How can a team shoot under 38 per cent (37.5 to be exact) and win a basketball game?
The answer of course is when your opponents shoot only 39 per cent and get to the free throw line 12 less times than you.
That about sums up last night's game between the Toronto Raptors and the Los Angeles Clippers, one which featured some terrible shooting, terrible refereeing, and all-around terrible viewing material.
I don't even know where to start in terms of talking about the "win."
Chris Bosh finally got it through his head in the third quarter that he needed to stop taking jump shots and get to the line, Jamario Moon and Rasho Nesterovic gave the team big offensive and defensive lifts respectively, and Sam Mitchell looked like he was having one giant 48 minute aneurysm up until the game's final buzzer.
How's that for the recap of how Toronto won? Because I'm not sure what else I could really add.
The Raptors sleepwalked through the first half before absolutely locking down the Clips in the second half, particularly their weapon of choice Chris Kaman. The defensive display was encouraging but the Raptors still were nearly as abysmal as the Clips on offense throughout the majority of the game. Had it not been for the team's propensity to get fouled (although they didn't exactly shoot a great percentage going 17 for 26) I shudder to think what the final score would have been.
A Numbers Game –
This was the number of second half points scored by the Clippers after racking up 49 in the first. In fact Toronto held LA to only 11 third quarter points which eventually was the difference in the game's outcome.
Post-game Rasho Nesterovic said that Sam Mitchell didn't throw any chairs around at the half but something must have motivated Toronto. Let's hope the team was just a bit jet-lagged and needed a half to get their competitive juices going...because if they play like this for the rest of the trip, we're going to be looking at a 1 and 6 road trip I'm afraid.
The Turning Point –
As mentioned, the turning point in this one was definitely the start of the second half. The Raptors defensively came out a different team and did all the things they didn't do in the first which resulted in the deficit they were facing.
And on offence, Toronto managed to get into a bit of a rhythm in the third quarter and Chris Bosh took control of the game.
Temperature Check –
There's no way we're doing a hot and cold section after that game. Toronto's best player was Chris Bosh and even he was six of 22 from the field!
Instead, I tip my hat to a number of Raptors for helping out in the win.
First of all, CB4 for adjusting his game as things went on and helping to lead his squad. I still felt he settled for too many jump shots considering he was being guarded by a) Tim Thomas and b) Tim Thomas with one functioning ankle. Bosh should have gone to the rim on four of every five plays and taken 30 foul shots. Let's hope Mitchell discusses this fact with him post game. Settling for those spinning jumpers is what got him in trouble in the playoffs against New Jersey so Mitchell might as well start drilling that into his head now.
Jose Calderon was solid once more but not nearly as spectacular as he'd been prior to the loss to Boston. He had a great night fantasy-wise (12 points, nine assists, six rebounds, a steal and zero turnovers) but he just wasn't as aggressive as I expected him to be considering he was being guarded by Brevin Knight and Dan Dickau. He looked a bit fatigued to me and hopefully TJ Ford will be back sooner rather than later.
Final shout outs go to Jamario Moon, Rasho Nesterovic and Andrea Bargnani. Jamario showed some mental toughness after looking to be headed for Sam Mitchell's doghouse (anyone notice against Boston that Mitchell called for him, he wasn't ready to go or wasn't paying attention and so Mitchell put in Juan Dixon instead?) and gave Toronto some much-needed energy early on. He shot the ball well, once again had some ridiculous blocks (um...think Chris Kaman will remember that one for a while?) and best of all looked to drive the ball when defenders closed in on him.
For those who saw the game, not much is needed to be said about Rasho's performance except that he did an A1 job on Kaman all game and in the second-half completely took him out of his element. The Caveman was forced to catch the ball nearly outside of the paint on many occasions and combined with Rasho individual defence and Toronto's quick double-teams, Chris was rendered almost completely ineffective.
And finally, Andrea. He still looked wobbly on offense, but when his shot wasn't falling, he concentrated on rebounding, blocking shots, defending the paint and moving his feet in front of his man. I saw this as an encouraging sign of things to come and hopefully his all-around game is back by the time the road trip is over.
Ok...that's enough praise...time to hand out my two-thumbs down awards on this night. Sure there were lots of candidates, but I'm picking one from each team.
1) Anthony Parker. Andrea has perhaps been the biggest disappointment so far this year and TJ Ford is of course maddening at times but AP has been the most frustrating player for me to watch this season. One night he'll go for 22 and be a key piece to the Toronto Raptors' puzzle. Others, well, like last night, the Dinos might as well be playing 4 on 5 when he's on the court. HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW TO GUARD RICHIE FRAHM?? The kid has got one skill, he's a deadly long-range shooter. I don't play in the NBA and I don't need a scouting report for that! Not to mention, TORONTO INVITED HIM TO THEIR FREE AGENT CAMP! So it's not like this guy came out of nowhere!
Parker was just completely invisible last night at both ends of the court going 0 for 6 from the field in 30 minutes with only one rebound. He didn't get to the line once and had two turnovers to match his two assists. I love AP, I think he's a great guy, but Toronto really needs more consistent play from him as a starter. The Raptors keep getting themselves in these big first quarter holes and AP just isn't helping things right now.
2) Mike Dunleavy. Keeping on the Richie Frahm topic, can someone explain to me why Dunleavy sat Frahm for almost the entire second and third quarters when he was absolutely killing Toronto early on? Frahm was 5 of 10 from the field and had five rebounds, not to mention two huge three's in the game's final seconds. Those alone probably took two years off Sam Mitchell's life-span and considering the Clippers other options (Josh Powell???) I don't get why he didn't play 40 plus minutes.
Moving On –
No rest for the weary as the Raptors take on the Blazers tonight in what should be a much tougher contest.
The Blazers come into this game having won eight of their last 10 games and seem to be coping quite well without Greg Oden, and recently without LaMarcus Aldridge.
It sounds like Aldridge will be back however for tonight's game so the Raptors are going to have to step things up if they want to get back on a win streak. Toronto did an ok job in the end with our three keys for the Clippers so we'll see how they do checking these three keys off against Portland tonight:
1) Protect the paint. Sound familiar? While the Raptors put the clamps on Chris Kaman eventually, Corey Maggette and other Clippers got too many easy lay-ups and cuts to the basket for fouls. The Blazers have a much more athletic (not to mention deep and healthy team) and therefore Toronto must start the game playing the interior defence they displayed in the second half last night. They've also got to rotate defensively in a similar manner as Portland is one of the top shooting clubs in the league percentage-wise.
LaMarcus Aldridge (if he indeed plays) and Chris Bosh should make for an interesting match-up and hopefully CB4 goes aggressively after the soph. Perhaps we'll see a little battle between the first round draft picks too with Andrea and LaMarcus.
2) Hit open shots. This seems quite obvious but from Toronto's shooting the past two games, I'm not so sure. This Blazer team is one of the top defensive clubs in the league and the Raptors won't get as many open looks as they got against Los Angeles. Therefore they've got to knock them down when they do get them.
3) Rebound the ball. For all the size and athletic ability that Portland has, they are the absolute worst rebounding team in the league grabbing only 38.8 per contest. Toronto is not exactly top of the pile but they should have a distinct advantage in this area. The key though is for the entire team to be aggressive on the glass and attack the boards. Portland is a very young team and if the Raptors can get easy put-backs, this can be extremely discouraging and perhaps tip the scales in Toronto's favour when all is said and done.