Tip-In: Round One



Lacing Them Up – It’s hard to know where to start with this one. The Raptors had a chance to go 3-0 to start the season but ended up losing a close-fought match to what looks to be one of their toughest competitors in the East. It was a strange game as neither team looked particularly sharp on offence and between Toronto’s horrendous shooting and Boston’s turnovers, it wasn’t until the fourth quarter that it really looked like two top teams were going at it.

A Numbers Game – The first thing that sticks out for you as a Raptors’ fan obviously was Toronto’s dismal 36 per cent shooting from the field. You could argue that this was an aberration for such a good shooting team, but the truth is that the Raps looked tight early on and weren’t shooting with any confidence. Therefore it wasn’t much a surprise to me that shots weren’t dropping and that Bosh and Bargs were a combined 0 for 12 by half.

Next, was one of our keys to the game, bench play. Carlos Delfino, Jose Calderon and surprise, surprise, Juan Dixon were once again quite effective in spurts but offensively the bench struggled to buoy the starters. They scored only 21 points, the same number as Boston’s bench, thus negating any advantage Toronto should have maybe had in that domain.

Finally, the free throw line. Toronto did end up getting there 24 times as opposed to Boston’s 21, but in the first half we saw just how vulnerable this team can be when its jump shots aren’t falling. Similar to my post after Toronto’s loss in Spain, if Bosh is rendered ineffective inside and isn’t getting to the line, this team has a tough time creating open shots and that’s what we saw tonight – lots of standing around and forcing up J’s. Joey Graham wasn’t even in uniform (which was a surprise to me) so if Bosh isn’t getting to the charity stripe, other players on the Raptors need to get the job done in that regard.

The Turning Point: It’s tough to say there was a turning point in this game considering the close-fought loss. But KG’s fifth foul in the fourth quarter would have to be my pick in terms of allowing the Raptors to finally close the gap. Regardless of their woeful shooting, Toronto kept within about eight points most of the game and finally as Chris Bosh got going late in the game, they made their run. My one question though was when KG re-entered the game, why the Raptors didn’t look to attack him more aggressively to get him out. His play in OT with 10 of the Celtics 20 points, was the difference in the end.

Temperature Check: Hot – TJ Ford. Ford was the only Raptor who could find the basket on a consistent basis tonight as he had an amazing 32 points including two key 3’s to keep Toronto within striking distance. He got a bit Mike Jamesy at one point in the third quarter and had some needless turnovers, but without Ford’s offence this game wouldn’t have been close.

Cold – The rest of the Raptors. While TJ hit on over half of his shots from the field, as previously mentioned, the Raptors barely hit a third of theirs.

Even an impromtu appearce by Garbajosa couldn't help the Raptors' cold shooting...

Even an impromtu appearce by Garbajosa couldn't help the Raptors' cold shooting...

Hot – KG and Ray Allen. Both absolutely killed the Raptors in a variety of ways while Paul Pierce looked a bit lost in the offense tonight to me. At one point he and Ray Allen seemed to be having an intense discussion about where each should be on the court and while Jeff Clark at Celticsblog asked me about TJ’s performance, I wondered about Pierce’s role in regards to his new team-mates:

RaptorsHQ: Paul Pierce shot 4 of 17 in the game and looked lost at times. Has he become the third option on this club now and do you worry that at times he forces the issue in this new offence?

Celticsblog: No, I don't think he's the third option. Everyone has an off night once in
a while. I suppose it is possible that all three guys could have an off night at the same time, but lets just say I'll take my chances they won't. Pierce is best driving to the hoop and if he can't get there sometimes he'll fall back into jump shooting and iso mode. He's used to being the main option, so I could see him getting lost in the shuffle sometimes (he went off in game 1 against the Wizards when he was the only one of the three on the floor in the 2nd quarter). With that said, when he's on, he provides an element that the other two stars don't.

I hope they establish more of a rhythm so that they are all hitting on all cylinders, but they proved tonight that they can also take turns letting each other carry the team (Ray Allen early, KG in overtime) and make it work.

Good teams win ugly, close games and that's what they did. I fully expect the next game with Toronto to be just as tough.

I’m not sure if Ainge thought this through (considering I doubt he knew he was getting KG when he acquired Ray Allen) but like Jeff said, the three really do complement each other on the court, more so than say New Jersey’s top three. As the season goes on, I expect the three to get more comfortable with each other’s games and really take advantage of the combination of skills each brings to the table.

Hot: The CBC intro. Looked great in HD, and I thought the George Stromboulopoulos narration was a nice touch. I could however do without Elliotte Friedman who was a bit heavy on the Canadiana, although since it was the Raptors first game on CBC I suppose that was to be expected. And as an aside, the Kanye intro came across a lot better on TV than live…but it still could use a lot of work.

Moving On: As Howland stated to me after the game, it’s hard to learn much from this match as a Raptors’ fan. Boston didn’t come across as being a championship club but it’s so early in the season and Boston will undoubtedly sharpen up their offensive sets.

On the other side of things, it’s going to be tough for Toronto to shoot this bad again. Yes, they looked tight and forced the issue at times, but they also missed a ton of wide-open looks and put-backs.

So what can we learn? Well, for one, it’s Toronto’s defensive that has really impressed me through three games. Every player from Andrea Bargnani to Juan Dixon has come into the game and looked to be giving it 110 per cent at that end of the court, something I haven’t seen from a Raptors team in about five years. Even on the game-winning shot, it was a great set play by acting head coach Tom Thibodeau and even better shot by Ray Allen that sealed the deal, not a defensive lapse. Allen’s defender just couldn’t get around the KG screen in time to get to the corner and the rest of Boston’s long-range threats (House and Posey) did a great job spreading the court preventing Toronto rotations.

With Milwaukee on tap next, I’m expecting Toronto to keep up this defensive intensity and do a better job on offense. This was a good win by the Celtics, but I get the feeling that it was only round one of many to come.

FRANCHISE

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