TORONTO - A day later, Dwane Casey seemed maybe a little less certain of his decision to go with the old hand over the hot hand, but there was no debate on the matter within the player ranks.
Even Ed Davis, the one who held that hot hand and was passed over for the final 4 1/2 minutes of regulation time and both overtime periods to allow the old hand (Andrea Bargnani) to finish out the game despite one of the worst shooting performances of his career, would not fault his coach’s choice in a 111-106 double-overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
“Obviously Andrea struggled (on Sunday),” Davis, himself coming off a 15-point, 14-rebounds afternoon said. “Obviously he and DeMar (DeRozan) are arguably our best players or the guys we need to finish games. You always have to ride with your stars and that’s what (our coach) did. Andrea is never going to shoot 2-for-19 again. I think it was a good thing just to know that coach Casey has that trust in him.”
As for his own part, Davis said just as Bargnani’s role as scorer and potential game closer is obvious, so too is his own, and he’s fine with that.
“I know my role,” Davis said. “It’s being a spark off the bench and just helping the team.”
Davis wasn’t the only player backing Casey’s decision to go with Bargnani. Both DeRozan and Kyle Lowry lauded their head coach for showing the kind of trust a professional needs from his head coach in order to perform at such a high level.
Casey, while hinting at a little inner conflict over the decision, made it clear the decision was made both for the threat of what Bargnani is capable of doing, but just as importantly what he was doing at the other end of the floor.
“He is our guy and I’m going to go with him just as I would with DeMar or Kyle Lowry or Jose (Calderon) or some of our leading scorers,” Casey said. “In a one-possession game where you do need scoring, I trust Andrea and it should mean we believe in him.”
And as for the defence?
“If he hadn’t been defending Duncan the way he had — our best defender — he had length on him, it bothered him to a certain extent. (Jonas Valanciunas) is learning to guard that position but Duncan has too many tricks for a rookie. Andrea did an excellent job of using his length and not getting tricked in the post in guarding Duncan.”
Looking ahead to Tuesday night’s matchup in Houston, the Raptors defence is going to be challenged as the Rockets currently sit as the fourth-highest scoring team in the Association.
The test couldn’t come at a better time for the Raptors, who finally are starting to show signs of that defensive identity they forged a year ago and seemed to lose earlier this season.
“In the past five games we have gone from 24th or whatever in the league defensively in field goal percentage to sixth, and to No. 3 from, I think, 29th or 30th in defending the three,” Casey said. “So our defence is improving, but we have to turn the page and learn how to close out games when we have the advantage.”
On the two inbounds plays the Raptors botched on Sunday, one that was stolen and another which resulted in a five-second violation, Casey pointed to those as must-make plays that can’t be allowed to be turnovers.
“You have to know that they will try and bust through screens on those,” Casey said. “You have to pay more attention to detail. Make solid screens and not let that guy get through that screen.”
Casey said the defensive improvements are a matter of his players reacting instinctively now that they have a firmer grasp of their roles.
“Guys are in their positions, better and quicker than they have been,” he said. “Guys are anticipating better. Before they were thinking ‘Do I go over here and guard this situation?’ Now it’s more reactive than thinking the defensive end of the game.”
With James (Fear the Beard) Harden and Jeremy Lin waiting for the Raps in Houston, that is far more critical than going with the tried and true or the hot and producing.
ED DAVIS IS HEATING UP
In the past two games Davis is providing the kind of boost the Raptors need from their bench guys. Davis this season has been a forgotten man at times but that seems to be changing. Here’s a look at those two games and the three that preceded them.