San Antonio Spurs 93, Toronto Raptors 88

“Let’s just say the language was PG.” That was the phrase used to describe Bosh’s demeanor in the third quarter by Rod Black who hasn’t figured out the motion picture rating scale just yet. When this was reported out of the huddle by the extraordinary journalist, the Raptors were getting spanked soundly by the Spurs at home and CB4 was in the midst of a miserable 3-11 FG performance where he looked exactly like the second-tier star that he is. Apparently Bosh was angry and agitated with his mates about the teams performance, the funny part about that is that the team wasn’t doing all that bad, it was Bosh that stunk the joint up by being a no-show in a statement game.

Pretend you didn’t watch the game and somebody told you the Raptors lost, what two reasons would you guess for the loss? Think about it, take a few seconds while I type a few ellipses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . if you picked rebounding and perimeter defense you’d be spot on. See, it’s come the point where you don’t even have to watch the game to know why they’ll lose. We got outmanned 46-34 on the glass and got burned by the Spurs’ perimeter ball movement which continuously carved us out with lot of the effects being felt in the paint. You’d figure that we’d defend Manu Ginobili a slightly different way after he’s already dropped 25 but no such luck, and there’s not even Sam to blame. The loss drags our record against the quality teams even further lending a significant hollowness to our overall record which stands at a seemingly constant 4 games over .500. Now when the month began, most of us had already circled this one as a L but to see it happen this way is disheartening. The loss isn’t bugging me as much as the way we lost it.

There were two plays that epitomized Chris Bosh’s performance, one of them was in the first half when he had Damon Stoudamire guarding him one-on-one at the top of the key and Bosh chose to uncork a fadeway jumper from 17 feet instead of getting the two easy point. The other play was a replica of the first one except it was Jacque Vaughan who was guarding Bosh when he launched another ungodly fadeaway. We needed him to go at Oberto and Elson with a vengeance but he chose to lay back, neither of the Spurs PF/C combo has the quickness to stay with Bosh but once again, he let them off the hook. With Bosh being a non-factor, it was left upto Jose Calderon to be the primary offensive threat and he tried his level-best to keep the Raptors in it but never got the help he needed from Parker, Bargnani or Kapono. Icy hot Carlos Delfino was the only other player who was ready to take on the challenge of the Spurs and his Argentinian pals. Not enough contributors on a night where we needed everybody to play at their level or better.

Let’s talk about Andrea Bargnani for a bit, he’s been playing a lot better of late even though his shooting percentage nor his rebounding is where we’d like it to be. But when you compare how awful he’s been for most of the year, you look at a 3-11 FG, 2 board performance and go, “Eh, he could be worse”. Or you try to justify it by saying that he at least tried to do some things right by attacking the rim and playing sound but ultimately ineffective defense on Duncan. Bluntly put, we need more output from him and I don’t even care about the boards. Although his size might suggest otherwise, most of us are starting to live with the fact that he’ll never be a great rebounder and are coming to grips with the reality that 80% of his contributions will come on offense. So on a night like this when Bosh may as well be on the bench, it makes his contribution even more important and when he comes up short, we don’t stand a chance. It’s only because of Calderon that this game was even close.

I was officially sick of it last week but now I am disgusted by Jamario Moon shooting jumpers like they were part of the game-plan. Leo’s lone good (and obvious) point in this game was that the jumper should be a supplement to Jamario’s game, not his primary offensive weapon. It’s when he starts thinking that his perimeter shot is the endpoint in the offensive set is when he needs to be benched, taken aside and given a lecture. The fact that one of the first shots of the game was a Moon deep jumper should tell you that the Raptors are a little unprepared. The Raps are one of those teams that need the first 15 plays of the game scripted, exactly what they do in important football games. It’ll get them off to a good start and help them avoid digging a 9 point hole which you struggle to get out of for the remaining 45 minutes. My point from yesterday about the Raptors coming out without any intensity at home was in clear view today as the Raps came out ball-watching instead of trying to kick-start the game.

Getting to the numbers, we shot 44% and allowed the Spurs to shoot 49% and grab 10 offensive rebounds including the most critical one when Manu Ginobili rebounded his own miss (for what seemed the 16th time) with 10 seconds left. A player who wasn’t boxed out ends up costing us a chance to tie the game. The defense on Ginobili was extremely suspect all game long, when you have a player that’s “in the zone”, you put a guy on him and tell him to not worry about anything but his man. I mean he shouldn’t look at anything but his opponent’s face and force him away from the things that he’s doing well. The Raptors simply didn’t do that, when Moon was guarding him, he was inexplicably offering help on Jacque Vaughan and Finley drives! WTF man? Just worry about Ginobili and make him put the ball on the floor and at least make him think about driving. Every time he did drive, he either didn’t finish or passed the ball off. If you’re a big Manu fan, check out this article which gives him the fellatio he deserves, apparently Greg Popovich’s PG interview consisted of two words:

“Manu Ginobili”

Deep, fucking deep. A word on the Spurs though, they were awesome to watch. The perimeter ball movement was crisp, the speed at which they recognized perimeter doubles was unbelievable and their inside-outside and outside-inside ball movement was timed perfectly enough to elude any Raptor defender hoping to make a rotation. Despite their efficient offense and our typically bad rebounding and defense, we were right there in the game and if we had just gotten a little push from Bosh, maybe if he had just canceled out Duncan’s 22, we would’ve been singing a different song. As it is, the Raptors lose to another top-tier team.

TJ Ford was ineffective, while he was on the floor he canceled out Damon Stoudamire but ended up spraining his wrist and was never heard from in the second half. I thought this was one of those games where he could’ve exploited Stoudamire or Vaughan off the dribble but watching him play you realize that although John Lucas has done a great job of keeping him in shape, he’s not ready for primetime minutes just yet. The rust is surely wearing off but his jumper is a little flat, just like it would be if your legs aren’t in your shot. It’ll come back, give it some time.

Up next for Jay Triano and the Raptors are the revenge-seeking Nets at home. I can guarantee you that Jersey will actually be up for this one and won’t have forgotten the 37 point drubbing. Let’s hope San Antonio’s the only team who’ll end up getting the payback they so desperately seek.

Liners:

* This was one of the most perimeter oriented games the Raptors have played and the offense never looked more stagnant. Aside from the high screen ‘n roll, there was zero movement.

* Bosh’s aggressiveness dictates the Raptors’ aggressiveness and when he’s not playing with fire and energy, we tend to lay back a little. Either his love with the jumper needs to stop or he needs to become a better shooter, status quo is not cool.

* Manu Ginobili had 15 boards, he knew where the ball was going before anybody else.

* Fabricio Oberto’s defense on Chris Bosh was suffocating. It’s one thing to shut a player down by forcing the jumper, Oberto played great ball denial, tight post defense, never allowed Bosh to catch the ball in an advantageous spot, used the baseline effectively and simply outsmarted Bosh.

* Andrea Bargnani didn’t have a good game but as I said before, I’m finding it really hard to criticize him because relatively speaking, he played fucking great!

* Anthony Parker’s perimeter defense needs to get better, I sound like a broken record but he needs to stick to his man and stop relying on playing recovery defense – he’s just not quick enough to be cheating and then trying to close-out a shooter like Ginobili or Finley.

* TJ and Jose played at the same time at the end of the first half. This tells me Mike Evans wants to experiment playing both PGs at the same time and it’s Mitchell that has some unwritten rule against this phenomenon.

* It’s a pity to see Jose Calderon’s awesome performance go to waste, I wish Chuck and Leo would just STFU about Calderon being more “selfish”. To top it off, as soon as he missed an open jumper, they point out how the move wasn’t “aggressive”.

* Tim Duncan’s line: 11-19 FG, 22 points, 13 rebounds.

* If you’re sick of Chuck Swirsky and want to listen to the game on the equally bad but less annoying Fan 590, check out this piece of software, it gets rid of the TV delay by syncing your radio.

Till tomorrow.

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