Arsenalist

The Toronto Raptors Blog with an Arsenal touch

Posts Tagged ‘atlanta hawks’

It’s Friday and time for another Raptors weekend

Posted by Arsenalist on April 4, 2008

Digesting the Atlanta loss hasn’t been easy. Al Horford’s claims that he nipped the ball on it’s way to Ford is probably the card the NBA’s going to play in denying our appeal. Regardless of whether he nipped it or not, the NBA’s got the reasonable doubt it’s been looking. Plus, we did blow a 17 point lead and gave up 20 points in OT and are solely responsible for the loss. It should never have come down to the final half second but that doesn’t mean we weren’t wronged. Chuck’s blatant homerism drew some attention at Slam Magazine:

The funniest part of that clip is the way Raps play-by-play guy Chuck Swirsky is certain that the ball went in with time left. Even as replay after replay shows Ford’s hand touching the ball with the lights on. That actually made me laugh out loud. If Swirsky ever gets fired, it won’t be because he doesn’t support the Raptors.

Moving along.

The Bucks might be interested in Maurizio Gherardini and I say take him. Bryan Colangelo needs to balance the Euroness of this team with some old fashioned NCAA talent and it’s going to be tough convincing me that Gherardini knows half as much about the NCAA talent pool as he does about the European leagues. His influence on this team has been a positive one, he was key in the signing of Parker and had a hand in landing Garbajosa which he deserves credit for. I’m not sure he has the ability to scour through the 2008 eligibility list, target a sleeper and do what it takes to pick him. Leo Rautins might refer to him as The Godfather every chance he gets but that’s a tough sell to the knowing NBA fan.

Philadelphia’s continuing it’s stellar play and right now they have the inside track to that highly desirable 6th spot and frankly, they deserve it (Jason Smith’s already celebrating). They have an Atlanta date on Friday night and it should be interesting to see how they’ll do against a team the Raptors had serious issues stopping. Washington recently went a respectable 2-3 on their West coast swing (the one we went 0-5 on) thus setting up a tight race down the stretch. Lucky for us Washington and Philadelphia play each other on April 12th so if we sweep our remaining 7 games (possible but very unlikely), we’ll avoid the 7th spot. There’s something to aim for, but as has been the case so many times this season, we’ve looked at a stretch of games, deemed them winnable and proceeded to bomb the schedule. Expect no different here, unless we catch fire we’re looking at backing our way into the playoffs which is not the way you want to go in.

This is from a couple days ago but ESPN ranked the best foreign players and Jose Calderon came in at 8th, it’s a fair placement given the likes ahead of him. Jose’s got a telling quote in one of his earlier blogs which I didn’t catch, here it is:

My personal ambition is to be a starter in any team where I play, as well as to have the maximum responsibility in my team. But above this, I want to win.

If I was Jose Calderon, I’d leave the Raptors unless I was at the minimum guaranteed a starting spot. From his perspective the Lakers are a perfect fit. He would get to play with Pau Gasol, become the unquestionable starter and have a chance to win an NBA title. Unless Ford is cast out, all he’s going to get here is split playing time, constant controversy and a .500 team. From the Raptors perspective it’s a bummer but from his angle, he’d be a fool not to explore free agency in detail.

Chris Bosh won the Atlantic division’s NBA sportsmanship award, it’s the NBA’s way of giving us a consolation prize for the Atlantic. We’ll take it, bring on Antawn Jamison! Bosh can own him when it comes to ethical behavior, fair play and integrity.

We’ve lost 7 of our last 8 Friday night games, only two more to go: tonight against Charlotte and next week at home to New Jersey – I think we can end on a bit of a Friday high.

Here’s Nikki Reyes asking Andrea Bargnani some very meaningless questions and ending with something all Raptor fans want to know: Are Italian or Canadian women hotter? WTF?

Maciej Lampe is ready for the NBA. Get ‘er done BC.

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

Al Horford had no malicious intent, Anthony Johnson did

Posted by Arsenalist on January 18, 2008

Atlanta Hawks 78, Toronto Raptors 89

If you’re going to be a big enough coward to hit a man on the head while he’s got his back towards you, the least you could do is not feign your innocence and openly acknowledge conflict. Instead Anthony Johnson pretended he had nothing to do with Jose Calderon being knocked down to the floor and was set to get away with it hadn’t the officials caught the violent act. Nobody was short in pointing out that this is the same team that knocked TJ out and now came close to taking out our other point guard. But unlike Horford’s take down of TJ, this one was malicious and intentional and warranted a response from the Raptors. I’m not calling for a brouhaha but somebody should at least go up to him, stare him down and give him a little bump, it’s warranted. But credit the Raptors for responding to the increased physicality in the second half and coming away with another hard-fought win in a close game. Suspension to follow. Co-incidentally, the Raptors toughness is alluded in Podcast #3 which was recorded before the Hawks game:

#3 – A Time to Kill Download it! (4.3 MB, 12′ 22”) Subscribe in iTunes

The second half’s better, topics include: Bryan Colangelo, Oakley, Davis, Celtics, 3rd Seed, RealGM, Jim Rome, rebounding, missing NBA on NBC, soft schedule etc.

Josh Smith’s defense and Joe Johnson’s offense kept the Hawks in this game as much as the Raptors’ tendency to walk through offensive possessions as soon as they got a 5 point lead. The Raptors pull a Jekyll and Hyde on offense every other possession, you literally see them move the ball extremely well off a double team leading up to an open shot and on the very next possession, you’ll see Delfino jacking up a shot or nobody moving for the first 18 seconds resulting in a forced low-percentage shot. What this tells me is that we tend to lose focus fairly quickly, something we can get away with against the likes of the Hawks but will end up paying for against better competition. Give Sam credit for recognizing the athleticism of the Hawks team and their lack of PG play; he put out a lineup of Parker/Calderon/Bosh/Moon for the majority of the game and we one-upped their length and size on every matchup.

Chris Bosh’s performance was impressive again (35 points on 12-18 FG says it all), his game is starting to become inside-out rather than the other way round and I’m sure we’ll all agree that’s what the order of attack should be. CB4 challenged Josh Smith on every opportunity and came out the winner most of the time proving yet again that if his mindset is aggressive, even the better one-on-one defenders in the league will have trouble with him. Bosh will always have trouble against Kevin Garnett but that’s because Garnett is a freak and can afford to lay off Bosh and take away his drive while at the same time contesting his jumper. He can also stay with Bosh in the post making CB4’s life difficult, but that’s not what stopping me from calling the Boston game next week in our favor (see podcast). Chris Bosh summed up his offensive groove nicely:

“Everything is just opening up for me. I’m finally at 100 percent. It’s been a tough stretch for me but I just kept playing and kept pushing through it. I don’t feel I’m taking many bad shots. I’m getting off the double team really fast and I’m finding a lot of my teammates and putting them in good positions.”

The bolded part tells me he knows the difference. I can sleep better.

Today’s Andrea Bargnani paragraph has a mix of Rasho Nesterovic in it. It’s mainly because Rasho’s reduced playing time has completely taken him out of his rhythm and he’s struggling to do the few things he used to be good at: finding space for the open jumper, hitting the glass, putbacks etc. Now given Rasho’s struggles and the need for Bargnani to pick up his game, this observer says we may as well let Bargnani play through fouls until he fouls out and not use Rasho unless necessary as per matchup. Bargnani played 14 minutes and scored two points, a fry cry from what me and David Moro were predicting after the Kings game. He didn’t screw up too badly, yeah he allowed an offensive rebound, passed up shots he should’ve taken and picked up cheap fouls but in my opinion he didn’t even stick around long enough to actually have a slim chance at having a decent game. I don’t blame Sam Mitchell, his concern is with winning the game and he tried to match the Hawks’ athleticism with Delfino, Parker and Moon which got the job done. It comes back to Andrea earning his minutes, except that he’s just not interested. I’ll even go ahead and buy Bryan Colangelo’s 5-year plan theory but he’s talking about player development taking that long, right? Or does he mean we have to wait 5 years before Bargnani plays a game with the same level of intensity and effort as Kris Humphries?

The third quarter has undone so many times that I feared for us after Atlanta opened it on a 13-2 run while our offense was playing Mr. Hyde. Jamario Moon’s propensity to jump in the passing lanes is meeting success over the last two games and he’s picking off passes in transition, guarding the post and getting deflections aplenty (something that should’ve long been a stat in NBA box scores). Moon was the key in triggering our third quarter run punctuated by two Anthony Parker threes which created a 7 point cushion and hopefully silenced those who think that Parker has been a major problem with the Raptors this year. Another solid game by Parker who’s been coming on strong as the season’s getting older, it’s called hitting mid-season form which is where veteran’s start getting in their stride and rookies start tailing off. AP’s been solid for most of the year, unfortunately for him he’s had a few zero point games which result in fans calling for his head. If you check his per-48 minute statis, they’re the same as last year. Yes, we need to upgrade the 2 spot, but not now.

Joey Graham is making it really hard for us to trade him and Juan Dixon isn’t helping either. The two players most likely to be traded if one is going to materialize scored a combined 4 points while having 2 turnovers. Graham is so far behind Moon and Delfino in the depth chart that the only way he gets into the game is when BC winks to Smitch from the tunnel. And when he does manage to get in, things aren’t pretty (how’s Danny Granger doing?). He looks about as comfortable as Bargnani on the low-post and you only have to watch a couple minutes before an ungodly turnover follows. He was supposed to be our tough hard-nosed slasher who could D up the opposition’s best player, instead he’s researching D-League accommodation with Maceo Baston. Imagine my shock when I heard that Maceo Baston was dressed up for this game, it almost looked like this was the game he might get some run. Sam is so mean, getting Baston’s hopes all high for nothing.

So far the 4 in 5 stretch has been going exactly as predicted with Philly being the decisive game in determining whether we stay .500 or improve our record by two games in this easier January stretch. Philly was blown out in Boston tonight with Iguodala playing 40 minutes, they’re 2-8 in their last 10 and the Raptors will be going for the kill in this one. We’ll do a mini celebration only if the Raptors win tomorrow because if we lose that, it’s like we didn’t gain any ground at all.

One-Liners:

* Kapono. Shot. Slowly. Coming. Back.

* Jose Calderon made up for his early bad pass intercepted by Josh Smith for a dunk by dishing 9 dimes.

* I don’t have a single complaint of Bosh today.

* Johnson should be suspended by the league for more than one game. There’s no doubt about his malicious intent.

* The Raptors and Hawks is turning into a rivalry, something which is good because right now aside from the Knicks and Nets, we really got nothing.

* Tonight’s win will mean little if we don’t win tomorrow.

* What is the point of having Maceo Baston on this team if he doesn’t play a single minute for months on end? Maybe we should fee free up the roster spot for a D-League rebounder or scorer? Just a thought.

* Sam deserves a lot of credit for sticking with his big guns instead of playing Kapono, Dixon and Bargnani for extended minutes. Kapono played well hitting both his shots but this isn’t the matchup for him.

* Jack Armstrong makes these telecasts so much better.

* What do people see in Tyron Lue? Every time I see him, I just remember Iverson stepping over him in the finals.

* The Hawks became more physical in the second half and the intensity of the game picked and the Raptors and more specifically Bosh, Moon, and Parker were equal to the task.

* Here’s the game in six minutes, thanks to monuow.

* Please make a constructive criticism about this blog, it really helps sometime.

Thanks for reading (and listening). Feed.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments »

Raptors start 4 in 5 stretch + Podcast #2 + Thoughts on Ukic

Posted by Arsenalist on January 14, 2008

First of all, congratulation to Chris Bosh for winning the Player of the Week. Well deserved award indeed but now it’s back to work.

It’s four games in five nights time again starting on Tuesday in Detroit. The Pistons just got their ass kicked by the Knicks and will be looking to kill the next thing they see. Unfortunately, it’s the Raptors. Realistically speaking a win here is about as likely as a Bargnani triple double, hell even a double double. I suppose stranger things have happened but let’s just hope the Raptors stay close and give themselves an opportunity to win at the end. In order for us to have any chance the bench production has to exceed five points which is what we could muster up last time we met in Toronto. The good news is that Bargnani had a great game against them last time around, hopefully it wasn’t just a fluke and he can take advantage of his quickness against Wallace/Maxiell/McDyess.

After that we have Sacramento sans Mike Bibby and Ron Artest but don’t let that fool you, Reggie Theus has these guys playing well and smelling upset pretty often. They’ve already beaten Detroit, San Antonio, Houston, Utah, NJ, Orlando and Memphis so the Raptors don’t exactly scare them. After that we get a day’s break before we play Atlanta at home which isn’t an easy task but a doable task, the Hawks and Raptors have historically played very close games and there’s no reason that this will be different. After that it’s Philly in Philly which should be a routine assignment by now and the Raps will be looking for a season sweep. Optimistically speaking, we should come out 3-1 out of this stretch and if I put my pessimistic hat on, I’ll say we’ll drop one of Sacramento or Atlanta and come out 2-2 which will prompt some fans to jump off the bandwagon, good riddance.

Time for Podcast #2 with the The Man from RaptorsTalk.com where we learn that he’s really a Knick fan. Go over to his blog and bombard him. We’re getting a little better but sound like two guys who’ve never done a podcast probably because we’re two guys who’ve never done a podcast. Other topics touched on include Ukic, Bargnani and the upcoming week. We both know that we’re brutal but I guarantee the quality and content will pick up by Podcast #7.

“Hoping for a 3-1 Week”Download it! (Size: 36.2MB, 25:46)

The Raptors need for a second scorer and/or rebounder is apparent and so glaring that it’s natural for trade speculation. If you’ve been following this space you know that I’m a big fan of Reggie Evans despite his nut-hugging ways. He’s got a reasonable salary and might be expendable in Philly where the word of the day is rebuilding.

Back to our 4 in 5 stretch, given the lack of a consistent second scorer, it only follows that Bosh needs to have big scoring game in order for us to have a winning record. ESPN’s short but accurate analysis in the power rankings sums it up:

Depth is supposed to be one of Toronto’s calling cards. But with Bargnani amiss and T.J. Ford into his second month on the shelf, Bosh might have to keep putting up huge numbers to keep the Raps where they are.

One can read a couple things into the buyout reached by the Raptors to free up Roko Ukic next year. With TJ Ford hampered by injuries and Bryan Colangelo indicating that he will match any offer on the open market for Jose Calderon, it looks likely that Ukic is being brought in as an insurance against a TJ Ford injury. I’ll be surprised if Ukic is being brought in to ride the pine ala Juan Dixon and Darrick Murray Martin and would think he expects to play at least 15-20 minutes a game. Now unless he’s going to be filling in at the off guard spot, we have a PG situation in Toronto where one of Jose or TJ will be getting squeezed, I’m guessing the latter. Even we if we sign Calderon to a reasonable contract, we’ll still be shelling out approximately 18-20 million at the point guard spot, a bit much I would think.

Here’s hoping for a 3-1 week.

Grab the feed. Till tomorrow.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , | 15 Comments »

Raps shutdown Johnson, Johnson and Smith but night ends on a very bad note

Posted by Arsenalist on December 12, 2007

Toronto Raptors 100, Atlanta Hawks 88

I’d rather take a loss than see TJ Ford carried out on a stretcher, needless to say it brought to mind the Mark Madsen collision which ended up breaking Ford’s vertebrae. Coming off a stinger injury which made him miss about two weeks, this was the last type of hit that Ford needed. There’s zero intent on the part of Al Horford who by his own admission was completely tricked by TJ’s decision to reverse the ball rather than go straight up with it. It’s nice to see Sam Mitchell come out to the other side of the court protesting the foul for the sake of protesting it. There was nothing malicious in the air but Sam’s concern for TJ is well evident. Let’s just hope he gets better, the word used by Chris Bosh, Anthony Parker to describe TJ on the ground was “scared” as in he’s scared about history repeating itself. Hopefully it’s just that and nothing more.

There was a funny quote coming out of Chris Bosh in the post-game when asked about TJ’s move on Horford:

“[Shrugs] Usually he goes up like a wild man but this time he was in control”

See, even Bosh thinks TJ’s out of control at times, not just everybody watching the game. Speaking of the game, TJ was simply phenomenal with 26/2/8 and led the Raptors charge while making Anthony Johnson wanting to retire at halftime. When TJ decides to break the defense down, there’s nobody that can stop him, and if his jumper’s working on the same night, lines like this get produced. CB4 manly 20/13 provided the presence underneath but at times Bosh was guilty of sticking to the perimeter, we’d talk about it a lot more if this game ended up being a loss.

The game-ball however goes to our defense on Johnson, Johnson and Smith who had 6, 23 and 6 points, respectively. JJ’s points came late but were part of a mini-ATL run that never looked to really bother the Raptors. Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon and Carlos Delfino get credit for playing extremely tight man-defense and collapsing in the paint every time Smith went inside. The pick ‘n roll defense was superb with the Raptors switching 1-3 consistently thus taking the pick ‘n roll away from the Hawks. The Hawks had some big wins this season against PHX, DAL and ORL so they’ve shown that they’re a good team and the Raptors should take some satisfaction getting one in their building.

Andrea Bargnani’s return was rustier than an old nail in an abandoned 16th century house. Try 0-4 with 0 points on for size. But he needs practice and Mitchell gets that:

“You look at our schedule, until we get practice time … you have to kind of let them work their way into shape before the game. He (Bargnani) has been working on his own, running and stuff He’ll have to some extra running, do some work. Keith (D’Amelia), our strength coach, has been doing some good work with our guys when they’ve been out, working them.”

In short, Bargnani needs a few games to regain his rhythm. There’s a good bet Jorge Garbajosa won’t play this season after having surgery but I’m inclined to care less. With Jamario Moon, Carlos Delfino and Joey Graham all stepping and performing Garbjosaesque, there’s little cause for concern on fans’ part. Jorge can take all the time he wants to get back to 100% and know that when/if he comes back it’s going to be a dogfight for minutes.

So as Bargnani and Bosh come back, Kapono (wrist) and Ford go out. Rotten luck for the Raptors. It’s Dallas tonight, time to erase the memory of blowing a 24 point lead. If you need something to cheer you up you might want to check out Darrick Martin’s future in the NBA. Thanks for reading, grab the feed.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »