Lacing Them Up –
Welcome to the official second half of the season. The games mean more; playoff seeding is now being determined and the intensity goes up a notch. For most players the All-Star break is a time to rest, heal the bumps and bruises, and re-focus. So, with the first game after the break against the Orlando Magic, it was up to the Raps to start off on the right foot.
Facing the Man-child in Dwight Howard, the task was not going to be an easy one. Although the Pistons on the previous evening had done a solid job against the "star" of All-Star weekend, the Raps simply don’t have the same front court depth as Detroit. As a result, Sam Mitchell and his crew had to take their chances with the double team and hope for some missed shots.
Luckily for the Raps the Magic did miss shots, and the Raps walked off the court with a win in this extremely high scoring affair.
A Numbers Game -
Simply put, this game was all about number 4 and number 8. CB4 and Calderon played out of their minds on this evening. Bosh came through with a 40 point outburst on an amazing 14-16 from the field. Not to be outdone, Calderon was 8-10 from the floor and also dished out 13 assists. The way these guys played was almost flawless. On top of the ridiculous shooting they were +28 and +32 respectively in the +/- category. The Orlando Magic simply didn’t have an answer for either one of these guys and as a result they fell behind early and could not catch-up.
The other number that clearly jumps off the page is the crazy number of assists the Raps had. On 47 made field goals the Raps had a remarkable 33 assists.
The Turning Point –
Everything seemed to go the Raps way tonight. This Orlando team is no easy match-up. Although their game plan is relatively simple one (give it to Howard who will pass out of the double, swing and shoot the 3) they have a very potent offence given the great collection of shooters surrounding Dwight Howard. They are the only team in the league with three guys with over 100 three’s made (Bogans, Lewis and Hedo).
The problem with Orlando is that when the shots are not falling, as was the case tonight (9-28 from downtown) they are not strong enough defensively to keep the game close. Much like the Raps, when their Plan A is not working they don’t seem to have a Plan B to turn to.
With the early struggles and the Raps shooting a high percentage and never really cooling off, there was no real turning point.
Temperature Check –
Carlos Delfino – Hot - Outside of the amazing performance put on by Bosh and Calderon much of the credit for tonight’s win belongs to Delfino. He was in the zone from beyond the arc and hit many key shots when the offence started to become stagnant. Outside of his shooting Delfino did a great job with his new duties. Mitchell really mixed things up on this night as during the second half he had Delfino run the point with Calderon at the two guard spot. Initially I was questioning the approach but it could not have worked out any better. Delfino did a steady job handling the ball despite some intense pressure and Calderon had some open looks for 3 that he nailed.
The obvious question now is whether this game was enough to show BC that he can move Dixon and/or Martin if there are any takers. As a third option running the point I am comfortable that Delfino can do a decent job, but let’s still hope that Ford can come back healthy once and for all.
Dwight Howard – Luke Warm – Despite the ridiculous numbers on this evening Howard didn’t impress me all that much. He still relies on his huge size advantage and has no offensive game to speak of outside of five feet. Even though he had 12 boards many of those came late when the game was out of reach as opposed to early when the Orlando shots were not dropping and they would have had more value. No doubt he is a specimen but I think it is evident that the Magic need another big man to put beside him. As an aside, Howard was really good from the ling tonight. There was some discussion on the site about how he can kill your fantasy squad with his FT shooting but I have to believe he will improve in that area. His mechanics are fairly good and clearly he can hit them at a decent rate.
Rashard Lewis – Cold – Outside of Howard, the other guy on the Magic roster that would benefit from the acquisition of another big man is Rashard Lewis. Playing him at the four just doesn’t make much sense. He is extremely talented but despite his size he doesn’t belong in the painted area. His rebounding is suspect (see his 4 boards in 44 minutes) and having to defend bigger bodies wears him down. If the Magic want the best return on their HUGE investment they better find a way to move him to the three.
Moving On –
A great start to the second half for the Raps. Everyone contributed (save for Bargs who just had a tough night) and they can now look to build some momentum. Of course before the next game is the trade deadline. Some interesting rumours floating around and the arms race in the West continues as San Antonio added Kurt Thomas.
The question I have is whether this was the last we see of any players on the Raps squad. Could Dixon be moved? Graham? Kapono? If this was the last game for any of these guys they definitely went out on a high note.
The trade deadline is fast approaching…