Options are a basketball coach’s lifeblood, the chance to mix things up to take advantage of mismatches and personnel and play around a little bit to find something that works.
Dwane Casey has at his disposal more options that at any time in his Toronto coaching career, and it’s got to be a wonderful feeling.
Got size and experience? Let Serge Ibaka go to work in the post on Al-Farouq Aminu.
Got strength and toughness? Let P.J. Tucker guard Damian Lillard for a little bit.
Need a traditional look? Give Jonas Valanciunas a chance to pick up some easy baskets around the rim.
Want to switch on defence? Go to the defensive stopper’s look with Tucker, Ibaka and DeMarre Carroll.
Need a basket, or at least a trip to the free-throw line? There’s DeMar DeRozan.
Casey got to use a host of those options Sunday night, mixing and matching whatever he needed as the Raptors dumped the Portland Trail Blazers 112-106 at the Air Canada Centre for their third win in a row.
Ibaka had nine of his 18 points in a seven-minute run of the fourth quarter, DeRozan poured in 33 points — including 15 free throws on 16 attempts — and Toronto pulled away in the final four minutes for the win.
“Communication in huge, physicality is huge. I thought, for the most part, we did a good job,” Casey said. “I have to look at the film, but I thought we did a good job down the stretch.”
What he will see is a thorough performance from Ibaka all over the floor. He hit a couple of three-pointers and scored almost at will in the post over Aminu, as well as grabbing a game-high 10 rebounds.
“When teams go small like that, he has the ability to guard their perimeter guy out on the floor . . . plus he has an advantage down in the low post — that’s the difference,” Casey said of Ibaka.
With Kyle Lowry out for the second straight game because of a right wrist injury, the Toronto point guard tandem of Cory Joseph and Delon Wright came up with another solid showing. Joseph had 14 points and Wright added 11, but they also played tough defence all night on Lillard, one of the NBA’s most explosive scorers.
“(Wright) did a great job coming in and being aggressive in the minutes he got, taking his shots, and I just try to do the same thing,” said Joseph. “Obviously with Kyle out, we know we’ve got to step up. Hopefully we’ll continue to do it.”
Lillard did have 28 points to lead the Blazers, and Maurice Harkless added 18, but Portland gave up 54 per cent shooting and the Raptors had 50 points in the paint.
Valanciunas made seven of the eight shots he took, dominating at times.
“I thought Jonas did a good job, especially in the second half, of getting deep post position on (Jusuf) Nurkic, much better in the second half than the first half,” Casey said.
There was also some positive news on Lowry’s wrist. Casey said more tests Saturday revealed no structural damage and he’ll be listed as day-to-day.
“Swelling’s gone down, so that’s a good sign,” the coach said. “It wasn’t broken, so that helps.”
That’s as far as Casey would go on the diagnosis.
“I’m not going to call it anything,” he said. “Sore right wrist is . . . proper. I don’t want to get in trouble for calling it something it’s not.”
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