Hmm…for those of you who either had access via Bell, or watched the "Game in an Hour" version on RaptorsTV I have one question for you.
Was that not possibly a battle of the two worst teams in the league?
Ok, at full strength no, neither the Raptors nor the Wizards probably belongs quite that low on the ladder, however last night’s game was a turnover-filled rec-league match if I ever saw one.
Let’s look at some stats.
The Dinos shot 50 per cent from the field, 50 per cent from beyond the arc, and 85 per cent from the free throw line.
Washington on the other hand aside from Antawn Jamison (he had 32 points), they couldn’t throw the ball in the ocean. In what was one of the most sickly offensive displays I’ve yet to witness in the NBA, the Wizards shot below 28 per cent from long-range, and barely over 50 per cent from the free-throw-line.
So how did the Raptors only win this one by six?
The answer is pretty simple – 20 turnovers.
After racing out to a big lead once again, the Raps simply couldn’t keep their claws on the ball and time and time again the Wizards took advantage, getting out on the break for easy looks. Considering how woeful Washington is offensively, that’s probably the only reason they ended up shooting a respectable percentage from the field overall.
As an aside, seeing the 20 people in the arena last night made me wonder how it would feel to be a Wizards' fan right about now. You don't have the cap space of an Oklahoma, or the young talent of a Memphis, and have a ton of loot tied up in three players that I'm not even sure complement each other, one of whom may never be able to return to his expected level of play. On top of that, you have a bunch of young talent that just hasn't really delivered on expectations (Blatche, Young) and yet I have no idea how this club went from being a solid squad last year (even without Arenas) to this mess this year.
Are they waiting things out until Arenas returns (like me in one of my fantasy leagues?) or are they in full rebuild mode starting this off-season?
It's a strange situation.
That's why getting a win last night was so important as Toronto already blew a few "must-wins" against floundering teamas. Will Solomon and Roko were decent again for Toronto in the victory, but it’s safe to say that the team is longing to have Jose Calderon back in the lineup. The offense runs with much greater ease under Jose's orchestration and his consistent shooting stroke helps to spread the floor.
In fact, it’s not just Calderon the team is looking forward to seeing back in the line-up. Jermaine O’Neal continues to be day-to-day with his injury issues and Jamario Moon was with his wife last night for the birth of their first child. (Congrats to Jamario and his fam from all of us here.) Add in the trade of Hassan Adams to the LA Clippers, and suddenly we had Joey Graham starting, and a healthy does of Jake the Snake Voskuhl.
Perhaps then as Raptors fans we should recap this victory with adjectives like "gritty," and "hard-fought."
While these would be true to a certain extent, I’d prefer to use the term "opportunistic."
In spite of Toronto’s slightly morose record, and the club’s injury troubles early in the season, you could easily bring up the old argument that "this is better for the club in the long run." Right now guys like Joey Graham, Roko Ukic and Will Solomon are getting major minutes to help their confidence, something that should be a big boost to the team later in the season. Others like Anthony Parker are getting their swagger back and what can you say about Andrea Bargnani?
Again Bargs was the Raptors’ best player on the court pumping in a team-high 25 points as Bosh struggled early on from the field. I honestly expected last night’s game to be a return to his old 3 for 8, six points, three boards ways but again the former number one overall pick came out aggressive at both ends of the court. He only grabbed four rebounds on the night, but did block two shots and got after it defensively. He was also ridiculously efficient from the field hitting 8 of his 9 shots, including 4 of 5 from long-distance.
So maybe BC isn’t contemplating dealing him to Dallas for Josh Howard after all?
I missed most of the ruckus about this supposed deal while swamped with work yesterday but had to laugh at Doug Smith’s response in the Toronto Star. Of course, besides rebuking the idea of the trade proposal completely, he also had to take a few thinly veiled shots at the blogosphere...something which struck me as being very "pot, meet kettle," considering his statements were made IN HIS BLOG.
Interestingly, while I did find myself agreeing with Doug about the lunacy of the deal, it was more because I could never picture Dallas agreeing to it than it not making sense for Toronto. Why would the Mavs want a lesser version of their best player? Are they THAT desperate to move Howard?
And how about the actual trade that Toronto made yesterday, sending Hassan Adams to the Clips with cash for a future second-round pick? The move was obviously made to keep Mr. Voskuhl without incurring the wrath of the luxury tax. Jake really has carved out a nice niche for himself on the team and again last night he didn't hesitate to throw his weight around. Recently Michael Grange blogged about Voskuhl's ability to foul hard but I think there's something else that he does that gets overlooked - set hard screens. If you watch the former Huskie while he's on the court, you'll see Voskuhl setting some of the most lethal picks in the game, something that really is a lost art. Not only are they hard (ask Mr. Crittenton how he's feeling this morning) but they come at opportune times and you'll always see him rolling to the basket after delivery.
Getting back to Hassan, you have to feel for Mr. Adams. He thought Toronto was legitimately his shot back and the league and then after not playing for the first third of the season, is traded, and then promptly waived by LA after his acquisition. I still think the former Arizona star has a place in the league but looks like he’s going to have to spend another summer grinding it out for a spot. Professional sports can be a cruel world if you’re not making guaranteed millions and I’m sure Hassan’s enthusiasm and fervor will be missed by his teammates.
Up next for the Dinos is an up and down Memphis Grizzlies team on Friday.
The Grizz have beaten some high caliber teams already this year so Toronto is going to need to put on a much tighter offensive display than last night. Even as one of the worst teams in the league regarding offensive efficiency, Memphis can still put points on the board in a hurry when needed so hopefully the Dinos will have all hands on deck for the match.
It’s great to get some development time for the role players…but with a back-to-back with the Celtics looming later this week, here’s to hoping for a full squad Friday night.