Lacing Them Up:
We never have issues calling out guys when there are not playing well or when they made mistakes. We are also never shy to lay praise when guys play well. No-one is out of bounds, including the fans.
With matinee games, in particular against West Coast teams, the Raps not only have the home-court advantage, but an additional advantage to boot in the time change. The thing is the effectiveness of that advantage is tempered when the fans look as sleepy as the opposing team. Today was the perfect example as the fans looks like they were sleeping through the first three quarters. It wasn’t until the fourth that you could finally feel the energy in the building, and by then you would have had to have been DEAD not to get into the game. You have to wonder if the Raps record at home during these matinees would not be a whole lot better if they were getting the sort of energy from the fans that was displayed late on this afternoon.
If you look at the first 24 minutes the game was actually very entertaining with dunks, solid shooting and good action all around, but it took tight game and some big, big shots late to get people into it. Don’t get me wrong, the Toronto fans, including myself really bring it at the right times, but as I mention the "advantage" in these manitees is not what it could be.
Of course had the Raps blown this team out early we wouldn’t have seen a CRAZY game. There are so many things to talk about. How about free-throws (2 in the first half)? What about the fact that between then Bosh and Calderon played almost 100 minutes? How about the ludicrous foul committed by Jamario Moon to allow Portland to send the game to OT? Or Bosh directing Parker around him for the cram in the second OT?
In the end it was the Raps who prevailed and they were damn lucky that they did. The Raps had a few chances to close it out but like a cat the Trailblazers seemed to have nine lives. The biggest story here is that the Raps managed to gut out a big win and with the upcoming schedule could start to go on a nice roll. That being said with all of the crazy elements to the game, but what I want to talk about is Brandon Roy.
Let me put it out there right now. This guy needs to be considered in the MVP race if Portland continues to win games at the pace they have been as of late. He is doing things that I don’t think anyone expected at this stage. He can score like few can in the league, can create like a PG, and obviously has no issues hitting the big shots. Although much smaller and somewhat less explosive, his game reminds me of Lebron. You can’t stop him, you just want to make him a creator more than a scorer. You try to keep the ball out of his hands and make everyone else beat you. Sound familiar?! These are the same things you say about guys like Lebron and Kobe. Is he at their level yet? No quite, but close and you have to believe it is coming.
Actually, next to the Raps the team I have watched the most thanks to the Super-Sports Pack (no thanks to Rogers for increasing the monthly fee) is the Blazers. In some ways this has been because of my recent spree of late nights at work, but it is also because they are a young and fun team to watch. What is clearly obvious is how Roy makes this team tick. He is their leader, and when he is not on the court the teams level of play bottoms out.
Can you even imagine what this team could be like in two years? Not only are these young guys ahead of the curve but they are experiencing so much, most importantly winning. When you add Oden into the mix and more growth what is the limit for this team because they sky seems like an understatement.
Now discussing Roy, and throwing the young big man, Aldridge into a Raps conversation inevitably leads to a discussion about Bargs and the draft. I won’t touch that subject right now (right or wrong choice) because I think it is too early to draw any conclusions other than Roy is now the best player to come out of that draft and probably will be long term as well.
A Numbers Game:
At this point of the season the Raps biggest weaknesses are readily apparent and perhaps the biggest one is rebounding. This afternoon was no different as it was Portland’s ability to have second and sometimes third chances on one trip down the floor than kept them in the game. Portland didn’t out-rebound the Raps on a whole by that wide a margin but when it comes to offensive boards they dominated. It was the offensive boards that allowed Brandon Roy to nail that BANANAS three to go to double-overtime and without those extra opportunities this game would have been over much, much earlier.
Was there a better game this season to be on CBC? For trying to grow interest coast-to-coast in the game of basketball, and the Raptors in particular, this was perfect. Could the game have been any more entertaining? Doubt it. You just needed to be a fan of entertainment to enjoy this. Great event for the Raps.
The Turning Point:
There were so many turning points in this game and trying to pick one would do an injustice to the others. To me it’s a toss up between Bosh pointing parker to base lane and the subsequent dunk, and one of Jamario’s blocks late in the game. There were so many ups and downs it is hard to pick one. DAMN THIS GAME WAS ENTERTAINING!
Hot - Once again CB4. Since the new year and his "Car Salesman" video for All-Star votes he has regained his All-Star form. Lately CB4 has asserted his will against opponents and has actually GONE RIGHT! If you look at CB4 this year and last there are small but important differences. His defense is much improved and he has shown great poise when facing the double team. Remember in the past few years when CB4 would have trouble putting the ball on the floor? No more. He is committing a career low in turn-overs per game (save for his rookies year when he was asked to do much less) which is making him an even more effective player.
Hot - Anthony Parker. For the first 12 minutes of the game you had to wonder if Parker was the only guy who came to play. He was simply on fire early which is key when watched up against Brandon Roy. Making him work on both ends of the court is imperative. Parker, like much of the team disappeared in the third quarter but overall he was more than solid. Speaking of Parker....what ever happened to the reference to "Parkerville?"
Not - Kapono. Once again another non-discript performance by the Raps big off-season acquisition and as time goes on I can’t help but wonder if this is a situation similar to that of Fred Jones. Kapono is a player that needs other people to create in order for him to be effective. Plays need to be run for this guy. This just is not happening. His value is still high around the league and in the right system he could be very effective. I’d say he is the first guy BC has to think about moving if there is a move to be made.
Is this the right system for Kap-One? BC has to be wondering....
Hot - Travis Outlaw. Wow. These guy has ice in his veins. Watching all of those Portland games as of late I was far from surprised that he hit that big three. He has been hitting key jumpers for them late all year. It took a while for him to come around and be a contributor, but it looks like it is now worth the wait.
For those readers who missed this game, I urge you to watch Game In An Hour on NBA TV tomorrow when they will replay the highlights from this game because I am still jacked up about the game while writing this. It is games like this that make you love the NBA and makes you think their new slogan "Where Amazing Happens" is bang-on. Whatever the result had been in this game everyone was entertained, it was just so much sweeter that the Raps managed to grab the W.
The one thing Game In An Hour won’t have is the half-time interview with Calderon. For a team with so many issues at PG (albeit mostly fabricated by the fans and the press) it was refreshing to hear how he wants to re-sign. He is an absolute must have on this team. Now with talk about Roko coming over next season and even more rumours about how BC is looking for another guard it is impossible not to ask what lies in store for TJ Ford. If he does come back fully healthy will he still be the number one guy at the point? If BC is committed to keeping Calderon and making all of these other moves don’t all signs point to moving TJ? It is inevitable that Ford’s health always be in question from this point forward so what sort of discount does BC have to offer if shopping him? This is all just conjecture and random thoughts at this point but expect some serious movement when it comes to Toronto Raptors guards either later this season or in the off-season.
Is this the future dynamic duo for the Raps? Seems more and more likely.
Next up is a game against the Pistons. Think it will be equally entertaining? Me neither, but hopefully this team can use the victory it as a springboard as they head into an important week that features a number of winnable games including Atlanta and Sacramento.
Calderon and Bosh better get those muscles rubbed down and get some rest before Tuesday night game.