Lacing Them Up –
Another game for the "do not try this at home" bin.
Nope, not exactly the complete performance I was looking for last night, but a win nonetheless.
Incidentally, this game in many ways was the complete opposite of Toronto’s loss to New Orleans as instead of the bench leading the charge, it was the starters who got the team over the hump with the reserves, besides Carlos Delfino, going MIA.
Charlotte put up a good fight using the 3-ball and their athleticsm mainly but in the end, Toronto's execution won out over the long haul.
Let’s break things down:
A Numbers Game – 37 Free Throw Attempts
If only Toronto could get to the free-throw line like this consistently. At present, the Raptors are averaging only 20.2 free-throws a game, good for last in the league. Yet last night as Jack Armstrong astutely pointed out, the Bobcats were jumping on every play looking to make blocks and Toronto took advantage drawing fouls.
As a result, Toronto added 27 points with the clock stopped, an important factor in a game where most other statistical categories were even. Both teams had almost identical field goal and 3-point percentages, and nearly identical rebounding and assist totals. (A big coup for Toronto after last month’s disaster in this area.)
But Charlotte only scored 16 points off of foul-shooting and this may have been the key statistical difference in a game that came down to the final minutes.
The Turning Point –
For once the turning point to this game wasn’t the tip-off. Instead, it was the moment Sam Mitchell re-inserted the starters in the second half. For some reason the bench could not hold leads with any success (something we’ll get to in a minute) and recognizing this, Mitchell rode his main horses heavily in this game. Check these numbers in terms of minutes played:
TJ Ford – 34
Jamario Moon – 37
Anthony Parker – 41
Chris Bosh – 46
Even Rasho played 28 minutes.
It was necessary though as these five and Delfino were the only six effective Dinos on the night and Toronto needed every ounce of their productivity to grit out this win.
Temperature Check –
Hot – The Toronto Starters
This was the difference in the game hands down. All five played exceptionally well with Chris Bosh leading the charge. Bosh had 32 points, eight rebounds and five assists and aside from a stretch of fatigue in the second quarter, was nearly unstoppable doing an excellent job of mixing up his offence and getting to the rim. Jamario Moon gave fans a glimpse of what could be as he played with more aggression than he has in months. He even got to the free throw line six times! Parker was his usual solid self and was some suspect refereeing away from putting up some of his best numbers of the year offensively. And what can you say about Rasho? Besides the double double, Nesterovic showed some offensive moves last night that hearkened back to his days besides KG in Minny. Words can’t describe what a breath of fresh air he’s been to the club…not to mention a boost to several of my fantasy basketball teams.
And finally we come to TJ Ford. In our recent poll question, "what do you see TJ Ford’s role being in the future for Toronto," of our 300 respondents, nearly 65 per cent saw him as trade bait this off-season.
I think it’s worth mentioning then that while I agree with this statement, I also realize that the team will indeed miss parts of Ford’s game if he’s dealt and last night was a perfect example. With Calderon in the game, Toronto was getting destroyed off of dribble penetration as Jose was simply not quick or athletic enough to stay with Earl Boykins or even Raymond Felton. This is something BC is going to have to take into consideration this off-season as if he looks to deal Ford, he needs to bring in a solid defensive back-up or be sure that Roko fits the bill in this area.
Ford played his best game since returning from injury in my opinion with 16 points and seven assists and only two turnovers. I counted three ill-advised shots on the night, including one near the end of the game that was the most egregious, but you can live with that provided he gives the team solid leadership on the court and an assist-to-turnover rate like that of last night’s.
Cold – The Raptors’ Bench minus Carlos Delfino.
Um…seven points from the bench? Jose with one point and one assist in 18 minutes of play? No PT for Kapono? None for Primo against his old club? Not exactly what Bryan Colangelo had in mind I suppose when he tried to add more depth to this club...
Toronto needs more productivity from the likes of Hump and Bargnani if they want to close out the season on a high note and Linton Johnson, after displaying some late game heroics Sunday, looked much more like the journeyman 10-day contract holder that he is.
Lukewarm – Sam Mitchell.
Early in the game Mitchell had me scratching my head again with some of his line-up combinations as the Bobcats used their athleticism in the second quarter to get Toronto back on its heels. And it was obvious that Bosh needed a breather before he missed an alley-oop attempt and got beat down the court by his defender on consecutive possessions.
However Mitchell adjusted and realized that it was his starters who were going to win him this game. He didn’t waste much time after that and did a solid job countering anything Sam Vincent threw at him.
Lukewarm – The Charlotte Bobcats
This Bobcat club is an interesting team. On one hand, they are a tough match-up for the Raptors with their athletic ability at the wings. Emeka Okafor is starting to show some semblance of a low post game, and they have some nice pieces in place. However their shot selection leaves little to be desired at times and watching them was like watching a series of 100 meter dashes. Charlotte would score six or seven points in a row and look to seize the momentum, only to play some lax defense or start chucking up 3’s allowing Toronto to take control again. With another solid draft pick however to shore up some of their weaknesses, (how good would Michael Beasley look at the 4 on this team??), and some more veteran depth, this team could make a push as early as next season.
Just don’t count on Adam Morrison or Sean May being the difference makers in 08-09...I mean, are there two injured players anywhere in the league that look less like basketball players? Morrison looks like he’s channelling the spirit of Jim and Doors, and May just looks like he ate an entire band!
Up next for the Raptors - Josh Childress and the Hawks
Moving On –
Classic RaptorsTV moment last night.
During the "ask the expert" portion of the game, Chuck tee’s up a question for Jack about the playoff seeding. Jack starts to answer and immediately, Chuck goes into some sort of trance which lasted for a good portion of Jack’s answer. I’m not sure if he was distracted by the Bobcatettes (is that what they’re called??) or what, but even Jack looked like he was about to wave his hand in front of Chuck’s face and give a "Helllllo!"
I guess the RaptorsTV crew is just like the team they cover, you just never know what you’ll see or hear when you tune in.
The red-hot (well for Atlanta at least) Hawks are up next tomorrow night in another important game. This is a game in which Toronto’s bench really needs to step up as essentially the Hawks have been playing six guys the last few weeks. Seriously, looking at last night’s box score for the Atlanta-Memphis game you’ll see that Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, Al Horford, Joe Johnson and Josh Childress all played 30 minutes or more with Mike Bibby coming just under the wire. Throw in 20 minutes of Acie Law and 16 of Zaza and ladies and gentlemen, your 2008 Atlanta Hawks!
Just like Charlotte, Atlanta can be a tough match-up for Toronto due to their athleticism. Toronto had to fight to the finish to eke things out last night and I expect a similar result tomorrow.
The Raptors have the depth and talent to give Atlanta problems but Toronto can’t have another one point, one assist performance from Jose. Perhaps it was the match-up, or simply an off night for Jose but Calderon should give Toronto a big advantage over a Hawks team relying heavily on sophomore guard Law.
I mean come on, Disneyland??