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article imageNBA: Raptors shut down Cavs 92-77 Special

By Aman Dhanoa     Jan 5, 2012 in Sports
Toronto - The Toronto Raptors are starting to show signs of a team that is gaining confidence with each passing day. Under new Head Coach Dwane Casey the team is buying into the defensive-first philosophy and has been a pleasant surprise after six games.
Many could not be blamed for thinking that this year’s edition would take time to develop and learn the defensive system that Casey is instilling into the team. But the transition and changes are taking hold a lot quicker than most imagined.
So far the team has only given up 100 points or more just once this season and has limited its opposition to below 45 per cent shooting in five of its first six games. The Cleveland Cavaliers know this all too well having fallen victim to the Raptors twice already, including Wednesday night.
Toronto took the lead late in the first quarter and never relinquished en route to a convincing 92-77 win at the Air Canada Centre. The Raptors shot 46.8 per cent and held the Cavaliers to just 29.6 per cent from the floor as well as a combined .355 (59-of-166) in both meetings this season. Toronto was victorious 104-96 in Cleveland in the first game of the season.
If the team is able to keep up the defensive intensity it has shown already then the team has the potential to be more successful than the defensively inept squad from last season. Casey isn’t ready to declare the Raptors a playoff team just yet as there is still a lot of work to be done.
“Defensively, we’ve taken strides. We are thinking defensively, we’re thinking in those terms and getting stops, which is part of the culture change,” said Casey.
“We’re playing playoff style basketball, now whether we’re a playoff team or not, I’d venture to say we’re not right now. But we’re playing the style of defence that it takes to play in the playoffs. Offensively, we need to clean up things – timing, space, cut down on turnovers, which we did tonight, and continue to do that.”
Andrea Bargnani finished the game with an efficient 11-of-16 from the field for a game-high 31 points while hauling down seven rebounds.
Toronto Raptors centre/forward Andrea Bargnani
Toronto Raptors centre/forward Andrea Bargnani
JP Dhanoa
“I think we played great defence,” said Bargnani. “They shot 29 per cent and that is great result for us. That is what we are working for here, a very good defence. That’s where we get our excitement from, the defensive end and we bring it to the offence."
Bargnani came alive in the second half scoring 21 of his points after the break. It was his second 30-point game of the season and fifth straight 20-point game.
“I have to give credit to my teammates because I didn’t force any shots,” said Bargnani. “Every shot I took was pretty open and that’s because my teammates passed me the ball at the right time.”
DeMar DeRozan added 25 points as well and continued his hot hand from three point range going 5-of-8. His five three-pointers matched his season total from 2010-11 (5-of-52).
“It’s definitely good. It’s showing me that my hard work has paid off,” said DeRozan. “I’m just going to keep working on every part of my game and just try to get better every time I’m on that court.”
Opponents are now respecting his long range shot adding another dimension to the Raptors offence by opening up the floor for his teammates.
“Yes, I definitely noticed that,” said DeRozan. “That’s the one thing the team and I wanted to accomplish coming in this season and being able to do that, not just for myself, for my teammates we can get easy buckets.”
Jose Calderon had another impressive outing as he distributed the basketball efficiently to finish with a game-high 11 assists while adding 13 points and six rebounds.
“I think we’ve been doing much better for sure,” said Calderon. “The last time we played them, it was the first game of the season, and you always know the first game is not the best one for sure.
“I think we’re improving in every aspect of the game. I think everybody is helping, is trying to give us a step forward every time they go on the court. We cannot complain, everybody is doing their job and that’s why we’re winning and we play better basketball.”
Antawn Jameson was a force for Cleveland in the first half as he led all scorers at the break with 17. But the Raptors shut him down in the second half where he added just two more points to finish with a team-high 19.
Kyrie Irving, the first round draft pick from 2011, finished with 12 points and Omri Casspi added 10 points while Anderson Varejao had a game-high 13 rebounds.
Cavs rookie and Brampton, Ont. native Tristan Thompson had a homecoming to forget as he played in front of family and friends. The fourth overall pick in 2011 finished with just one point, 0-for-5 from the field, in less than 17 minutes of action.
Thompson was coming off a good performance of the bench on Tuesday night where he scored a career-high 16 points to help his team in a 115-101 win against the Charlotte Bobcats in Cleveland.
“I thought he (Thompson) didn’t play well at all,” said Cavs Head Coach Byron Scott. “But he isn’t the only one. Looking at that scorecard, we didn’t have many guys that played well.
“Welcome to the NBA, back-to-back nights you know. Especially our two young guys, it’s their first experience. I just try to tell them how to handle it a little better next time.”
On Monday night against the New York Knicks, Toronto was very lucky to pull out the win despite leading by double-digits. The Raptors once again built up a big lead like previous games this season but had the killer instinct against the Cavs and put the game away.
“I give Toronto credit. I thought they played great basketball on both ends of the floor,” said Scott. “We couldn’t throw it into the ocean. Every time we made a little run they hit some miracle three to kind of break our backs. We’ll just have to pick ourselves up and get ready for the next one.”
The Raptors have a day off before playing the New Jersey Nets at home on Friday night at 7 p.m. ET. The team will then travel to Philadelphia to take on the 76ers on Saturday night at 8 p.m. from the Prudential Center.
This article was originally published on Oye! Times
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