Toronto Raptors 96, Portland Trailblazers 101

This one hurt real bad. It hurt bad because we had a chance to win it and should have won it. We shot ourselves in the foot by playing bad fourth quarter defense and not putting our best players on the court at the right time. The momentum of this game completely shifted at the start of the fourth when the Raptors led by Darrick Martin scored 4 points for the first 7 1/2 minutes of the quarter. Two ill-advised shots by Martin and some very poor spacing and execution during this stretch turned a 7 point Raptors lead into a 3 point deficit. This was where the game was lost: not having Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon on the floor early enough in the fourth and completely ignoring Rasho Nesterovic.

darrick martin It makes my stomach turn every time I see Darrick Martin on the floor and watching him run the Raptors into the ground in the final quarter was exasperating. Leo threw a stat out saying that when Portland was trailing at home to start the fourth, they’d won more than they’d lost. Did Sam Mitchell expect the lineup of Murray/Kapono/Bargnani/Delfino/Humphries to withstand a Portland run? You need at least one guy on the floor who can create his own shot otherwise you’re just begging to get run on, and that’s what happened, they made a run and we stood silent. By the time Bosh and Calderon were injected Portland had the momentum and despite us trying to shoot ourselves back in the game it was too little too late as a bad foul by Jamario Moon and a Travis Outlaw offensive rebound put Portland further ahead and the Calderon turnover on the break iced the game. Throw a couple phantom foul calls on us in there and you have a 1-1 road trip when it should’ve been 2-0.

I’ve mentioned Chris Bosh’s infatuation with the jumper in almost every post but I have to mention it again. He was far too passive for the better part of the game and the frustrating part about it was that just about every time he drove to the rim he had success. It’s a very simple formula: go with what’s been working and don’t settle. Now a line of 18/11, 6-13FG, 6-6FT isn’t that bad but if you saw the game you know it should’ve been 26/11, 6-13FG, 14-16FT. That’s the difference between winning and losing; But it’s not fair to dwell on Bosh’s performance because even though he could’ve done more he did enough for the rest of his team and coaching staff to carry us through.

andrea bargnani brandon roy
Do you think Brandon Roy made this shot?

We’re getting nothing from Bargnani, nothing at all. How does 2 points and 2 fouls sound for a #1 pick? He was supposed to be a big part of this offense and a big part of this team this year but when you’re getting Mamadou Njdiaye like performances from Bargnani it’s left up to the likes of Kris Humphries to carry the offensive load, and no matter how well he plays (13pts/5rebs) it’s evident that we’re being stretched. Watching Brandon Roy tear it up on offense as he climbs the ladder to super-stardom gives me a slight respiratory problem, I would have to not be human to not wonder what could’ve been if David Stern had called out his name instead of the Italian Stallion’s Pony’s. Even Bargnani’s defense deserted him in this game as he looked clueless when boxing out his man or even switching on the pick ‘n roll. On one pick ‘n roll he ended up guarding Humphries’ man for no reason other than laziness during that crucial stretch in the fourth. It’s nobody but his fault that he’s struggling. I’m a Sam Mitchell critic but he has given him a more than fair shot of getting significant playing time, Bargnani was awful on defense today and just as bad on the other end. You can’t just stand behind the 3pt line and “demand” the ball, defenses have shown that all they need to do is crowd him and that’ll be the end of his perimeter game. He needs to find other ways to score like fight for good post-position, run the break, roll instead of pop on the screen, try to take advantage of his height by sealing his man etc. Right now he’s just waiting for something to happen that’ll get him open shots but that’s not how the NBA works, not once teams have gotten a chance to see you for a year. Completely unrelated but here’s what Rudy Gay did tonight.

I have to question the playing time of Rasho Nesterovic. Rasho was playing very well early on grabbing offensive rebounds, scoring on putbacks and jumpers. In other words, Portland had trouble dealing with the weight he was throwing around the rim. However he was taken out in the first quarter and returned in the third to play a few meaningless minutes and that was it. No sign of Rasho in the crucial fourth period where Portland got a couple huge offensive rebounds that put this game away, I can’t help but think Rasho could’ve helped. It was sad to see Anthony Parker’s solid all-around game completely wasted because of some bad substitutions and bone-headed plays down the stretch.

From the positive of Rasho Nesterovic let’s celebrate the end of Jamario Moon’s honeymoon which happened precisely at 2:27 of the fourth quarter when he fouled Travis Outlaw who was attempting a Jordanesque fadeaway from the edge of the three point line, a shot that you want him to take. But it’s not just this indiscretion that’s inexcusable, it’s his shot selection which varies between painful and gruesome. A pull-up jumper from 19 feet? Are you kidding me man, how can you not get pulled for that? Sam Mitchell’s been showing a little too much faith in Jamario Moon of late and it’s highly questionable when you have Joey Graham sitting right there begging for playing time. What happened to competition between players driving the Raptors? Moon’s unneeded aggressive help defense early in the shot clock has allowed his man to score on more than a few occasions and this isn’t a case of blaming the rotations either.

I’ve failed to mention our perimeter defense which led us down yet again. It’s fair to say that Calderon’s defense on Steve Blake was very poor to start the game and never got much better. On a night where defense would win the game the Raptors failed to play any and let their guard down in the fourth quarter by conceding open layups and critical offensive rebounds. This was a great game to watch with some end-to-end action for the first three quarters and the Raptors were right there till the end. They needed their big guns to play more in the fourth quarter, Thursday is an off day and there would’ve been plenty of time to rest.

One-Liners:

* Krish Humphries is a warrior. The work ethic, the competitiveness and the desire to get better are all there. I love the guy.

* Jose Calderon should’ve been more selfish and exploited his matchup against Blake and Rodriguez.

* Delfino was a complete non-factor, I think he should be playing more point instead of Darrick Martin (even typing his name is painful). Or how about Dixon running the point, a weird DNPCD for him tonight.

* The communication on defense in the fourth quarter wasn’t there at all, before or after Bosh and Calderon came in.

* Kapono is playing very well especially considering nobody runs any plays for him.

* I could write a long paragraph just tearing Bargnani to shreds but it’s not going to help anything. He simply needs to get his confidence back, figure out how to drive to the rim so that his game opens up for him. It’s painful to watch him and it hurts me.

* Provided Portland can keep Roy and Aldridge together and add a couple veterans, their window for a run at the WC finals isn’t far away.

It’s bed time. Check the feed.

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