Lacing Them Up –
I’m not really even sure where to start breaking last night’s game down. I could rant, I could rave, but I think I’ve been past that point for about three weeks now.
It’s just come down to this.
A Toronto team, desperately looking to play Orlando (from what we’ve been told), needed an 11 point fourth quarter from Miami in order to secure its 41st win of the season, and then needed a controversial call against the 76ers in order to pin down the sixth seed.
Yes, we got Orlando in round one.
But forget Fan-A-Palooza last night, the game was a lot closer to D League-Palooza. Toronto came out flat in an important game yet again, looked completely lost at both ends of the court for three quarters of the game, and only thanks to the completely inferior talent which the Heat trotted out did the Raps eventually wrestle away this win.
So you’ll forgive me if I had the urge to throw something at the TV when post-game, Chris Bosh stood at center court and applauded and gestured for the fans to make noise in response to the win. Bosh was decent, but hardly dominant, and the rest of his team was putrid at times making CB4’s recent comments that much tougher to swallow.
This team just hasn’t played well in a long time and right now and could use a serious injection of confidence before the playoffs kick off.
In fact confidence is a funny thing.
You could see that the more turnovers Toronto racked up last night, and the more shots they forced up, the more Miami got into the game and jumped on Toronto. Miami seemed to say to itself "hey, this team is overrated, we can take these guys!" while the Raptors, showed about as much confidence as a 42 year-old virgin heading to a brothel.
A Numbers Game – 28 to 25.
Once again, Toronto was outscored in the first quarter. No surprise there. But giving up 28 points to MIAMI?? And only scoring 25? Simply inexcusable. The Raptors in the end managed to hold Miami to 37 per cent shooting, but give me a break; do I REALLY need to go down the roster of players the Heat are currently employing?
The Turning Point –
The turning point in this one was that Toronto was playing the Miami Heat. As terrible as Toronto played (and they put the w in wretched last night), you got the feeling that eventually Miami would remember they were essentially a higher salaried version of Rod Benson’s Dakota Wizards, and fade into the background. Sure enough, that’s what happened and Toronto eventually cruised to the victory.
Temperature Check –
Hot – Rasho Nesterovic. The guy plays 42 minutes, far more than any other Raptor, hits 10 of his 19 shots for 20 points, pulls down seven boards, blocks two shots and dishes out two assists. Without Rasho, Toronto might have found themselves in a HUGE hole early on
Cold – The Toronto Raptors. We’re not even going to get into Miami. Yes the Heat are bad, we know that; you could easily throw the whole team in the ice box for this section. But how can Toronto explain last night’s performance? It was as if someone put the entire team in a flux capacitor, and went back in time two years to training camp. I mean, did that not look like a pre-season match last night or what? I really have no answers here folks. When Toronto played poorly in the past few weeks you could point to tangible things like rebounding, effort, shot selection, perimeter defense etc, etc. But you can’t even do that now! Anthony Parker last night threw two passes to absolutely no one! Bosh and others did the same, completely missing guys coming off curls and posting up. It was as if it was the first time any of these guys played together! You can say "they have to fix things quick" all you want but the fact of the matter is that we’ve been saying that for two weeks and now, there’s only one game left in the season. My hope is the team once in the playoffs, just takes the etch-a-sketch to this regular season and starts fresh.
Moving On –
I think even more discouraging than the abysmal play against Miami, was flipping a few stations over on the Sports Pack and seeing the 76ers, now relegated to seventh thanks to their loss to Cleveland, play their asses off, fighting for their playoff lives and seeing the Cavs do the same. I haven’t seen that sort of effort and grit from Toronto since…
…well, let’s see the schedule here…
…do de do…
…ok…since beating Orlando on February 20, 127-110.
I’m not even joking – take a look back. Yes there were some decent wins over the likes of Detroit, New Jersey and Indiana mixed in there but when was the last time you remember seeing a complete team effort by Toronto against another above-average club that was playing its best? Look at the rest of the Raps’ wins in that stretch: Charlotte, Seattle, Miami, New York…ugh.
So I guess I’ll end it on this note.
Right now I’m happy that Toronto ended up with the sixth seed. The match-up with Orlando is BY FAR their best hope at getting out of the first round.
However right now I’m sorry, I don’t see them winning a game.
If you can’t easily beat a team that features Mark Blount shooting 3’s and throwing up shots that make Ike Austin look pretty, you have problems.
If you can’t keep Kasib Powell from single-handily out-rebounding your entire team, you have problems.
And if you can’t keep Daequan Cook, yes, he of the 37.5 per cent shooting percentage, from scorching you for 22 points, you have problems.
Right now Toronto just looks "happy to be there" in terms of their playoff seeding. I don’t expect them to beat Chicago on Wednesday night, and in fact I hope Mitchell starts the game with Delfino, Joey Graham, Hump and Primoz along with Jose or TJ.
Maybe these guys can bring some new energy and intensity because right now, the starters in particular look about as confused as Jack Armstrong trying to answer questions on "Ask the Expert."
Although apparently Plato has a strong low-post game…