Philadelphia 76ers 96, Toronto Raptors 109

That was a mandatory win against a Philadelphia team that had just finished a grueling road trip and was coming off a tough home result the night before. Of course a loss here might have raised blood pressures to unrecoverable levels and prompted the bipolars to bombard the RealGM Trade Checker with so many variations of Rasho + Graham for Dalembert + Evans that it would’ve brought down the web server to it’s knees. Luckily for us Philly was a bit tired and Delfino/Kapono/Parker produced enough offense to keep the resilient Sixers at bay while Bosh had a sensible night where the oh so important drives to the rim where abundant. In short, the Raptors swingmen hit their outside shots, Bosh played well and we played just enough defense to beat a fairly poor team at home. Nothing to get excited about.

I’m not a fan of the quick yank which Sam feels free to use at whim but I agree with him benching Bargnani for his reprehensible rebounding positioning and complete unawareness of where his man is. It was nice to see Leo Rautins loosen up the MLSE employee straight jacket and actually point out Bargnani being the “biggest culprit” when it comes to boxing out his man and going as far as saying that the reason Bosh picked up two quick fouls was because of Bargnani’s positioning. But Bargnani’s wasn’t alone tonight, even the reliable Bosh was giving up position to Reggie Evans and Samuel Dalembert, who both make it a point to clean up the boards regardless of quarter or score, an area where under-fire head coach Maurice Cheeks deserves full credit. You can tell that defense, intensity and aggressiveness is being heavily preached in the Philadelphia locker room just by observing Philadelphia’s points in the paint numbers, rebounding figures and determination to not simply settle for jumpers. The Raptors can learn a lot from this team.

As mentioned countless times on this blog, the Raptors are a jump shooting team and when they make their jumpers, they give themselves a great chance to win. The hero tonight was Anthony Parker who kept us even with Philly in the first quarter when we were getting killed on the glass and then stepped up in the fourth to put the game away with some key threes. Delfino’s slashing and outside shooting kept Philly at bay in the third and made me wonder what this thread starter would have to say after this game. The good thing about Delfino’s game today was that he went inside a few times before testing his jumper which is all any fan can ask. Delfino’s a key piece to the Raptors puzzle on both ends of the floor, we need either him or Kapono to have good games almost every night out just so we can sustain our offense.

Jamario Moon was given all the space in the world to shoot jumpers and to his credit he resisted the temptation unless absolutely necessary opting to attack the rim or pass the ball off in those situations. His defense on Willie Green (18 points, 19 shots) was superb and although he got burned playing help a couple times, his overall play was as close to perfect as it has been. It’s of course unfair to expect performances like this from him on a consistent basis simply because he’s a rookie and the level of competition is usually better, but what can be fairly expected of him is to make good logical offensive decisions and play good fundamental defense using his length and quickness.

I’ve already mentioned the rebounding but there’s one other area that really concerned me today. The Raptors seem to forget some very basic principles of basketball such as staying between your man and the basket, I noticed that Bosh, Parker, Bargnani and Calderon allowed their man great positioning by losing track of them without even a screen being set. Philly was burning us early on these plays and stayed in the game because of Raptors turnovers, bad defense and offensive rebounding. We were better in the second half but I’m not sure whether it was more of Philly’s legs or our defense. I’d like to see the Raptors play with more intensity on defense and communicate a little better because against a better team tonight we give up 115 points easy.

People always wonder why Chris Bosh doesn’t drive to the rim all the time. I don’t really know the answer but I can draw a conjecture. It makes sense not to. When the defense is giving you space to shoot, the most logical thing to do is “take what the defense gives you” which is probably what Chris is thinking when he’s launching the jumper. Maybe we should be more concerned with Chris making the 15 footer more consistently than driving to the rim at every opportunity. His drive will naturally open up if he starts making that jumper consistently. The defense generally plays Chris to shoot the ball and when CB4 wants to attack, he’ll try a blow-by move which is hard to finish just because the defense has a head start. He needs to either a) make the jumper more consistently or b) develop some real post-moves which start with him backing the defense down, NOT attempting blow-bys. Am I making sense?

Back to the game, I thought Jose Calderon had a perfect game, he held his own against Miller which is no easy task and ended up with 17/9/6. He looked for break opportunities, got into our offensive sets (insert joke here) early, shot the ball when he was open and helped out on the glass. The TJ situation is getting a little worrying, it appears to me that he just wants a doctor to say something really reassuring which will probably not happen. There will always be a risk when he plays and let’s face it, as harsh as it sounds, he is damaged goods. Nonetheless, he should remain the starting PG of this team as long as he’s healthy simply because it allows our second unit to be that much better with Calderon in there.

I’d like to end with some offensive suggestions for the Raptors. Post-up Joey Graham. He has shown a desire to score and although he’s not exactly talented, he should be able to muscle home some points if he’s posted and re-posted a few times. A low off-the-ball screen for Andrea Bargnani. We’re completely wasting his height and maybe if we force the defense to switch or react quickly on a screen near the hoop, he’ll get some easy points through short jumpers. Right now all the screens that he’s setting or are being set for him are too far away from the basket. Anthony Parker dump-offs. I’ve noticed that when he’s about to shoot his little fade in the paint coming off a screen, one of our bigs often has a clear path to the rim because his defender is paying attention to Parker’s possible drive. We should develop a goto play where the first option is a Parker fade and the second option is a dump-off to a big (maybe set a screen for the big too). Just thinking out loud.

We got the Knicks in MSG up next which always seems like an important game although it rarely is. Losing to the Knicks is a sign of shame that is best dealt using the ancient Japanse ritual of Seppuku. This should be a win unless Eddy Curry is made to somehow dominate and we let Crawford and Marbury go off, something which isn’t likely but could happen given how we play defense.

One-Liners:

* Don’t you just wish Reggie Evans played for the Raptors?

* How about Leo saying that Iggy makes a wide open dunk “9 out of 10 times”. No Leo, he makes that 9,999 out of 10,000 times.

* Chuck Swirsky is going to become a Canadian citizen. You know what this means, we’ll never be able to fire him. Ever. It’s like getting tenure at a university, you’re there for life.

* Any time we play the 76ers the first thing that pops into my mind was that we could’ve had Iguodala and that we’d be set at the 3 spot for the next decade.

* I’d like to see Kapono attempt 20FG in a game just so he can stretch his arms and get back in his shooting rhythm, right now he’s a bit rusty.

* We got out-manned 41-34 but shot 55.1% to compensate for it.

* NBA should adopt a points system and rank teams and players by points. Somewhat like a QB rating in football. It’d be awfully hard to come up with though.

* I was hoping to see more of Kris Humphries today but he bobbled the ball once and gave up an offensive rebound which was enough to invoke Sam’s deadly yank. He was never to be seen or heard from again.

* Notice that I don’t bash Bargnani too much. We’re all in this together folks, baby steps from here on out.

* Not really game related but Jamario Moon showed up at my condo’s gym on Monday.

* There will be a Podcast soon. I’m just working out the technical aspects of it.

Later. Feed.

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