Lacing Them Up –
As I sit here watching the lay-up drill known as Washington versus Golden State, I’m not that upset writing about the Toronto Raptors loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
Here was a team, minus their head coach due to a death in the family (our thoughts are with Sam Mitchell and his family at this time) which hung in tight with the defending NBA Champs after being down by double figures.
Yes, Toronto once again had every chance to win this game but came up short in the end.
And I ask, is anyone that surprised?
As one of our readers already noted post-game, the same things that killed Toronto tonight are the same things that have hurt them all year; dependence on jump-shooting, inability to rebound (let alone get key rebounds), poor basketball IQ in situations and complete failure to defend the opposing team’s slashing guard/forward.
No, no real surprise.
Instead, in my books this is just another example of "we’re not there yet," and "we still have a ways to go."
What I’m most annoyed at is the fact that Toronto wasted a glorious performance by Jose Calderon, whose numbers we’ll break down in a minute.
It was a frustrating loss for sure as Toronto had the W within reach on numerous occasions, but it’s hard to be too upset considering the Raps put themselves in a deep hole early in the game thanks to some truly terrible defense.
No, this was a game they did not deserve to win.
A Numbers Game –
Let’s see, where shall we start? How about on the glass, where Toronto was pounded 46 to 34. As previously mentioned, not only did the Dinos get creamed in this department, especially early in the game, but San Antonio managed to secure all the key rebounds as well.
And how about we follow it up with this, 3 for 11. That was Chris Bosh’s line from the floor tonight, which along with Toronto’s porous first-half defence and lack of rebounding, did the team in in the end.
The Turning Point –
The turning point never really happened in this one as San Antonio led basically from end to end. But in terms of the turning point for Toronto’s chances for the win, the real final straw in my book came early in the fourth quarter. The Raptors had started their run and had the crowd and momentum going for them. Interim coach Mike Evans had inserted Juan Dixon to give Jose Calderon a much-deserved rest. Things looked good as Dixon was aggressive at both ends and found Jason Kapono on a slightly broken play to really get the sold-out ACC going. However on Toronto’s next offensive possession, Dixon forced an ill-advised pass that was intercepted by the Spurs, and San Antonio scored on the other end. After that, I just felt that Toronto had had their best chance and that was it. Perhaps Manu Ginobili securing his own rebound off a missed shot could be considered another twist, but considering Toronto’s shooting woes all night, another possession might not have been enough.
Temperature Check –
Hot – Manu Ginobili. The San Antonio Spurs have always been that slept-on team. They don’t have the star power of the Lakers, they don’t have the flash of the Suns, they don’t have the excitement of Golden State…but they get the job done. And when you look at their team, you realize that nearly every single player on the squad is under-rated, even Tim Duncan to a certain extent. However there’s no greater omission from most fans’ "superstar" list than Ginobili. On almost any other team in the league, Ginobili would be the go-to guy on every possession. He can shoot from anywhere, get to the rim, rebound the ball and defend with the best of them. Check his line on the night, he’s a fantasy basketball monster:
34 points, 15 rebounds, six assists, two steals, perfect from the line, 50 per cent from beyond the arc, and almost 60 per cent from the field in general.
However on this club, he’s quite content to play the side-kick to Tim Duncan and Tony Parker and take over only when needed. But I ask you this after seeing him in full flight tonight; besides Lebron James and Kobe Bryant, is there a more well-rounded player at this position in the league?
Hot – Jose Calderon. Speaking of players who are content to play their role, how about Jose? While usually more of a pass-first option, JC was unstoppable tonight putting up 27 points while still dishing out six assists. On a night when the rest of the Raptors couldn’t hit their shots, Calderon proved his mettle by hitting 12 of his 17 attempts and led the Raptors back out of the 15-point abyss they found themselves in. Jose played more of a scoring role in this one and unfortunately with TJ Ford injuring his wrist, Calderon may have to do a lot more of this against New Jersey on Wednesday.
Hot – Andrea Bargnani. Three of 11 shooting be damned, I’m putting Andrea in the hot section. No, he wasn’t exactly impacting on the offensive end although he did have 12 points. And no, he wasn’t Dwight Howard on the glass with only two rebounds. But Andrea’s defence tonight, especially on the vastly superior Tim Duncan, was so encouraging that he gets the nod from me to be placed in this section. He had only one foul, and was still aggressive at both ends, moving his feet. It’s not two straight double-doubles, but compared to a month ago Bargnani is looking like a completely different player.
Lukewarm – Carlos Delfino. Tough to be too hard on Count Chocula tonight. Yes, he didn’t box out on the final play and took some ill advised 3-pointers. But had it not been for his forays to the basket (not to mention some sweet right-to-left lay-ups) Toronto wouldn’t have been in a position to tie win the game in the final minutes. And as one of our readers pointed out, if the ball had bounced another way to a Raptor, Delfino would have been streaking in for the un-contested dunk.
One of our readers asked yesterday about Gerald Green and while he may not be anywhere near BC’s radar, I asked the folks at T-Wolves’ blog about Gerald and the deal I had mentioned earlier here at the HQ (Green and Doleac for Graham and Dixon.) Here was the response:
T-Wolves Blog: Concerning Gerald Green, our brain-trust never explained to the fans why they didn't pick up his paltry extension for next season. My guess is that the Front Office knows how raw he still is (streaky offense, awful defense, very low bball IQ), and because of the fact that we are loaded with swingmen that need a lot of minutes to develop. Personally, I would have picked up the extra year due to his potential and how cheap it would have been versus the risks, but I guess I'm not running things.
Anyhow, I think he's subsequently not getting any playing time because they know he won't be back next season. Why give him minutes when we've got all these other guys that need’em ya know? By "all these other guys" I mean, Foye, McCants, Brewer, and to some extent Telfair as well... even though he doesn't play the same position.
The trade is pretty decent all things considered. Granted, you guys would get the two expiring contracts, but I'd probably still do it since I've always been intrigued by Graham.
A big thanks to College Wolf from T-Wolves Blog for that and I’m sure Raptors fans just had a good laugh as the description given to Green could easily apply to Joey Graham. I guess this once again proves the time-tested saying that "one man’s trash is another man’s treasure."
Cold – Chris Bosh. It’s tough to call out CB4 after the super-man like effort he’s displayed at times this year, especially in the past month. He’s the team’s franchise player and continues to become a more dangerous offensive player with each passing season. However that doesn’t completely excuse him from criticism and his performance tonight really made me take some deep breaths before writing this.
Even before he banged his knee, perhaps affecting his shot, Bosh was doing his best Vince Carter impersonation settling for jumpers. Yes Fabricio Oberto did a nice job on him, but is anyone else getting sick of this whole "bigger guys bang Chris and take him out of his element" theory? Even if that’s the case, this is something he’s going to have to adjust to.
But what really enraged me, was a report out of a Toronto huddle in the fourth quarter that Chris Bosh lit into his team for not playing aggressive enough. Considering at that point CB4 was hardly a one-man wrecking crew going to the rim himself, I'm not really sure why he was getting on his team-mates cases.
Put it this way, Bosh was basically invisible offensively in this one, particularly in the first half. Even if he would have had his customary eight or ten points before the half-time buzzer, I'm confident this would have been a Toronto win.
I know Bosh is this team's leader, but last night I felt he should have done a lot better job of leading by example.
Moving On –
It’s not exactly an idea situation.
The Raptors prepare to enter the All-Star break with three consecutive home losses and face a "who knows how they’ll play" arch-rival in New Jersey.
New Jersey has been one of the most disappointing teams in the league this year, but all the Jason Kidd trade talk and "Vince Carter is done" discussion might have started to stir the embers. The Nets looked nothing like the team that has barely scored 85 points on most nights as they walloped the Mavericks recently. And with the rivalry these two teams have built up recently, I’m not expecting another Toronto rout such as the match two games into the season.