Calderon returns and everything becomes status quo once again.
The question is with this team though, is Jose's return an indication of how good the Raptors can be, or is his return simply a masking of the fundamental problems that plague the Raptors?
I guess we're about to find out.
Oh yeah, we all know just how important Jose is to this team, but a part of me went into last night's game wondering if the Raptors actually need more time away from Jose.
After all, it was two years ago when Bosh went down, that the Raptors found out who from their bench could play, and who needed to be left alone. For a lot of us fans, we got to see the Raptors exposed for what they truly were and the look under the hood was pretty ugly.
Nevertheless, welcome back Jose.
With Miami missing from all over the field in the first quarter, the Raptors once again took advantage of their lack of inside power. Having the ability to out play Miami's interior thanks to both experience and strength, the Raptors didn't allow the Heat to use speed and quickness to their advantage. Andrea Bargnani looked to rebound from the previous night's performance with 10 points in the first. Trying to find the seams in the Heat's D, Bargnani successfully drove and shot over his man. Bosh, looking exhausted from yesterday's battles, even got some effective relief from Kris Humphries and in the second CB4 started to wake up and go to work.
Getting hacked and showing his smooth moves, Chris began to exercise his will on the offensive end. Unfortunately, Mario Chalmers started to get where he wanted on the court, allowing the Heat to get proper ball rotations. Guess who was playing against him? That's right, one Will Solomon.
So here's the question. Sam calls Will Solomon's number off the bench to replace Calderon. Do you:
a) Sweat profusely because of the previous night?
b) Salivate at a repeat performance of Sunday's game?
c) Not worry, cause Jose Calderon is back.
Unfortunately, as has happened often this season, the Raptors have managed to play adequate defense and mount leads based on superior shooting. When opposing teams start to figure out how to attack the Raptors, the Raptors have few answers, and it becomes a grind out affair to see whether the Raptors' strong interior can out-play the other team's athletic wings. Miami, having Dwyane Wade, could never really be put to sleep, and even with most of the Heat's starters resting in the second, the Raptors just couldn't pull away.
Adding insult to injury, the mental mistakes then just piled up at the end of the quarter. A soft foul on Wade that counted as a continuation, a disorganized set on the offensive end that led to a blocked shot and turnover. Then, Miami grabbed a clear path foul and one last shot opportunity which potentially could have tied the game going into the half.
Coming out of the half, I started remarking to my friend that it was interesting to see that the Raptors were taking fewer and fewer 3-point shots even though they have such prolific shooters.
And right on cue, it was in the third quarter that the Raptors begun to open up the game thanks to this same 3-point shooting.
It's just such an effective weapon for the Raptors, but I know there are those that just don't like the Raptors relying on it. I think though, that while the Raptors have to keep trying to consistently establish an inside presence, it'd be plain crazy not to take advantage of Anthony Parker, Jose Calderon, Jason Kapono, and Andrea Bargnani. If the Raptors simply get too hesitant shooting the 3, they just won't be taking full advantage of one of their best assets.
As the lead bloomed up to 17, I'm sure some fans were hoping that the game was out of reach, and that the Raptors could get some much needed rest for both Calderon and Bosh.
Of course, if you have D-Wade, you can play 1/4 of a game and still have a chance to win.
And well, if you have Will Solomon on the court, no lead is safe because your offense will just grind to a standstill.
Luckily, Anthony Parker broke out of his slump on this night, taking some timely 3-point shots and more importantly, grabbing some essential rebounds. When the Raptors started to tighten down on defense, it was up to Parker to be the guy that corralled the long rebounds. As Parker caught fire in the third quarter, it had to bring a smile to everyone's face, as he's simply a guy the Raptors need to be at his best in order for the team to perform at its best. With just a little more from Bargnani, Bosh, O'Neal and Calderon, the Raptors managed to pull out a win on the second game of a back-to-back.
In the end, this game really told us nothing about the Raptors. They beat a team they were supposed to beat, and heck, have previously beat the Heat just a few days ago without Jose. The problems that we've seen the past few days seem to still fester underneath even in victory.
I keep thinking back to a point that I seem to be obsessed about lately, possibly a philosophical question on some level.
Just what does it take to make a great point guard?
In my mind, the best point guards can guard against dribble penetration, possess great court vision thus keeping the offensive gears greased, are quick, and have an ability to drill the open shot. Of chief importance, and probably the hardest to learn, is the ability to keep the offensive gears greased in a game. When a good point guard is on the floor, the ball moves with a certain purpose, and baskets just get that much easier because the point guard sets up the play for his teammates, knowing where they need to have the ball to be effective. Whether that be directly or indirectly, it's his decisions that ultimately lead to a basket or a missed opportunity.
The other two qualities of defense and shooting can be developed over time, but they do require experience and patience.
Jose of course possesses many of these qualities but Solomon? We're going into game number 12 now and we haven't seen many of these at all. (Oh, and enough with the carries and foul call complaints.)
And for me, perhaps the most troubling prospect of wins like these is that winning continues to hide faults. If the Raptors keep beating up on teams they're expected to win against, and lose against the Orlandos and Detroits, it's not enough to push them to a level to contend for top spot in the Eastern Conference.
More importantly, there's no impetus for the coach to change things up because he can simply argue that the team is winning and leave things as they are. More and more fans are asking hard questions of Sam Mitchell precisely because they feel that he's not maximizing the potential of this group.
I'm just not sure I can disagree with them.
At some point though, the question has to be asked: Is this the group, rotation, and philosophy that we're expecting will take us past the first round of the playoffs?
Here's hoping they ask that question sooner rather than later, even if it means that us fans have to suffer through a few tough losses.
PS - Cuzzoogle is offering up the opportunity to win a free CB4 jersey. Check it out here.