Raptors' coaches deserve credit

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:45 PM ET

HOUSTON — OK, we’ve praised the Raptors for their gutty play in Dallas. We built up rookie Ed Davis’ career night to the point he may not get his head through the charter door on the way to Houston.

Now perhaps it’s time to give the Raptors coaching staff a little credit.

Jay Triano and his assistants have taken it on the chin in chat rooms, on websites, in newspapers and on TV at various times this year, but now it’s time to give them some props.

Facing possibly the longest odds this season in Dallas, Triano and company knew they had to do something to give themselves at least a puncher’s chance of knocking off the Dallas Mavericks.

A night earlier against Memphis, the Raptors wasted an energetic first quarter in which they led by as many as 12 when their defensive coverages inside broke down. That allowed the Grizzlies to score at will from the paint and the Raps’ first-quarter success became a memory.

“We didn’t feel like we had much of a chance if we played with the way we had been playing,” Triano said Thursday speaking specifically of the Raptors interior defence.

So with nothing to lose and everything to gain, Triano took a shot and made what he described as a “drastic change” to his defence.

“We just scheme against the different teams and do different things against some of their key players and see if we can limit their touches and limit the amount of points they score,” Triano said not wanting to give the whole strategy away.

In short, the Raptors coaching staff made the decision that limiting Jason Terry would give the Raptors the best chance at stealing a win in Dallas and it worked.

“We figured with Dirk out he was going to try to take over, so we schemed a little differently against him,” Triano said.

The Raptors didn’t hold Terry off the board but he was limited to 18 points on eight of 19 shooting and was good on just two of his eight three-point attempts.

Regardless of the numbers, the Raptors coaching staff was unanimous that Tuesday’s defensive showing, particularly by the three young bigs Amir Johnson, Joey Dorsey and Davis — was by far the best they’ve seen from their Raptors this season.

“Yup, for sure,” Triano said. “Watching it on tape we felt that way and all the other coaches that watched it separately felt that way as well.”

Johnson, who continues to play through his back problems, said the defensive intensity was what kept him going.

“Our defence was tremendous,’ he said. “I can’t say it enough. Blocked shots, rebounds, taking charges, getting stops. I was hyped up on that. It didn’t matter about our scoring. Our defence really set the tone.”

And with the same team that was held together by medical tape and bandages still just as banged up, if not moreso, as they were in Dallas, it’s going to take another similar defensive effort in Houston on Friday to get a similar result.

Triano didn’t want to say which member of the Rockets would get the Terry treatment, but it’s a safe bet one of Luis Scola or Kevin Martin will be that guy.

Triano, though, is well aware that part of the reason for the success on Tuesday was that it was the perfect balance of change and change with simplicity.

“It’s not like we will change 10 different things,” Triano said. “We might change it for one guy. We’ll try to keep things as standard as possible. Sometimes when you think too much out there, you’re a step slow in your reaction. We have to make sure we maintain our quickness and react well. I think it’s going to be game by game — how do we think we can give ourselves the best opportunity to win without making too many drastic changes.”

As for the walking wounded, the point guard situation is the most alarming. Neither Jose Calderon nor Jerryd Bayless were able to take part in Thursday’s full practice. Both were walking around and doing some stationary shooting and Calderon ran a little more than Bayless did but both will be game-time decisions. It could mean long minutes for both Leandro Barbosa and Julian Wright.

Sonny Weems, who has not played since Dec. 15 against Chicago, did not practise and Triano does not expect him to play in Houston.

Johnson practised but avoided the contact drills while Davis, who was icing his ankle after Tuesday’s win, showed no signs of slowing down.

“Ed practised hard today,” Triano said. “He was good.”

mike.ganter@sunmedia.ca


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