Lacing Them Up
Let’s start this re-cap with a "Here’s to Jack Armstrong".
There has been a lot of rumour and discussion as of late about what will happen to Jack in the off-season as Sportsnet starts to cut back on their basketball coverage. Well, it’s my personal opinion that he should be hired by another network and should call more games. Last night was the perfect example of why.
Here’s the best thing about Jack Armstrong - he calls it like it is and you listen.
He gives his unbiased opinion.
His absolute trashing of Isiah Thomas was the perfect example of this. For those of you who missed the game last night Chuck asked Jack what Thomas’ future in the game should be if and when he is fired.
Jack then went even further when asked about Magic Johnson and the fact that he recommended Isiah for the job in the first place.
"It's not a lifetime achievement award. Just because you were a great player, doesn't automatically mean you're going to be a great coach or executive."
No ulterior motives, and no BS.
I appreciate Leo (hell I live in his building) but Jack helps temper some of the "enthusiasm" expressed by Chuck which I appreciate. He tells it like it is.
Speaking of how it is, this was an important win for the Raps. Despite the fact that I never felt comfortable with the Toronto, lead this was a big victory.
It sure wasn’t pretty though. This game just didn’t have any flow and having to watch Fred Jones and Jared Jefferies lead an offensive attack is just simply painful.
I actually think this game could have been over in the first quarter but the Raps allowed the Knicks to stick around.
Although the Dinos put up solid offensive numbers, got nice contributions from the bench (Bargnani included) and they shot the lights out, I still wasn’t that impressed.
The story was a familiar one - too many jump shots.
Even though the Raps got great contributions from Bosh and Rasho (more on this below) the Raps at times still settled for too many J’s.
Had this been a team playing with any coaching or semblance of game plan, I can’t help but think the Raps wouldn’t have come out with the victory. I mean why wasn’t Jamal Crawford more involved? Seventeen shots is just not enough considering he has absolutely killed the Raptors all year!
Of course it has become pretty much impossible to explain anything that goes on with the Knicks.
This team is a disgrace.
The rumours of course are swirling now about Donnie Walsh coming on board and who knows whether or not Isiah will be around for much longer. And really, whether he stays or goes is immaterial at this point - it's going to take a long time to clean up the chaos in Gotham.
That being said and as much as I have enjoyed making fun of this team over the years, the basketball purist in me is happy that they are finally making moves in the front office.
A Numbers Game -39.3%
That was the Knicks shooting percentage.
This was actually one of the few games this season that the Raps swingmen managed to do a pretty good job against their opponents. Fred Jones took and was forced into some bad shots, and on a whole Toronto didn’t allow anyone to truly light it up.
The Knicks were however missing some of their "big" guns. Without Randolph and Curry and Nate Robinson as well, the team from Davidson with Stephen Curry features a line-up with more offensive firepower.
The Turning Point
Not sure there was one. The Raps had many chances to take control yet didn’t take advantage allowing this Knicks team to hang around. I mean there were only a few minutes left before the Salami and Cheese made an appearance.
Hot – Rasho Nesterovic – Give this guy the rock! Rasho with another solid yet underwhelming performance. His ability to get deep position made for easy looks and baskets against this undersized Knicks squad. In fact the only reason the Knicks got back into this game was because the Raps, for some reason, went away from the big-men at times and instead settled for poor jump shots.
Look if something is working why go away from it?
That’s a basic rule from your regular pick-up game. You want to keep playing you keep doing what works!!! If you go away from what works then there is no need for the other team to adjust. That just makes it too easy against the opposition, even if it is the Knicks.
Luke Warm – TJ Ford – It’s clear that TJ is a completely different player when he is in the starting line-up. It’s great that since he has been re-inserted into the starting line-up, Ford has "turned that frown upside down" and is playing much better.
Yet it still really bothers me how this has turned out. When he was on the bench he barely passed. You could count how many times he passed the ball. Now starting he readily shares the rock.
What sort of message does this send to his teammates? Ford could really learn a thing or two from guys like Rasho, Calderon and even Jason Kapono. No matter what they are asked to do they do it. No complaints. If there is one guy on your team that you don’t want to have a "me first" attitude it’s the one manning the point.
Maybe its immaturity, or maybe it’s just Ford’s character. Whatever it is, if Ford can’t see the forest beyond the trees then it’s time to move on.
And the strange part is, last night Franchise and I commented on the fact that at times he was being too unselfish. During a few stretches Ford was finding open looks for teammates only to see them fire up jump shots. Andrea was especially guilty of this late in the second quarter.
But of course, there was the usual mix of Rafer-like antics thrown in, the end game one-on-one display with Fred Jones being the prime example. Um note to TJ - this is the type of thing that makes fans pull out the boos...
Hell Has Frozen Over Cold – Isiah Thomas – In all honesty I am not sure if what Thomas does during the game can even be called coaching. He sits there staring off into space and barely moves. He doesn’t work the refs. He doesn’t give direction. He basically just watches. He’s given up more than the players around him.
Everyone knows by now that the Raps have a fairly easy schedule the rest of the way as compared to the Wizards and the 76ers. The biggest challenge on paper is this Sunday against the New Orleans Hornets.
Speaking of New Orleans there is no question in my mind that CP3 is the MVP of the league this year. Look at his stats and look how much better he makes the players around him. The dude could lead his team to the best record in the West.
The only competition for me is Lebron because without him the Cavs would be really bad. I just don’t get the Kobe talk. The guy is amazing but he has more help than either of Lebron or Paul and he gave up on his team-mates before Pau came onboard and Bynum came into his own.
I just can't cast my vote for someone like that.
Getting back to the Raptors, in many ways I am glad there is a lot of pressure on the team these days to win games.
They need to be on the top of their game when the playoffs roll around and this pressure should help them elevate their game now, not two weeks from now.
The Raps can still get to the 5 spot (mathematically even secure home-court in the first round) and have lots to play for.
That's why even though last night's match against the Knicks was hardly a masterpiece, it's still Toronto's second win in a row.
I’ll say it now; if you don’t see the Raps play with a sense of urgency in the next two weeks it will be a very short post-season.