Lacing Them Up
CB4 was interviewed at the half of last night’s game. His comment?
"This place is like a funeral."
The importance of this game wasn’t lost on anyone attending the ACC last night. The fans were nervous and quiet, the players started out tight but were focused, and a loss to a team that has only won seven games on the road all year would have been a devastating blow. Good thing the Raps pulled it out 111-93, and much of the credit goes to CB4.
On a night where much of the talk focused on Charlie Villanueva (more on him below) it was CB4 who stole the show for me. After coming out and acknowledging that he was (i) fatigued and (ii) having trouble trusting his teammates, the franchise player took it upon himself to lead by example by elevating his game when the chips were down.
For those of you who didn’t watch the game you can’t determine the effect Bosh had on the game solely by looking at the box score. By diving for loose balls, showing great emotion, and simply being a franchise player Bosh willed his team to victory.
Not only did Bosh have 32 and 11 but set the tone and kept up the intensity all game. CB4 has been through the highs and lows in his short career and if there is one guy responsible for righting this ship it’s Bosh.
The thing is he can’t do it alone and on a night like this one you could see what the Raps can do with a full effort. Ford, Calderon, Kapono and Bargs all contributed to this victory which was a relief. Almost every Raptor needs to get back on track before the playoffs start and this game was a step in that direction.
A Numbers Game
The Raps have now kept back-to-back teams under 100 points which is a good sign and what’s amazing about this number is that behind it are some interesting shooting percentages. The Bucks, actually shot a better percentage (44%) from three than they did from inside the arc (42%). In what feels like forever, the Raps managed to play some decent defense. The boys in red managed to get in the passing lanes and did play better but at the same time let’s not take too much of out it. Guys like Ramon Sessions couldn’t shoot 40% from a free-throw line.
On rare occasions do the Raps manage to get to the line more than their opponent. This was one of those times. Once again CB4 gets much of the credit as he managed to get to the line 11 times. Despite the poor play by the team as of late at least Bosh has been consistently getting to the stripe. Bosh’s frequent visits to the charity stripe are essential to the Raps success. Even when CV Smooth was lighting him and everyone else up, Bosh continued to force the issue and get to the line rather than trying to go head-to-head with Villanueva and shoot J's.
The Turning Point
The Raps really started to pull away in the third Q. Having withstood the absolutely magical performance by CV Smooth in the second Q the Raps stayed the course while the Bucks essentially imploded. This Bucks franchise really boggles my mind. There is some really nice talent on this team, but they just have not gelled. Their offense is pretty dysfunctional and they don’t play to their strengths. I for one questioned the hiring of their head coach right from the start and I will be amazed if he is kept on when they bring in a new GM (whether it’s Bill Simmons or someone else).
In the third quarter the Bucks forced a lot of shots and their offense was really stagnant. The wing players essentially ignored Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd, despite being a big threat to score, just does not make anyone around him better. As a result this Bucks team didn’t execute and although the managed to keep pace in small stretches the Raps just managed to pull ahead by being more consistent.
Hot – Charlie Villaneuva – Hot DAMN! What an amazing second quarter and game overall with 38 and 12. When the rest of the Bucks team looked liked they would be better at lawn bowling CV Smooth was absolutely tearing it up. That stretch in the second quarter was a joy to watch. CV Smooth simply couldn’t miss and it was just one of those moments where you had to sit back and enjoy. A lot of people will be thinking about the CV-TJ trade a lot today…and I can’t really blame them considering the storm that surrounds Ford these days.
Hot – Rasho Nesterovic – Man this guy has been solid. Once again Rasho did some nice things on both ends of the court and is becoming an essential part of the Raps attack. In the playoffs where many teams will want to slow it down Rasho will play a key role. If the Raps do manage to get that sixth seed back.
Cool – Jamario Moon – As many of you know I have always been a proponent of Joey Graham although I have always understood the frustration. When Graham played some solid ball late last season I though he might have turned the corner. Looks like I was wrong. The reason why I mention this is because my feelings about Jamario Moon parallel the feelings many of you have had about Graham. This guy makes the same mistakes over and over. His willingness to leave his feet and settle for jump shots infuriates me. If there was more season left I would be calling for Mitchell to replace him in the starting line-up, but with only a few games left it’s too late to make a much needed change. For whatever reason he seems sheltered from criticism among the fans but I firmly believe that he must play better much better for the Raps to have a chance.
Why are we not seeing more dunks from this guy? Why does he seem to get a free pass when the team plays poorly?
Cold – Andrew Bogut – Having played a ton of minutes the night before it would be hard to ask for too much from the big man but he was simply non-existent in this game. Although his teammates barely looked for him it’s not like he was demanding the ball. Bogut, much like his first pick counterpart Bargnani, still has a lot to prove to live up to the first pick billing.
Think this game was a must win? Well frankly all the games are at this point. With a weaker schedule ahead there is a great chance for the Raps to fix all that ails them (in particular confidence), before entering the second season.
The reality is after this win Raps nation is collectively exhaling a breath of relief. All is not lost yet.