 19 could be next Friday. Last year we did it for The Best Seats in the House. But having sat in these seats in VIP Box on the 200 level, they are FAR FAR from the worst seats in the house. In fact the were pretty damn awesome to tell the truth. So be on the look out for #MGDDNBVIP on Twitter, Facebook and here in Dino Nation Blog. We will be having 4 unique contests giving you 4 chances to win. Starts Monday 12:01 am and runs through Thursday. When these contests will happen could be random or you might get a warning of when to expect them. Basically be on the lookout. Keep checking Twitter and the site for details. Last year's event was fantastic. I will be around again this year but because I am actually covering this game for the DNB. I have enlisted a couple folks to act as your hosts for night. It should be a great time. So be on the lookout and even if you have won past DNB Contests you are more than welcome to try to win again. Only requirement is that you are of legal drinking age and have ID to pick up your tickets. So #MGDDNBVIP Night is this Friday it is also Raptor fan night I believe so you can catch Naughty By Nature at halftime from the VIP suite as well.

Three Keys Vs Lakers

For one of the rare times in the last four years + I am going to a Raptor game as a fan. So I don't have a lot of time to do the preview so will keep it simple. Here are the 3 keys to Today's Game.

1. Raptorsystem- Make Kobe Bryant a volume shooter. The chances that 81 points happens again is very unlikely. If you make him the main scorer and take care of the other options like Gasol, Bynum and others you have a better chance at winning.

2. Bang on Boards- Get on the glass and battle with the Lakers bigs. If you let Bynum and Gasol and others crash on the class especially on the offensive end you will have little chance at winning this game.

3. Pace- The Raptors do not want to get in a shootout with the Lakers. Keep the score lower and give yourself a chance. If the game gets to 100 points than the Lakers are likely getting their first and winning this game. Famous Laker announcer Chick Hearn use to say basketball was a raise to 100 and the first team to get there usually wins. But if the Raptors want to win neither team can get there today.


Starting 5 Chats with Audley From The Breakdown Show

Audley Stephenson is one half of the duo that each and every week bring you The Breakdown Show. It is a unique look at the NBA from a variety of prospective with a guest list of people from both NBA and the entertainment world. You can catch the show live on Sundays at 9pm or listen to on the web where it fits in your life. I have even been on the show last season. They like to say it is basketball talk the way it should be. So we talk ironically enough some basketball and some Raptors as well as the evolution of their podcast and website. You can find them on the web at The Breakdown Show.Com for their show, their book and just some good old basketball information and entertainment. That is Audley on the left as he came and visited us at our MGD Night at the Raptors Nuggets game last season. The other guy is Lanny better known to many as @_Lenito on twitter. Audley is on the Twitter Machine as well @TheAudman as well as his co-host Dave Mendonca who oddly enough is @DaveMendonca on Twitter.

In our interview we talk about the Raptors big win over Boston, thoughts on Dwane Casey, Andrea Bargnani, Demar DeRozan and the thing that everyone is talking about LINSANITY. This and much more in The Starting 5.

Thanks to Audley and hopefully will get both him and Dave back for a visit in the future. I am actually going to tomorrow's game as a fan vs the Lakers so will see if that leaves time for a DNB Preview or not. If not will have a recap of the Laker Game tomorrow night sometime once I get home and settled.


Tommy Points For Raptors In Win Over Boston.

If I told you the Raptors would never trail in this game and never looked close to losing the entire night what would you say? This is of course if you never saw the game with your own eyes. Pretty much everything you would imagine happening in this game went the opposite of what logic would have suggested. Raptors will get off to a slow start and fall behind early. Nope it didn't happen. They came out and kicked the Celtics tail. At the point the score reached 20-7 Raptors, Doc Rivers called a time out and I really thought his head might explode. If you have seen the video of how excited he was when his son hit the winner for Duke, take that joy and turn it into rage and you have an idea. James Johnson was a one man defensive army at times and was getting his own offence too. Rivers raging time out only had a minor impact as the Raptors still had a 26-14 lead after one. The largest Raptor lead after one in like forever.

If there was any downside to this game it came in the 2nd quarter. The Raptors struggled more than Boston to get points on the board. But both teams looked all kinds of horrific at times in the second quarter. The Celtics would slowly chip the 11 point lead down to 7 by halftime. In was not a festival for the eyes in any way shape or form. Both teams were more than happy to throw the ball away and invent all kinds of exciting ways to commit turnovers. The less that is said about the 2nd quarter the better it is for all parties involved in this game. In the end for the record 35 points were scored in quarter, 20 by the Knicks and only 15 by the Raptors. Which left us with a 41-34 lead for the Raptors at the half.

Something strange was going on this night. Rajon Rondo was nearly invisible and Jose Calderon was having a rare game where he was totally out playing Rondo. That more than anything might have been a clear sign that this was going to be the Raptors night. Numbers don't lie. Well not often anyway.

Rondo: 5 points 7 assists and 5 rebounds
Calderon 17 points, 14 assists and 4 rebounds

Just part of the amazing magic carpet ride that the Raptors were on tonight. How crazy was it? There was a legit conversation about the merits of Aaron Gray as a player. Who was good on the glass with 11 rebounds but still offensively challenged with just 2 points. Should we call him the white Reggie Evans? No beard and I think Reggie might kill me so let's not do this. Anyway if you had a Raptor uniform on you had a good night. Ok not if you are named Carter or Butler but that would have made this story to unbelievable.

Raptors got back the 5 points they lost in the 2nd and they played the 4th quarter to a draw making your winner by TKO the Toronto Raptors 86-74 on all judges scorecards. We mentioned the numbers for Gray and Calderon but the Starting 5 came to play tonight as a unit. Demar DeRozan scored 21 with Dad on hand to catch another game and watch his son lead his team in scoring. The Ninja had the dunk of the night early in this one and was flying around the floor. James Johnson had 14 points, 7 rebounds, 3 dimes, 3 steals and a couple of blocks. He does it all. Amir Johnson has a nice 12 points and 12 rebounds and the Raptors starting 5 did something they rarely have done in the Boston Big 3 Era as they out played the Boston starting 5.

The Celtics looked gassed and by the end were trying to bully their way back into this game but the Raptors would have none of it. Rondo was talking smack at Kleiza who had injured him in the first meeting between these two teams causing him to miss significant time. Kleiza responded by soon after draining an open 3. It wasn't a perfect performance from the Raptors. But it was a hard fought, effort filled, with hustle and pride. Which was exactly what Dwane Casey was looking for. He said after the 100-64 loss to Boston to start the month that the Raptors let the city, the fans and themselves down with their performance. Tonight in front of one of the largest crowds of the season they showed up and the fans were happy to see it. The fact no one went home with a free piece of pizza was the furthest thing from people's mind.