DeMAR DeROZAN returns from a long absence due to injury, and he was stellar in his limited minutes. The boys in purple played above average without their All-Star, performing 3 games above 500.
The Raptors had their fair share of troubles to overcome during this extensive stretch. They have slipped from 1st to 3rd in the East. Other teams have enjoyed success recently like Washington, Detroit, and the Eastern Conference leading ATLANTA HAWKS – whom Toronto will encounter in their next game on Friday.
With DeRozan off the court, KYLE LOWRY stepped it up large. He proved this is his team as much as it is DeMar’s. While the Raptors truly play teamball, Lowry’s strong play during DeRozan’s injury catapulted him into All-Star status. It looks like he will just miss out on the fan vote to start, but I’m sure whoever coaches the Eastern Squad will be coaching Lowry come February’s All-Star contest in New York.
A few other players stepped up their games during this stretch. JAMES JOHNSON proved his versatility, especially on the defensive end. He changed the momentum of the game a few times over this period. He never fills up the stat sheet, but he delivers on effort and intangibles.
JONAS VALANCIUNAS has improved his presence and play. The other night against DETROIT he snagged a career high with 30 points. He’s been more reliable as a go-to big man. He’s hitting most of his shots in the paint. He’s been more aggressive. He’s learning how to limit fouls. He’s fitting in. He can be that integral inside presence required for some wins. I’m sure he will continue this improvement with DeMar’s return.
LOUIS WILLIAMS proved his worth a few times. He’s always chipping in points with spurts of productivity. He’s been rather reliable off the bench. He leads the way with VASQUEZ and often cause a lot of distruption in the opposition.
TERRENCE ROSS didn’t have any crazy break out game like you might expect in DeRozan’s absence. He filled in the blanks a few times. He’s hit some big shots. He’s caused some important turnovers. However, he stills lacks that consistency. He’s been reliable for a couple of threes each game, but he’ll have some off nights. A bit more than you’d like. He could have really blossomed and taken advantage of this extended opportunity. I just feel like he’s as good as he was before the big injury to our main man.
PATRICK PATTERSON could end up fighting Johnson and Ross for the starting position. While it may seem strange to shift AMIR to the bench, it could happen on some nights per match-ups. Patterson can space the floor a bit more, like Ross does, but he seems a bit more reliable as he runs the offense better during off-ball situations. James Johnson is a better argument for taking Ross’s starting gig. He adds more defense, and more scoring options. He may not hit the long range bombs as well as T-Ross, but the boost in D may be worth this change.
I’d like to see AMIR JOHNSON stay in the starting five. He’s proven himself over and over. He’s proven his heart. He gives it 100 percent. Not the bullshit 110. No, Amir give his all, and that’s 100. He scores when the game dictates it, he makes the extra pass when needed, he ebbs the flow of the game, and more importantly: those screens. He sets them and rolls or slides or fades. He guides the energy. A most valuable intangible.
With the return of DeROZAN, I feel like a lot of Raps Fans are reinvigorated. Any slump that may have happened is quickly erased from memory upon learning of his return. I thought it might take him a while to work out some rusty kinks. Nope. He returned, for real. Despite half the usual minutes, he dropped the usual 20 on Philly. He’s back. Let’s hope the intimidating Raptor’s play is back too.
Tune in on Friday for the real test with the hotter than hot sauce Atlanta Hawks. Let’s go Raps. What do you think?
Will DeMar DeRozan return to his former state of play?
Will they battle the Hawks with more confidence having the All-Star in the starting line-up?
What do you think of Lowry’s All-Star chances this season?
What do you think of the Raptor re-branding?