Is this when we start up the Marbury to Toronto rumours?
Ok, I’m joking but in all seriousness, at some point Chris Bosh needs some help.
Bosh was absolutely unstoppable last night putting up 40 points, 18 rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block in 45 minutes of work. Oh, and did I mention he got to the free-throw line 16 freaking times??
It was an awe-inspiring performance, and one that showed just how real his MVP consideration could be for this season. On both ends of the court CB4 simply would not give up and even after tweaking his ankle late in the game he grinded things out until Sam Mitchell mercifully pulled him with about a minute to go.
However it represented another in the recent trend of great Bosh games that have ended in Raptors’ losses. And not because Bosh couldn’t just quite take his game to that Jordan-esque level either, he was sitting right in that zone last night. No, this was once again a case of Bosh being awesome, one other player being really good (Jermaine O’Neal in this case – especially on the defensive end) and that’s about it.
Yes, the missing third man.
The hope was that Andrea Bargnani would be that guy after a solid performance against Miami, however he shot a woeful two of nine from the field and was essentially invisible.
And his teammates weren’t much better as Anthony Parker, Joey Graham, Jamario Moon, Jason Kapono, Roko Ukic and Kris Humphries and Will Solomon shot a putrid 33 per cent. Add in Andrea’s numbers and you get 31 per cent on the evening.
However that dreadful shooting percentage wasn’t the cause piece of the equation last night when breaking down this Toronto loss. No, it was the effect of some horrible offensive execution, one that led to a very "un-Raptorlike" 24 turnovers. With no offensive execution, Toronto’s two point-guards were left with little choice but to jack up shots (which partly explains why Roko Ukic and Will Solomon combined took more shots than Bosh), and why the team had a measly 12 assists on the night.
Yes, I think it’s safe to say this team misses Jose Calderon.
Luckily by all accounts he’ll be returning for tonight’s match against the Miami Heat, although it probably would have been better for the team to have had him last night, and played Solomon and Roko major minutes this evening. Keeping Jose healthy for the bulk of the season is of course paramount though so the Raptors are just going to have to chalk this one up as an L and move on. It’s just frustrating to see the Dinos sitting back at .500 again when this game was another winnable one thanks to Bosh. Had Toronto been able to hit on even 40 per cent of their 3-point attempts (they were 2 of 14 on the night and in great danger of ending their infamous streak) this might have been a different game and had the Raptors been able to limit Jameer Nelson, who finished with 22 points and ran the offense to perfection, again this might have ended in a Raptors W.
As an aside, Jameer Nelson is now evolving into a certified Raptors killer as he and JJ Redick kept the Magic within striking distance until Howard, Turkoglu and Lewis got going later in the game. Nelson is a great example of a player who has done the most with his talent as he’s turned himself from an undersized scoring point guard with a suspect jump shot, to a solid starter in the league who can now hit that mid-range shot with ease. He absolutely killed the Raptors last night coming off of high screens and hit 10 of his 15 shots on the night.
So looking forward to this evening, what’s a Raptor fan to think?
Well to this one, nothing in my mind has changed since pre-season to make me think that this is more than a .500 team, able to beat some of the best in the league when the jump shots are falling, and able to almost blow games to the likes of the Bucks and Bobcats when things go cold.
And so far this season, we as fans have seen both scenarios.
As discussed last Friday in my "O Brother Swingman, Where Art Thou" piece, there just aren’t many options either for Bryan Colangelo at present. As one of our readers mentioned yesterday, it sounds like Richard Peddie is willing to open up the MLSE coffers and incur the luxury tax penalty, and he may very well have to do that if by Christmas things don’t turn around. A lot is still riding on Andrea’s improvement and until he shows greater consistency, the team is going to need a legit third option, be it off the bench, as a starter, or be it simply Jose playing out of his mind. Again last night I had a tough time containing my frustration with various Colangelo personnel decisions as I watched the likes of Trevor Ariza and Leon Powe have major impacts for their teams at both ends of the court. Both of these players were options for Toronto at various points in their careers and yet as fans, we are still stuck watching a bizarre Joey Graham experiment that both looks finished and yet barely started all at once. Joey wasn’t great last night but four minutes?? Was Jamario Moon’s horrendous ball-handling really a better option?
Looking forward to tonight, I think Toronto is probably breathing a little sigh of relief. The Heat aren’t the pushovers they were last year, but they are middling along around the .500 mark and don’t appear ready to step back into serious contention just yet. The club lacks depth at key spots and is really another D-Wade injury away from being back in the lottery, fighting for a top five pick.
And this is coming from one of the biggest Michael Beasley fans around.
The Raptors could really use a win tonight before taking on an another up and down club in the Nets and then facing Boston Sunday afternoon in a rematch of their last playoff-style battle. Jose is back though by all accounts, and that takes us to our first key.
1) Limit turnovers. As I mentioned in the recap, a lot of last night’s turnovers were the product of poor offensive execution. With the shot clock winding down, forced passes were made, and this lead to way too many transition opportunities for the Magic. In addition, there were no easy looks for Toronto’s shooters and that’s probably why you saw things like Kapono bricking a shot off the side of the backboard. Tonight it’s imperative that Jose open up the offence again, both by using his outside shooting ability and by creating motion off Toronto’s vaunted pick-and-roll offence. The Heat just don’t have the ability to guard the point guard spot so even if Jose is limited in his playing time tonight, hopefully Will Solomon and Roko Ukic will pick up the baton and run with it.
2) Get the ball down low. The reality right now is that Jermaine O’Neal and Chris Bosh are playing out of this world and therefore must touch the ball on every possession. The two are serving as a perfect offense/defense complement to each other and with the Heat’s lack of "bigs," it’s a must that these two look to dominate early and often. This goes for Andrea Bargnani as well, who should have a sizeable advantage over the likes of Shawn Marion and Beasley down low. Andrea showed a nice flash to the bucket for the first basket last night but after that seemed tentative and unsure of his footwork on the blocks. He can’t play that way tonight and I do expect him to rebound against the smaller Heat front-line.
3) Make shots. Yep, I’m giving the old Sam Mitchell line here. However the reality is that even when Toronto had some looks last night, they might as well have been heaving the ball into the stands. The Raptors need to start knocking some of these down, especially from long range, and Anthony Parker is the player I’ll be watching most closely in this regard tonight. D Wade will definitely get his and I expect Bosh to do the same so for Toronto to get the W tonight, the play of both team’s complimentary pieces will probably go a long way in determining the final outcome.