Lacing Them Up –
6:36 left in the game.
Bosh at the free throw line.
Raps down five.
Bosh makes the free-throw, and it’s a four point game.
This then kicked off what I figured was a hugely critical sequence as Howard had picked up his fourth foul.
And on the next possession, Bosh went right at Howard who backed off of him. It was a two point game and it looked like Toronto had the upper hand with CB4’s quickness on the block.
However after that play, here were Toronto’s offensive possessions:
– A Carlos Delfino jumper early in the clock that missed, no touch for Bosh on the possession,
– A Jason Kapono running jumper that missed badly, and that was once again early in the clock, no touch for Bosh.
– Kapono again with a jumper that misses early in the clock, luckily a foul was called on the rebound which resulted in a fifth foul for Dwight Howard.
–And then finally, Bosh gets a touch and attacks, but at this point is double-teamed and forced to take a fade-away baseline jumper that misses.
You’d think at this point with five fouls Toronto would have learned their lesson and gone back to Bosh but nope, the next possession results in a wild 3 by Delfino before CB4 gets a look.
And in the meantime, the Magic are playing their draw and kick game, and by the time Jameer Nelson hits a 3 to make it a 10 point Magic lead, the Raptors had gone almost four minutes without getting Bosh any real looks down low and the game was over.
It was a frustrating end to a frustrating season, a game that was easily winnable for the Toronto Raptors that once again escaped their claws in the final moments thanks to some poor decisions and shaky defence and rebounding.
In the final "tip-in" of the season, let’s take a look at just went wrong for Toronto…
A Numbers Game – Plus 18
Well, can’t say this is the first time I’ve written about a discrepancy on the boards in a Raptors loss. But hopefully after this off-season, it won’t be nearly as regular a feature in this section.
However last night, Toronto was absolutely destroyed on the glass 55 to 37 and Dwight Howard led the way with an incredible 21 himself. Chris Bosh gave a warrior’s effort in the loss but his nine rebounds, four of which were on the offensive end, sure look paltry in comparison. Neither team shot the ball very well in this one from the field, Toronto at 41 and Orlando just under 45, but the Magic’s ability to get second chance points kept them around until they took the lead for good late in the game.
The Turning Point –
The turning point in this one was as listed to kick-off this recap. Toronto had the game within their grasp, had Dwight Howard in foul trouble, and had Chris Bosh ready to take over. Instead, it was jump shot after jump shot until it was too late.
The Sports Guy, Bill Simmons, recently wrote that he had a hard time watching this series because it resembled the NBA’s version of the NCAA’s NIT. Last night’s game didn’t do much to sway his opinion in all probability. In fact, are there two more maddening teams in the league? Both settle far too often for jump shots when they have powerful inside presences and at times this game was like dumb vs. dumber. Case in point, Maurice Evans took as many shots tonight as Dwight Howard. And Keith Bogans only took one less! Howard still finished with 21 points to go along with his 21 boards but can you imagine if he actually got the ball with any regularity, or down the road once he develops a back-to-the-basket game?
Right…can someone explain to me again why I traded young Frankenstein off my fantasy team?
Temperature Check –
Hot – Dwight Howard. What else can you say? This guy is going to be a huge problem for whoever has to guard him next round. Bosh is wiry strong and did his best but Howard tossed him around like a rag doll. I never felt that Howard was the deciding factor in this series but tonight was an exception. Toronto was forced to leave open shooters too often this evening and Howard wreaked havoc in the paint. The refs missed a few "three in the key" calls on him but nevertheless, the guy was a wrecking ball. On one occasion he took Bosh, Kapono and Parker into the paint as if they were bowling pins.
Who said the era of the big man is over?
Hot – Jameer Nelson. You gotta give Nelson some props here. In fact, I think he was actually the team’s MVP in this series, even though Dwight and Hedo may have put up more impressive numbers. With Nelson in the game, Van Gundy’s draw-and-kick offence ran without a hitch. Without Jameer, things were a bit more helter skelter and that’s when Toronto usually made their run. Most of all though, Nelson was clutch when it counted most for his team. He completely dominated TJ Ford over the course of the series and had key basket after key basket in the fourth quarter. Nelson displayed a mental toughness that few on this current Raptor team possess.
Warm – Jamario Moon, Chris Bosh, Carlos Delfino, Jason Kapono and Sam Mitchell. Can’t put these four in the hot category as none really carried the club on their backs tonight. However all four deserve some accolades for coming ready to play in this one. Moon, injured groin and all, still turned in some solid defense, rebounding and unbelievably, 3-point shooting, in limited minutes. Bosh as mentioned had a tough night offensively, but fought tooth and nail for everything he got and was repeatedly double-teamed. And Delfino and Kapono took some ill-advised shots down the stretch, but it was their aggression in the second and third quarters that kept Toronto in the game when no one else was scoring.
Finally, we come to Mr. Mitchell. After the first game and a half of the series, I actually thought Sam did a good job against Orlando. He made the Magic adjust to the Raptors’ game plan on occasion, threw everything he could at Dwight Howard and did the best with what he had. And that’s the bottom line I think here. As most know, I’m no huge Sam Mitchell fan but this series revealed what was painfully obvious to us Raptor fans all year; Mitchell just doesn’t have the talent to work with right now. He’s got Chris Bosh, and Jose Calderon, and even those two were hardly lifesavers consistently in this series. We’ll get into this a little more during our end of the year report card and series wrap-up but this club needs an infusion of talent in the off-season among other things.
Luke-warm – TJ Ford. It was a fitting end of the season for TJ Ford in this game. He used his speed to burn the Magic and made some beautiful plays on offense. He also made some horrendous decisions with the ball, forced shots, and let his ego get the best of him in the individual match-up with Jameer Nelson…which Nelson won again. The interesting thing about last night’s match was that I started to realize just why Sam keeps having to turn to Ford at times. No one on this team can consistently score or create his own shot besides Chris Bosh. So as a result, I think sometimes Sam just sort of leaves MeJ out there, hoping he’ll get more of the good than bad. Tonight was indeed a mix of both, but regardless I tend to believe that Ford has played his last game in Raptors’ red.
Moving On –
So that’s it eh?
In like a lion, out like a lamb for the 2007-08 version of the Toronto Raptors.
It’s weird right now to think that the season is done. In many ways, I feel like come Wednesday night, the Dinos will be back in front of Chuck and Leo, trying to give us fans a reason to believe that they’ll turn things around.
But the fact of the matter is they didn’t.
A season of promise turned to one of uncertainty, before eventually turning to one of disappointment and frustration.
And not just frustration for us fans, but can you imagine the emotions of Bryan Colangelo right now? This was certainly not the way he envisioned the season ending and you could probably make the case that overall, the team actually took a step back from last year.
I thought that based on the team’s final month and a half they’d lose to Orlando in five games and it was painful to be correct. In fact, this loss is actually more painful to me than last year's to New Jersey in the strange way that it bugs me that I'm not really that upset. Does that make any sense to anyone?
Instead of the "if only they had of done this," or the "why didn’t they try this," I was left with a feeling of blasé…just one of "well, on to the draft I guess."
That’s not the way it should have been this year and I’m confident BC will make sure it doesn’t happen again next season.
In the next few days we’ll break down what us fans can take from this series, dole out our year-end grades, and chat with some other Raptors’ bloggers before putting a cap on 07-08.
It’s not the end, but it is a short break in the action before our draft coverage really kicks into high-gear next month.
Last Saturday at Harbour Sports Grille there was lots of talk about Toronto tying up the series with the Magic 2-2, a thought that seems so far removed now. Raps fans were discussing that and pondering a match-up with Philly, who was up 2 to 1 in their series over Detroit at the time.
Oh the delusions of grandeur were coming fast and furious.
And one fan spoke up about the NBA’s split screen commercials and how he had heard that there was one featuring a split of Chris Bosh and Dwight Howard to commemorate their battle in this series.
I finally saw the promo tonight for Raps-Magic on TNT…only to have the buzzer sound on the Raptors’ season a few short minutes later.
Talk about lousy timing.