Following the loss to Houston all of the talk surrounded the behind closed doors meeting held between Mitchell and Bosh. Clearly there needed to be some discussion as the Raptors…well…they just didn’t look like the Raptors.
So heading into the final game of 2007 (Happy New Year to everyone from the HQ) all eyes were looking to see what, if anything, would be different with this team. Different it was. The Raps looked like a team possessed with getting to the rim, which has been a long time coming and it all started with CB4.
Right way Chris exerted his will against Tyson Chandler, Hilton Armstrong or whoever else Byron Scott cared to use against the franchise player. Bosh consistently drove to the hoop (99% of the time to the left, can you imagine if he could no right?!) and his desire to attack the rim was contagious. Jamario Moon re-appeared on the scene last night and showed no mercy as he attacked the rim and provided highlight reel dunks. Anthony Parker and Calderon also deserve credit for getting to the rim. For the Raps on this evening the game plan had changed and the game plan resulted in a W.
Of course this was not a blow-out by any stretch and the game itself was very entertaining. The Hornets, in particular Chris Paul, put up a hell of a fight and forced the Raps into a fourth quarter hole. He and David West did an excellent job playing off one another and creating open looks for themselves and for others. Chris Paul, only in his second year is playing like a veteran. When his team looked sluggish and was allowing the Raps to build a lead his vocal leadership helped right the ship. He is everything you would ever want in a PG…but luckily for the Raps his free-throw shooting could use a little work.
The Turning Point:
In terms of the game itself the turning point was the three missed free throws by CP3. These missed were devastating. The Raps had clawed back from a 10 point deficit and because of these misses they were able to just barely hold-on for the win. Clearly Paul can’t be blamed for the loss and he was magnificent, but these were shots he had to make.
Now from a big picture standpoint I believe that this game could be the turning point for the season. After the closed door meetings to see the Raps come out and play such a high energy game that resulted in a big W on the road, this could be the spring board for things ahead. The team not only attacked the rim and made the game much easier, but it was also the night when Bargnani came back onto the radar. Il Mago looked way better then he has in months and this was exactly the type of game he needed to get his season back on track. Although he was far from perfect he looked assertive, more confident, and on the heels on Franchise discussing how the Raps need more production for the starters, managed 17 points, and maybe more importantly 6 trips to the line. There’s no guarantee here, but this is the kind of game that can turn the tides and one could look back on and say, "Things changed that night".
A Numbers Game:
The number of games where the Raps starters have really carried the load offensively have been few and far between so when you look at the box score and see that the starters put up all but 7 of the Raps points last night it really is that much more surprising. Mitchell clearly rode Calderon, Parker, Moon, Bosh and Bargs and they produced. An offensive outburst from these guys is just what the doctor ordered heading into 2008.
28 and 4.
The Paul/Calderon match-up was a great one to watch and between the two of them they had 28 assists and only four turnovers. There was some great PG play on the floor last night. In fact, watching these two guys got me thinking about how many great PG’s there are in the league today which is great for basketball on a whole but even better for getting to watch entertaining ball. From a PG standpoint the league is in pretty good shape, and with a few potential great one’s in the upcoming draft it’s got me excited about how exciting basketball is going to be for the next 10 years.
Hot – David West. Damn this guy is a player. Inside, outside, left hand, right hand, he can do it all. He is not widely known around the league but you have to believe he will be if he keeps playing at this level. He was simply on fire this last evening of 2007.
Cold – Tyson Chandler. Just a bad game for a guy who has really turned his career around. He got in foul trouble early and just couldn’t stay on the floor. This couldn’t have happened at a better time for the Raps as even with Chandler spending the majority of his evening on the bench the Raps were still out-rebounded by 9. His lack of minutes also meant on a night when the Raps decided it was time to get to the hoop there was no shot blocking presence most of the time.
The Raptors as a Whole: Well you can’t say this road swing was a success, ad you can’t say it was a failure. 3-4 ain’t so bad folks considering the competition (the team even ran into the Blazers at the worst possible time). In fact, one game below .500 should be consider a moderate success as it kept the Raps right around the .500 mark for the season and the team really didn’t lose any ground. Perhaps more importantly the team may have learned a very valuable lesson which could help get them back on a winning track.
Moving On: So what is this lesson or "moral of the story"? It’s that the Raps are no different then anyone else. You start inside and work your way out. No bones about it. Trying it the other way just is not a recipe for success. Even if you have a bench full of shooters and I am sure this came out when Mitchell and Bosh cleared the air. It has to start with Bosh and provided we see efforts like we did last night, then CB4 won’t have to make any more YouTube clips campaigning for All-Star votes. His play will do all the talking.
To me, on this fust day of 2008 it all seems to simple all of a sudden. For the Raps to be successful it all starts and ends with CB4 and his willingness to not only get to the hoop, but push his teammates to do the same. If this happens then it is much more likely that Colangelo will start seeing better returns on his investments this year as guys like Kapono and Delfino will start seeing much cleaner looks from behind the arc.
Let’s see if the Raps can learn from the last game of 07 and carry over this kind of play into 2008.