There was a time when the Golden State Warriors were at least entertaining.
But in a season where both the Warriors and Raptors are trying to instill a defensive mentality, offence has been a bit of an afterthought for most of the season and Sundayís game was clearly proof of that.
ďYeah, we probably set basketball back two or three years,Ē Raps head coach Dwane Casey said afterwards.
But donít expect an apology. It may not have been pretty but it was effective and in a year where Raptors gains have come in increments, Casey can live with ugly wins.
Playing without Stephen Curry, who has a bloated 30.3 ppg scoring average when he takes on the Raptors, only added to the lack of offensive flair in this game, but even Curryís numbers have been affected by the Warriors new defensive focus.
Curry sat this one out with a foot injury.
Prior to the game, Casey talked about the similarities between the two teams, chiefly how both he and Warriors rookie head coach Mark Jackson were at the helm of philosophical rebuilds. Neither club in the past has given much thought to defence at all. Now theyíre trying to make it their first thoughts.
Casey felt the Raptors were a little ahead of the Warriors on that score but the Warriors still held an edge in finishing games off.
For a half the Warriors actually held the edge in both areas and took a nine-point lead into the locker room at the half.
But the Casey-defence that has been the one more-or-less consistent positive a Raptors fans this season, finally started to take control in the second half. It didnít hurt either that Nate Robinson couldnít buy a bucket yet kept throwing up attempts, finishing the night with seven points on 12 field-goal attempts.
Monta Ellis wasnít much more effective needing 22 attempts to reach 20 points.
With that pair throwing up bricks and the Raptors finding their defensive legs in the third quarter, the home side held the Warriors to just 11 points over the next 12 minutes, paving the way for an effective, if somewhat sedate, 83-75 win.
That 11-point third quarter tied the mark for the least productive quarter by a Raptors opponent this year. The Knicks only managed 11 during the second quarter of a Raptors win at Madison Square Garden in early January.
That defensive intensity stayed with the Raptors through the fourth quarter and it was the reason they were celebrating win No. 12 on the season Sunday night.
The 27 points by the Warriors in the second half is the new benchmark for Raptors stinginess breaking the old mark of 34 points which has been reached three times.
Back on track
DeMar DeRozan was even getting some harassment from the local crowd Friday night when Tony Allen and the Memphis Grizzlies held him to just four points in a game the Raptors would lose by three.
Casey predicted his young guard was in for a tough night and did what he could to deflect any post-game criticism.
Back against a team that doesnít possess a lock-down defender of Allenís stature, DeRozan went back to work and got back on track with a 25-point effort that included a perfect six-for-six from the charity stripe.
DeRozan also played all but 2:11 of the game, another indication of his head coaches confidence in the player they are grooming to be a key cog in their offence for years to come.
Amir and his pain
Amir Johnson is one tough customer. The Raptors centre/power forward has played through back, knee and wrist problems the past two seasons, so when he went down late in the game clutching his right knee and was unable to get to his feet you just assumed it was something serious.
Raptors assistant Scott Roth though was up out of his seat imploring the coaching staff and the players on the floor not to waste a foul or a timeout. Roth was certain Johnson would walk it off. His pleas didnít reach DeRozan who committed the foul to get the clock stopped. By that time Johnson had picked himself and walked it off to the point where he didnít even leave the game after the timeout.
Leandro Barbosa came down on his left arm with just over six minutes left in the game that looked serious initially when the Brazilian Blur required assistance from the trainers coming off the floor. But following the timeout, Barbosa was right back out there ... The Raptors did enjoy a substantial edge in the rebounding department on Sunday night thanks to the double-digit rebound efforts from James Johnson (12), Amir Johnson (13) and Ed Davis (12) ... Neither team managed to shoot better than 40%. The Raps had a slight edge finishing with a 37.2% success rate. The Warriors shot the ball at a 36.3% clip ... Raptors held Warriors under 100 points (head-to-head) for the first time since Mar. 31, 2004 (14 gms). The 75 points scored by the Warriors Sunday is their all-time low against Toronto.