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The West coast trip sans Bosh might be the best thing that happens to us

Posted by Arsenalist on March 10, 2008

I made a very disinterested post-game post last night so I thought I’d make up for it. In truth, I was playing basketball and got hit very hard in a very sensitive area and was feeling woozy for the rest of the evening.

Five game roadtrip coming up and Michael Grange and I are on the same page: it’s tough to see us get anything out of this one. Lakers, GS, Sac, Denver and Utah are all teams that can beat us, well, maybe not Sacramento but without Chris Bosh and what with them being the home team, you’d have to favor them. And unlike the Raptors, teams remember who humiliated them last time around and come out with a sense of urgency and revenge not seen around these parts. Barring a 60% FG shooting performance one one of these nights, we’ll come out 0 for 5. But wait, the good news is that we’ll still be 1 game over .500. And if we manage to sneak out a win, we’ll be 3 games over .500, not too terrible going into the home-stretch.

Let’s talk about home-court advantage, I don’t think the Raptors need it to win a playoff series. This team plays better on the road, as crazy as it sounds, it’s true. They’re more focused, energetic and generally much more crisp when they’re playing away from home. A lot has been made of the Raptors lack of toughness and grit but one that’s self-evident is that the Raptors don’t get phased by the opposing arena and I feel confident that as long as their jumper is dropping in one of the first two games in the playoff series, we’re more than capable of stealing home-court advantage. Their success depends entirely on whether they can rebound and hit their perimeter jumpers. Both these facets of the game are a huge variable on this team which can fluctuate on a nightly basis, so it’s conceivable that the Raptors can simply “catch fire” and pull out a win.

Going back to actually getting home court advantage, we have no chance of catching Orlando which is currently 5 1/2 games ahead of us. Our hope is to catch Cleveland which has a slightly more challenging schedule than Orlando and have shown that they’re very much beatable, at least in the regular season. If this turns out to be our playoff matchup, needless to say they will have a serious rebounding advantage over us and it’ll be very much up to Sam Mitchell to manage Brezec, Rasho, Humphries and Bargnani in a way that mitigates this advantage. Of course none of this stops John Hollinger from picking us as the winner in this series:

Majeed: LeBron and the Cavs remind me of the Lakers last year. Great player on a mediocre team who will go one & done in the playoffs.

John Hollinger: Cavs could easily be one and done, yes, especially if they get Toronto in the first round (and Bosh is on the court).

It appears that Dave Feschuk is secretly hoping for us to fall to 6th place behind Washington, face Orlando, rely on the PG advantage and the Bosh/Howard wash-out to pull out a series win. Maybe this roadtrip is the best thing that’ll happen to us? We got screwed last year when NJ beat Chicago on the last day of the regular season to grab 6th spot, maybe what went around last year, came round our way this year. Even though he’s not saying that, I’m definitely saying it. Losing sucks but I would rather finish 6th than 4th or 5th, we need to win a playoff series, not finish higher in the standings. We did that last year and look what came of it.

I’m glad to see Elliote Friedman get some credit for being a half-decent sideline reporter and asking the tough and important questions, this guy should be doing this for every game. His point-blank question to TJ Ford asking whether he could co-exist with Calderon was gold and its bluntness even caught TJ by surprise. His interview with Bryan Colangelo basically asked him, “Why is this team playing like shit?”. Nice to hear. Enough of the Norma Wick and Rod Black’s of this world, we got a guy who has some real talent, asks proper questions and doesn’t get laughed at by Sam Mitchell. Since John Saunders was squeezed out, we’ve never had a truly professional guy on our media team and Friedman is a breath of fresh air. Although the CBC A/V team often screws him up by wiping out his audio while he’s talking to pictures on the wall, he still is the best TV reporter for the Raptors. Speaking of the media, I was really expecting more from Eric Smith’s new blog, with insider access like he has, he still tells us stuff we already know, like whether Bosh will play against Seattle or not. Recently he caught up wit Kapono and instead of asking him why he can’t seem to buy a 3 point attempt, let alone make one, he asked him about the weather.

I’d like to talk a little about Carlos Delfino, Jamario Moon and Andrea Bargnani. These are the three players that will eventually determine whether we can win a playoff series. Moon has been stepping up of late and playing excellent man-defense and hitting the boards which is going to be imperative to our playoff success. Carlos Delfino is far too inconsistent to be relied upon to do anything offensively, he should not have the green light to shoot from deep unless there are less than 5 seconds on the shot clock. His driving and ball-handling skills are good enough that he can consistently get his points in the paint, he needs to be the inside-guy on this perimeter oriented team. Sam needs to get this message across to him because when he’s in the paint, he has the ability to find Rasho, Bosh or Humphries for short passes for easy scores. Andrea’s string of good game, bad game will need to end at some point, we’ve been harping about this all year long but unless he becomes a legitimate second scorer (and I don’t mean by shooting 30%) and gets at least 50% of his points in the paint, we’ll be in trouble. I foresee teams closing him out completely in the playoffs and forcing him to create off the bounce which he can’t do with surety. It’ll be interesting, your thoughts on this are welcome.

I have a confession to make: I hate watching this team. Yeah, we’re winning but the way they play bugs me to no end. The offensive sets are so lame, the defense is so inconsistent, lazy at times, our superstar’s not really a superstar and we’re so soft and dependent on the springer. Yeah, we apparently have great chemistry but lack the tenacity and diligence to be consistently good. I’m being very nostalgic but I do miss Charles Oakley and even Antonio Davis……I’m relying on this summer to fix some of those issues, I’m sure you are too. To sum it up, I’d like to quote Raps Fan from a comment on his blog:

I don’t enjoy watching them either, but just like a battered wife, i can’t leave these sons-a-bitches.

Outspoken commenter khandor grouped NBA teams into six different tiers, I don’t think he’s too far off, his list can be seen here. Mine differs a little.

1st Tier – Boston, Detroit, LA Lakers, San Antonio

2nd Tier – Houston, Phoenix, Utah, New Orleans

3rd Tier – Cleveland, Dallas, Denver, Golden State

4th Tier – Atlanta, Chicago, New Jersey, Portland, Orlando, Toronto, Washington

5th Tier – Charlotte, Indiana, LA Clippers, Milwaukee, Sacramento, Philadelphia

6th Tier – Memphis, Miami, Minnesota, New York, Seattle

It’s all very debatable, feel free to have your opinion.

I’d like to tell everybody that fellow blogger Dinosty has an absolutely awesome picture of Andris Biedrins’ wife, he will unleash it after we play the Warriors this week. Unlike him, I can’t afford to pay gettyimages.com, so I’ll just give you this.

Later.

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Posted in nba, Raptors | Tagged: , , | 14 Comments »

Miami Heat: The perfect antidote for a losing streak

Posted by Arsenalist on March 5, 2008

Toronto Raptors 108, Miami Heat 83

Going into this game nobody knew what to expect, after dropping three straight to depleted Indiana, undermanned Charlotte and then Orlando, the Raptors appeared primed to go 0-3 on the roadtrip. It’s a good thing Miami was the last stop. After the 32 point drubbing earlier in the year the money was on the Heat showing some pride and competing against a Bosh-less Raptors squad that’s been on the ropes this week, but the Heat resistance lasted about a quarter. Barely. And Riley was not happy.

Miami is a miserable team to watch; Dwyane Wade isn’t motivated enough to carry a team on his back just so he can save Miami from a last place finish and Shawn Marion’s days are spent trying to figure out if he should opt out or not. After all, will someone pay him 17M? The age old NBA question: get big money playing for a bad team or lesser money playing for a contender. The ironic part of that question is that Marion had it both, he was making a ridiculous salary in Phoenix while playing for a contender but wanted to “be the man” which he still isn’t since Wade is around. Nothing makes sense. They need to sit Wade and tank.

Maybe the Heat might’ve had a chance if Shawn Marion didn’t get shutdown by Jamario Moon who limited him to 5 points on 2-7 FG while swatting three of his shots. Naah, it wouldn’t have mattered, the Raptors were getting too many open looks without trying too hard. They shot 55% and Forderon racked up 18 assists, that’s 3 more than the entire Miami team. Jose Calderon got his shooting touch back and was his usual electric but controlled self in finding Rasho Nesterovic, Jamario Moon and Anthony Parker for countless high-percentage jumpers. Miami didn’t have an answer for him nor did they have any idea on how to defend Rasho, they were conceding him space to shoot the 15 footer as if they thought it was his weakness. Rasho kindly made 8 of 12 FG attempts and constantly shook his head at how easy things were.

Andrea’s fall looked much worse than TJ’s and we’re lucky it’s nothing more than a loose tooth. He was hit flagrantly in mid-air by Alexander Johnson. After he blew by the initial defender, Johnson hit him in the face with an elbow which almost knocked him out. If that wasn’t bad enough, his head/neck were loose when he hit the floor and the head banged at least a couple times on the floor. The initial replay looked like a severe concussion and the look on his face was as if he’s just seen the white light. Turned out he was just shook up and rightfully so. I was glad to see him get up and hit two FTs before Dr. Larry Brown (anybody get this reference?) was called to see him. Side note here is that none of the Raptors stepped up to Johnson and reprimanded him for his idiotic foul. I was hoping Brezec would be on the floor so we could see some fireworks. What’s lost in all this is the aggressiveness with which Bargnani started the game, even though he missed his first couple shots he kept shooting and drove to the rim, ultimately earning a respectable percentage. They key is doing it consistently, and who are we kidding? We’re playing Miami.

So what should’ve been by all accounts a 2-1 roadtrip ends up 1-2. Not thaat bad. I’m more pissed off about the Indiana loss more than anything. We got Washington and Seattle coming up before we start the daunting West coast swing. Washington got killed at home by Orlando and will be looking to bounce back. It’s imperative that we win that game and avenge the Seattle embarrassment, that way even if we go 0-5 in our West coast swing, we’ll still be 3 games over .500. I know, it’s loser thinking but it’s very possible that we go winless or at best 1-4 on that trip. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.

Consistency is the key element which is missing from the Raptors. We have some very streaky players who can’t be relied upon to provide anything concrete on any given night. Just contrast Moon’s game from today and yesterday, or take Delfino’s horrendous shooting slump, Humphries erratic play and then of course there’s Andrea Bargnani. Some might argue that consistency is developed over time once a player finds himself and understands what he needs to do in order to achieve and maintain success. I’m doubtful that come playoff time, any of our inconsistent players will have become any better at maintaining a level of performance. I think a lot of this is reflects on the coaching that’s being done on this team and how well-defined players’ roles are. One of my biggest complaints about Sam is the lack of a set rotation. There are arguments both against and for this idea but the main advantage of it is that it allows the team to get into a rhythm, manages expectations and provides a roadmap. We should at least have an 8-man rotation which we start off with and see how things go from there. I mean, why was Joey on the bench till garbage time but got in the game in the first quarter yesterday? What’s the rationale at play? Now injuries to Ford and Bosh have thrown this off but I hope that come playoff time, we don’t pull the same shit we did against NJ last year.

There’s some talk about Jamario Moon not reading scouting reports and relying on his gut feel. I have to say this was one of the more disappointing things that I’ve read in the last little while. For a rookie who doesn’t know anything about the league and its players, I thought the scouting report would be your best friend. I wonder how Sam feels about this. Thoughts?

The Raptors get a big lead early, somewhat loosen the grip but maintain a 7-10 point cushion in the first half before blowing the Heat out in the third. I’ll be a lot happier if we win against Washington. This one was easy.

Later.

Liners:

* I would like to introduce yet another Raptors blog.

* Birdman pointed out this little moment in the Orlando game.

* TJ Ford’s got a problem with the backup job? You decide.

* If you didn’t get the Dr. Larry Brown reference, the Miami Heat announcer made the following announcement during the game which was clearly heard on TV: “Would Dr. Larry Brown please report to the Raptors locker room. The Raptors thank you.” It was right after the Bargnani injury. Speaking of the Heat announcer, the guy sure stays positive even when down 32.

* The more I look at this team, the more I’m convinced that we need to trade one of the two point guards (TJ Ford likely) to address a need. The only question remaining is what his market value will be given his injuries. If we’re getting low-balled in the offers, no reason to pull a trigger but if anything substantial or workable comes back, it wouldn’t make sense not to do it. After a while, having two solid PGs becomes an exercise in diminishing returns, there’s only so much of an advantage you can get from one position on the floor. I’d rather have an All-Star PG and a good solid SF rather than two All-Star guards, wouldn’t you?

* The crowd jeering Brezec after he missed that dunk after the play was over was too funny. This guy is comedy.

* I have to give the Top Rap to Anthony Parker for being damn competitive and even more damn consistent on this road-trip. The two losses hurt him more than anyone.

Not many Liners, do add your own.

Posted in nba, Raptors | 22 Comments »

TJ Ford ball hogs in the fourth to kill any chance the Raptors might’ve had

Posted by Arsenalist on March 4, 2008

Toronto Raptors 87, Orlando Magic 102

Rarely are there instances where you can definitively blame a loss on one player but last night the horrid stretch of play by TJ Ford in the fourth quarter undoubtedly killed any shot that the Raptors might have had. Missing Chris Bosh is a lot to overcome against Dwight Howard and the Magic, but the Raptors managed to do that by getting their big gun in foul trouble and making him an essential non-factor for the better part of the game. After surviving the first half thanks to Jose Calderon and Anthony Parker’s hot shooting and after a battling effort in the third quarter, we managed to stay in this one going into the fourth. That’s where Ford took over for the worse.

Now you can look at perennial non-factor and Harry Rosen mannequin Andrea Bargnani’s 2-11 FG and 6 points and surmise that perhaps if a better effort had been put out, the Raptors would’ve handled the Magic rather easily. But his performances have been so inconsistent and the excuses surrounding his play have been so many that we’ve all come to accept him being an inconsequential piece of the Raptors season. To expect anything positive out of him over more than a 1-game stretch is asking too much so let’s leave him on the side. The focus of my anger is Ford. Consider this stretch starting the fourth quarter:

11:27	T.J. Ford makes 14-foot jumper	70-73	 
11:11	Kris Humphries shooting foul (Dwight Howard draws the foul)	70-73	 
11:11	T.J. Ford defensive rebound	70-74	 
10:57	T.J. Ford makes 14-foot jumper	72-74	 
10:42	Jason Kapono defensive rebound	72-74	 
10:33	T.J. Ford bad pass	72-74	 
10:00	T.J. Ford misses 12-foot jumper	72-77	 
9:48	Jason Kapono shooting foul (Dwight Howard draws the foul)	72-77	 
9:36	T.J. Ford misses driving layup	72-78	 
9:15	Toronto full timeout
9:06	T.J. Ford misses 11-foot jumper	72-80	 
8:52	T.J. Ford bad pass (Rashard Lewis steals)	72-80	 
8:45	T.J. Ford makes layup	74-80	 
8:17	T.J. Ford bad pass (Dwight Howard steals)	74-80	 
7:54	T.J. Ford makes 26-foot three point jumper	77-83	 
7:16	T.J. Ford makes 18-foot jumper	79-85	 
6:58	Jamario Moon personal foul (Dwight Howard draws the foul)	79-85	 
6:28	T.J. Ford lost ball (Carlos Arroyo steals)	79-87	 
6:11	Toronto 20 Sec. timeout
5:58	T.J. Ford makes free throw 1 of 2	80-89	 
5:58	T.J. Ford makes free throw 2 of 2

Our starting point guard just tried to do a Michael Jordan impersonation and simply ball-hogged for the first 6:30 of the fourth quarter not allowing any Raptor to take a shot in that span. Sam Mitchell had nailed Calderon to the bench despite him having great success against Jameer Nelson and Carlos Arroyo on almost every possession. Instead of Calderon, Ford started the fourth quarter and practically shot the Raptors out of this game. A 5 point deficit was increased to 11 and to make matters worse 6:30 crucial minutes were shaved off the clock. Two questions: Why didn’t Calderon start the fourth? Why wasn’t TJ yanked after he obviously made the game about him and Carlos Arroyo by looking past his teammates? I’m not saying we would’ve won the game if Calderon had the reigns in the fourth, I’m saying we would’ve had a much better shot at it.

It’s hard to look past the Ford fiasco but let’s move on. Rasho Nesterovic had a very good game, nothing spectacular but he held his position against Howard, hit the glass and got some contested rebounds, he was unfortunate to get called for some fouls and had a couple non-calls go against his way on the other end. However, in the fourth quarter with the game hanging in the balance, Rasho was nowhere to be found guarding Howard who found himself covered by Andrea Bargnani. Howard proceeded to torch Bargnani for 6 straight points where the defense was so bad that even a Grade 8 coach would’ve had a meltdown. The number one rule of defense is to stay between your man and the the basket which Bargnani forgot twice, on the other play Howard eluded him quite easily on the baseline for a hook shot which should’ve been sealed off. That little stretch combined with Ford’s theatrics was the TSN turning point.

I need to give credit to Anthony Parker for playing with his heart on his sleeve, you can tell that this guy wants to win and is looking to compete. 19 points and a team-leading 9 rebounds is no joke for a 2-guard who along with Calderon were the two people who really showed up to play. You never know what you’re going to get on offense with Delfino, today he laid an egg doing 1-7 FG for 4 points but you can look past that because he did manage to snatch 9 rebounds. That’s more than you can say about our starting small forward who on any other team would’ve been benched for his lack of production. No offense to Moon but bad perimeter shooters who struggle to defend and rarely slash to the rim are dime a dozen in the D-League. Perhaps Colangelo should take another peek in the cesspool of D-League talent and see if he can find himself a hungry SF who’s willing to fight it out in the NBA and doesn’t get too comfortable just because the coach seems to have blind faith in him.

The Magic weren’t playing well and the Raptors were staying in the game by taking advantage of Orlando turnovers, cleaning the boards (47-41) and answering back every Orlando run with a few shots of their own. The failing perimeter defense failed again but not to the degree it did against Charlotte or Indiana, or maybe that only appears the case because the Magic only made 8 of their 23 threes. They did shoot 52% and Turkoglu and Lewis proved to be deadly from the perimeter and by going to the rim. Again, with no Bosh in there it’s super-easy for any semi-athletic swingman to drive the lane and take a shit on us. Our perimeter rotations have been poor for three years in a row and our interior rotations have been non-existent. The only reason it’s not glaringly evident more often is because Bosh hides a lot of our problems.

Why am I so pissed off? We weren’t expecting a win here anyway but as we always say, the way you lose matters more than the loss itself.

Miami tomorrow, winnable? Hmmm.

Liners:

* Don’t tell Leo Rautins that Jason Kapono is struggling. He’s not having any of it, No sirree, Bob!. Kapono’s crafty see, he leans in for jumpers and goes 1-4 FG, that’s not struggling, that’s him being multi-dimensional. WTF Leo? We’re not idiots, we can see through your lame ass shit excuses which try to portray Kapono as a half-decent signing and try to ignore the obvious fact that he’s as useless as an appendix.

* Rashard Lewis was begging Sam Mitchell to put Jamario Moon on him so he could show rookie just exactly how you back someone into the post, create space and lay the ball in.

* Do we have any plays? I can’t seem to remember seeing one, everything is freestyling based on whatever pops in your mind. I know ripping on Sam about his X’s and O’s is getting old but the guy doesn’t have any X’s and O’s. Fuck, I’ll even settle for a strategy or a method or a gameplan, anything at this point. Dwight Howard getting in foul trouble was totally unplanned, it just so worked out that the guy picked a few fouls up helping our cause.

* Primoz Brezec gets into the game in the 1st quarter after being chained to the bench until the 3rd against Charlotte? Somebody please explain this to me, really, please explain this to me. How do these subs work? Based on gut feeling?

* Sam should’ve seen that TJ had made this game about himself and was being a detriment to this team and taken him out early in the fourth.

* We lose the season series 2-1, not that it matters. We’ll probably end up playing Orlando in the 3-6 matchup.

Posted in nba, Raptors | Tagged: , , , , , , | 17 Comments »

Since when the **** do we play small ball?

Posted by Arsenalist on March 2, 2008

Toronto Raptors 98, Charlotte Bobcats 110

So let’s get this straight, we’re getting killed on the boards and Charlotte’s scoring everything off of second chance points but yet we continue to only have one big in the game? We decide to play small ball with one of Humphries, Brezec or Rasho in the middle for what reason again? why not play big upfront knowing that our weakness is rebounding? Playing small ball is nice but only if you’re even on the 2/3/4 matchups on defense; however, if the other team has a decided advantage when it comes rebounding at those spots, playing small ball will kill you. That about did us in.

Dudley and Okafor play 37 and 30 while Rasho and Brezec play 27 and 11. No shit they killed us on the boards and scored 32 second chance points, we didn’t even have the personnel out there to counter what they were doing, nor did we use our resources to their potential. Our substitution pattern is so inconsistent that Joey Graham can stay on the bench for weeks on end but suddenly get thrown into the game in the first quarter. Our biggest and most physical player doesn’t get into the game until the third quarter. After being adamant about not playing TJ and Calderon at the same time, they play significant stretches in two consecutive games. After playing 40 minutes against the Pacers, Bargnani gets 18. There is no method to this madness. Either Sam has no clue on how to manage a rotation or he’s too busy trying to incorrectly react to what the other team is doing instead of imposing our strengths on the style of the game.

We were up by 10 after the first quarter which also happened to be the only quarter where we out-rebounded Charlotte and also happened to be the only quarter where we stuck with two big guys upfront for the majority of the time. The Raptors came out with an intensity and purpose unlike against Indiana, they were playing good tight defense forcing Charlotte into jumpshots and taking care of the defensive rebounds. But after that Charlotte realized that all it takes to beat the Raptors is to run a simple pick ‘n roll and you’ll have a lane to the basket from which you can kick out, go up for the layup or just take a really bad shot knowing that our defensive rotations are in shambles and grabbing an offensive rebound isn’t a tall task. Of course, not having Bosh there hurt but even so somebody has to take the initiative and step up.

For a team that runs the pick ‘n roll on every offensive set, we sure can’t defend it to save our lives. To put it in Layman’s terms, you have two options: switch or don’t switch. Whatever you decide to do make sure it’s based on the matchup at hand, just like the Indiana game, we get caught on switches that are completely to our disadvantage. Felton on Bargnani, Richardson on Brezec, Dudley on Calderon and so on. It makes no bloody sense, you have to make the effort, fight through the screen and force the offense into resetting. We got exposed the first time Raymond Felton or Jason Richardson ever tried to use a screen. On the other end Charlotte was smart, whenever they switched they also backed off tempting TJ to shoot or ended up crowded the big who got the ball (Bargnani, Hump) and forced them into a shot they didn’t want to take. Calderon was denied the lane he so loves to use after coming off a screen forcing him to give it up.

We can talk all night about the intricacies of our errors but I wouldn’t be incorrect in painting this game with one broad brush: rebounding. With Bosh out, Moon, Delfino, Calderon, Rasho, TJ and the boys needed to step it up and by ‘step it up’ I don’t necessarily mean grab 10 boards, it means box your man out and make sure he doesn’t get the board. That didn’t happen and our starters mustered 21 boards to their starters’ 35. On the offensive boards, they killed us 18-6. Need I say more? Need I really say anymore? Jared Dudley’s 10-rebound game reminded me of the game Dominic McGuire had against the Raps in Washington. In other words, Dudley provided dominant offensive rebounding during key stretches which ultimately proved to be the difference (can’t help but think Brezec might’ve helped here). That’s the type of guy we need on this team, a prototypical banger who’ll get our jump shooters more shots. Get ‘er done Bryan, or are you waiting for Garbajosa to be that guy?

A word about Kapono. He’s a bad defender, no surprise but there were a few plays today where you really found out just how bad he is. Matt Carrol was blowing by him while talking on his cellphone and Richardson and Felton were hunting for him on matchup screens. Kapono’s got the lateral quicks of a refrigerator and the rebounding prowess of a cripple. In his 17 minutes he scored 6 points while giving up about 10. Ughh, what a huge mistake by Bryan Colangelo. At least Mo Pete played some defense and actually attempted 3-pt shots. supersub15 on RealGM, did some analysis on Kapono:

Last 25 games:

Minutes per game: 15
3-pointers made/attempted per game: 0.16/0.4
Free throws attempted per game: 0.36
Rebounds per game: 1.1

Cost of every 3-pointer made in those last 25 games: $408,231.70

Great ROI, eh Bryan?

We got a L coming up in Orlando and the struggling Heat after that, I would not be surprised if we go 0-3, the Heat are licking their chops at our laughable defense. With Bosh not there to man the paint and Brezec secured to the bench, Wade might go for 40.

Liners:

* Anybody notice how Brezec threw that towel after Sam finally gave him the call late in the third? Sam screwed this substitution up. Primoz was pumped to play this game with all that’s been going on with Sam Vincent and Mitchell failed to see this and didn’t use the energy and intensity that he would’ve brought early on.

* Charlotte was 1-9 in their last 10. The Raptors have always (not just this year) been a team who other teams end their slumps against. Always. Doesn’t matter how bad you’re playing, if the Raptors are coming to town it’s sure to be a good night.

* Anthony Parker played hard again, I think I was painting him with same brush as Moon in the Indiana game. I was wrong there. He was trying to attack the rim, did a god job on Felton, did well in boxing out Richardson and most of all, his intensity level never dropped.

* Andrea Bargnani: 2-8 FG, 6 rebounds. Discuss please. Like Indiana, Andrea tried to get himself off early by driving strong to the rim on his first possession but after that missed a couple jumpers which appeared to kill his confidence and he never looked to assert himself on any end and became a non-factor. With Bosh out, we needed him to step up but he faded away into obscurity. Insert generic statement about his inconsistency.

* Jose Calderon’s been turning the ball over very uncharacteristically. The Raptors gave up 12 points off of 11 turnovers and 4 of them belonged to Calderon. It’s not like they were forced passes, they were just bad and lazy passes that should be easy to make, something you never see from him. I don’t understand it. He’s also very passive on offense and needs to look for his shot when he’s in the game, especially with Bosh out. I’m not sure how much having TJ back is affecting his game. Theoretically, it shouldn’t.

* Chris Bosh can’t climb up stairs nor can he move laterally? Ouch. I was hoping for a little more optimism from him in his pre-game interview, it’s obviously a slightly more serious injury than originally thought. Definitely not just a “precautionary measure”, the man’s in pain.

* Check out Jamario Moon getting posterized by some scrub named Ryan Hollins.

Till later. I’ll leave you with this clever little GIF:

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Posted in nba, Raptors | 27 Comments »

Worst game of the season. Killed by heavily depleted Pacers at home

Posted by Arsenalist on February 29, 2008

Indiana Pacers 122, Toronto Raptors 111

I want to puke. I just want to hurl and get this sick nauseating feeling out of my stomach. A home loss to the Pacers missing Jermaine O’Neal, Jamal Tinsley and Danny Granger to end the “easy” month of February at 7-5. Why are we surprised? We really shouldn’t be, this is the most inconsistent team in the league, it fools people into thinking that they’re good (just ask John Hollinger) when they’re just a bad defensive team which exclusively relies on the jumper and has trouble maintaining effort across games. We’re used to the dependency on the jumper, but the non-existing defensive effort can never be excused.

We might as well have had a gimp playing defense on Travis Diener, Troy Murphy or Mike Dunleavy because God knows that Jamario Moon, Jose Calderon and Anthony Parker can’t guard them for shit. The perimeter defense was the worst that it has ever been. I don’t recall a game where it was as bad. It was embarrassing to watch Murphy and Dunleavy get 3-pt play after play after blowing by our perimeter 3’s (Parker/Moon/Graham) with ease. I can’t stress this enough, they pulled their pants down, used the shiniest of vaselines and let it rip. There’s really no other simpler way of putting this. They fucking killed us.

Let’s get to tonight’s key play and if you saw the game you know what it is. After Indiana was pummeling the Raptors by 16 midway through the third, the Raptors found some pride, played a little defense and went on a 15-0 run kick-started by Bargnani and Parker. We managed to cut the lead to one and got the ball back. That’s when Jamario Fucking Moon managed to use his arm to clear out Kareem Rush while the ball was still in the backcourt. Turnover. Momentum gone. Indiana goes on a 10-2 run. Back to square one. Fuck. Moon has been playing D-League level basketball over the past little while, yeah he had a good game against the T’Wolves but he’s not doing the job that he was hired to do. He doesn’t play defense, that play where Dunleavy almost tore his ankle at the top of the three point line epitomized just exactly how bad his defense is. The guy can’t keep his body-weight even and defenders are exploiting it. Plus, he’s it’s become super-easy for players to make him leave his feet. Horrible game by Moon. Just brutal.

For all the perceived depth on this squad, without Chris Bosh we’re a lottery team. It’s cool to shit on Bosh at times for not taking to the rim and finishing strong but take him out of the lineup and you get this. CB4 is our one and only shot blocking threat, once he’s out of there it’s open season for opposing 2/3’s. The only reason our shit perimeter defense has gotten us this far is because once you come inside Chris Bosh is simply awesome on help defense. Mind you that the rotation behind him still sucks ass but at least he’ll make the defender think twice before trying any funny shit.

After Bosh went down, we countered with Jose Calderon and TJ Ford playing a good chunk of the entire second quarter together. It’s good to have them there at the same time for brief stretches but to play them the entire quarter is defensive suicide. I lost count how many times in the second quarter Diener had open lanes to the rim after catching the Raptors defense in transition. It was as if though the Raptors were playing transition defense the entire game. Nobody was dug in on defense at any time, we kinda wandered around, aimlessly switched on screen ‘n rolls, tended to just pick up the player that was the most convenient for us and were three steps too slow. It made you nauseous.

Why Sam went with a lineup where Joey Graham is the 5 is unexplainable. The Pacers are playing small ball but that doesn’t mean you have to comply We have Rasho and Brezec warming the bench, why not throw them in the game to rebound our misses and try to control the boards. Did Sam honestly think our 2/3’s can outplay theirs? Dunleavy must’ve been licking his chops when he saw that we have absolutely no big man in there to even contest his shot once he waltzes past our perimeter D.

People wonder why the American media doesn’t talk about the Raptors and respect them as they should. It’s not because they’re biased or prejudiced, they just know that come playoff time when it counts, we have no ammunition to compete. This team has serious, serious holes starting on the defensive end which are just itching to get exposed in the playoffs. But tonight what pissed me off even more was our non-existent effort. It was pathetic. Ughhh.

What did you think of Bargnani’s performance? I liked it. He was 12-25 for 27 points and only 9 rebounds. I liked the way he played, he was aggressive, he was confident, he was driving, he was pulling up, unfortunately, he wasn’t hot enough early to keep us in the game. He needs to find his offensive rhythm so he can be a little more consistent, it’s games like these that might help him, with the playoffs coming and us being locked somewhere between the 4-6 seed, I say give him the green light so he can warm up and hopefully be a real contributor in the playoffs.

Anyway, to some up the night in two words. Fucking disgusting.

Sorry for the shit language.

Liners:

* It’s hard to sweep even a bad team but Indiana was there to be had.

* Jason Kapono is useless to us. He’s about as useless as an asshole on your elbow. It doesn’t matter if he plays with TJ Ford, Jose Calderon or fucking Bob Cousy, he can’t help this team because he’s too easy to cover and our coaching staff is too dumb to utilize him.

* Chuck, I don’t believe your lying ass when you say you have that much trouble telling part Joey and Stephen Graham that you make the same mistake like 5 times. Here’s a little hint that might help: THEY WEAR DIFFERENT UNIFORMS!! Also, did he just blame the lack of energy in the arena on the fucking weather?

* I’d even excuse the Raptors for allowing the Pacers to blow by them so easily on the perimeter if they at least took away the outside shot, but they didn’t even do that. The Pacers made 12 three and countless 18 foot jumpers. I’m telling you this was the worst I’ve seen them play. Ever.

* We managed to crawl only 2 games over .500 in the softest part of the schedule by playing 7-5 ball. I don’t even want to know what March will bring.

* Why am I shocked? I saw this coming. It’s just that when it actually happens you can’t believe it.

Posted in nba, Raptors | Tagged: , , , | 37 Comments »

A nervy win in Indiana

Posted by Arsenalist on February 26, 2008

Toronto Raptors 102, Indiana Pacers 98

Sometimes a win can overshadow many things that went wrong in a game and such was the case last night. This was a little too close to being a L for one’s liking. The Pacers sans Jermain O’Neal and Jamal Tinsley frustrated the Raptors by putting up a fight and took the lead midway through the fourth quarter at which point it looked like this might be a New York repeat. A couple Delfino deep bombs restored some order, but the offense went dead after that giving the Pacers a chance to tie it up with 19 seconds left. Fortunately for us Jim O’Brien’s playbook appears to be paper thin and all they could muster was a Kareem Rush one-on-one contested three. Game over. Thank God.

Not the ideal follow-up to the NY win; getting bailed out by Delfino’s deep threes isn’t something you want to rely on but at the same time it’s good to see him knock them down. TJ Ford’s close to returning to his pre-injury form and becoming the nightmare that he is for slower guards that are forced to give him space. If he’s matched up with a guy the same size such as Travis Diener, what usually follows is an infliction of speed combined with hesitation that will leave the defense on its heels. TJ’s 16 points and 7 assists were essential on a night where the reliable Jose Calderon laid an egg in the assist column, something that will never happen again. Ever. It’s only a matter of time before TJ gets the starting job, has a bad game and the Forderon debate begins anew. The starters were in the habit of creating a hole (1st and 3rd quarters) only for the bench to come back and restore sanity (2nd and 4th quarters). We outscored their bench 55-24 (Marquis Daniels had 20) with Delfino leading the way with 6 threes and a career high 23 points. Check the box score, it’s all there.

Time for a post game quote, it’s always good to hear some sort of praise from the opposing coach:

“It’s hard for anybody in the NBA to match bench for bench. That’s a formidable group, and it speaks to their depth that those players come off the bench.” – Jim O’Brien

Depth is one of our strong suits, no doubt about that. But come playoff team when the rotations are shortened and roles become well-defined, I’m not sure how much our depth will help us. We’ll see I suppose.

Although the Raptors are a defensively challenged team they go into these hounding defensive sequences where they pressure the ball handler, trap on the baseline, collapse on the big men and actually come out to make the rotations. The second quarter and some stretches in the fourth were great examples of this. However, it’s hard to maintain that sort of a defensive effort across four quarters because of the sheer toll aggressive defense takes on the body. That’s why you see a Jekyll and Hyde effect with the Raptors defense. We’re a middle of the pack defensive team (11th out of 30 D-Rating) with some gaping holes on the perimeter which will undoubtedly come back to bite us. Jamario Moon’s defensive game has regressed, he’s falling for simple up-fakes, isn’t following the scouting reports and is too concerned with providing help. Murphy, Granger and Dunleavy all took turns undressing Moon on simple moves. It didn’t come back to bite us but a case could’ve been made that Joey Graham deserved to get some run based on Moon’s poor effort. Sam is by his own admission an “equal opportunity hater” and Moon definitely deserved some hate today.

Anthony Parker tries to do his best to contain his man but he’s a sucker for help defense, maybe that’s how he was coached overseas for all these years and it’s in his nature to help off his man on another wing player. However, in the NBA once the perimeter man is beaten, it’s up to the 4/5’s to contend with the man that just penetrated the heart of the defense. Parker’s always guilty of leaving his man to provide help which ends up amounting to nothing because by leaving his man he’s made him the easiest pass for the penetrator. Thus we see Parker always late getting back and wildly flailing his arms at his man as a three is being drained. I’m disappointed in Sam Mitchell’s inability to instill a defensive mindset and philosophy in this team over his tenure, the offense is very simplistic so you’d think that the majority of the work the coaches might do would be on the defensive end but frankly speaking, I don’t think we’ve improved at all.

The frustration with Bargnani continues: 2/5 on 1-5 FG. Even though I’m a traditional center guy I’m willing to go with the “new age” center theme on this one but it has to be done the right way. It’s great that Bargnani is a 7-footer that can shoot but he might be taking it to another extreme. 35% of his field goal attempts are threes! That is an insanely high amount, to put that in perspective, 38% of Parker’s FGAs are threes and only 28% of Jason Kapono’s shots are threes. Does a “new age” center mean that he’ll be living on the perimeter? Because I thought a 7-footer center meant he’ll be beating his man off the dribble and out-quicking him in the post for easy scores, not settling for deep bombs. To further extend my late night analysis, I looked at Dirk Nowitzki’s shot selection (chosen for obvious reasons) in his first two years and only 25% of his shots were threes, gradually he moved his game further in and currently only 21% of his shots are threes. My point? Threes are nice but I doubt Colangelo brought him here to be a 7-foot Kapono, he needs to move his game inside.

Primoz Brezec got his first DNPCD. The guy must be wondering what he did wrong in the NY game to warrant a benching. Instead Kris Humphries got the call (well, for 7 minutes) and played well in getting his 5 points. With Kapono getting 23 minutes and Bargnani staying out of foul trouble, the Raptors big men reserves only netted 11 minutes. This was also the first game since TJ’s injury where Ford got more playing time than Calderon which is a telling stat because this wasn’t a blowout and every possession meant something. Sam opting to go with the in-rhythm Ford means he’s confident in TJ’s ability to run this team again and the “ease back TJ” period seems to be over.

It’s hard to end this post without a mention of Chris Bosh’s seemingly routine night: 24 points, 10 rebounds. He didn’t have a pretty night, got stripped at least three times (5 TOs) and took some questionable shots that’ll make anybody grimace. Chris Bosh is very obviously choosing spots where he can be aggressive and where he can ease back. This is a perfectly normal strategy for the regular season, I’m hoping (praying?) that come playoff time he’s not mulling over shoot or drive decisions, it should be pretty obvious when a player of Troy Murphy’s quickness is covering you.

Unlike Washington and New York, we avoided a letdown in Indiana. It should be a super-easy win on Wednesday against the T’Wolves before we get a chance to sweep Indiana at home on Friday. Check the schedule, look at March and shit in your pants.

Liners:

* Hard to believe Rob Babock passed on Danny Granger. Twice.

* Indiana was one well-designed play away from taking this game to overtime. We’ve got to start the halves much better against them on Friday.

* Kareem Rush and his brother Jaron Rush used to play at Pembrooke High School in Kansas City, MO. I used to go to O’Hara High School in Kansas City at the same time. These guys used to come in and put on a show. Jaron was clearly the better player but he got hooked on drugs, took money from agents and ended up ruining his shot at the NBA. He’s trying to find HS coaching jobs now, kinda sad.

* Leo Rautins making excuses for Jason Kapono? Stop trying to convince us that Jason Kapono is anything more than a strictly one-dimensional player just because he cut to the rim and had a layup. It’s insulting our intelligence.

* Does Chuck Swirsky know anything about basketball? His reasoning for the West being stronger made no sense, he somehow managed to give Bryan Colangelo credit in why the west was stacked. Apparently he’s also a proponent of the Top 16 teams making the playoffs regardless of conference. Might want to think that through Chuck. Pain to listen to.

* “He sure blabs a lot” – That’s my wife’s (who knows nothing about basketball) take on Chuck Swirsky. Bang on really.

* Carlos Delfino is the Top Rap.

Thanks for reading. Later.

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Posted in nba, Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , | 31 Comments »

The aftermath of the trade deadline

Posted by Arsenalist on February 22, 2008

This trade is hardly worth it’s own post but since we’re all Raptors fans it’s mandatory to beat a topic, however inconsequential, to it’s ultimate death. If you’re sick and tired of hearing about the trade deadline and would like a more entertaining and humorous read, look no further than funnyman Dinosty’s take on the situation. For those of you who like to suffer, read ahead:

Reasoning for trade

Juan Dixon was doing very little as a Raptor and wasn’t being utilized to his full potential. With Calderon being a vastly superior player, the introduction of Dixon at the point was a significant drop-off and he never cracked the regular rotation, even falling behind Delfino at the PG spot. He was unhappy and felt that his talents deserved more playing time, obviously it wasn’t happening with the Raptors and Colangelo moved him. That’s what we know for sure. Was Colangelo’s primary intention to improve the team? No, otherwise he would’ve made a “real” trade, not a journeyman for journeyman swap which added nothing but a different ass for the bench to warm. The trades that were being discusses earlier involving Joe Smith and Mickael Pietrus were the trades Colangelo was trying to pull but failed to do so. The Juan Dixon trade was nothing more than respecting a seldom used veterans trade request (not demand) and in return bag another expiring contract. I’m sure that if Brezec had even a single more year at the same numbers, this trade does not happen.

What does Primoz Brezec give us?

Nothing much and it’s not a slight against him. He can’t possibly be looked at as the solution to our rebounding problems, he’s a hardly used player who’s already behind Andrea Bargnani and Rasho Nesterovic in the depth chart while his Per 48 rebounding is well below the undersized Kris Humphries. We already have a big body going to waste in the form of Maceo Baston and Sam’s as stubborn as a mule when it comes to the rotation. If he thought cracking the Detroit lineup was hard, wait till he gets a sense of how Sam works. I can’t seem to figure out what Brezec will give us that his fellow Slovenian Rasho Nesterovic can’t. Therefore, one is forced to conclude that this trade was nothing more than a convenient swap which came with some cash. A can’t lose situation. I read an argument in the now legendary 70+ page thread that Brezec will be able to help us out in case we face Cleveland in the playoffs. I have a hard time believing that even a washed up Ben Wallace, Anderson Varejao or Big Z will be intimidated by Primoz, at best he’ll be good for 6 fouls. Well, let’s see how he plays (if he plays) and talk about his game then. Until then, Primoz, meet bench. Bench, meet Primoz.

Should Colangelo have pulled a Cleveland-type deal?

No, I think he was wise not to jump into the trade market with reckless abandon. Cleveland did end up making their team a lot better with the acquisition of Ben Wallace, Joe Smith (who the Raptors liked), Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West. In the process, Danny Ferry also acquired Wallace and Sczerbiak’s behemoth contracts. No sane Raptors supporter would’ve been an advocate of a drastic makeover which is sure to put a financial straight-jacket on your club for the next few years. If Cleveland fails to click with the new additions, it’ll be one of the worse trades ever. If they manage to get to the NBA finals, Ferry will be known as a proactive GM that saw in Wallace what others didn’t. I’m of the opinion that this was a trade made to keep Lebron happy, they had already missed out on Mike Bibby and Jason Kidd and wanted to give Lebron some help, any help.

The reason why fans are disappointed

Nobody is expecting anything from the Dixon deal, nobody is saying that we got robbed. That would be crazy talk. Fans are upset that we’ll be entering the playoffs with the same weaknesses as last year. What adds to the frustration is that players such as Francisco Elson, Kurt Thomas, Reggie Evans, Drew Gooden and Joe Smith were all available at reasonable rates and Colangelo failed to orchestrate a trade. This is a legitimate grievance and even the staunchest of Colangelo supporters can’t deny. Excuses such as rebuilding and being cautious with the salary cap are just that, the bottom line is that this team had a very obvious need which still remains unfulfilled. Maybe, just maybe, Bryan Colangelo might be totally cool with making a first-round exit as long as his plan of building around Bargnani and Bosh and adding a free agent a summer from now remains intact.

Where do we stack up?

Cleveland has upped the ante in the race for 3rd and looks to have the edge on Orlando. I’m ready to hand Cleveland the third spot which might be a good thing for us. If Cleveland finishes 3rd, it means the Raptors will finish somewhere between 4th – 6th. If Orlando finishes behind Cleveland and we manage to hold off Washington, we’ll get the 4/5 playoff matchup we want – Orlando. Taking out Cleveland in the playoffs is impossible for the Raptors, way too much rebounding for us to handle and the Lebron factor is too big to overcome. I’m a little scared of Gilbert Arenas to welcome a Washington matchup. Even with Arenas out, Jamison and Butler would cause us serious matchup issues and once you throw Arenas in there you have to think he’ll wash out whatever Calderon does. Blatche has all the skills to have a Mikki Moore type series and if Haywood decides to play, we’ll be in trouble. The Orlando matchup against Dwight Howard is the most likable. Howard can be neutralized by Bosh and I believe it’s always easier to slow down a superstar big man who doesn’t have the ball at the start of the play rather than a superstar guard, which is what Cleveland and Washington present.

The trade deadline is over and the Raptors continue to remain a very easy team to prepare a game-plan against. If you stop Chris Bosh, half the job is done. If Calderon continues to play at such a high level, he might be able to give us an outside chance in a series. However, in a playoff setting when the opposing coach has had time to devise a plan to slow down our offense, it’s up to our defense and rebounding to hold down the fort and I just don’t feel confident that we can step up to the challenge. I suppose a lot depends on whether Jorge Garbajosa can come back and spark our defense, maybe Colangelo is relying on Bargnani to have a strong finish to the campaign and doesn’t want to hinder his progress by acquiring a player who might bite into his playing time. Whatever the key to playoff success is, it’ll have to come from within. There’s no help coming anytime soon.

Thanks for reading and posting your thoughts. Till after the Knicks game.

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Posted in nba, Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , | 20 Comments »

Jamario Moon got robbed

Posted by Arsenalist on February 17, 2008

One usually give two shits about the dunk contest but this year it would’ve been nice to see the crown return to Toronto and the Raps get a sweep of the top two ASSN competitions. Kapono’s demolition of the field (take that Lebron you pompous little prick) wasn’t a surprise and if anything, I was shocked he missed the one shot on the final rack which would’ve given him 26 on the night, thus breaking Craig “I practice 3s two months before the competition” Hodges’ record. When open, the man is deadly. When covered, he’s a waste of the MLE.

jamario moon dunk competition 2008

jamario moon dunk competition 2008

jamario moon dunk competition 2008

What was slightly depressing but deserving was Moon’s early exit thanks to some suspect judging which put a high value on props rather than substance. You’ve all seen this video by now which prompted many a pundit to pick him as the favorite and increased the size of Moon’s head by a 600% margin. That’s the only reason I can explain why he completely forgot that NBA rules stipulate that you must use another player to assist in one of the two dunks in the first round. When Moon did his first dunk he forgot to use a player thus forcing him to use Kapono as the assist-man on the FT line dunk – which is impossible because you need your full momentum and can’t be bothered to catch a pass, just ask Michael Jordan. The anti-climax that followed was a dunk from just inside the FT line, something very impressive but negated by the pre-competition hype and the really bad and unnecessary idea of marking the take-off spot which you miss by two feet.

Darrel Dawkins gave Moon an 8 on his second dunk which ultimately proved the difference. Moon’s dunk deserved at least a 9 which would’ve tied him with Gerald Green forcing a dunk-off. It’s not the low-score on Moon’s dunk that bugged me, it’s the high score on Gerald Green’s “Let’s put Rashard McCants on a ladder and have him pass me the ball” dunk which got all 9’s. This dunk was practically and alley-yoop, but easier. At least on an alley-yoop the pass has a chance of being off-target thus forcing the player to improvise and apply the needed correction, in this case all he had to do was catch it and slam it. This was possibly the worst dunk of them all and the sole reason why Moon was a spectator for the final round. The ball was caught on it’s way down and it wasn’t even that high to begin with (Rudy Gay’s alley-oop in the Rookie/Sophomore game was much higher). The windmill added a nice touch but that’s been played out. The candle-dunk was nice but not close to being as impressive as Moon’s left-handed near-FT-line catch-and-dunk of Kapono’s pass, yet it got nothing less than a 9. You might think I’m biased but I’m not evaluating this as a Raptor fan, but as an impartial observer.

The Superman dunk wasn’t even a dunk. It’s hard for me to look past that, this is the All-Star DUNK competition and you must DUNK the ball in order to get a score. Once again, props over substance. Take a look a the two pics below, you know what the main difference is? One of them was a dunk.

michael jordan poster 1988 dunk

dwight howard dunk contest superman

Dwight Howard did deserve to win, but Moon would’ve provided much better competition in the final round than Gerald Green who still thinks that the “between the legs” is more than just a treadmill move. Rudy Gay’s dunks weren’t all that bad, his second dunk was impressive, it was basically the same as Dwight Howard’s behind-the-backboard dunk except at a slightly more convenient angle which the judges will never pick up on unless they see a replay. The judges need to see a replay before they give a score, you can only measure the impressiveness of a dunk once you see it at a few different angles, evaluate the verticality, the body angle, the force etc.

Why does Magic Johnson open his mouth? Does he ever have anything to say besides inane banter? The TNT crew would do well by kicking out Magic and inside-joke King Reggie Miller. Kenny Smith’s been using the “Let’s go home” line since VC2000, it’s time to find new material.

Either Jamario Moon should make another YouTube video which shows what he can really do OR he should do something in-game – doesn’t matter if he travels or carries, just throw one down to get some face back.

How about the Atlanta Hawks acquiring Mike Bibby for next to nothing to strengthen their playoff push while Bryan Colangelo sits and waits. The only reason he’ll make a move is if his hand is forced and I’m glad Juan Dixon’s doing that right now.

Till another day. Grab the feed.

Posted in all-star, nba, Raptors | Tagged: , , , , , | 20 Comments »

TJ Ford’s having a big impact

Posted by Arsenalist on February 10, 2008

Toronto Raptors 105, Minnesota Timberwolves 82

About a decade ago when Tim Hardaway and the Miami Heat were one of the best road teams in the NBA, he was asked the question where they’d rather play Game 7 of a series. Hardaway responded that it would be better if it were on the road, that way the entire team would be more focused and wouldn’t be distracted by all the elements of home games. Although Hardaway’s comments were most likely insincere, they do carry some weight and some of what he’s talking about can be seen in the Raptors play. The Raps have blown games at home and away but one thing that is unquestionable is that they’ve always played with better energy, focus and intelligence on the road. For whatever reason they’re a team that seems to have trouble getting motivated for home games and play with a higher level of energy when on the road. This is reflected in our 14-10 home and 13-12 away record which bucks the trend of teams being considerably more successful at home.

The opponent tonight wasn’t a barometer of any sort. A win in Minneapolis is a surety for any team but at least we can be thankful that we didn’t have another letdown. However, we’ve seen this movie before: after we lost to Philly, we beat Boston, after we lost to Phoenix, we beat the Spurs, after we lost to Boston, we beat Houston, after we….you get the point. We have a good record in bounce-back games this year but we’re struggling to find the consistency that might give us a chance of finishing the season as a favorite in a first-round playoff series. Either we have to hope that the current unit can simply play better and makeup for our defensive deficiencies or we have to be active in the trade market. Only time will tell what will transpire, my money’s on nothing happening.

It was nice to see Bosh actually pay attention to Sam’s post-game quotes from Friday by addressing the complacency issue and coming out playing with a purpose:

“We can’t just show up and expect to win. Sometimes you look at some teams’ records and you just think you are going to show up and get crowned the winner. It doesn’t work like that.”

Minnesota just doesn’t have any weapons that are threatening enough, all we did was send doubles at Al Jefferson who didn’t get any help from his team. At least two other guys on the T’wolves needed to have 18+ games for them to even have a shot in this one and the best somebody other than Big Al could muster was Marco Jaric with 11. Jaric – who has no reason to give a shit because he’s already won the championship of life – got his points in the first quarter and was rarely heard from again. We did a good job of crowding Jefferson and forcing Sebastian Telfair and Randy Foye to beat us via the jumpshot, neither of them are good shooters and shot a combined 6-20 contributing to Minnesota’s 41% performance. The offense didn’t need to be that great today bit it was anyway, Calderon was hot early and Bargnani headlined five players in double figures and two with eight. It was like taking candy from a dead cat.

Any praise that is given tonight should be scaled down by half just because we were playing the worst team in the league, with that being said it’s appropriate to give Jamario Moon some credit. I thought he had a bad game against the Clippers but bounced back nicely and passed up chances to test his broker jumper in favor of either a drive or a pass. All of the shots in his 4-4 FG performance were high percentage dunks or layups which is the only place he should be getting his offense from. Uncorking 20 footers isn’t his thing no matter how open he is, especially when you have a quick first step his. Yeah, he only had 1 rebound which is somewhat pathetic but let’s look past that seeing how the rebounding didn’t come to bite us.

TJ Ford seems to have a great on-court relationship with Rasho Nesterovic, TJ has always looks to get Rasho shots, whether it be through “drive and dumps” or zipping passes right down the key, TJ understands the value of Rasho’s finishing ability and always looks to get him involved. It’s not a coincidence that Rasho’s decline of late coincided with TJ’s absence. The same can be said about Kapono who lives of TJ’s creativity which happens to be far superior to Jose Calderon’s. The best part about TJ tonight was that he only took 6 shots and most of them came in garbage time, he took his first shot in the third quarter and was actively looking to get others involved. Maybe sitting on the bench has given him a chance to look at the team and realize that shooting must always be secondary to a point guard of his quickness and creativity. A great controlled performance by Ford who’s starting to look like he never missed a beat. 22 points, 23 assists from Forderon including 13 assists in 22 minutes by TJ. I’m liking TJ coming off the bench right now because of his ability to get Kapono/Rasho shots, don’t know when Sam will decide to pull the switch.

A meaningful test against the Spurs is next, let’s see if our record against the top-tier teams changes for the better. For now we have a win against a bad, bad team. Celebrate at your own discretion.


Liners:

* Humphries’ parents were in the stands which deserved 8 minutes of playing time: 1-5 FG, 4 points, 2 rebounds. Not bad.

* Atta boy Bargs!!!!! 16 points, 6 rebounds. Aggressive drives, effective ball-fakes, confident decisions, sweet stroke: Keep it up!

* Instead of folding in the third quarter like we did against LA, we blew them out.

* Jason Kapono went 6-10 FG, life is good when you’re on the floor with a PG that demands so much attention from all the players on the court that it makes getting open so much easier.

* Rob Babcock had the wisdom to pass over Gerald Green twice. I honestly believe that he didn’t screw up the Vince Carter deal although emotion at the time made me think otherwise. He acquired expiring contracts and gave Colangelo operating room for the future. His biggest fuck-up wasn’t the Carter deal, it was drafting Hoffa.

* Getting very tired of Chucks’ homerism. I know this subject has been beaten to death but it continues to haunt Raptors broadcasts. Listening to the radio doesn’t work because of the sound delay.

* This was one boring ass game to watch.

* TJ Ford is The Top Rap.

Grab the feed if you use an RSS reader. Till tomorrow.

Posted in nba, Raptors | Tagged: , , , | 27 Comments »

Suns playing Rent-a-Center with Shaq + Memorable games

Posted by Arsenalist on February 6, 2008

It looks like Shaq is heading over to Phoenix to bolster the Suns frontcourt. Coming the other way is Shawn Marion. Now at first glance it appears that Steve Kerr just lost his mind but on further analysis, this might be the shrewdest move he’ll ever pull – assuming Shaq gets healthy.

I figure the Suns don’t give a shit about the regular season and are just counting on him to play a couple week in the regular season to get warmed up. The target here is the Spurs, in past playoffs Amare has had to deal with Duncan in the low post and it’s resulted in foul trouble, rebounding responsibilities and other such petulant shit. If Shaq just occupies Duncan on the defensive end and does a good job on the boards, the Suns would’ve offset the Spurs greatest strength. I think that’s what Kerr is banking on, for Shaq to come in and help win a series or two. Once you get to the NBA finals, it’s all kosher because the best the East can put out is the Celtics and even they’ll get devoured by the men from the desert. Ignore how Shaq doesn’t fit with the run ‘n gun style of the Suns, in the playoffs even the Suns slow it down, hence the acquisition.

On to off-day Raptor news of which there is none. There’s this Feschuk article which says the schedule is easy and how Garbajosa thinks his skin is too white. Mike Ganter tries to convince us that spacing is essential if you want to score in the NBA. I believe you man. The LA Clippers game coming up will be game #1000 in Raptors history which immediately got me thinking about memorable games, here’s my top 5:

  1. Game 5 of the Knick series we won.
  2. Vince beating the Celtics with a turnaround three in Boston.
  3. Game 7 against the 76ers in the EC Semis.
  4. Last game at Maple Leaf Gardens against the 76ers, we got crushed and Grunwald gave “The Speech”.
  5. Raptors beating the 72-10 bulls.

Even when the Raps aren’t playing, there’s another Toronto team which I take great joy in watching when they’re playing like this. I don’t mean to kick a guy when he’s down but the years of overshadowing the Raptors for no good reason has really filled many a fan with a sort of despise for the Leafs.

Cleveland’s one point win over Boston last night meant that we’re down to 5th place and trail the Cavs by half a game. Since betting is a constant theme around here, I was trying to tell somebody how stupid it was for him to pick Boston over Cleveland even though they were favorites. There’s no KG in there and the last time these two played in Cleveland, the Cavs beat the Celtics who were at full strength.

I have a lot more to write but work is calling. Later.

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