Lacing Them Up –
That was possibly the worst basketball weekend I’ve ever experienced from a pure fan standpoint.
First we have the Raps getting destroyed on Friday night by the Nuggets.
Then almost immediately after Toronto’s loss, we had Kansas State losing a close one to Texas A+M thereby ending a potential Kansas vs. Kansas State round III opportunity.
Duke loses to Clemson on Saturday ending the hopes of Carolina/Duke round III and almost guaranteeing a second straight North Carolina ACC title (granted Clemson is no joke and played Carolina down to the wire.)
And finally the Dinos lose probably their only winnable game on this road swing incurring a close loss to the Sacramento Kings.
It’s a good thing the NCAA tournament is but three days away and features an UNREAL first round match-up between OJ Mayo’s Trojans and Michael Beasley’s Wildcats.
Because if Toronto keeps starting first quarters like they have…I’m not even sure Miami is going to be a win, regardless of whether or not Bosh plays.
Speaking of the tourney, RaptorsHQ has an open bracket this year so for those who wish to participate, head to Yahoo.com’s fantasy tournament pick’em site,
click on "join a group," enter the group ID 85910 with a password of beasley and pick away! We don’t have cash prizes to hand out to the winner but he/she will get bragging rights in the comment section of course!
The tourney might be coming at a good time, one where Raptors’ fans have seen a number of disheartening performances from their team and a slate of tough games on the horizon even after this road trip.
A Numbers Game – 50 – 36
Once again there are a lot of numbers you can choose from as a Raptors’ fan. Toronto didn’t shoot that well from the floor, was horrid from the foul line (and that was when they even got there) and allowed Sacramento to jump out to a 32 point first quarter.
However the Raptors hung around and had it not been for being pounded on the glass by a team not known for its rebounding prowess, this probably would have been a Toronto W.
Further expanding on this point, watching last night really emphasized for the umpteenth time how important CB4 is. Without him, and with suddenly mediocre point guard play from both TJ Ford and Jose Calderon (I actually thought Ford did a better job last night overall than Jose) the club looks like a collection of spare parts – none that fit correctly and seem to be moving in different directions at once.
The Turning Point –
Post game, Howland sent me the following email:
"Man that was disappointing. Entertaining in that it was a game of runs, but the Raps let this one get away. Second chance points, lack of recognition and just not executing down the stretch.
The one thing you can take from this game is that they "can" play defense and they can play fundamentally sound basketball when they want to. There were times when the Raps showed good hustle and then there were times where they just looked disorganized. On the offensive end they moved the ball well at times hence the outburst by Kapono) but at other times a player like Ford would just come up the court and jack one. Maybe it's not surprising that they are inconsistent without their star player."
I thought this was interesting because really, there was no turning point to this game. Even when Toronto made their runs, and Sacramento did everything in its power to keep giving the Raps second chances, you just got the feeling the end result was still going to be a loss. You just can’t come out and give up over 30 points in a quarter, especially without your star player. That was probably the turning point, the tip-off, and is it just me, or have I written this a few too many times this season.
Temperature Check –
I’m not even sure this game warrants a "temperature check," at least from a Raptors’ perspective. Kevin Martin was terrific, but Toronto really didn’t make his job that hard. Artest, Moore, Miller, Udrih…Sacto really got a full team effort, something we haven’t seen from Toronto since their last match against the Miami Heat.
For Toronto to start getting some wins, they need to play complete games, something Sam Mitchell mentioned at this one’s conclusion. Andrea has simply not seized the opportunity, Carlos Delfino has been inconsistent at best, Ford has been mediocre to horrid, Jose has been somewhat invisible...you see where I’m going here?
No one has really stepped it up in CB4’s absence except Rasho Nesterovic of all people, and Anthony Parker. One would think with Bosh out that Andrea would especially be able to take advantage of minutes but that just hasn’t been the consistent case.
Rasho though has been a painful revelation. Just like last season when the chips were down he stepped up. He is the anchor for this team and he has played really well. As Howland mentioned in his preview, this team needs to focus on fundamentals and Nesterovic is all fundamentals. (Speaking of Howland’s preview, what was with Chuck and Leo basically reciting it, right down to Jose’s scoring over the last three games, in the broadcast?) From my perspective, the incredibly frustrating thing however is that Rasho is just showing why he should be the starting center on this team with Bargs coming off the bench. His game is a perfect fit with Bosh, and I shudder to think how his rebounding presence would have perhaps resulted in a few more wins for the team this season.
Besides the players themselves however, how about another ice cold ranking for Raptors TV? Constant blips in coverage, random camera shots, and even the good ol’ coloured bars instead of the game at one point!
And this has now seemed to manifest itself with Chuck and Leo! Sheldon Williams was NOT called "the custodian" at Duke, he was the landlord!
Moving On –
Hands up for all who want to watch tonight’s game against the Jazz?
I don’t like to pile on the doom and gloom but I’m assuming this is going to be loss number five.
Not a blowout, Utah I don’t think is that type of team…however the Jazz can rack up the points and I’m expecting another high-scoring loss.
I’m not even sure they are necessary.
Toronto simply needs a much better defensive effort, especially in the first quarter, and players that are all executing at a high level offensively. Not just Jason Kapono (who was shunned after a hot start last night resulting in some forced looks) or Rasho…EVERYONE.
And even then, I’m just not sure Toronto has the talent to play with this group, one that plays as a cohesive unit.
However the one thing both Howland and I now want to stress, is the Chris Bosh situation. Despite everyone saying that it won't happen, as the losses mount there will be more pressure on CB4 to return early. Word is he will be back for Wednesday’s game against Miami, but the reality is this team can't afford to have him rush back before he’s 100 per cent ready.
Yes, the team is struggling now, but not in danger yet of falling out of the playoffs and the last thing Toronto needs is its own version of Dwyane Wade or Jermaine O'Neal.