Arsenalist

The Toronto Raptors Blog with an Arsenal touch

Posts Tagged ‘detroit pistons’

High quality Raptors beat Pistons for feel-good win

Posted by Arsenalist on March 26, 2008

Detroit Pistons 82, Toronto Raptors 89

It’s good that Jose Calderon could see what Sam Mitchell couldn’t: that TJ Ford is best suited as a starter and coming off the bench for him isn’t exactly second nature. These sentiments were being echoed by fans well before the media had the temerity to even suggest a switch in the starting lineup. So when Chuck Swirsky and Leo Rautins were going on and on about how TJ’s nature is that of a starter while acknowledging that it has nothing to do with him being selfish, I couldn’t help but wonder why they couldn’t say this while TJ was coming off the bench. Anyway, it’s obvious that TJ’s comfort level is higher when he’s starting and if Sam Mitchell had maybe recognized that earlier, maybe we’d be a couple games higher in the standings.

Getting to the game, it’s important to note Richard Hamilton (sore left hip) didn’t play for the second game in a row so the Raptors caught a bit of the break with Arron Afflalo starting at SG. The Pistons are locked into the second seed and according to Flip Saunders have motivation troubles. You wouldn’t have noticed it in this game. Perhaps they were coasting in the first quarter and a half but after that it was business as usual. The Raptors played aggressive basketball and both PGs had great tremendous success off the bounce against Billups, Stuckey and Afflalo in getting to the rim. Detroit’s usually stellar interior defense was often late in rotating with Wallace and McDyess late in providing help to the beaten point guard. Give the Raptors credit for getting points in the paint by finishing when the help wasn’t there, and when the defense did cover, they swung the ball back outside to get quality shots. 26 points, 13 assists and 2 turnovers from the PG combo is reflective of their offensive dominance.

For the first time in weeks there was constant movement on offense, Rasho Nesterovic was playing the two man game with Calderon, Ford and Delfino. There were criss-cross patterns being run once the ball was dumped into the post, even Jamario Moon cut to the rim with a purpose! TJ Ford reminded us that he still remains the only Raptor that can completely and utterly break down his man, get to the rim and make a good decision once he gets there. I felt it a couple games ago against Cleveland, but I’m positive that Ford’s head is back on straight.

Chauncey Billups and Afflalo were going at TJ Ford by posting and re-posting him up to get good shots. This seemed to be a cow that Detroit was going to milk all game long but Sam Mitchell reacted correctly and played Calderon and Ford at the same time, thus allowing Billups to be guarded by the bigger Calderon and Ford to cover the smaller Stuckey or Hunter, a much easier task. Usually when both of them play together the result is defensive chaos but not tonight, the matchup fit perfectly and we were able to move the ball fluidly on offense going East-West at will and leaving Detroit reacting to our guards. In the fourth quarter, Detroit cranked the defense to NBA Finals level but the Raptors and their two guards stood tall and drained key threes to slam the door on Detroit.

If this game would’ve gone south in the fourth quarter, all eyes would’ve been on Bosh who chose to jack up some very questionable jumpers. Funnily enough, it was his 19 footer that prompted the Salami and Cheese to make an appearance after quite some time. The Raptors defense held the Pistons to 40.8% shooting while shooting 49%, quite a feat against the NBA’s 3rd stingiest defense. Calderon’s pressure on Billups was very effective and the shots (even the interior kind) were contested with the Raptors registering 8 blocks – twice the season average. Sam Mitchell’s had a telling post-game comment:

“Our defense for 48 minutes was as good as it could have been”

Delfino waking up from his deep slumber with 10 points was huge on a night where Anthony Parker’s contribution was a meager 10 points. As for Andrea Bargnani, it doesn’t seem to matter if he’s starting or coming off the bench, the problems remain the same. Aggressiveness to him is only a word that may or may not have a metaphysical meaning. He’s far from understanding and accepting what a 7-footer’s role should be on a team that lacks aggressiveness and toughness, I think Leo Rautins put it well today by saying he needs to stop being “scared” and play like a 7-foot center.

This win has given us a perfect platform to build something, New York, New Orleans and Charlotte are there for the taking. Can the Raptors have a repeat performance or will they revert to playing stagnant basketball and listless defense? If today’s any indication of how they’ll play the rest of the season and playoffs, there’s a chance we might enter the playoffs carrying enough momentum to knock off a convenient opponent.

Liners:

  • Very disappointing to see the fans boo TJ after he missed a wide open 3-pointer in the first quarter.
  • I’m going to miss Rasho Nesterovic. Sure, he’ll get rejected by Tayshaun Prince and Aamir Johnson once in a while but his mid-range jumper is reliable, his defense is sound and his finishing isn’t that bad. Plus he’s a legit 7-footer and uses his body well. In other words, he’s a pretty damn good backup center who I wouldn’t mind seeing on this team long-term.
  • For us to have a chance in this game the rebounding battle needed to be even, it ended up 41-35 in their favor but we limited the influence of Jason Maxiell and Antonio McDyess, holding them to a total of 9 rebounds and not allowing them to dominate a critical stretch of the game.
  • Jose Calderon is a team player and a smart man for figuring out what’s wrong with the Raptors. But let’s move on now and not go on about this like he gave up his first born. Jose is all about winning and seeing his team and teammates do well and the sweet part about it is that his niceness isn’t reflected in his playing stile and attitude on the floor. Love it.
  • We avoid falling under .500 with a gritty and hard-fought win against a tough team. It would’ve been very easy to lose this game but the Raptors played with a sense of urgency not seen in weeks.
  • Jason Kapono: 0-2 FG in 9 minutes. There isn’t a single matchup here that he’s well suited for. If we do end up playing Detroit in the playoffs, Maceo Baston is likely to have a bigger role than Jason Kapono. The Pistons are simply too good to allow a one-dimensional shooter to get off the mark.
  • Jose Calderon is The Top Rap.
  • If you missed the RapCast, do check it out.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , | 38 Comments »

Raptors Potpourri + Podcast #4

Posted by Arsenalist on March 25, 2008

Let’s start things of with an interesting discussion going on in a remote part of this blog concerning race. It’s fascinating stuff!

Once you’re done understanding what constitutes white and what doesn’t, let’s move along to Chris Bosh’s birthday bash held on Sunday night which privileged blogger Dinosty had the chance of attending. I can’t imagine the mood being too cheery after the recent struggles of the Raptors and Bosh proverbially “calling out” the team. Nonetheless, I’m sure the festive atmosphere must’ve compensated for the malaise that the on-court product has been in.

Once you’ve had a chance to stomach that post, I present to you, Podcast #4 where amalgamated thoughts include Forderon, Bryan Colangelo, some of our technical issues and the playoff push:

“Nothing Cool”Download it! (Size: 5MB, 14:13)

Coming up we have Detroit which has a significant advantage over us in every matchup. We’ve played them twice and it’s not been close, Wallace scares Bosh, Billups can cancel three Calderon’s and 2 Ford’s just by himself and Jason Maxiell gives us nightmares. For us to have a chance in this one, the rebounding battle must be even which is asking a lot of the Raptors against the Piston tall trees. Surprisingly, Rasho was glued to the bench against the Pistons earlier in the year which was questionable given Detroit’s size and the way they were killing us on the boards. Let’s see if Sam has learned anything since.

With Philly on our heels (can’t believe they’re better than us) and Washington pulling away, we need to go on a 3 game winning streak after the Detroit loss. New York and New Orleans at home followed by a trip to Charlotte to avenge the 32-0 second chance point drubbing. New York should be easy and there shouldn’t be any worries there but after that it’s New Orleans who we beat in their arena earlier in the year. In that game, Jose Calderon, Anthony Parker and Andrea Bargnani had great performances to complement a 29 point effort by Bosh and the Raptors overcame a 29/16/7 night from Chris Paul. In order to repeat that feat, the same needs to happen and judging by the way the Raptors are playing, it’s a tall order. The Charlotte game was humiliating and the Raptors need to be truly angry before heading into that one, maybe Sam Mitchell should replay the tape just to jog some memories and pump up the adrenalin.

Bryan Colangelo is really concerned about the way the Raptors are playing. Who wouldn’t be? It’s even forced him to return home early from a European vacation scouting trip where he was looking at Euro talent which apparently is running low. Thank God, I think we’ve maxed out the foreign quota allowed on this team.

I was watching Detroit and Phoenix last night and with the Pistons down 1 with a minute left, Chauncey Billups didn’t even look to pass in attacking Raja Bell and going straight down the middle of the paint and scoring on a three point play. The Pistons prevailed and I said to myself, Now, that’s a player. The great teams have always had someone who they can just go to in the clutch and get a high percentage shot. Even if they miss, you’ll feel good about the offensive decision. I don’t know if I get that feeling with Chris Bosh. He’s a very good player that can cause nightmares because of his quickness but I’m wondering if he’ll ever mature and evolve into a Kevin Garnett or a Tim Duncan type player where scoring is a matter of mechanics and routine. We’ll see I suppose but he’s got a long way to go.

I’m excited to see Chris Paul in Toronto. Mark Jackson in Peter Vescey’s column believes that Steve Nash is the third best point guard behind Paul and Deron Williams, I have to agree with that assessment. Steven Nash is great but Williams and Paul are just oozing with ability, talent and superior physical strength. Steve Nash happens to be the perfect point guard for Phoenix, Mike D’Antoni’s style of play suites him very well and he’s got great complimentary players. I think a lot of his success is a product of the Phoenix system, rather than sheer ability.

Forget the college basketball bracket, make sure you vote for the Raptors DancePak in their annual NBA.com tournament. They’re up against some skanks from the Miami Heat who are relying on immense cleavage to pull them through. On a sidenote, anybody see that special on Minerva done at halftime a couple weeks ago? I’m not feeling it anymore.

Update: TJ and Rasho back in starting lineup. Bargnani and Calderon out.

Later.

RSS Feed

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , | 28 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.

RSS RSS Feed

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