Toronto Raptors 103, Phoenix Suns 122

I can deal with this loss because I wasn’t expecting us to win, if we can’t beat Seattle we definitely won’t be able to beat Phoenix the day after. That would be like finishing Drake’s Fortune on the Hard level right after you got your ass handed to you on Easy. But believe it or not there are multiple things to cheer about, yup, multiple. We’ll get to Chris Bosh and and Andrea Bargnani in a bit but let me put my reporter hat on and outline just a couple points mentioned by Bryan Colangelo during his first quarter interview with Leosky:

Jose Calderon isn’t going anywhere: Raptors are going to do everything to resign him. This of course translates to matching any ridiculous offer that a team throws at him. My only issue is that we’ll end up paying the PG position around 17M a season which might be a bit high. But if the Raptors can afford it, why not? Nice to see Colangelo give credit to the villainous Rob Babcock for picking up Calderon.

Andrea Bargnani: Obviously Colangelo’s not going to come out and say that he should’ve taken Roy or Gay but he does appear to have a roadmap for Bargnani and feels that he IS the right player for this team. BC is all about spoon feeding Bargnani and wants to make him “comfortable” in every way and feels that it’s the only way you’ll realize Bargnani’s potential. OK, sounds good, I guess we’ll just have to be patient with him and suffer through the growing pains. I’m fine with that, really I am but in the meanwhile we do need to find a legitimate second scorer if we want to taste the second round again.

Let’s get to the game now. We have clear proof that Joey Graham is not dead. He was seen wearing a Raptors uniform although his play was unbecoming of a player who wants to stay in the NBA. After Jamario “Happy Feet” Moon was quick to pick up three fouls within minutes Sam called on the rarely used Graham to inject some defensive purpose and slashing. Graham didn’t look very good and shied away from contact which is the last thing you want to see from a player who’s supposed to be our physical presence. But in all fairness to Joey I can’t even remember the last time he played significant minutes, it’s tough to ask a player to just step in and have an impact – especially against the Suns who put the fear of God in you on defense.

If there’s one negative that I’d have to pick about Sam’s coaching style (ignoring that he only has one play for a minute) I’d say it has to be the lack of a set rotation, this cannot be healthy for the players. You can’t have no idea when you’re going to play next and just be “ready” when you’re called upon. I know that sounds like an ideal team where everybody’s happy and doing each other’s laundry but in reality a player needs direction and goals to strive towards and on this squad people like Joey Graham, Maceo Baston and Juan Dixon have zero idea what’s next. This is probably a good place to mention that we should make Darrick Martin a full-time assistant coach (why, I don’t know) and free up that roster spot for a power forward or guard from the D-League.

Let’s get to the two bright spots of this game and they are….drumroll…Chris Bosh and…and…and…Andrea Bargnani. Bosh had 42/13 and went 22/24 FT from the line. A manly performance by CB4 who came ready to play and attack the rim like every single Raptors fan wants him to. After keeping the game close till the half, Phoenix simply pulled away in the third quarter and there was nothing the Raptors and their tired and porous defense could do to stop them. And when Phoenix did happen to rarely miss a shot, they got the offensive rebound and stuck it back in. On the bright side, Marion, Stoudamire and Skinner all took turns getting abused by Bosh, it made me feel a little better about this game.

Now Andrea Bargnani’s line of 6-13FG for 13 points isn’t exactly impressive but considering that he’s having trouble throwing a rock in the ocean, it’s a vast improvement. More important than the stats are some of the plays he made and the confidence he showed on the court. His three dump-offs to Bosh after driving past his man was a welcome sign and something that’ll help me sleep better during this six-day break. Sam gave him the start which translated to instant confidence. The starting center position is his for good and today he responded well, let’s just hope it continues and he can help carry the scoring and rebounding load.

Enough with the positives, we did get blown out by 19 points and one of the reasons was – and you can take a good guess here – lack of defense. Jamario Moon seems to be regressing and showing his true colors, a player that relies solely on his athleticism instead of his brain. Moon’s defense on Grant Hill was simply bad, if you can’t guard the guy one-on-one at least have the courtesy to come back down the court in time to avoid him getting a layup. It’s the least you can do. The Raptors had a problem filling the starting 3 spot at the start of the season and that issue is still there. Phoenix’s offensive rebounding killed us and sealed any hopes of an outside shot at a win in this one. It’s hard to stop Phoenix and when you do, defensive rebounding is a must. No one person to blame here but as a team we did a poor job of boxing out, even Kris Humphries who’s usually stellar cleaning up the glass was caught out of position and was over-athleticised (new word I just created) by Amare, one of the most gifted athletes I’ve ever seen.

Let me try to end this one by explaining the title of the post. We’re often compared to Phoenix because of our style of play and the fact that Bryan Colangelo helped build both teams. I never agreed with this comparison because if you look at Phoenix what sets them completely apart from any other NBA team is that they run the break and look to get easy points almost every time down the floor. The Raptors never do this. Calderon is notorious for pulling the offense back on semi-transition opportunities which is exactly where Phoenix exploits its opponents – by running the break and having their big men establish inside position early. So although we try to use a formula similar to Phoenix, by no means is our style of play similar to theirs. They run back-door cuts, curls, corner-screens, UCLA cuts while all we do is run the pick ‘n bloody roll.

One-Liners:

* I thought the Nash sucking up was only restricted to games in Toronto. I was wrong. If it were up to Leosky they’d put him in the Hall of Fame before Jordan.

* Where the hell is “The Truck” during road games?

* Chuck Swirsky openly calling for Bosh to break Vince’s 51 point Raptors record in a blowout game was disgraceful. Please Chuck, please. Plus, it shows his hate for Vince.

* Juan Dixon is playing well and deserves more minutes.

* The refs put us in a bad situation early by calling everything on us. All of Parker’s first three fouls were highly questionable and ended up sending him to the bench for a looooong time.

* The defense in the first half was good enough to keep us in the game but in the second half it was evident that fatigue had taken it’s toll.

* We’re 1-3 on the roadtrip and well on our way to 1-4. I’d be ecstatic if we finish 3-4 on the trip by beating Houston and New Orleans. It’s my Christmas wish.

I’m out for a week. Thanks for reading. Grab the feed.

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