The last home game in a while, and no team wants to go 0-6 at home to start the year so you'd think after Tuesday's close loss to the same team, the Raptors would come out fired up. Apparently not in the first quarter. Like so many games before, the Raps let the 76ers get out to a roaring start (40 Philli points in the first quarter alone!) and the Raps found themselves down by 20 at one point. Again the bench gave the team a lift and slowly the young-guns chipped away at the lead. In fact, there was a brief moment in the third quarter where the game was tied. In the end however, even with the amazing performance of Mike James (38 points!), much to the chagrin of the hyped ACC crowd, it was not enough. The Raptors lost 121-115 and their season record fell to 0-8.
On the night the Raptors shot 54.2% while Philadelphia shot slightly better at 54.4%. The Raptors did a better job at the free throw line getting there 25 times and converting on 80% of them. The 76ers however took 8 more attempts for 33 in total, hitting for 78.8%. And the Raptors did a decent job on the glass losing 34 to 29 in that department but none of these statistics told this game's real story. What really sunk the Raptors was simply that in the first quarter the 76ers did not miss. Iverson is known as a streaky shooter and Iguodala is hardly a known three point bomber but both they Chris Webber and Kyle Korver came out on fire hitting everything contested or not.
Perhaps the most heartbreaking part of the evening was when late in the game the Raptors had just stopped the 76ers and were looking to attempt to take the lead. Chris Bosh looked to grab the rebound while all alone, but in being anxious to get the ball moving in the other direction, he fumbled it out of bounds. Consequently the 76ers called a time-out with 6 on the shot clock and C-Webb hit a jumper from 10 feet out. After that, the Raps just couldn't get over the hump. It was an emotional game, for the last 36 minutes they played well, but the upcoming road trip is going to be that much harder now that win number 1 has to come from outside of the ACC.
Sam Mitchell: As much as we have questioned his subbing patterns this year Mitchell coached a great game last night. In the first half he used time-outs like they were a dime a dozen and rightfully so. When the team starts slow you must do whatever it takes to get them going. The guys have to realize the story of the tortoise and the hare does not apply in basketball. In the context of a game (not rebuilding) you always want to go hard, for 48 minutes. Mitchell did that tonight, he was animated, he wanted this game and you could tell he was doing everything in his power to get this team the win. He made great uses of time-outs including a one when the team tightened up when they got close and turned the ball over on consecutive possessions. Mitchell proved he is learning and is becoming a good manager of the game.
Joey G: He is making the transition from playing the three/four in college to the two and three positions in the NBA quite nicely. Fans got a glimpse tonight of what he can bring in terms of aerial acrobatics and his ability to get to the line. He had a couple of offensive fouls called against him, some of which were simply incorrect. It was like if you didn't go up with two hands you were called for pushing off....except if your jersey said Iverson on the back. It is still going to be a steep learning curve for Graham but tonight we saw some good things. It would however be nice to see him crash the boards a little more or corral some of the rebounds he does get his hands on.
Mike James: Man if there was ever a night you realized what a great move Babcock made in trading Rafer it was tonight. Mike James was HUGE tonight, creating his own shot, scoring from everywhere, passing the rock and more importantly playing tough D. Love his offensive output, but I would trade it all in for this defensive effort on a regular basis. This guy has heart. That being said, you can still tell he doesn't completely trust his new mates, but Mike was the player of the game tonight. He has to take on a lot, in particular when Mitchell fields three rookies, Bosh and James. And just for the record the best line-up we have IS with the three rookies, Bosh and James...all except Bosh being products of the new Raptors' management. Rafer who?
Jalen Rose: Nah, just kidding.
The 5 Spot: Does this team even have a center? Apparently not. Against teams like the 76ers you don't really need a big man to play Steven "Stringbean" Hunter, but the next few match-ups (Heat, Phoenix etc.) have some brutes to deal with. We side with some of our readers when we say "Free Hoffa"! Give him minutes, play him until he fouls out, let him know that two quick fouls won't give him the yank! I mean what...are we SAVING him for later in the game? For clutch time? We'll be selling "Free Hoffa" shirts soon, and printing them ASAP as we watch Iggy throw daggers into ever Raptors run. A.I. version II was amazing tonight, hitting six three. If the rumours are true and the Hoffa pick was Jack McClosky's, he should simply hang his head in shame. How do you pass on this talent? How?
Jalen Rose: Ok, this time not kidding. When was the last time Jalen had a game like this?...oh wait...all season so far. You are a veteran player, a supposed leader and the rookies have never played back-to-backs and this is how you show them what it is to be a professional and play like it's your last game? Brutal. Thing about it is that even with Rose riding the pine we still scored like it was no-body's business. Can someone say Keith Van Horn? Penny Hardaway? Paul Shirley?
Rookie Mistakes: The rookies are taking their lumps. At one moment they show flashes of brilliance, at others they turn the ball over at very inopportune times. But I would rather watch these rookies and think of what this team could be then watch the teams of the past (i.e. VC) knowing the best we could hope for is just over .500, maybe a playoff spot, and then a guaranteed kick in the teeth in the first round. Our rooks have game, but until they flourish there will be moments where you'll wish they got to the next level just a little bit quicker.
Defense: To quote Jack Armstrong, "The D is the key!". Never have words rung more true then these. No one can stop Allen Iverson but tonight Iverson's team-mates did almost as much damage. It was another game where the opposing team simply had too many open looks and as a result shot a high percentage. CV Smooth had some shining moments tonight but he simply missed too many assignments on the defensive end. Mike James made sure he heard about it as well. As a result Charlie played better in the last five minutes, but last time I checked a game had 48.
So what next for this team? The Raptors' best shot on paper of a win obviously comes this Friday against the equally inexperienced Boston Celtics. With a loss last night to Seattle the Celtics record stands at 3-5...however that's still 3 more wins then the Raptors at this point. After the Celtics game the Raptors will be off on a tough Western Conference road trip which does not bode well as a confidence booster. Therefore the Boston game is that much more of a "must-win." With a loss to the Celtics and the prospects facing them on the Western Conference road trip, the Raptors could in fact find themselves staring down that morbid 0-17 Clippers record for futility. Oh...and you'll never guess who was a member of that 0-17 squad...newest Raptor signee Darrick Martin, who was signed by the team yesterday to fill the third string point guard role. With a coach and now a player from that 0-17 Clippers squad, let's hope this isn't an omen.