Raise your hand if you thought the Raptors would win that Clippers game by 16? If your hand is raised, you're either an incredible optimist, or a liar.
Even with my optimistic approach when I watch this team, I never would've thought that they would turn it around as quickly as they did. In the first quarter, it looked like they had hit rock bottom, even lower then they have been recently. However, in the next three quarters, they easily played their best basketball that they have played since they were first in the East. And this surge came with the help of two new guys. One of those new guys was Lou Williams, but we have come to expect that from him. When he is on, he can single-handedly carry even the most stagnant offence.
However, the second was James Johnson. Thought to be in Dwane Casey's doghouse, JJ had rarely gotten into games even before his hamstring injury, prompting ridiculous conspiracy theories, serious or not, as to why he wasn't playing. But the answer was simple. With T Ross coming off the bench, there were simply so minutes left for him. But in the Raps latest drubbing of the Clippers, JJ proved why he is such a valuable piece to this team.
Of course, you can't ignore his defence. With a LeBron-esque combination of size, strength and athleticism, the black belt can defend any position, yes he an even defend some centres. But what makes him such a great defender is his willingness to defend and take on any challenge. In one game, James defended Blake Griffin, J-Crossover and CP3 and and was a positive against all of them. This defensive attitude is one that not many Raptors have, even Kyle Lowry has lost his edge recently, but is contagious when you watch a guy like Johnson do his thing.
His offensive impact is much more subtle, but still incredible. With his athleticism and warrior mentality, he can get into the paint and is an incredibly efficient finisher when he gets there. He is a safe bet to give the ball to because of this and his post-up ability, arguably the best post-up player on the team not named Jonas Valanciunas. But what really impresses me about JJ offensively is the calm he brings to the team. He never rushes, he's patient and looks for the best shot without turning the ball over, the Achilles heel of the Raps recently. When Johnson is on the floor, the number of turnovers go way down, which helps defensively because you can set up. Also, the more shots you can get up, the better because Patterson, Amir, JJ or JV are always there to get offensive rebounds if you miss.
With T Ross starting the second half with the starters, I'm hoping this means that Casey understands how little the Vasquez-starting lineup experiment has worked. With Ross starting, it brings us back to the lineup we started the year with, the incredibly efficient lineup, with JJ getting his minutes off the bench. GV can come off the bench and take his YOLO threes, and everything is back to normal. And by normal, I mean winning games.