The obituary from this game is going to touch on numerous reasons why this was Toronto’s 41st loss.
-Lack of scoring from Andrea in the fourth quarter.
-Lack of interior defence and rebounding late in the game.
-19 free throw attempts for Utah in the final period, as opposed to nine through the first three quarters.
And on and on.
However while those points were all key in explaining the end of game letdown, they weren’t the cause of the L in my books; they were simply the bi-product of what I felt was the real reason the Raps couldn’t close this one out.
Utah was able to slow down the pace at the end of the game.
In the third quarter, and even earlier, Toronto was able to score in transition. Anthony Parker was pushing the ball at every opportunity and even when the Raps weren’t scoring right away, there was so much chaos created by the quick shot, that Toronto’s athletic bigs were rebounding the ball for easy scores.
However after picking up some very cheap fouls, Utah found themselves in the bonus and began a steady parade to the 3-point line. This slowed down the pace of the game, stopped Toronto’s run-outs, and forced the Raps to execute in the half-court, something they struggle to do consistently.
Were there some calls that were suspect?
Most definitely, however as Jack Armstrong pointed out post-game, when you’re a team that’s struggling like the Raptors are, suddenly each of those calls feels like the end of the world because your margin for error is so much smaller. The Raps didn’t get some calls, but again stopped trying to take advantage of being aggressive at the other end either. Both Paul Millsap and Mehmet Okur were in foul trouble and yet aside from Chris Bosh, the rest of the Raptors neglected to aggressively attack these two.
Bosh put in his second straight 30 point game but again, aside from Andrea Bargnani, who had 20 himself through the first three quarters, the big duo didn’t get enough help, especially late in the game.
Shawn Marion in particular had a rough outing seemingly unable to finish around the rim or hold onto the ball. I’m not sure if he had pulled a Kramer and buttered himself up for a shave before the match but whatever the case, he struggled to have much of an impact at either end.
For Utah, the Jazz showed just how deep they are as even without Carlos Boozer this club has a lot of talent. When guys like Millsap and Okur slowed down in the second half, others like Deron Williams and Andrei Kirilenko stepped up, and Kyle Korver was a flamethrower off the bench, especially in the first half.
So was this a step in the right direction for Toronto?
They did after all play Utah neck-and-neck for 40 minutes.
I’d like to say yes, however I’m really starting to believe that Jose Calderon needs less minutes going forward. I say this with a heavy heart too as Jose is one of my favourite players however he’s just not getting the job done at either end. Williams routinely blew by Jose to the rim, something that absolutely killed Toronto in key moments. As well, Calderon just isn’t shooting with what appears to be any confidence, and for a player who struggles to create his own shot, that leaves a serious void in the starting line-up.
Most importantly though, Calderon is still not pushing the ball like he could be.
This was made extremely obvious when in the third quarter, Jay Triano went to Anthony Parker at the 1, and immediately the club took off. With Parker pushing the tempo, suddenly Toronto had three or four athletic guys running and able to finish plays. In fact, I really had to question why Triano didn’t go back to this formation late in the game when the team was struggling to score. Players like Bosh, Marion, Mensah-Bonsu and Joey Graham alongside AP really gave Utah some match-up problems and it was hard to watch Jose and Jason Kapono in the fourth quarter allowing rebounds in traffic for second-chance opportunities.
Matt Devlin and Leo Rautins talked about Bryan Colangelo realizing that his team was getting beat by rugged, athletic types and that Toronto needed an upgrade in that department, hence the Mensah-Bonsu signing. At that point I wanted to throw something at the TV considering this has been obvious for about two years now. You saw in the third quarter just how important it is to have superior athletes as suddenly the Raptors were out-jumping the Jazz for rebounds thus getting out in transition. This broke things wide open and as mentioned earlier, even when Toronto wasn’t converting on their first attempts, players like Mensah-Bonsu, Marion and Bosh were getting easy second-looks.
On top of this, Anthony Parker and Andrea Bargnani just seem that much more effective in this type of controlled chaos atmosphere. Once things slowed down in the fourth quarter however, both were rendered invisible.
The Raps now have a couple days off with which to get some practice time in before taking on Philadelphia on Wednesday, and then Detroit on Friday before finishing things up Sunday against the Pacers. Again, these will be three tough matches and it’s going to be interesting to see if today’s close loss against a very good team inspires them for Wednesday, or simply sinks their confidence even lower.