Lacing Them Up –
What the hell is going on in Atlanta? Is there some secret anti-TJ campaign we need to know about?
First the Hawks forget to count one of TJ’s baskets in a game late last season.
Then the hard foul on Ford that put him out for a good chunk of this season.
Now last night, Mr. Ford makes what seems to be the game-winning basket on a beautifully drawn-up play by Sam Mitchell, only for it be called back upon video replay.
And that’s not even getting into the whole "replay the final piece of the game" debacle against the Miami Heat earlier in the season.
Yes, Toronto should have won this game.
However protests such as the one I’m guessing the Raptors will submit to the league office today are rarely accepted. Yes, CLEARLY the clock started on the inbounds play PRIOR to Ford receiving the ball, as you can see from this ESPN clip, not to mention the original call on the court by the referees was that the basket was good. But it’s such a small grey area as to whether Ford got the shot off even IF the time had started correctly (we’re talking tenths of seconds here) that I don’t think the final result will be different after league review.
For now that call is indeed in the hands of other parties.
And regardless of the decision with regard to TJ’s final fourth quarter basket, there was no way Toronto should have let the game come down to such a play.
Toronto had a 15 point lead with 11 minutes left in the game. And even at the 10 minute mark they were still up by 11 with Leo Rautins cautioning the Raptors to step up their aggression.
However that was not the case and once again, Toronto let one slip away.
A Numbers Game – 54 per cent.
This is the percentage of 3-pointers attempted that Atlanta made last night. Simply put, Toronto’s 3-point and transition defense was horrific. It made for an entertaining game, but I can’t count the number of open looks Atlanta got from beyond the arc either due to late rotations, or missed assignments. This was especially true in transition with Mike Bibby and others acting as the trailer on fast break plays, and knocking down open looks from long range.
On the season, the Hawks are shooting only about 35 per cent from 3, good for a middle of the road ranking among the 30 NBA teams. Had Toronto been able to keep Atlanta’s deep shooting percentage down around their average, this probably would have been a W for the Dinos.
The Turning Point –
The fourth quarter in this one was indeed the turning point. Toronto had just reeled off one of their best offensive quarters of the season in the third racking up 14 assists and looking to have things under control. However a lack of aggression, and mental error after error suddenly had Atlanta within three points in the game’s final seconds. Seriously, you could take your pick from seemingly un-clutch play after un-clutch play such as Carlos Delfino being called for offensive cylinder interference with eight minutes left, Anthony Parker stepping out of bounds with 6:25 left, a terrible offensive set with 50 seconds left, and not one, but two terrible offensive rebounds given up in the game’s final seconds.
The bottom line is that if you give an opposing team enough chances to win, eventually they will take advantage. Toronto did just that by squandering offensive sets late in the game (they were outscored 27 to 16 in the final quarter), failing to grab key rebounds (they were out-rebounded 47 to 37 overall) and making curious decisions defensively in overtime. Soon guys like Josh Smith and Al Horford started making big shots to put this one out of reach.
Temperature Check –
Hot – Point guard play. The defense wasn’t quite there still but last night’s 1-2 punch from this position was I’m sure what Bryan Colangelo had envisioned to start the season. Ford played more of a scoring role, ducking and weaving through traffic while Jose was the facilitator off the bench. Together the two combined for an incredible 26 points and 23 assists.
Ford takes a bit of heat from me this morning however for not fouling Bibby before his game-tying 3 attempt, but Sam Mitchell defended Ford post-game stating that Ford felt he was being duped into fouling during the shot. Whichever the case, Ford should have done a better job finding Bibby in the first place during that sequence.
Hot – Rasho Nesterovic. What’s next, Rasho playing point guard? After hitting his first regular season 3 last night to go along with 21 points on nine of 13 shooting, I’m not sure there’s anything this guy can’t do. Maybe he should take a turn at point guard?
Hot – Andrea Bargnani. This is the Andrea I expected this season. 21 minutes of action off the bench, 17 points and three rebounds, seven of 12 shooting and three 3’s. A few more boards would be nice but realistically, if I could have charted the numbers I thought we’d see from Bargs this year, they would have been pretty close to those of last night; maybe an extra rebound, block or assist or two, but pretty much that offensive threat off the pine. If he can keep this up into the playoffs, it adds a completely new dimension to the club.
Hot – Mike Bibby. Bibby’s acquisition was met with mixed reviews until the Hawks’ recent winning streak but last night you got a clear picture of why he’s now so important to this team. I felt that he gave his club a serious dose of the leadership it’s been lacking in recent years, took over in crunch time ala Sacramento, and consistently made good decisions with the basketball resulting in 26 points and 12 assists. Atlanta is still basically playing six guys (Zaza Pachulia made it off the bench for 16 minutes and Acie Law played four) but Bibby is really helping this team mesh. They’re no match for Boston at present, but with some bench help over the off-season, this is a club that could make some noise next year.
Lukewarm – Chris Bosh. The box score for the game has Bosh finishing with 24 points. However few of these came with the game on the line (he even blew an open lay-up) and five rebounds just isn’t going to get the job done. TJ Ford and Rasho Nesterovic stood out as the best players on the court last night and considering that CB4 is the franchise player, he needs to be more aggressive in crunch time.
Moving On –
How ironic would it be if this game ends up deciding Toronto’s playoff seeding?
With their loss last night, the Wizards, Raptors and 76ers are all tied for fifth and with only seven games left, this one could play a pivotal role in who gets to play Orlando, and who gets to take on Detroit.
And really, the interesting thing for me in this loss was that to the viewer, it was a perfect example of everything that is good and bad about this team currently.
Toronto got any shot it wanted, the ball movement was crisp, and there wasn’t a much prettier offensive display all season.
However the team got out-rebounded, especially at key points in the game, gave up way too many open perimeter shots, lacked poise down the stretch, and made some egregious mental errors. We’ve already discussed a bunch of them but how about Toronto being in the bonus with over seven minutes left and not getting to the free throw line once? That sort of thing is what this team has been guilty of all season, just not recognizing or reacting to various basketball situations.
In overtime another example of this was Carlos Delfino doubling up on Joe Johnson who was posting up TJ Ford. This resulted in two straight open looks on the perimeter, one of which was made and this too had me shaking my head. Johnson was far enough out that he wouldn’t have been able to turn and lay it in…and furthermore JJ hadn’t backed Ford down in that manner all night. Yes he has a size advantage, but Carlos, until Ford actually gets beat on the play, why would you leave your man to double?
It’s loss number 37 in any event and now the Raptors need to turn around for a rematch against a Bobcat team that nearly pulled one over on them Monday night. All of the issues that were magnified in this game need to be addressed before then and especially before the playoffs start.
As one of our readers noted, forget playing Orlando, can this team beat Miami in a series at this rate?
All I can say is that this summer, when BC is looking at attracting free agents, I hope he has a copy of this tape for reference.