|2013/14 NBA Season|
|January 13, 2014|
|Air Canada Centre | Toronto, Canada|
|No Local | 620 WTMJ / Audio League Pass|
|Brandon Knight||PG||Kyle Lowry|
|Giannis Antetokounmpo||SG||Terrence Ross|
|Khris Middleton||SF||DeMar DeRozan|
|Ersan Ilyasova||PF||Amir Johnson|
|Larry Sanders||C||Jonas Valanciunas|
|2013/14 Advanced Stats|
|91.3 (26th)||Pace||92.5 (24th)|
|98.4 (30th)||ORtg||105.2 (16th)|
|107.4 (21st)||DRtg||102.7 (7th)|
UPDATE: John Henson (ankle) will be available tonight, presumably off the bench.
Raptors update. Toronto has won two in a row, seven of their last nine and are 12-5 since December 6, which just so happens to be the last time Rudy Gay wore a Raptor uniform. Coincidence? Probably not. In that span they've outscored opponents by 7 pts/100 possessions while holding them to just 97.0 pts/100--both good for fourth in the entire league over that span. Defensively they've been keyed by the ability to force both misses (5th in eFG%) and turnovers (4th in TO%), while their offense has been middle-of-the-packish for most of the season. Still, they've improved on both ends since Gay's departure, adding about 3 pts/100 possession offensively while improving by a whopping 5 pts/100 on the defensive end.
The most obvious beneficiary of Gay's departure has not surprisingly been second-year swingman Terrence Ross. The former Washington high-flyer has averaged just over 30 mpg since Gay's departure and put up 13.0 ppg on 45.1% shooting from deep, with more than half his attempts coming from distance. Though he's known for his gravity-defying dunks to many, his strength is away from the basket: he shoots better from three than two and can't get to the line to save his life--less than one attempt per game despite playing 30 mpg is pretty crazy--which puts him in the Gerald Green/J.R. Smith class of "athletic guys who actually don't do much other than shoot threes." Still, that's not to diminish the value he's bringing to the Raptors, part of which is that he's not Rudy Gay.
Ross has proven an interesting foil to fifth year pro DeMar DeRozan, who was already piling up big numbers even before Gay's departure. Though he still can't shoot threes (29.7% on 3.2 attempts/game), DeRozan is putting up the best raw numbers of his career in virtually every category (21.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 3.6 apg) while also posting career-bests in PER (17.3) and WS/48 (0.122). His shooting efficiency is still poor as a result of all of those wayward threes (51.5% true shooting), but that shouldn't overshadow the fact that he's the #1 option on a team that's winning games.
The return of Henson? While Toronto has started to get things right, the Bucks keep finding ways to get them wrong. Milwaukee has lost five straight and 13 of their last 15, though they've also been missing their most productive player for the past seven games. The good news is that John Henson did dress for the Bucks' loss Saturday night in Oklahoma City, so he's getting closer after suggesting last week that he was hoping to play over the weekend. We'll keep you posted as the day goes on, but odds are we won't hear anything until closer to game time.
Missing Henson and Zaza Pachulia won't help against a big Toronto frontline that bullied its way to a 97-90 win in Milwaukee's home opener on November 2. For all the talk about Raptor perimeter players (past and present), don't overlook the big men either. Neither Amir Johnson (11.0 ppg/7.0 rpg/1.3 bpg, .603 TS%) nor Jonas Valanciunas (10.5 ppg/8.4 rpg/1.3 bpg/.550 TS%) put up huge numbers, but they score efficiently, protect the rim a bit and rebound well enough. Professional annoyance Tyler Hansbrough has fit right in as well, but remains a question mark tonight with a sore ankle.
Giannis. Everyone's favorite Greek rebounded from a poor outing against the Bulls on Friday with a stat-stuffing effort in Oklahoma City, which was good enough to own some high praise from his idol Kevin Durant. Via Charles Gardner:
"He played hard," Durant said. "He gave up his body for his team. I'd go to war with a guy like that any night.
"He's going to be a treat to watch. He's going to keep getting better and gaining experience. That's the best thing for him, just to start him and let him play. He's going to be really good."
Gardner also posted a longer piece on Giannis today that's definitely worth checking out, with some interesting talk from Larry Drew about trying to get Giannis doing more work from mid-range. I don't think long twos are the missing link to Giannis' success, but Drew's comment about Giannis being able to attack with one-dribble from those positions is a bit more understandable.