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Tip In: As the Game Goes

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One of my favorite reads on the site this year recap wise was Chapman's Running Diary for the Atlanta game. On this Friday night I thought I would give it a shot and see where it took me. This is completely unedited (spell-check excluded) and as you will soon see I eat my words while the Nuggets feed it to the Raps.

PRE-GAME

7:03: Ahh Adnan Virk. Love this guy. Someone should give the Score an award of Court-Surfing….but wait…

7:04: No Chuck? Not sure if this is bad omen or not. Leo suggests the vets have to step up for the team to get over the hump…..hmmm….I would suggest that Mo P and Mike James are holding their weight. Sherman Hamilton said something completely irrelevant.

7:07: There’s that intro…no better now than it was on day 2.

7:09: You can tell Leo is not totally comfortable with this. He’s not a lead guy. Getting the feeling he is trying to recite Chuck’s lines. The only one I care to hear is “Raptors win!”.

7:10: An injured Camby (Toronto fans are used to that) and K-Mart in civvies. I wonder if Kiki wishes he could get a K-Mart special on Martin’s contract? All those rumours of the Nuggets trading him are not rumours. This guy is overpaid and injured. His production per dollar is terrible.

FIRST QUARTER

7:11: Andre Miller is going right at James. At least James is sticking with his man this time.

7:16: Raps are 0-7 from the floor. Hamilton suggests the Raps need to be crisper. Crisper? Not sure what this means. Is he suggesting crackers?

7:19: What did Ruben Patterson have for lunch today? Pure energy? A Ruben sandwhich?

7:21: First Time-out. Mike James with 10 early points. Hate to sound like broken record but where would we be without him?

7:23: Raptors have tied the all-time record for consecutive threes. I think this is the first time since the trade I have seen a Vince Carter Raptor highlight. One too many.

7:26: I am not sure but did Eric Williams grow? That is the only reason I can think of to explain him playing a lot of time at the 5. Forget that, not a lot of time, but rather any time at all.

7:32: The X-Factors for the game are Andre Miller and CV Smooth. How exactly are starters x-factors? This needs to be re-thought.

7:33: Greg Buckner jacking 3’s? YES PLEASE.

7:34: Greg Buckner nails a three. I ate my words. Not nearly as good as the PC chocolate ice-cream I’m loving.

7:34: Greg Buckner air-ball. How’s that for an up and down final minute.

SECOND QUARTER:

7:36: USA beat South Africa 17-0. Too bad for Canada. I hate seeing a 2-1 team not make the next-round of the WBC.

7:40: MoP with the missed free-throw. Cannot remember the last time that happened.

7:41: Took the Suns less time than the Raps to find their new GM. D’Antoni now has his plate full.

7:45: Charlie in the post. He is so money from in there. Hopefully someone on the coaching staff is noticing how much more efficient he is in there.

7:48: Hamilton just called Boykins deceptively smart…….not sure there is such a thing. For his sake I hope Hamilton is deceptively smart. I’m real close to watching this game on mute.

7:54: 19-6 bench scoring for the Nuggets at this point. Memo to Colangelo re: Things to do in the off-season….(i) big man, (ii) slasher, and (iii) scoring off the bench.

7:55: Leo is a little more settled in the role of play-by-play, and no Swirk sayings. At least he is not trying to be something he isn’t…unlike Francisco Elson who is trying to be an average basketball player.

7:57: Andre Miller is taking it to the hoop every time. He would be perfect in a Raps uni.

8:05: Carmelo looks to have tweaked his knee and he is icing through half….a half where the Nuggets lead by 3.

8:09: Back to the “Baller” Adnan Virk.

THIRD QUARTER

8:20: Jim Todd said there was half a dozen things the team needs to do better and just talked himself out of breath. If he ever leaves coaching he must go into commentary. Maybe he can sub in for Sherman now.

8:23: Someone needs to ask Mitchell why Eric Williams is playing. Is this somehow increasing his value? Are we trying to make him our Boris Diaw, because this clearly is not working.

8:29: Raps looking really slow on defense. Bonner checks in. Not sure how this helps.

8:30: Carmelo heading back to the locker room. The Nuggets really can’t afford another injury and the thought of seeing Buckner getting more minutes may be detrimental to my viewing pleasure.

8:31: Mike James with the CRAM. Oh my. Where’s CHUCK?! You know at home Chuck jumped out of bed with a Kaboom!

8:34: Right on cue the Raps D starting to pick it up. I refuse to believe this is because Bonner is in the game. But he did just take a nice charge.

8:36: All Andre Miller does is create opportunities. Good things happen with a strong PG who consistently goes to the hoop. He has 7 assists at this point.

8:39: This game is getting ugly. I know shooters are supposed to shoot their way out of a slump but maybe Mo and his 2-13 ought to take a break.

8:42: Looks doubtful that ‘Melo comes back. Suddenly this is a game the Raps SHOULD win, but they have to pick up the intensity!

8:46: Still thinking about the Mike James cram….and apparently his kids stole the camera. Sherman thinks that is "awesome". I am pretty sure Sherman is talking about Mrs. Space Mountain.

8:49: 76-68 Nuggets at the end of the third with Buckner hitting a 3. Typing his name makes me think of Bucknell who beat Holy Cross tonight. Another bracket buster if they make the tourney.

FOURTH QUARTER

8:52: Nuggets had 19 second chance points in the third quarter alone. To state the obvious, that is not good. I can’t help but think a Pape, CB4 and CV Smooth front-court would help stop this bleeding.

8:53: Buckner is on FIRE with another three! Raps suddenly stuck 14 and I feel like I jinxed the team with my earlier comments.

8:54: Buckner for three. I am starting to loath myself.

8:57: Raps cannot buy a hoop and little Earl has been using that mean cross-over all night. The Nuggets have to go back to Buckner.

8:59: Charlie has seen the ball in the post ONCE since his hoop in the paint.

9:00: DeMarr Johnson just dunked. There is no question in my mind now that the Raps are going to lose a game they should have one. I do expect one more run.

9:02: Enough of Syracuse victory Leo. It's not like your kid got any time. Wait.....the volume just cut out! Maybe the Score thought Sherman needs to be muted on a whole…..damn audio is back.

9:03: Not sure why the Nuggets are going away from Buckner. The fact that they don’t have a play in the repertoire for Buckner probably has something to do with it. Can you imagine George Karl introducing that into practice…. “K guys lets practice the play for Buckner.” I see all the Nuggets including Buckner leaving the gym as he says that.

9:06: Mike James now has 5 fouls.

9:08: Raptor shown jumping over the Dance Pak. Can’t help but wonder if they work out here.

9:10: Lil’ Earl just fouled Mo on the three attempt. This makes me think two things: (1) Has Boykins not seen Mo P shoot tonight? (2) Did he think he was actually going to BLOCK it?

9:11: Mo missed all three shots. This guy needs a rest like George Karl needs this. James has now fouled out.

9:13: Three minutes left in the game. The Raps are spent. Mitchell needs to put Graham, Pape, Eric, Loren and Martin on the floor. The starters are tired and we can’t afford an injury. Why are the starters still out there?

9:16: Tonight’s game was a great example of how important a deep bench is. There is some talent on the bench, but regardless of how much the Raps young gunz develop we still need another scorer. Gerald Wallace anyone?

9:22: Stat line of the night: Reggie Evans: 0 points. 20 rebounds. If he keeps this up Kiki will be under more pressure to send K-Mart to the check-out counter.

9:24: Game ends. Fans boo. How can they boo? I had to sit through Sherman Hamilton commentary.

HOWLAND


FRANCHISE'S THOUGHTS

While Howland had this thing covered, being at the game tonight, I had to add a few thoughts.

1. I'm VERY quickly losing my patience with Sam Mitchell. I've been a pretty "let's give this guy a chance" with Mitchell since he started coaching the team and think he's generally got a great rapport with his players and gets them to play hard everynight. HOWEVER...I'm at a loss to understand his rotations and this was never more evident than tonight. As one of our readers so aptly pointed out, the starters are worn out. Again tonight Mitchell gave over 40 minutes to Bosh and Peterson and had James not been in foul trouble, he would have been over that amount as well. Poor Mo still played his heart out (somehow still getting 20 points, six rebounds and four assists)but shot terribly from the field as it really looked that he just didn't have the lift in his shot that he's had of late. Playing an up-tempo Denver Nuggets squad Mitchell decided to once again start Eric Williams, let Bonner run wild and forget everyone else. I'm sorry, but Bonner needs 14 minutes a game, maybe 20 so he can grab some key boards, get some tip-in's, and hit some open three pointers. But 33 MINUTES? Pape Sow was very effective when he played yet for some reason he remains pinned to the bench! As I mentioned in Wednesday's recap, how can this team improve if the kids can't play? The worst part of this is that it's a catch-22. You don't play the kids, so they have no confidence and don't play well. They don't play well, so Mitchell has no faith in them and lets his starters play all 48 minutes if he can. Colangelo's gotta do something here.

2. The Raptors Defensive IQ is close to 0. I was seated at one end tonight and thus spent a good time examining the Raptors defensive schemes in their own end (yes, I'm a bit of a tactician) and well...there aren't many. After watching Earl Boykins slice Toronto up I realized something for the first time this season...very few of the Raptors seem to know how to play defensively. I want to clarify this point however as I don't mean the players don't try, or don't have the athletic ability to defend; and this has nothing to do with any lack of coaching by Sam Mitchell...I'm just not convinced that any coach could instill these defensive ideals in the players. Take Mike James...quick enough to guard players his size and position one on one...however for some reason left his man at the end of the game Wednesday night to cover Lebron thus resulting in Damon Jones open three-point shot. And Charlie Villanueva...makes some spectacular blocks and has been decent one-on-one guarding other small forwards...however when one of his perimeter teammates gets beat, he's constantly late rotating! And this goes for Matt Bonner, Jose Calderon, Joey Graham, Rafael Araujo and even Chris Bosh at times. The one player who always seems to be trying to get into the right place and who is out there directing traffic is Morris Peterson...but he needs some help, especially if Pape Sow continues to be given spotty playing time. Tonight Andre Miller and Earl Boykins were giving the Raptors fits...when one of them penetrated they either had a clear path to the basket to score or draw the foul or had Toronto running around in circles on switches enabling them to find open shooters. And each possession was the same except for when Pape Sow was banging bodies, aggressively coming out on players and doing the little things defensively...oh...for a whole Sam Mitchell approved six minutes...

3. Mike James is a lot more valuable to this team than most fans realize. Yes he's Mr. Space Mountain and at times takes shots that would make Jalen Rose blush. But with Calderon's struggles, James is the ONLY player on this team who can break down defenders off the dribble, create his own shot AND get others involved. He was a very respectable 11 for 22 from the field and while maybe he shouldn't be taking 22 shots, you've gotta ask yourself, if not, than who's going to score for this team besides Chris Bosh? I love Morris Peterson and what he brings to this team each night...but he's still much more of a spot-up shooter and player who thrives as a third option in a system like this. He effectively comes off screens and hits open shots but is not someone who can use his quickness to get to the basket at will. James is.

I guess these three points really lead to my final conclusion. I feel that this Sunday's game is going to be really telling of what we as fans may have to expect for the remainder of the season. Facing a tough Indiana team a loss, especially a close one, could really put a final nail in this season's coffin. The team (or should I say the 6 players who played tonight) looked physcially exausted from the previous schedule and amount of minutes they've been logging and I'm reiterating that the team may be mentally worn out from all the recent close losses. For the first time since the Raptors got blown out by the Pistons a few months ago, Toronto didn't look to have the fire it's had to keep competing down to the end and if Toronto doesn't give much effort Sunday, than my worry is that in the players minds' perhaps already this season couldn't be over soon enough for them.

FRANCHISE