Kyrie Irving
Portland Trailblazers 109, Toronto Raptors 116 (2OT)

The biggest gaffe of this game wasn’t Jamario Moon fouling Travis Outlaw on a four point play which tied the game. It was the Raptors NOT fouling Brandon Roy when he rebounded the ball in the first overtime inside the arc with the clock ticking down and the Raptors saving their foul for yet unknown reasons. Roy’s three which sent the game to double overtime where the Raptors eventually prevailed should’ve never have happened and is a prime example of the players being unaware of the situation at hand. But let’s put the break on the negativity and praise the Raptors for hanging in there against a tough, tough (the repetition is warranted) Portland team that refused to die and crashed the offensive boards to stay in the game.

Now this is a quality win. There’s no reason to jump up and down when you beat Philadelphia or New York but downing the NBA’s hottest team after being deflated twice by deep bombs deserves a lot of praise. Chris Bosh, Jose Calderon and Anthony Parker were huge on the offensive end for us and Carlos Delfino chipped in with 16 increasing the bench production which has been missing of late in big games. It was good to see Bosh attack the rim in the overtime periods when it mattered the most and to nobody’s surprise he had success. Aside from having 38 points and 14 rebounds, he had 3 huge blocks and changed many Portland shots saving the Raptors at least 10-12 points. He was the reason we won and Nate McMillan acknowledged that:

“We didn’t have an answer for Bosh”

Give credit for Jamario Moon for atoning for his end of regulation error by coming up with blocks on Roy and Jack which spawned fast break opportunities. He had to be the happiest guy on the team because even if nobody would say it, this game was on him if things had gone south in OT. This might be the place to mention a site dedicated entirely to Jamario Moon where we learn that Moon is going to the slam dunk contest. Reminds me a little of the obsolete rickbrunson.com.

How about Sam Mitchell putting out bosh Bosh and Calderon in the game at the start of the fourth? Was that refreshing or what? I guess he learned his lesson after Darrick Martin had handed the Blazers the game on the west coast and took no chances putting his two best offensive options in the game facing a six point deficit. It’s a no-brainer really but for Sam, it’s an improvement. It wasn’t a fluke that the Raps went on a 7-0 run with Roy on the bench at the start of the quarter turning this into a game that was going to be decided by the slimmest of margins.

Anthony Parker who many want traded for crazy rebuilding reasons poured in 25 to singlehandedly keep the Raptors in this game early when Roy was having his way with us. The Raptors who’ve been guilty of helping off the wrong perimeter player so many times were making the same mistake in this game by leaving Roy open by having Parker help on the player driving into the rim from the weak side! Roy lit us up early when Parker was on him blowing by him at will on a few occasions, it was then that we put Jose on him with specific instructions to NOT provide help under any circumstance. The move worked to some extent because Roy didn’t get open looks from the perimeter and was forced to score and create by driving, something we can live with. On the other end the Blazers chief defensive strategy is to to switch on every screen and they can afford to do that with the personnel they have. The Raptors did excellent in exploiting the resulting matchups like Calderon/Outlaw, Bosh/Outlaw, Calderon/Przybilla, Parker/Aldridge and all kinds of G/PF switches where Portland offered the Raptors to contend with.

Bosh comes under fire for taking too many jumpers and if you listen to Chuck and Leo and also look at Sam’s reactions to him shooting springers, I’m inclined to think that Sam is of the same mind as the fans when it comes to Bosh settling for jumpers. Bosh had success literally every time he drove the ball early and even then he was shooting 18 footers, it boggled my mind because that was playing right into Portland’s hands. The one horrendous side effect of him shooting jumpers is that when he was missing, there was nobody to rebound the ball for us because Portland’s rebounding positioning was intact. When he drives and misses, Moon, Delfino, Humphries have an opportunity to grab the offensive board against a Portland defense that’s busy trying to contend with an aggressive Bosh.

It’s become apparent that defensive rebounding is our Achilles heel, this is a long standing problem that requires an immediate solution, hopefully before the trading deadline. Quite simply put, Bosh needs some help and Humphries, Moon and Rasho aren’t enough to contend with the tall trees that teams put out against us. Don’t believe me, check out the rebounding distribution in this game for the Blazers and compare it with the Raptors’. I for one am ecstatic when the ball just bounces behind the backboard to give us possession – no chance of an offensive rebound there! Seriously though, I think Bosh is doing a phenomenal job rebounding the ball and boxing out considering how much energy he’s been exerting on offense. Bargnani, God bless his soul, is a good man with a good heart but his development as a rebounder is too slow for us to expect anything on the boards for him. I fear a Bosh injury if he has to keep playing like this because right now he’s playing every possession with his heart on his sleeve.

Channing Frye and Travis Outlaw’s points hurt us because they all seem to come when we were in the business of trading possessions with them in late regulation and overtime, both are two players that I would love to see on the Raptors. I was one of those who thought that Portland won the Randolph deal by acquiring Frye who still hasn’t reached his potential and needs more minutes to show just how productive he can be. As for Outlaw, he’s improved his outside shooting to the point where you have to be cognisant of it when guarding him, same for Martell Webster who possesses the combination of athleticism, ability and skill that’s a coach’s dream. But hey, we got Jamario Moon who held his own against Outlaw for the most part of the game, yeah he got scored on a few times but the rookie never lost focus.

An awesome and hard-fought win for the Raptors where Bosh led the way and Parker provided key scoring early, Calderon pitched in late and Moon played good defense in overtime redeeming himself for his 4-point play foul. Let’s not forget Carlos Delfino who when he decides to be more than jump shooter can be real asset to us. Coming up next is Detroit which by all accounts and Las Vegas predictions should be an L, let’s see what the Raptors learned last week when they handed it to us at the ACC.

One-Liners:

* Outside shooting is such an important part of the Raptors that unless we don’t hit our outside jumpers at a minimum 45% clip, we’ll have trouble staying in the game.

* This game came down to who will step up defensively first and the Raptors did that through Bosh and Moon in OT. Calderon’s key steal on Aldridge iced the game.

* Charles Barkley things Portland will miss the playoffs. That’s just crazy talk.

* You must check out Darrick Murray Martin and his “big balls” dance.

* It’s hard to find a weakness in Brandon Roy’s game but if you look really hard you’ll notice that if you force him to drive, help if he beats his man and rotate properly, you can contain him.

* We need to get Kapono some looks, he’s being wasted right now and is given zero space on the perimeter. It’s a tough situation for the Raps. Maybe we need to put him on the same side as a Bosh post-up so his man is the one that’s helping on the Bosh doubles.

* Bargnani wasn’t awful today, he had a couple hoops but got bit by foul trouble. It’s almost like he doesn’t know the rules in the NBA about hand-checking and what constitues a foul. When he does get called for fouls, he’s got that look which says, “That’s a foul?!?!??”. He should’ve taken Roy to the rim on the post-up, instead he shot the ball like it was a time-bomb.

* Jarret Jack helped us out by going 4-16, Aldridge was 5-17 but Bosh had a lot to do with that.

* Raps get out-manned 52-44 on the boards but make up for it at FT line 18-23.

* Best game of the year so far.

* Podcast #2 tomorrow. If you missed the first one, click here.

Later.