In a game that had a lot of importance to the Bulls, and little to the Raps, the Bulls did what they had to do to avoid a first round match-up with the Pistons and came away with an easy victory, 127-106.
The Raps were obviously heading into the game without CB4, but Mike "Space Mountain" James ended up chilling in "civies" due to a pulled groin along with Matt Bonner, and Eric and Alvin Williams. Even without their top two scorers however (who combine for 42.7 points per game) the Raps still managed to score over 100 points, with Morris Peterson (29), CV Smooth (29) and Joey Graham (18) leading the way. Like most of the games this year though, the Raps simply could not stop their opponents. The 1-2 guard punch of Hinrich and Gordon both flirted with triple-doubles, and the Bulls got solid efforts from pretty much everyone.
This was definitely not one of those games which captured the season in a nutshell, and as a result there was very little to take away from the game. Neither team played exceptionally well and as mentioned, it was Toronto's lack of defense that really caused the disparity in terms of the final score. Perhaps the main element of this game was Sam Mitchell letting the rookies run wild (starting Calderon, Villanueva and Graham) in what was the last opportunity for the young guys to determine what elements of their games they really need to work on in the off-season.
As an aside, for the young guys it has to be hard. You come into the league "green" and in most cases right out of college where you dominated. The transition is not an easy one, but the mentality must be "I've made it". Than the season starts and it is a grind. I would assume more of a grind than any rookie expects too. In the case of the Raps rookies in particular, there was a lot of pressure on them to perform this year. It's a tough initiation to a "career", and just when you finally make it through the 82 games (or more) you are pretty much told you can take two weeks off and then the REAL work begins. Yes folks, it's the off-seasons that usually seperate the men from the boys, or the Bobby Simmons's from the Eddy Curry's, as this is when players really get to to work on their games. It's the time when 1000 jump-shots a day should be the standard, spending all day in the gym and working hard every second. It has to be a daunting thought, but indeed it will be this off-season when the true colours of the Raps' rookies shine through.
One thing they don't have to work on however, is the "never say die" attitude. Even in game 82 the Raptors, in particular Mo Pete, never folded-up shop and looked forward to some down-time in South Beach, Texas, or wherever. Peterson has continued the late season development we saw in 2004-05 this season and has been a different player on the court on top of continuing to show what a true professional he is. Mo played hard, sacrificed the body and as a fan (and hopefully if you're GM Bryan Colangelo watching) you have to love the effort.
The only player to be disappointed with tonight (other than the team as a whole defensively, but finally we can put a stop to that broken record, at least for a few months) was Hoffa. Number 55 was far from meeting our six/six and six standard going zero for five from the floor, while grabbing three boards and picking up five fouls in 15 minutes of action. Even with the improved play and some flashes of competency the past little while, both Franchise and myself are now officially on the same page in thinking that this guy won't flourish as a Raptor, if at all. He needs new scenery and I am sure Colangelo will be looking to make some sort of move with him. He has the body, but it is nights like this when you have to really question his level of basketball IQ as he just CONTINUOUSLY seems to be out of position resulting in him having to foul. We're sure he's a hard worker and is great in practice, but for such a high pick, he simply hasn't had any of his college game translate to the NBA. And of course this is not meant to be an attack on Araujo, but a reiteration of something all of us at the HQ have thought since day 1...Babcock simply made the wrong pick when Hoffa was selected over various other players.
So now what? With the season over, draft and free agent speculation will begin in full force and fans will be wondering just what moves the Raptors' new GM will be making before next season begins.
Woah, next season.
Doesn't seem so long ago that we were preparing for last year's draft and all of us here at RaptorsHQ want to thank you the readers for coming along with us this past season, for what surely was a wild ride. As mentioned, in the next few weeks we'll be addressing the current team giving it its final report card, looking at Toronto's salary cap situation and where we stand on the various players still in Raptors' uniforms.
In terms of the near future we're currently working on upgrades to the site but over the summer will be continuing to provide our usual hard-hitting, fact-finding reporting especially where one of our favourite areas of interest is concerned...the NBA Draft.