What a game! The Raptors take out Boston in a clutch and tense affair which put a premium on the proverbial ice in the veins. Jose Calderon’s two clutch free throws followed by a decisive drive to the rim for a three point-play put the Raptors up by two. Off an offensive rebound, Raptor killer Ray Allen had a wide-open, albeit fading away jumper rim out to give the Raptors a win that’ll reverberate around the association.
For a moment it looked like conceding 16 offensive rebounds and giving up 26 points on 19 turnovers would be too much for the Raps to overcome but 58% shooting compensated for all that and then some. When those outside shots are falling at close to 60% we can beat the ’86 Celtics no problem, let alone this bunch. Chris Bosh was doubled every time he caught the ball but still managed to match Kevin Garnett’s output and when it counted in the fourth quarter, KG couldn’t stop Bosh. Andrea Bargnani, yes Andrea “Popeye” Bargnani showed up and showed up big. He singlehandedly kept us in the game in the first quarter by scoring, rebounding and passing like the player we thought he was. The best moment for me came at halftime when Leo Rautins interviewed him and asked about his first half performance:
“I’ve played very bad for one month. I don’t want to talk about myself.”
At least he seems to know just how bad he’s been of late, maybe, just maybe this game might bring him out of his HUGE slump and he might become a contributor and in some peoples’ eyes increase his trade value. Now even bringing this point up after a game like this makes me a party-pooper but if we were openly discussing it yesterday, there’s no reason not to do so today, right? Such are highs and lows of an NBA season that the goat of one game is the hero of the next. Let’s focus on what he did right today: he sealed of his man from the boards, on more than one occasion it was against KG that Bargnani timed his rebound jumps to perfection not allowing even a remote chance of an offensive rebound. On offense, he sold his shot fake, drove, and then pulled up for a jumper, then he took his time with an open three and drained it. On the other end, he kept his arms straight up and played defense with his feet instead of his hands. Instead of blindly taking the first shot, he looked for other options and created wide open threes three times. He drove to the rim, and when the defense challenged, he reversed it for the And1. In short, he played with confidence and was fundamentally solid which is where it must start with him. Even his offensive foul looked good.
As well as Bargnani played, the game ball goes to Jose Calderon and his 24 points and 14 assists. Jose’s outside jumper is soon going to be classified in the “deadly” category if it hasn’t already, when he has his feet set it’s a no-doubter and when coming off a screen where the PG goes under, he’ll drain it without hesitation, just ask Rondo. Anthony Parker’s efficient night of 8-12 FG offset a lot of things, one of them being Ray Allen. Allen went 7-16 for 19 points but had to work hard to get them, Parker was making him play defense and that naturally took away from Allen’s game. Besides the turnovers the main complaint against the guards today was letting Rajan Rondo and Tony Allen drive to the rim too easily, play your percentages and make them beat you from the outside, they can’t.
The +/- stat can be very misleading but sometimes it tells the entire story for a player and tonight Juan Dixon’s -13 was entirely indicative of what he brought to the floor. If there’s a game that you want Dixon sealed to the bench, it’s tonight. Boston made no secret of going at Dixon at every opportunity and always got points, Sam was smart to use him as little as possible and only because Calderon’s heart would’ve popped out of his mouth if he didn’t get a break. Personally, I would’ve given Graham a run today and see how he’d fare against Tony Allen who scored 14 straight on us. The rumor that Colangelo’s after Stoudamire might sound like good news but if he’s acquired it’ll throws a wrench at our point guard situation. I don’t even want to speculate what’s going to happen when TJ comes back (presumably after the All-Star break) and Damon’s demoted to 3rd string PG. Actually, since I think that would be a pretty shitty and unavoidable situation, it only makes sense that Colangelo won’t be going after Stoudamire.
I was calling for Humphries to get off the bench all game long, surely we could’ve use his hustle and muscle when we were having trouble grabbing boards, no? It’s one of those, “I’m glad we won so we won’t have to talk about it” decisions. The pessimist might say that this was a fluky win and we can’t possibly shoot 58% against Boston again, to which I’d say that we can’t also possibly commit 15 unforced turnovers. We saw some anomalies on both sides but in the end they evened out. There is a silver lining in the turnovers though, did you notice Jose trying to force the issue a few times and end up getting easy scores for Rasho, Bosh and Parker? One of the chief complaints against Jose is that he’s too conservative and doesn’t drive and kick, today he showed that if he wants, he can break down a good defensive guard like Rondo and create for his mates. His penetration set up more than a few open jumpers off the second pass, yeah, his inside-outside pass got picked off a couple times, but overall it was very effective.
Scalabrine’s three which put the Celtics up by 7 at the start of the fourth looked to be a turning point which would see Boston pull away. But Bosh, Parker and Delfino were huge to open the fourth while Calderon rested for four minutes. At first it appeared that Sam had made a mistake in benching Calderon to open the quarter and there’s no doubt if we’d lost, that would’ve been brought up in bolded font. However the aforementioned trio scored every single Raptor point until 30 seconds left in the game which is when Calderon took over. Even when the Celtics turned up their defensive intensity, the Raptors always had an answer which silenced the crowd and inched this game closer to being one of the best played between the two clubs.
Doc Rivers, you surprised by the shooting?
“Fifty-eight percent from the floor; 71 percent from the 3; 100 percent from the foul line. At least the foul line wasn’t guarded. Half the guys in our league couldn’t shoot 15-for-21 if they were in a gym by themselves, It was almost like we didn’t believe they would shoot another one.”
Yeah, I know Doc, sucks when the other team’s lighting you up, eh?
* Anybody tired of watching Jamario Moon shoot jumpers yet?
* Carlos Delfino hovers so close to the border of being a chucker that sometimes we’re just forced to admit that the man looks for his shot first at all times. His baseline fadeaway and pull-up three was unacceptable, luckily, those are the only two shots he forced.
* Anthony Parker: There’s no reason to be unsatisfied with his play, I thought that the Doug Smith C grade was very harsh. He’s basically producing the same as last year, if you look at his PER, they’re almost identical. Yes, he has bad games but he doesn’t get stuck in ruts and continues to try to make the right plays on the court.
* Our rotations were brutal and we got carved out too easily once Pierce and Allen got into the lane.
* Chris Bosh took a backseat tonight and had a quiet 23/7 which was overshadowed by some turnovers where he tried to make passes which he’s never done before. He made three very tough jumpers which probably should’ve been drives but came up big for us in the fourth with key hoops and FTs. For the first time in a long time, the potentially great balance that this Raptors team has was displayed on the court.
* If Ray Allen would’ve hit that jumper this entire post would’ve been about defensive rebounding.
* So Bargnani’s ordering spinach salad’s with with Swirsky and Maurizio Gherardini (according to Chuck, he is God incarnated as man ) while Bosh and Moon are probably zoning out to Madden ’08. The company we keep.
* What does this win mean? It says Game 1 could’ve gone either way, in Game 2 we didn’t have our big guns, you guys beat us fair and square in Game 3 and we won Game 4. I think it gives the Raptors a true sense of belief that they can compete with Boston.
* Best defense in the NBA you say? 114 points I say. Fuckin ‘eh.