Arsenalist

The Toronto Raptors Blog with an Arsenal touch

Posts Tagged ‘orlando magic’

Too excited about Orlando to focus on meaningless Bulls game

Posted by Arsenalist on April 16, 2008

It’s hard to care about the Bulls game tonight with the playoffs ready to go on Sunday in Orlando. We got the matchup we were literally begging for and its time to see what we can do with it. The pundits who think that the Raptors have a great chance of advancing are all assuming that the Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh matchup will play to a wash, I’m not sure if that’s going to be the case. Needless to say, a stellar series from Chris Bosh is priority #1 for the Raptors because it also means Howard needs to work on the defensive end. The general feeling is that Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglo can be contained by the Moon/Delfino/Parker triumvirate but given our defensive record this season, that’s not even close to a guarantee. There’s also the Stan van Gundy and Sam Mitchell matchup that we have to worry about. What I’m trying to hammer home is that we’re the underdog in this series and need to play like one.

Look at me prancing around like a school girl talking about the playoffs, we got a meaningless game tonight. Chicago’s got all the incentive in the world to lose this one, Charlotte’s playing Philly who’ll be resting players and a Charlotte win and a Bulls loss would mean they’d be tied record-wise and the Bulls have an even shot at ping pong balls. Or the Bulls could try to end the season on a high and come out firing, who really cares? I sure don’t. The only thing to look forward to here is the bench getting some good run: Joey G, Primoz, Humphries, Kapono and Baston all need to play 20-25 minutes to get their legs under them before the playoffs start. There’ll be a lot of key possessions in the playoffs where Graham’s defensive skills, Humphries’ hustle, Kapono’s shooting and Baston’s er..um..uhh…length?….might come in handy so its good to warm these guys up.

The containment of Dwight Howard is one of the top priorities for the Raptors and Rasho Nesterovic smells a double team coming to help him out. I’d let Rasho handle Howard one-on-one until it becomes absolutely clear that he needs help, he’s a very good man-defender and uses his wide frame very well. Howard obviously has the quickness and strength over Rasho but the Raptor can counter with crafty footwork and positioning that can throw Howard off his offensive game.

Raptors TV numbers are higher than last year but still somewhat disappointing. The TV execs think that for the numbers to be higher, the Raptors need to go on a playoff run – that’s apparently one of the main reasons networks bother with the Raptors.

CNN/SI has us finishing behind the 76ers and Hawks in the final power rankings – seems about right, no? On a side note, if any 76er fan thinks their team got cheated out of the 6th spot by the refs against Cleveland, consider that the Raptors got robbed in Atlanta, so it evens out. Good luck against Detroit. The Eastern Conference series to keep an eye on his the Cleveland/Washington one – Washington feels they would’ve won this series last year hadn’t it been for major injuries and Deshawn Stevenson calling Lebron James overrated is just adding fuel to the fire. The other one that I want to watch is Boston v Atlanta or in other words, Rondo v Bibby, the Hawks won’t make it easy for the Celtics.

Finally, lets end with some Q & A from Doug Smith’s disappointing blog (Yeah, I’m a Grange guy myself):

Doug, just watched AB throw up 3 bricks from behind the arc against Detroit and wondered how long he’s been shooting so horribly. I looked it up and he’s been under 30 per cent since the All-Star break. Ouch. He doesn’t rebound, doesn’t defend, and now he can’t shoot. At what point do the Raptors coaches tell him to screw throwing up 3 pointers and exclusively start from the block? (Not that he does that effectively either) Or do you think he should just keep shooting? – Nathan J, Toronto

Let me take this one Doug, thanks. Nathan, there’s only so much the coaches can do. I’m sure Sam tells Bargnani to stop being so one-dimensional in his offensive game but the guy sincerely lacks the skills and footwork to actually do anything but shoot. I know its harsh but thats where his game is right now. The poor bastard actually does try to drive but with sporadic success. His post-up game is too weak and asking him to start developing one with the playoffs one game away doesn’t make sense. The best thing he can do for us right now is start hitting his outside shots, so yeah, I do think he should just keep shooting because its too late in the season to actually make a turnaround. If by some miracle and God’s blessing he figures out how to drive to the rim and finish, I’ll take it but don’t bet on it. Maybe once John Lucas has gone all Mickey Goldmill on him in the summer, we can start seeing the things that you’re hoping for.

Till after the game, meanwhile here’s Stewie Griffin’s reaction to the 2 Girls 1 Cup video.

Posted in Raptors, Sports | Tagged: , , | 7 Comments »

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

Posted by Arsenalist on March 4, 2008

Toronto Raptors 87, Orlando Magic 102

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miami tomorrow, winnable? Hmmm.

Liners:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 »

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.

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