For about 15 minutes or so it looked like the dreaded early start flu would mess with the Raptors in a building Dwane Casey’s teams have had an inexplicably hard time in. But a 10-0 Charlotte star evaporated and Toronto ended up pummeling the overmatched former Bobcats on Sunday afternoon.
The win was Casey’s 300th as Toronto’s head coach, a massive achievement that deserves recognition. The growth of the franchise since those forgettable post-lockout early days has been remarkable and Casey and (his staff’s) growth has also been laudable. After so many years of cycling through coaches, MLSE finally hit on a winner, even if there have been various bumps along the way. Credit to Masai Ujiri for sticking with Casey when a lot of others would have gone in another direction on at least one occasion, and maybe two.
While Brad Stevens has been seen as the front-runner for coach of the year all season, largely because of the rousing start to the season the Celtics had in the wake of the Gordon Hayward injury, it’s hard to argue against Casey. The team reworked its offence, changed a lot of its defence and lost perceived glue guys P.J. Tucker, Patrick Patterson and Cory Joseph. Instead of slipping, they’ve raised things several notches. The player development work has been superb, with the bench emerging as the best in the NBA (with Charlotte the latest club to get absolutely run over by the youngsters and Bench Dad C.J. Miles). Obviously, Mike D’Antonio deserves consideration, but they added Chris Paul and coaches don’t tend to ever win the award consecutively. Steve Kerr’s great but look at that roster. Gregg Popovich should always be in the mix too and San Antonio has done it again without Kawhi Leonard, probably the best two-way player in the league.
How’s this for bizarre? The Ray Allen of big men, Jonas Valanciunas, has hit 63.2% of his three-pointers over his past nine games, the best mark in the NBA over that span, but only 61.1% of his free throws. He’s never shot worse than 76% in a season from the line and is still shooting a career-best 83.8% at the stripe. He’s tied for 8th amongst centres with Nikola Vucevic.
The C.J. Miles the Raptors were anticipating appears to have been located. He’s canned 15-of-23 three-point attempts in February. A four-game sample size is obviously tiny, but it’s a good sign. They need him to stretch the floor for everybody else. The Raptors got particularly good looks from the corners, continuing a recent trend of generating corner three-pointers, a weakness for much of the season. The Raptors got up 10 shots from the corners, making six of them. Charlotte attempted five.
The recent uptick in three-point accuracy has moved the Raptors from just shy of the bottom of the league, to 21st. Only three teams are attempting more and only six are making more.
1 – C.J. Miles
2 – DeMar DeRozan
3 – Kemba Walker
Source:: Toronto Sun – Movies