Toronto Raptors 89, Detroit Pistons 103

Did the Raptors just concede this game in the third quarter after the lead ballooned to 16? Fine, I can convince myself to live with that even though a 16 point lead isn’t exactly a mountain to overcome, but what gets me is the starters remaining on the bench once we cut the lead to 9 with 10:40 to play. After the bench led by Juan Dixon, Joey Graham and Rasho Nesterovic managed to slice the lead to manageable levels, Sam Mitchell chose to rest the starters in anticipation of Sacramento tomorrow. I was completely dumbfounded by this move because at that point you have to put back Calderon, Bosh, Parker and Delfino in the game and hope the momentum shift will continue and maybe you can cut this lead down further, especially with Wallace on the bench. Mitchell conceded the game way too early and the Raptors didn’t even bother giving themselves a shot in the fourth quarter. Now what made entirely no sense was the re-introduction of only one starter, Bosh, in the fourth quarter with 6:22 left and a 10 point game. So you don’t bring back the starters with a 9 point lead a 10:40 to play but you bring back one starter with a 10 point lead and half a quarter to play? Makes no fucking sense.

Let’s move on past this insane substitution pattern and talk about what lost us the game: turnovers and helping off the wrong person. The “Points of Turnovers” stat is often misinterpreted in my opinion because it doesn’t necessarily indicate that the other team scored because of your turnover, but rather after your turnover. Today, the former was true. Every time we turned the ball over (14 in total), Detroit was off and running and getting easy baskets in transition making it look easy. If that’s not bad enough, we also let our guard down defensively and committed a very familiar sin: helping off a shooter. The biggest culprits included Anthony Parker and Jason Kapono who have a fetish for helping out when they should just stick to their man, it’s no surprise that Hamilton and Billups ended with 39 and 20. They make jumpers for a living and we made their living very easy, especially Rip’s.

A couple posts ago nolagunner had made this comment on the blog leading me to give Bosh more of a break for not driving the ball enough:

I’m not being snarky here, but has anyone considered the idea that Bosh doesn’t drive every time because he’s fucking exhausted? I mean, the man has to pace himself given all he’s being asked to do.

It’s an excellent point although my beef with Bosh has as much to do with him not posting up enough as not driving enough because driving can be taken away by a defender if he gives you space, taking away someone’s post-up game is much harder. Either way, today he did neither. He completely and utterly settled for the outside jumper and never challenged any of the Detroit power forwards into defending him. Detroit was more than content letting him shoot from outside and Bosh fully obliged. He wasn’t even rolling on the pick ‘n rolls opting to attempt a 20 footer. His most aggressive move was reserved for late in the fourth quarter when nothing mattered, not very POW like. Anyway, once that avenue of scoring was shut down, we never had a chance in this game but thanks to Delfino, Parker and Calderon willing the Raptors back into this game, the lead was only one at halftime leaving the door slightly open. The said door was quickly slammed shut after the Raptors started the third in the same way they started the game: turnovers and leaving shooters open. Once the lead bubbled to 16, the events described in the first paragraph transpired, leading me to conclude that we didn’t do all we could do to win this game.

Jason Maxiell’s 9 rebounds and 8 points really hurt us because they came through offensive rebounds and some hard-nosed banging down low. It occurred to me that we have a player who can contend with Maxiell, his name is Kris Humphries who only played 8 minutes while Maxiell logged 27. Humphries must’ve killed Sam’s dog and raped his cat because if there ever is a game where your power forwards need to log minutes, it’s against Detroit. I don’t remember Humphries doing anything to warrant an exile to the bench in his 8 minutes, do you? He traveled once but that’s only after he tore down a rebound over Maxiell and McDyess and lost his footing. Somebody please fill me in.

As tradition dictates, any post-game post must have at least one paragraph about Andrea Bargnani so here goes. This time he managed to grab five rebounds (practically fell in his lap) but unfortunately it came at the expense of scoring 0 points. I guess you take the good with the bad except that we’ve been taking a whole lot of bad and very little good this season and as the stats indicate, today was no different. He was out-hustled by McDyess on a couple occasions and was also caught trailing plays much to the chagrin of Mitchell who was once again forced to yank him. I’m not sure what the solution here is, I’m not a coach or a GM, I’m an unpaid blogger who doesn’t see an end to his misery. The best I can suggest is to somehow light a fire under his ass so he plays harder and stronger. We even might have to take that previous statement literally to get him going. We need a second scorer to beat good teams, on a night like tonight where our primary scorer is MIA, a player like Bargnani becomes even more important.

The officiating was terribly poor with the Raptors getting the short end of the stick on every occasion prompting Sam Mitchell to very audibly yell into the microphone, “Why can’t you just say you blew the call?” followed by a prudent “Fuck you!”. Who needs coaches wearing mics when you got Sam? Take that ESPN and ABC. But shit usually happens for a reason, the Pistons were way more aggressive than the Raptors and earned the calls. The Raptors on the other hand rarely attempted (let alone made) a shot inside the paint. Today was the best example of just exactly how perimeter oriented we are and just how much we need somebody who can play in the paint.

For me it’s never whether you lose or win, it’s how you lose or win. I didn’t like the way the Raptors played or the way Sam coached this game, I thought we could’ve come closer and challenged Detroit in the fourth but for whatever reason we didn’t. I had this one circled as a loss in the 4 in 5 stretch so it’s not a shock we lost, but it’s still a tough one to swallow. Sacramento tomorrow will not be easy.

One-Liners:

* Parker/Delfino/Calderon got us to within 1 point of the Pistons in the second quarter, they deserved a chance to do the same in the fourth.

* The Raptors settle for the jumper even when they’re in transition and have numbers in their favor.

* Give the Detroit defense some credit on shutting down Bosh, they gave him space so it was harder for him to use his blow-by quickness. But they didn’t prevent him from attempting postups, that option was there all game long.

* If there’s one good thing about tonight, it was that Kapono got some shooting practice. Hopefully he got some of his rhythm back.

* The team as it is right now can make the playoffs no problem, they might even be able to get home court advantage. But winning a series or two is an entirely different matter. We have a big hole at the 5 spot and there’s not enough scoring from the 3. 1 and 4 are the only spots where we’re solid with Anthony Parker being the lone gunman at the 2.

* Sam Mitchell didn’t talk to Andrea Bargnani for three weeks! That is a sign of horrible coaching, you need to communicate with a player, you can’t isolate him and shut him out and magically hope he gets better. Tough love doesn’t work like that.

* This was the longest I’ve ever seen Calderon stay on the bench. I still can’t get past the fact that we conceded so early.

* My heart stops every time Moon shoots outside of 15 feet. Lucky for us, he’s making his share over the last couple games but it’s still scary that him shooting jumpers is something we’re encouraging and seem to be looking at as a source of offense.

* Am I the only one who wants to lunge and claw at the screen every time they show Darrick Murray Martin on the screen. Yeah, Dixon was clanging it 1-8FG but I’d still rather see him in there, at least when he chucks, it has a chance of going in.

* Richard Hamilton’s line included 16-22 FG (5-6 3 FG). Isn’t this a little excessive? Didn’t it click to the Raptors to cover this guy after he had made his 10th open shot?

* Jason Maxiell is type of player that the Raptors are desperately searching for. Somebody who plays close to the rim, uses his body and hot his jumper and can rebound. An unbelievable pick by Dumars late in the first round, now that is some good late drafting.

* Detroit is unbelievably patient in their offensive sets. After examining mismatches with the utmost care, they find a way to exploit them by making the perfect pass and then to top it off, finish with composure.

* Nobody give me the “We were resting the starters for tomorrows game” excuse in justifying Sam benching the starting unit with the game still up for grabs.

* If you missed the second podcast, check it out here.

I apologize for this post being so long.

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