Arsenalist

The Toronto Raptors Blog with an Arsenal touch

Posts Tagged ‘dwight howard’

Raptors finish 23rd in the NBA…

Posted by Arsenalist on September 4, 2008

…in nickname rankings. That’s your Raptors headline story for the day.

I was going to do a big spiel about how crazy Raptors fans are and how we should all try to get along despite our differences and opinions. It seems Raptors nation is split on our off-season and any point of view supporting an argument is quickly rejected by the other party. It makes for some good conversation but after 3 1/2 months a lot of the arguments get redundant to the point of eye-rolling. The dissent that exists in Raptors nation is a little sad to see. Or at least it was until I was reminded of the great Chinese sage Confucius who said:

When everybody says things are right, something is very wrong.

Aah, who knew you could get a dose of philosophy in this space. Point is that despite people questioning each others’ sexual orientation in debate and referring to each other as genital organs when discussing Andrea Bargnani’s effectiveness, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I just humbly request that an argument is somewhat supported by some facts other than the accusations mentioned above.

Our boy Mike Ulmer interviewed Raptors strength and conditioning coach Keith D’Amelio and asked him some inane questions. I was hoping he’d ask him what Andrea Bargnani’s situation was because by the looks of it he had gained a few pounds. No such luck there, instead we find Ulmer suggesting the Raptors eat hemp hearts and husked hemp seeds, he’s basically one step away from recommending pre-game weed.

Training camp starts around September 29th with our first pre-season game being on October 7th at Cleveland. You can check out the pre-season schedule here which takes us all across North America. From the East coast to Moscow to the Mid-West to the West coast and then to Western Canada and finally home. Last year when you asked the Celtics what was the turning point of the season, many pointed to their European trip in the pre-season as being crucial since it allowed them to gel together as a team. I don’t have any such expectations of the Raptors but you have to wonder whether Sam Mitchell can integrate 5 new players into the team. I’m sure having no system actually helps in this case.

Of course we’ll talk a lot more about training camp as it approaches but its imperative that we establish a rhythm early on, especially concerning Bosh/O’Neal/Bargnani usage.

The Fan House has a video of Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard sitting on a bus as Bosh makes the “Hoowaaard, Hoowaaard” chant from the playoffs. Didn’t know you could do that when you lost the playoff series.

Later.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , | 16 Comments »

Offense chokes in the fourth as Raptors exit NBA playoffs

Posted by Arsenalist on April 29, 2008

Toronto Raptors 92, Orlando Magic 102

As I watched the final two minutes tick away on mute I realized that this was my least favorite Raptors team ever. Yes, even worse than that third year crew that went 16-66. It’s probably because with that team there were no expectations or hype, just a hope to improve and to maybe build something worthwhile. Even as they trudged their way across double digit losing streaks, it was still more enjoyable to watch because they desperately wanted to break out of their losing, they wanted to get to the next level. They knew they had issues and fought hard to overcome them, our pseudo star Damon Stoudamire took every shot in the clutch, he made some and missed many but never shied away from the challenge. He was feisty, fiery and never backed down. Despite the losing, you knew we’d come out and compete, we’d probably lose but you knew we’d be upset about it. You felt an attachment to those guys, with this team, I felt nothing.

The Magic basically won this series by running the same play 250 times – the drive ‘n kick. The actors in the play changed but that was the gist of it. It was with ease that they got into the paint and passed to waiting shooters as we helpless watched them launch uncontested jumpers hoping they’d miss. There was never a defensive adjustment made to remedy this problem, we talked about it in the pre-game and post-game press conferences but the coaches and players were never able to deliver where it mattered the most – on the floor. The success Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglo, Rashard Lewis and even Keyon Dooling had against our perimeter defense was the primary reason we lost. Our late close-outs on corner-snipers Keith Bogans and Maurice Evans were always a result of either late recovery or unnecessary and half-thought double teams.

To make matters worse, it seemed like every time the Magic missed, Dwight Howard got the rebound and slammed one so hard that it made the Raptors shrink. Tonight was a great example – 16 offensive rebounds for the Magic on their way to a resounding 55-37 drubbing. Wow! I never quite understood why we played ‘small ball’, to me that was one of the reasons why we struggled. Rasho Nesterovic is the Raptor most capable of troubling Dwight Howard and was never put to use. Instead we went with the pathetic Bargnani who couldn’t give us anything on either end of the floor, or with Bosh who spent so much energy on defense that his offense was shot. We watched Howard get deep post positioning against Bosh and Bargnani as Rasho simply withered away on the bench, victim of a scheme that only on the surface appears to work.

It took us five games before Dwight Howard picked up five defensive fouls in a game. Before the series began a common fan’s perception was that the Raptors could get Dwight Howard out of the game early by forcing him to defend Bosh or Bargnani who possess better lateral quicks than the Magic beast. That never happened, Bargnani never bothered to take anything other than a 21+ footer and Chris Bosh settled for jumpers too early and too often to bother Howard. The result was that the foul-prone Howard stayed in the game far too long and had a huge impact by crashing the offensive glass, blocking shots, pinning Bosh for low-post scores and drawing doubles that were easy to break. In other words, the underlying theme of the series was the complete domination of Chris Bosh at the hands of Dwight Howard.

The use of the bench was questionable. I’ve already touched on what Rasho could’ve brought us but the two other pieces that were never used were Kris Humphries and Joey Graham. Anthony Parker who had a miserable series couldn’t ever close-out Bogans, Turkoglo or Evans and had trouble staying with Hedo in one-on-one situations. Rashard Lewis broke down Chris Bosh at will and posted up Delfino without breaking a sweat. Yet we never saw Sam Mitchell give the stronger and more athletic Joey Graham a chance against Lewis or Hedo. I’m not saying he would’ve shut them down but there’s no way he could’ve been as bad as Parker or Delfino on the perimeter. At least give him a shot and see what you can get, no?

You can make a case that if Kris Humphries had gotten Andrea Bargnani’s minutes this series would’ve been longer. At least Humphries plays hard, grabs rebounds and can hit a mid-range jumper. Bargnani did nothing, he was about as useless as tits on a nun. With the rebounding differential as bad as it’s been you’d think we’d do what we can to rectify that problem but Sam Mitchell chose to play ‘small ball’ and opted to get out-rebounded in exchange for I don’t even know what. Asking Chris Bosh to defend Dwight Howard over a series might be one of the most ridiculous things Mitchell will ever do. It would’ve been better to waste Primoz Brezec’s 6 fouls before we asked our primary offensive weapon to also guard their best player.

Finally we get to Sam Mitchell who practically handed the Magic a 2-0 series lead by putting out a starting lineup that had NEVER played together and asked the struggling Bargnani to play a position he had NEVER played in his life. A stupider move has never been made and will never be made in the NBA playoffs. Mitchell was unable to tweak the Raptors offense to account for Lewis’ defense on Bosh and wasn’t able to counter the pressure the Magic applied on our point guards. On defense he wasn’t able to devise a plan for Dwight Howard who ate us alive and couldn’t get a lineup out that could neutralize the weakness we were having at the point of attack which resulted in those deadly Magic threes. The Raptors played Game 1 the same way they played Game 5. There wasn’t a thing we did differently. Contrast this to the Magic who made various adjustments, from pressuring Raptor PGs to hard-doubles on Bosh, from fixing their Game 3 pick ‘n roll issues to switching in Game 4, establishing Howard in the post, focusing on Lewis/Hedo driving, PG penetration etc. Whenever they had a problem, they fixed it. The Raptors never bothered, they just hoped the Magic would miss.

There was one play tonight which showed just how unprepared and thoughtless the Raptors defense is. In the third quarter Carlos Delfino doubled Dwight Howard 12ft from the rim only to leave his man Keith Bogans wide open. Howard made an easy pass to Bogans for a three. That play told me that the Raptors have zero idea on how to double team and when to double team – a problem that was obvious in Game 1. What is the need to double team Howard that far out? Absolutely none. It’s sad to see that the Raptors still hadn’t grasped this simple concept this late in the series.

When you suffer a series loss such as this you have to question and evaluate a few things and on the top of the list is Chris Bosh. His late fourth quarter disappearing acts became the norm in the series. A lot of the problems with our clutch offense has to do with dumping the ball to Bosh and 4 guys watching him operate against Howard who forces him to take a low-percentage shot which has zero chance of being rebounded. Even so, its ultimately Bosh’s responsibility to be aggressive and not settle for mid-range jumpers, fadeaways and other such nonsense. The incentive to draw fouls on Howard should be more than enough for Bosh to immediately take Howard to the rim instead of dancing around and stepping back for 16 footers. I’m tired of Chuck and Leo continuing to praise Bosh’s mid-range game which is mediocre at best and far from being reliable. What I’m trying to get at is Bosh was passive in the late fourth quarter and failed to deliver in the clutch. I appreciate his defensive effort but it needed to be said.

Carlos Delfino’s late fourth quarter chuck tonight was equally as bad as his two late chucks in Game 4. When you have no discipline in your offense players feel like its up to them to “make a play” and it just so happened that Carlos felt a calling from God to make it happen. Unfortunately, he failed. TJ Ford tried to take the game over singlehandedly yet again and got suckered into one-on-one play against Jameer Nelson. Nelson wisely took advantage of the roaming Ford and hit his fair share of wide open jumpers – still haven’t figured out what Nelson needs to do for us to finally figure out that he can convert open looks. Calderon was no better in the series, he failed to turn the corner off of screens and never had the opportunity to take it to the rim because of Van Gundy’s middle-heavy defense – aka Howard. His best contribution in the series had to be his outside shooting which is welcome but he’s far more dangerous when he’s a threat to drive – the Magic did a great job of taking that away from him.

Andrea Bargnani is sick. He is allergic to rebounding, if you see him get a few rebounds in the box score its always because they fell right in his lap. He didn’t get a contested rebound all series and was never even a minute factor in any of the games. There were too many occasions where he was caught watching the play instead of being a part of it. I’m not sure what his summer school entails but I’m guessing a lot of it will have to do with technical matters such as footwork and shooting. What he really needs is somebody to inject him with some passion and intensity, I doubt that’s going to happen, if he’s as bad as this next year, we need to ship his ass out by the trading deadline or next summer. None of this 5-year plan bullshit.

So the Raptors keep the game close and choke in the fourth quarter as the Magic continue to drain threes and Dwight Howard continues to eat us alive on the boards and the paint. Nothing new to speak of here. The season is over and its one of the most disappointing ones ever. This was a failed season, we regressed from last year because the scouting reports caught up with us and we never addressed our needs from the end of last season – defense and rebounding. Bryan Colangelo has another chance to address those exact same needs this summer, maybe last year’s playoff blinded him a little but this year there is no doubt – he needs to fix this team. Status quo is not good.

Sam Mitchell needs to be relieved of his duties and a smarter and more disciplined coach needs to be brought in. Mitchell needs a lot of talent around him to be successful, we don’t have that. We need a coach who can help the players because we don’t have the players that can help the coach.

Thanks for reading the blog this year. I’ve enjoyed writing every post and appreciate every comment from all the posters. I’ll let you guys know what the off-season plans, I got some ideas and it should be fun. Either way, the posts will be flowing.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , | 77 Comments »

Game 3: Raptors fight past Magic but its only one game

Posted by Arsenalist on April 25, 2008

Sea of Red - Toronto Raptors

Orlando Magic 94, Toronto Raptors 108

Excellent performance, great win, but the job’s not yet done. Before we get carried away we need to realize that this game will mean little if we have a letdown on Saturday and head back to Orlando down 3-1. I’ll just say a few more words of caution before we get to the game. Much like in the series against Philadelphia, we managed to easily beat the Magic in our first home game, it’s an almost natural win. A team down 0-2 comes back home and wins behind a great crowd. You feel like you’re back in the series and let your guard down just a bit and in the next game you get stung by a bitter home loss. The Raptors suffered a letdown in that game with Iverson’s steal on Oakley followed by a deep 3 tilting the advantage in favor of Philly who stole back home-court advantage and tied the series at 2-2. The Raptors must ensure that they don’t repeat the same mistake, only this time they’d be facing a 3-1 hole.

On to the game, the Raptors finally came out with the energy that’s been missing from their 1st quarters and the “change” that Sam Mitchell made wasn’t really a change at all, it was one of the most familiar lineups the Raptors have played all season – Bargnani, Bosh, Moon, Ford and Parker. There was nothing complicated about the lineup and it was basically common sense more than anything. The excellent first quarter start proved once again how unnecessary the Game 1 and 2 adjustments really were, this team played the Magic tight in the regular season with a “traditional” lineup, there was never a need to make a change.

Jamario Moon’s insertion into the lineup yielded instant dividends as he led the Raptors rebounding effort with 10 on the way to outmanning the Magic 42-34 – a rare feat indeed. He didn’t take a single bad shot and always looked to pass when the Magic were daring him to shoot. Bargnani’s defense on Howard was fundamentally sound and forced Howard into taking a few uncomfortable looking shots, Howard still got his on the offensive glass but overall, he was well-contained by the Raptors and the whistle-happy officials. Howard might be a beast but there are weaknesses in his game that are there to exploit, he doesn’t have great footwork, is turnover prone and isn’t a great passer out of double teams. The pressure the Raptors put on him today showed that.

The Sea of Red at the ACC did their job, the energy of the crowd propelled the Raptors as they hit the offensive glass, knocked down their jumpers and were active on defense. Andrea Bargnani and Anthony Parker provided some early scoring and TJ Ford was instrumental in pressuring Nelson and not allowing the Magic guard to penetrate and find shooters. A 28-20 first quarter was something the Raptors desperately needed and it set the table up for a confident and energetic game. The Magic chipped away at the Raptor lead but TJ Ford singlehandedly went on an 11 point run against Carlos Arroyo late in the second quarter to push the lead to 21 at the half. What might get lost in the second quarter is Rasho Nesterovic’s 6-minute spell of Chris Bosh which allowed the latter to get some rest after looking sluggish early on.

Every Magic run was answered as Jose Calderon and TJ Ford picked out shooters to a tune of 49%. Aside from some brief stretches in the second half, the Raptors ball movement was crisp and effective. When we’re hitting our outside shots, everything opens up for us and it doesn’t even matter if Chris Bosh has 3 points at the half as long as he’s kicking out of the hard Magic doubles effectively. Jose Calderon’s recognition of when to shoot and when to pass is flawless, he made the Magic pay for doubling Bosh off of him by knocking the perimeter jumper and was ultra-quick in starting the swing sequences when he didn’t have a clean look. The best example of his court awareness was when he dribbled the ball across the right side of the court and through the paint while dragging the defense with him and then finding Bosh for a dunk in the paint. TJ Ford’s strong performance also meant Dave Feschuk hopping on the Ford bandwagon, all it takes is one game for this to flip. If Ford goes 2-10 in Game 4 he’ll go back to calling him a problem child. Wanker.

The Magic were still able to get guard penetration but it wasn’t as bad as the previous games, Hedo Turkoglu and Rashard Lewis have shown that they can get by their man with relative ease and find Evans and Bogans at the corners, fortunately for us the Magic aren’t hitting their perimeter shots – 6-27 3FG for 22%. This is a scary stat because you get a feeling that they’ll eventually start knocking them down. The Raptors were better at contesting shots today but for us to even this series on Saturday we have to do a better job of keeping Lewis and Turkoglu at bay – and that means Chris Bosh must not bite on Lewis’ fakes and Parker/Moon should tempt Hedo to shoot.

The Player of the Game had to be the ACC crowd, they had a direct impact on the game and were very much responsible for Howard’s 3-8 FT performance. You could tell that the Haawwaard chant was getting to D12, not so much the Superman Sucks one. Howard ended up with 19/12 but it wasn’t the demoralizing type of performance that we saw in Games 1 and 2, he turned the ball over 5 times, wasn’t able to pass out of double teams and showed his frustration with the officials and his teammates.

Forderon’s 39/16 contribution was the difference in the game and the bench did its part outscoring the Magic reserves 42-24, this was how this series was envisioned if you’re a Raptors fan. Dominant point guard play, X-factor production, Bosh canceling out Howard and superior outside shooting from the Raptors – that’s how we can get back in the series and have a chance to win it. For the first time in quite some time you can honestly say that the Raptors played with a hunger and desire greater than the other team. We got to keep it going on Saturday otherwise its all for naught.

Apparently Jameer Nelson collapsed after the game because of back spasms, I think Forderon abused him a bit much today. Hopefully they don’t let up on the little bugger in Game 4.

I am at a complete loss to explain Jason Kapono’s performance. Another great game for him, 15 points on 6-10 shooting, its not like the Magic are leaving him wide open. He’s been able to run out on the break, find favorable positions to spot up from and keep the defense honest by dribble-driving. However, a lot of his success can be credited to Calderon who is looking for him on every opportunity. Jose’s recognition of “hot hands” is superb, he’ll almost always pass you the ball if you’ve made your previous shot. Delfino’s minutes were productive, he hit a big three, grabbed 6 rebounds and most importantly played Turkoglu and Bogans tight. Anthony Parker made up for his miserable Game 2 with 10 points and some very effective close-outs on Bogans/Evans and Lewis. Usually his shot contests are in vain but tonight he did more than just waive his arms as the shot was being released, he actually bothered the release.

Sam Mitchell did a good job of using his timeouts, usually he waits far too long before putting an end to runs. His timeout after Lewis opened the third quarter with two straight threes got the Raptors thinking straight once again. Complacency is almost natural when you get a 21 point lead and that’s even more true with this Raptors squad. We’ve blown big leads, small leads, fourth quarter leads, and all kinds of other leads, so it was a breath of fresh air to see us make a stand and answer every Magic run. As I said before, if we’re moving the ball crisply across the perimeter after Bosh double teams, we’re an entirely different team than the stagnant mess you see at times. I’m not saying we’re great, but we’re good enough to beat other defensively suspect teams like the Magic.

The guy that scares me the most on the Magic is Rashard Lewis, he can get by Bosh at will and is too big and lengthy for Moon, Parker or Delfino to guard. If he sets his mind to taking our SFs in the post, he can give us nightmares. He was 8-15 FG and 3-8 from three, that means when he was playing near the paint he was shooting 5-7. The more we can keep him on the perimeter, the better. I don’t know if the Magic know this but the biggest mismatch in their favor is Rashard Lewis against anybody on the Raptors. Here’s hoping they never figure that out.

Dime Mag’s got an interesting quote and take on Sam Mitchell “not caring” about what the media says:

…And then there was Sam Mitchell. When a reporter asked if he was gonna take credit for the Raps playing better after Games 1 and 2, Mitchell said, “No, I’m not going to take any credit, because I’d be scared to death if you actually gave me some. We’re not going to do that. You just keep on doing what you do; chopping me up, putting me in the meat grinder. And that’s fine, because I’m not going to read it anyway. It doesn’t bother me. That’s what I keep telling you guys. How can something bother you that you’re not conscious of? I don’t ever read what’s spoken about me or printed about me. I’m just going to coach the basketball team.” Really? That sounds a lot like someone who is VERY MUCH aware of and bothered by what’s written about him

Forderon is the Top Rap but since we can’t have two, I flipped a coin. A note to the clowns wearing white: you guys stand out like a sore thumb. WTF is your excuse for not taking the free T-Shirt they handed out? Another quick hit: Adnan Virk was hitting on Dwight Howard’s dad.

More later.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , | 28 Comments »

Game 3 Preview: Sea of Red looks to even series

Posted by Arsenalist on April 24, 2008

It’s do or die time, no exaggeration. If we lose Game 3, there won’t even be a point in continuing in the series and we may as well empty out the bench and get Maceo Baston some playoff experience in Game 4. The Raptors have their backs against the perennial wall but lucky for them they’ll be coming home to the cauldron that is the Sea of Red at the ACC. If the crowd and atmosphere can inspire them to play any form of consistent defense, they will have a chance to send this series back to Orlando all tied up. No, I’m not crazy.

It goes without saying that the difference between winning and losing in Game 2 couldn’t have been more than a hair’s breadth. Mitchell’s unimaginative play calling, questionable non-calls, missed FTs and a furious defensive sequence where we failed to keep possession did the Raptors in. If any of those one things go our way, we win the game. Let’s also not forget the horrible first quarter. It’s natural to feel hopeless but there is one singular reason to feel optimistic: we were in both games late in the fourth quarter despite giving up a massive spread early in the game. A simplistic line of thinking would be that if we have a better first quarter, we’ll be alright.

So to ensure a better start Sam Mitchell’s tweaking with the starting lineup yet again but is keeping it a secret. A logical change would be to insert either Moon or Rasho back in the lineup over Bargnani and replace TJ Ford with Jose Calderon. As impressive as TJ was in the second quarter of Game 2, Calderon was instrumental in the fourth quarter run and has done a better job of guarding the pesky Nelson. When playing against TJ, Nelson is shooting 9-14 (62%) for 28 of his points while against Calderon, he’s 4-9 (44%) for 14 of points. The better defensive performance is reason enough to make the switch. Here’s Michael Grange’s thoughts.

If Andrea Bargnani starts the game again, Sam Mitchell should be fired at the end of the first quarter. The experiment has failed and Sam should’ve accepted that after Game 1 to prevent articles like these that rip him to shreds. Game 2 should serve as further confirmation of the fact that Andrea Bargnani is not read to play the SF position and putting him in a situation where he’s bound to fail is detrimental to the team. Bargnani’s lone rebound performance in Game 2 is unacceptable and he must help out Chris Bosh in dealing with Dwight Howard. More specifically, he needs to make the rotations and box out Howard when Bosh goes off to help. It’s not so much Howard’s offensive moves and muscle that’s hurting us but his putbacks which are the source of second chance points after taxing defensive stands. Maybe Brezec can trouble him? Surely, he’s good for something. In other Bargnani news, Bryan Colangelo has an “extensive off-season program” planned for Bargani. We’ll analyze the results to death in September.

Are the Raptors problems a lack of preparation or a lack of execution? If you ask Doug Smith, he’ll swear its execution but that’s because he’s Sam Mitchell’s little pet. The truth of the matter is that execution has been a problem all year long and nobody will doubt that. However, looking closely at any Raptors offensive or defensive schemes, the underlying basketball philosophy is too simpleminded to be effective in a playoff series where preparation and adjustments are paramount. In other words, these Raptor players and coaches are not ready for the playoffs. Exonerating Mitchell by saying its a problem with team execution and not with what’s happening between games is ridiculous and the two first quarters beg to differ.

Jason Kapono’s been a breath of fresh air and has taken it upon himself to manufacture some shot attempts. One of Stan van Gundy’s concerns will be Kapono getting open looks and Sam Mitchell should expect life to be much more difficult for Kapono in Game 3. He’ll have to make some in-game adjustments to whatever SVG will have implemented in an attempt to contain Kapono or else the sharp-shooter will regress into his late-season form. Anthony Parker’s zero point performance could easily be seen as one of the prime reasons for the Game 2 loss, his defense on Turkoglu almost made up for it until he let Keith Bogans drain two wide open threes in the fourth. Parker tends to bounce back from bad games and I’m expecting him to step up and score somewhere between 15-18 points on Thursday night.

Looking forward to Jamario Moon realizing he can’t shoot and either passing the ball up or doing something that might draw some contact, it’s probably too much to ask this late in the season but a man can dream. His rebounding is always welcome but if he can manage to neutralize Hedo by 50% and/or completely take out Bogans’ outside shooting, he’d have done his job. The Raptors need to come out with an end-to-end defensive effort and sustain it for the entire game, it might be too much to ask but these are trying times. We’ve shown that we can score against the Magic, its obviously the defensive end that’s the issue. Rectify that and we’re in business, it starts with close-outs on Nelson, Bogans and Lewis and ends with crisp rotations inside the paint.

I’m watching the Lakers/Nuggets as I type this and Phil Jackson just reiterated the importance of preventing guard penetration by saying nothing else really matters if you’re letting the other team get to the paint and pick out scoring options. Sounds simple enough and if I’m whoever’s guarding Turkoglu, I concede the three until he makes at least a couple before challenging him to drive. He’s shown he can take it to the rim, it’s time we make him shoot some threes which he’s only 1-7 at and hopefully the ACC atmosphere can add some additional pressure.

On a betting note, I told you to take the Raptors +7 in Game 2 and if you did, you made some money. The Raptors are favoured in Game 3 and laying 4, take the Raptors to win this one for the crowd in the same way they won Game 3 against Philadelphia many moons ago.

More links tomorrow, got nothing to do until then, chew on this: Dwayne Wade and Star Jones are an item.

Let’s go you Raptors!

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , | 41 Comments »

Game 2 Heartbreak: Mitchell draws up middle-school play with :09 left

Posted by Arsenalist on April 23, 2008

Toronto Raptors 103, Orlando Magic 104

Phil Jackson once said that a series hasn’t even started until a team loses a home game, so take some solace in knowing that we have what it takes to beat the Magic. Today was an extremely unlucky evening where we were any one of a rebound or a point away from winning the game, it’s just sad that Chris Bosh couldn’t hit the jumper and it’s much sadder that the quality of play coming out of a crucial timeout was lacking even the slightest thought or basketball sense.

Let’s absolve Chris Bosh of any blame in the Game 2 loss. He led the team in points, assists, rebounds, blocks, steals and minutes. To use a cliche, he left everything he had out on the floor and gave it his best. At the end of the game there was nothing in his tank and he did all he could to rescue any kind of a return in Orlando. He missed a 20-footer which was taken on exhausted legs with the clock winding down, surely we could’ve come up with something better given the hot shooting of Jose Calderon, Jason Kapono or even Andrea Bargnani.

This one falls on Sam Mitchell. What is Mitchell’s job? His job is supposed to be to use his basketball intellect to our advantage in these situations by drawing up a play that is likely to create a good shot, not a 20 footer for a power forward who’s clearly winded after playing practically the entire game. Giving him the ball beyond the key and asking him to do a Kobe impersonation is unfair and setting him up to fail. When was the last time Amare Stoudamire, Dwight Howard or even the great Tim Duncan were given the ball on an isolation play 20 feet from the rim with 5 seconds left? If that’s the “play” you’re going to call, there’s not even a need for a timeout, just come out and freestyle like you’ve been doing all year, at least you’ll catch the defense somewhat off-guard. The lack of creativity displayed by Mitchell surpasses anything that he’s shown thus far in his Raptors tenure and he is directly responsible for not doing his job in giving the Raptors an opportunity to win this game. Here’s a quote from an Orlando Sentinel story which sums up the difference between the two teams:

The Magic, judging by their surprisingly easy Game 1 victory and their incredibly difficult 104-103 victory in Game 2 Tuesday night, are reading from the exact same page, doing what they have to do at the exact right time, buying into what their coach is diagramming almost exactly as he has drawn it up. In contrast, the Raptors aren’t reading from the same page. They are too often confused — as if their playbook is written in hieroglyphics. The players have second-guessed the coach, the coach has sparred with the media, the media has all but started a coaching search.”

It’s important to note that on the previous Bosh on Howard possession, Bosh was fouled by Howard and the officials swallowed their whistle, there was no reason to believe that wasn’t going to happen again. It doesn’t excuse Bosh from driving but does put a doubt in a players’ mind that if he does manage to draw contact, it will be of no avail. Needless to say he’s got the right to be pissed about the play.

Critics of Bosh may can say that he choked and failed to deliver in the clutch. Yes, his second half was much weaker than his first and he did have a chance to win the game and couldn’t hit the big shot. One can’t argue there. However, the focus of the entire Magic defense was on Bosh after the first half and that’s one of the main reasons why so many other Raptors got open looks. Bosh was simply exhausted because of his defensive duties on Dwight Howard and his stellar help defense on any Magic guard penetrating the lane, his rotations were always on time and if every Raptor big man had stepped up on the interior rotations like Bosh, we would’ve been in a comfortable lead rather than trying to claw one out.

Let’s get to the game itself. After the disastrous first quarter in Game 1, Sam Mitchell failed to learn his lesson and repeated the same mistake by starting Andrea Bargnani at the SF position – a position that he has never played in his life. Ever. So it’s not a surprise that his new role is a ‘tall order’ for him. The first quarter result was once again eerily similar. The Raptors defense was unable to contain Magic guard penetration or contain Howard who was left to get his points off the boards and through deep positioning. It wasn’t until the second quarter when a smaller lineup without Bargnani was able to whittle the Magic lead all the way down to two. Chris Bosh, TJ Ford and a reborn Jason Kapono (wherever its coming from, just don’t stop now) playing a huge part in the Raptor run keyed on by some aggressive pressure defense by TJ Ford on Jameer Nelson.

You could argue once again that it was entirely the poor start that cost us the game. Just like we had outscored the Magic 77-71 in the final three quarters on Sunday, we outscored them 85-69 in the final three quarters on Tuesday. We failed to make the proper adjustments between the two games and repeated the same mistakes all over again. The preparedness and intensity that the Raptors talked about coming out with prior to the game was nowhere to be found. What’s surprising is Mitchell not admitting his mistake in starting Bargnani and being stubborn enough to do it again to the detriment of the team. If he does this for a third game in a row, he no doubt is a moron.

An evenly played third quarter could’ve been much better for the Raptors hadn’t it been for two huge Jameer Nelson threes which prevented the Raptors from extending their modest five point lead. The Magic were living off second chance points and although Andrea Bargnani’s 9 points were much welcome, his 1 rebound output in 18 minutes borders on pathetic. However, nothing affects Andrea, he’s never worried or concerned and just takes everything in stride. Must be that bloody Caliper test. Jose Calderon, Jason Kapono and Andrea Bargnani’s points offset Howard’s big fourth quarter where he got help from two monster threes from Keith Bogans (left open by a late recovering Anthony Parker). That setup the flurry of activity in the final minute that you’re all too aware of.

Carlos Delfino’s missed free throw, Chris Bosh unable to save the ball with a one point lead, the Raptors unable to rebound after three Orlando misses, a horribly designed play with the game on the line were all factors in this loss. As a team it was hard for us to play much better, our bench outscored theirs 57-18 and held them to 43% shooting and 29% from three point range. We shot 46% and 38% from three-land yet we managed to lose. Anthony Parker had an absolutely miserable offensive game and was held scoreless, his defense on Turkoglu was tight but he left Keith Bogans wide open to hit two massive threes in the fourth quarter. On a side note Leo Rautins failed to mention even once how “clutch” and “big time” of a performer Anthony Parker is. Anyway, we were lucky that the Magic missed a lot of open threes giving our late-recovering, double-team happy defense a reprieve.

Almost all of Dwight Howard’s 7 offensive rebounds were a result of Chris Bosh helping out and nobody rotating to cover Howard. Nobody expects this problem to be fixed in the playoffs because this is a long-stemming issue that’s been there since two years. One would think Howard commands enough attention that Andrea Bargnani would care to come over and put a body on him as Bosh goes off to provide help. Will Jamario Moon ever realize that the reason he’s open is because teams want him to shoot? A 1-7 performance where he passed up at least five chances to attack the rim and instead either passed it off or took a bad shot; in a game where you lose by the narrowest or margins, all these things come into play. What if TJ Ford hadn’t gone 1-8 or hadn’t committed 4 turnovers? What if Bargnani had just one more rebound? What if our starting SG had more than 0 points? What if…..the list goes on.

There were stretches today where we played defense at a high intensity and were patient with our offense. Having Kapono on his game finishing off plays definitely opens up the floor and makes life easier for everybody, the same goes for Calderon’s outside shooting. The question is can our supporting cast replicate this effort in games 3 and 4 without suffering a letdown defensively and on the boards. I think if we play the same way we did today in the two home games and come out of the gates moderately well, we’ll be fine. There will be more changes for Game 3, hopefully one of them will be reverting back to our regular starting lineup.

The lasting memory from this game will be Bosh’s missed shot but underneath that image is the root of the Raptors problem – the inability to score in the clutch due to lack of creativity and movement, and that in my humble opinion falls on the coach. For me the memory will be of the Raptors unable to corral a rebound after countless Magic misses with less than a minute remaining and nursing a one point lead. That could’ve been the game right there.

The steaming pile of shit that is Dave Feshcuk disagrees with Phil Jackson’s idea of a home loss kickstarting a series and has already written off the Raptors. His article this morning has as much insight as a dog’s ass.

The psychological blow from this loss can be big but the Raptors have to realize that they’ve proved that they’re capable of winning in Orlando, it’s time to return to the Sea of Red and send this series back to Orlando all tied up. The odds are stacked against us – 94% of teams that go up 2-0 end up winning the series – but there’s no doubt about whether we can tie it up at 2-2 and go from there.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , , , | 61 Comments »

Game 1: Horrible defense, lack of plan kills off Raptors

Posted by Arsenalist on April 20, 2008

Toronto Raptors 100, Orlando Magic 114

The Magic came out with a plan. The Raptors came out with nothing. In addition to said nothing they also came out with a defensive attitude so complacent that instead of setting a tone for the series in the first quarter, they allowed the Magic to dominate and establish a lead they weren’t going to relinquish no matter how well the Raptors would’ve played the rest of the way. A 43 point first quarter where the Magic hit 9 uncontested threes made you wonder exactly what the “strategy” and “things” Mitchell had planned leading up to Game 1. We didn’t do a single thing differently on defense than when we had played the Heat in the second last game of the regular season. So when the reporters were asking Mitchell questions like “What are you plans for Dwight Howard?” and Mitchell responded by saying that he had some things planned and couldn’t give away secrets, he was really bullshitting. He had nothing planned.

Let’s talk about what the Magic wanted to do offensively and did: establish Howard inside by getting deep positioning, force the Raptors to play transition defense, drive ‘n kick using Turkoglu/Lewis/Nelson and hit open outside threes. That they executed with 100% efficiency. On defense, they forced the Raptors to go into Howard, put the athletic Lewis on Bosh giving him fits once again, pressure our point guards into making quick decisions and giving the ball up, played a weak zone that tempted Bosh, Ford, Calderon to attempt outside jumpers and finally they cleaned up the glass. Once again, job well done to the Magic. Very well executed game plan helped by some unbelievable outside shooting that buried the Raptors early.

The first quarter defense was the worst it has been all season which is alarming. This is the first game of the NBA playoffs and elements such as preparedness and effort simply have no excuse to be lacking. Forget about the “plan” for Dwight Howard, we didn’t even have a plan to contain the drives of Turkoglu/Lewis/Nelson who went past TJ Ford with a help of a screen, drew in the entire defense and kicked out to open shooters. I lost count how many times the interior defense parted like the red sea as their guards drove the lane, our PGs can’t expect the help defense to be there, you are the frontline of defense and you have to make a hard effort to get through the screen and stay in front of your man – just like their PGs were doing. The Magic got dribble penetration anytime they wanted and it was one of the core reasons why we lost. The point guard spot was to be our main advantage in this series but they were neutralized by the aggressive defense of Keyon Dooling and the superb play of Jameer Nelson. Once again, credit to the Magic for having a plan to neutralize an area where they were supposedly at a disadvantage. In short, Jameer Nelson: 24/7, 7-13 FG, Forderon: 14, 14, 4-20 FG. Pwn3d.

Any chance the Raptors have in this series is predicated on Chris Bosh canceling out Dwight Howard. It might be a tall task but any expert who picked the Raptors in this one is counting on Bosh/Howard to be a wash. When Howard goes off for 25/22, 8-13 FG and 5 blocks and Bosh counters with a hard fought 21/6, 4-11 FG, we’re already in a hole. Before we start bashing Bosh for not “stepping up”, let it be noted that he was the hardest working Raptor on the floor, played aggressively and did his level best to keep the Raps in the game. Unfortunately, he’s being asked to produce in one-on-one situations against a quicker Lewis without any help from Sam Mitchell or any other Raptor. You can’t give him the ball at the top of the key and expect scores. On the other hand, one can blame Bosh for not getting inside position on Lewis early in the game and making himself a real factor. Pick whoever you want to blame, I’d say its 50/50.

Sam Mitchell should attend Double Teaming 101 where the first thing they teach you is that you do not double from the strong side off of a shooter thus leaving him open. This is a problem that’s plagued the Raptors all season and it continues in the playoffs. The second rule they teach you is that if your guard just got beat, send help from the interior instead of the strong side wing player. See, if you send it off the wing player on the strong side, all the PG needs to do is make an unobstructed pass to an open shooter, if you bring it off the weak interior, he’ll have to go through your PF/C which is harder. Kapish? Of course this will only work if your interior rotations are tight but that’s another issue. Come on Sam, this is basic shit that we need fixed, we’re not asking for too much when we say to correctly double a player and make life harder instead of easier for him.

After the game Mitchell dropped a quote outlining the drive ‘n kick problems.

“The threes they got were draw and kicks, they sucked us in and kicked the ball to a shooter. We have to work on keeping our man in front of us so we don’t open ourselves to those type of situations.”

It’s this late in the year and we still haven’t addressed one of the most basic problems any team has when guarding PGs. It’s not like he’s tackling a complex issue here, its good ‘ol drive ‘n kick that we haven’t figured out in late April.

There was a lot of talk about X-Factors before the series. Jason Kapono found his touch and was the reason we got within 5, kudos to Calderon for looking out for him. So with the lead down to 5 in the fourth quarter, Sam Mitchell didn’t get Bosh off the bench and the Magic countered with some great plays coming out of a timeout to go on a 10-0 run. Game Over. WTF Sam? You are exactly where you wanted to be, your team just got hot and cut the lead to 5, what are you waiting for? Howard’s already in the game, why not bring Bosh? Huh? Mind boggling.

Aside from Kapono’s 18 point injection, Andrea Bargnani starred in yet another flop performance, 5 points, 3 rebounds and 2-8 FG. He was inexplicably inserted into the starting lineup and was a big failure. He couldn’t guard Turkoglu who made him look silly and couldn’t give us a thing on offense. Typical Bargnani really. I don’t understand why Sam Mitchell went with a brand new starting lineup, isn’t continuity the thing you’re looking for going into the playoffs. Why start experimenting now? This was a case where Mitchell tried to use Bargnani’s size as an advantage over Hedo/Rashard only to forget that Bargnani doesn’t know how to use his size. He sort of outcoached himself. Carlos Delfino and Jamario Moon were non-factors, but it’s strange how Moon only got 5 minutes in a game where defense was our #1 problem and seeing how he’s our best defender, something doesn’t make sense.

The Raptors were down by 20 after the first, down by 13 going into the half, down by 10 going into the fourth. Playing from behind takes a toll on you and even if we had completed the come-back, the chances of us pulling out a win would’ve been very low given that the tank would’ve been running on empty. We weren’t playing Miami where we can just flip a switch and take the lead, these are the playoffs and we need to be well aware of that and come out with a sense of urgency, aggression and passion and avoid getting down early. You can’t decide when to play defense, that’s suicide and unfortunately a habit that the Raptors have to get rid off if they want to win more than a game in this series.

Here’s Bryan Colangelo’s thoughts on the game:

The phrases “defensively soft” and “need to pick up the intensity” come up which are no-brainers. He’s also complaining way too much about the officiating. Howard might’ve gotten away with a goaltend or two but to single out Keyon Dooling’s pressure defense on our guards and call it a foul while implying that’s one of the reasons we lost is a cop-out. There’s mention of our inability to defend the high screen ‘n roll, a problem that we’ve been having all year. Let’s face it, the chances of us fixing a problem so core at this point in the year are very low. There’s no magic formula (pardon the pathetic pun) that will make us a better defensive team overnight, it’ll have to come down to effort if we hope to close out shooters and fight through screens.

Chris Bosh’s comments about failed strategies and deviating from what’s been working might be interpreted as calling out Sam Mitchell:

Bosh, obviously a very frustrated team captain, said that the reason why the Raptors started Game 1 so poorly — falling behind by 20 points after the first quarter — was because the players were “confused” and “shell-shocked” and the point guards “didn’t know what to run at times.”

“We were trying to implement too many things and we’re not doing the things that got us here”.

Interpret as you wish.

Give the game ball to Dwight Howard for dominating the paint, outplaying Bosh, being a defensive presence and getting key offensive rebounds in the fourth. The Raptors have work to do before Tuesday.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , | 40 Comments »

Chris Bosh’s 40 make Dwight Howard’s 37 seem quiet

Posted by Arsenalist on February 21, 2008

Orlando Magic 110, Toronto Raptors 127

Move the ball, go inside with Bosh, shoot well from the outside and play just enough defense. Sounds simple enough but the chances of all four things happening on the same night are rare, but when they do happen, it’s a sure sign the Raptors will win a blowout. The Magic game was supposed to be one of the tougher ones of the month what with Dwight Howard and all, but Chris Bosh has always reserved his better games against Howard (CB4’s averaging 22.5/9.2 against him) and tonight was no different. For all of the shit Chris Bosh takes at times (including in this space), he remains our best player and last night’s game was Exhibit A of just how un-guardable he can be in certain matchups. This game actually changed my outlook on whether we could take out the Magic in a 7-game series, I think we can.

There were a couple plays tonight which served as microcosms of this game, they both went something like this: Calderon brings the ball upcourt, Bosh sets a screen for him (at this point Jameer Nelson is lost), Bosh is rolling towards the rim while Calderon is also attacking the rim at the same time, the help comes inevitably. Instead of Calderon forcing a shot, he swings it to the weakside where the ball is swung around back to the strong side for a short jumper. If there’s a thing called “textbook Raptors basketball”, it was on display tonight. And top it all off we only got out-rebounded by 6 and there’s even a silver lining there, we beat them on the defensive boards 25-23.

Dwight Howard had a quiet 37 which I only learned of when looking at the box score after the game. That sounds like an idiotic statement but many of his points came with the Raptors up by 14-17 points and comfortably in command. Thanks to some key scoring plays in the fourth the Magic never went on the run that might’ve cut this lead to say 7 points and made a real ballgame of things. Scoring 37 on 13-16 FG is awesome but when your counterpart is going 14-16 FG with 40 points, you know you haven’t done your defensive duties and your offensive efforts have been more than offset. In all fairness to Howard his lateral quickness is very shitty, almost as bad as Brian Cook’s which made Bosh’s job even simpler. Give credit to Bosh, he did the right thing every time, when given space he hit his jumper, when played too tight he took it to the rim. Flawless game. Throw in some ridiculous 11-20 3FG and the only way the Magic would come out with a win is if their offense was clicking at peak efficiency. Turkoglu and Lewis went through cold stretches whereas Delfino and Calderon never eased up. Orlando was savoring their Detroit victory and didn’t feel too bad writing this one off.

There’s a nice quote about Bosh from Stan Van Gundy in this Orlando Sentinel article:

“My respect for Bosh came three years ago in one of those rookie-sophomore games (during all-star weekend). One of those games where no one tries hard. Except Chris Bosh tried hard all night long. I knew he was special then. Everybody was clowning around but not Bosh.”

Despite all the respect, Bosh rarely saw a double team all night which Van Gundy later regretted.

“There was not one thing they did that we could guard. Chris Bosh we could not guard, we didn’t have anybody that could guard him, we’ll have to think about double-teaming him next time. I thought Dwight (Howard) could guard him a little bit but he obviously could not. We could not guard (Jose) Calderon on the pick-and-roll at all and we did not close out on their shooters. There wasn’t one thing we did defensively tonight that impacted them whatsoever. We didn’t have much trouble getting good shots and scoring, that’s not the issue against this team. We’ve got to be able to guard them, we could not and end of story.”

In the same article Van Gundy mentions how Chris Bosh “destroyed” Orlando center Dwight Howard. Makes me feel good.

Not to be a bitch about things but one thing I noticed is that we have horrible communication in our interior defensive rotations. Bosh is left hung out to dry almost every time he comes out to help. Now he’s not the kind of guy that’ll turn back and give Bargnani or Parker a glare, but somebody (Sam?) needs to recognize that we need to get a LOT better in such key areas in order to actually contain a good offensive team over a series. It’s always a pain to watch Jamario Moon shoot jumpers but to his credit he’s gotten smarter and confidently dribbles in a couple steps to get the target within his limited range.

Normally a “heat check” happens when a player’s hit a few shots in a row and he wants to test whether he’s still in the zone. Carlos Delfino works the exact opposite way, his first couple shots are his heat checks. If they go in, he’ll keep shooting and if he makes them nobody complains. If he doesn’t make them, he’ll wait a few minutes and do another couple heat checks, if he’s still not making him, he’s useless on the night. Today, he made all his heat checks and it follows that he had a strong offensive game. Delfino is an extremely streaky shooter who hovers on the border of chucking far too frequently. He can’t be relied upon to provide consistent scoring, if he’s hitting his wide open jumpers presented to him by Calderon, it’s a good night but other than he’s hit and miss. Check out his recent scoring outputs:

8, 5, 0, 0, 3, 12, 2, 16, 14, 23, 26, 0, 0, 15, 18, 1, 11, 6, 7, 14, 7, 11, 7

The talk of freeing up cap space to sign Calderon often comes up but soon we’ll have to make a decision on Delfino. I doubt he’s worth more than 5M/yr and if we could just trade Kapono and give that money to Delfno, I’d call it a fair day.

Trade Deadline

The trade deadline is today and unless the coaching staff has a master plan to get production out of Kapono, he is the prime candidate to depart, not Juan Dixon. Case in point is this game: if he’s only managing to get 4 points in 14 minutes against a Magic team coming off a back-to-back, its hard to imagine how inconsequential he’ll be in the playoffs when the defense is locked in. In theory, he’s a great signing. People double Bosh and we need some outside shooting to offset that, but in reality he’s simply too easy to cover on the perimeter and there is no conscientious effort being made on the part of the coaching staff to actually get him in a rhythm leaving him to create on his own, which he can’t. I don’t believe Leo’s bullshit about Kapono not being a one-dimensional player and willing to put the ball on the floor. He’s missing the point completely: we didn’t bring him here to put the ball on the floor, just like we didn’t bring Dell Curry in here to be a swingman.

There are teams out there that could use outside shooting: Phoenix, San Antonio, LA Lakers, Golden State to name a few but Kapono’s contract is a bit on the ridiculous side to make him great trade bait. But then again, he is the best open jump shooter in the league and I find it hard to believe that there aren’t takers, even if they’re just willing to give expiring contracts in return. I just got done watching the Phoenix/Lakers game and the Suns need outside shooting and they might even do it at the expense of Kapono’s non-existent defense.

There’s also the Michael Pietrus for Juan Dixon and Joey Graham rumour that’s gaining momentum. I’m not sure if this trade will even have a ripple on the eventual record of the Raptors team, Pietrus is a good talent but at 6′ 6″ he’s a bit undersized to really help us with our rebounding problems. He’ll be able to help us out with our perimeter defense. Now his teammate, Andris Biedrins is somebody who would really help us out with some rebounding, shot-blocking and interior defense but Don Nelson isn’t demented enough to give him up.

Liners:

* Stan Van Gundy needs to relax. Taking one of two on the road on a back-to-back isn’t all that bad.

* I’m not one for the Jose Calderon/TJ Ford debate but it’s hard for a point guard to play any better than how Jose’s playing right now. I feel at ease every time he has the ball, even with the clock winding down or late in crunch time. 19 points, 13 assists, 8-10 FG.

* Andrea Bargnani was brutal tonight: 1-8 FG, 2 rebounds. He looked a lot like that Bargnani we started to loathe in January. If we lost this game, he’d be a big talking point.

* This is the easiest part of our schedule, we get to play the Knicks who got blown out by 40 in Philadelphia. It would dampen my spirits if we lose even one of the game against the Knicks.

* 127 point is a season high for the Raptors.

* How many times do we have to hear out the names of the TV crew in the truck? Chuck, stop yelling out their names and saying us how great they are. They’re mediocre as can be, hardly a game goes by where the auidence doesn’t miss at least three plays. Besides, if every time somebody got a shout-out for just doing their job, all we’d be doing is shouting shit out.

* Chris Bosh is The Top Rap.

Later.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , , | 39 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 »

Sam Mitchell loses the game by doing this: 3:22 4th Qtr – Calderon Substitution replaced by Ford

Posted by Arsenalist on November 7, 2007

Orlando Magic 105, Toronto Raptors 96

sam mitchell idiot reporter tj ford jose calderon substitution
What do you do when your team has just managed to cut down a 10 point deficit down to 2 with 3:22 left? Change the entire flow of the game by taking out the PG that’s driving the offense. How’s that sound for Coach of the Year type coaching? It wasn’t bad enough that after cutting the same lead down to four to start the fourth he opened the quarter with his bench only to see the Magic lead balloon back up to 10. After we worked hard to take the lead Mitchell chooses to replace Calderon in favor of Ford for no apparently reason. No. Apparent. Reason. We had the momentum, we had the crowd behind us, we even had Juan Dixon scoring off of Calderon penetrations and Mitchell chooses to f**k it all up.

There’s no problem with Ford playing the final three minutes but he’s been sitting down for 12 game minutes and is ice-cold, you can’t expect him to come in and light it up! That would be the most unnatural expectation and somehow in Mitchell’s manure filled mind he’s actually expecting Ford to play BETTER than how Calderon was playing when he was taken out, something that sounds impossible given the run this team was making with Calderon at the helm. I’ve never been a Sam Mitchell fan and losses like these just solidify my 3 year long stance that he’s got a pea sized brain when it comes to coaching. We should just hire him as a full-time motivator, maybe he can give pep-talks before each practice and get the team all riled up before games. Expecting anything more from him is like asking Homer Simpson to write a book report on Ulysses. F**k, what a stupid reference that was but I’m too pissed off to go back and delete it.

Every three Orlando hit was a dagger, Rashard Lewis drilled a few but his last one which took Orlando from being down one to up two did us in. Why was he open? Because our perimeter rotations are slow, real slow. Just ask Anthony Parker who always seems to be about half a second late coming back to challenge his man’s outside shot; he gets burned every time. Give credit to Chris Bosh, he was attacking the rim today and tried to resist the slutty temptress that is the 18 footer; 14-14 FTs for 26 points and 10 rebounds is a pretty good night against Dwight Howard (genetically engineered and tested by NASA) after a miserable night in Milwaukee. If you keep your expectations in check about Bosh, you’ll realize he’s a pretty good player, just not a superstar as everybody wants him to be.

For this team to get better we need to get some basics right, here’s some of them:

1. When doubling, don’t help off of a shooter. Just ask Hedo Turkoglu how lovely it feels when his man leaves him wide open just to attempt a swipe at Bogans driving down the lane. Oh, what’s that? You didn’t get the steal? Well at least you had an up-close view of Hedo draining one in your mug as you lunge and desperately try to get back.

2. The defensive possession does not end until you get the rebound. It’s almost like many of the players think that challenging the shot seems to be the end of the job, it’s not, you don’t have the ball and you need to get the rebound. On a team without a designated rebounder it’s imperative that we clear the defensive boards, when you don’t, bad shit happens. Tonight when we got out-rebounded 44-29 on the defensive glass, tonight that meant four more magic possessions which was the difference in the game.

3. Double team so it’s harder to make the outlet pass. The only semi-effective double teams happened when Dixon quickly doubled Howard in the post as soon as he started dribbling forcing him to make a decision. Other than that most of our double teams came from the strong side allowing the person being double teamed enough vision to pick from a plethora of players to pass the ball to, thus throwing our rotations out of whack. Also, you want the help to come from a big body so it’s harder for the double teamee to see, not from TJ Ford.

4. Run some curls. Don’t be so f***ing predictable. At last check we were a jump shooting team. Bargnani, Parker, Kapono, Dixon and Calderon are all capable of making a 15 footer so why we don’t run more curling plays which free the man up at the top of the key is puzzling. Right now we’re too easy to defend because our offense is too simple (seriously, I’ve seen more complex plays in pickup games). There isn’t a concerted effort being made to play to the strengths of our players, it’s just pick ‘n roll and see how it goes.

Just like our offensive sets, our rotations don’t have a strategy, they’re also done on-the-fly and without any thought or foresight. I’ve asked this before and I’ll ask it again, PLEASE GIVE ME A REASON WHY WE SHOULDN’T PLAY FORD AND CALDERON AT THE SAME TIME? Small-ball is a nice little trick used by jump-shooting athletic teams so why not us? Why? Why?! It just doesn’t make sense not to use two of your most potent tools at the same time? It’s like owning a plier and screwdriver but refusing to use them on the same project. Did that analogy make sense? Who cares though, it’s not like I’m about to go correct this post.

I’m getting really tired of the We really sucked but almost kinda won excuse. It’s getting old and has no validity. Our team has some issues that can only be fixed with correcting some basic Basketball 101 issues. That in itself is actually good news, of course having a real rebounder would help but that’s asking too much. Thanks for swinging by. Grab the feed.

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