Orlando Magic 110, Toronto Raptors 127

Move the ball, go inside with Bosh, shoot well from the outside and play just enough defense. Sounds simple enough but the chances of all four things happening on the same night are rare, but when they do happen, it’s a sure sign the Raptors will win a blowout. The Magic game was supposed to be one of the tougher ones of the month what with Dwight Howard and all, but Chris Bosh has always reserved his better games against Howard (CB4′s averaging 22.5/9.2 against him) and tonight was no different. For all of the shit Chris Bosh takes at times (including in this space), he remains our best player and last night’s game was Exhibit A of just how un-guardable he can be in certain matchups. This game actually changed my outlook on whether we could take out the Magic in a 7-game series, I think we can.

There were a couple plays tonight which served as microcosms of this game, they both went something like this: Calderon brings the ball upcourt, Bosh sets a screen for him (at this point Jameer Nelson is lost), Bosh is rolling towards the rim while Calderon is also attacking the rim at the same time, the help comes inevitably. Instead of Calderon forcing a shot, he swings it to the weakside where the ball is swung around back to the strong side for a short jumper. If there’s a thing called “textbook Raptors basketball”, it was on display tonight. And top it all off we only got out-rebounded by 6 and there’s even a silver lining there, we beat them on the defensive boards 25-23.

Dwight Howard had a quiet 37 which I only learned of when looking at the box score after the game. That sounds like an idiotic statement but many of his points came with the Raptors up by 14-17 points and comfortably in command. Thanks to some key scoring plays in the fourth the Magic never went on the run that might’ve cut this lead to say 7 points and made a real ballgame of things. Scoring 37 on 13-16 FG is awesome but when your counterpart is going 14-16 FG with 40 points, you know you haven’t done your defensive duties and your offensive efforts have been more than offset. In all fairness to Howard his lateral quickness is very shitty, almost as bad as Brian Cook’s which made Bosh’s job even simpler. Give credit to Bosh, he did the right thing every time, when given space he hit his jumper, when played too tight he took it to the rim. Flawless game. Throw in some ridiculous 11-20 3FG and the only way the Magic would come out with a win is if their offense was clicking at peak efficiency. Turkoglu and Lewis went through cold stretches whereas Delfino and Calderon never eased up. Orlando was savoring their Detroit victory and didn’t feel too bad writing this one off.

There’s a nice quote about Bosh from Stan Van Gundy in this Orlando Sentinel article:

“My respect for Bosh came three years ago in one of those rookie-sophomore games (during all-star weekend). One of those games where no one tries hard. Except Chris Bosh tried hard all night long. I knew he was special then. Everybody was clowning around but not Bosh.”

Despite all the respect, Bosh rarely saw a double team all night which Van Gundy later regretted.

“There was not one thing they did that we could guard. Chris Bosh we could not guard, we didn’t have anybody that could guard him, we’ll have to think about double-teaming him next time. I thought Dwight (Howard) could guard him a little bit but he obviously could not. We could not guard (Jose) Calderon on the pick-and-roll at all and we did not close out on their shooters. There wasn’t one thing we did defensively tonight that impacted them whatsoever. We didn’t have much trouble getting good shots and scoring, that’s not the issue against this team. We’ve got to be able to guard them, we could not and end of story.”

In the same article Van Gundy mentions how Chris Bosh “destroyed” Orlando center Dwight Howard. Makes me feel good.

Not to be a bitch about things but one thing I noticed is that we have horrible communication in our interior defensive rotations. Bosh is left hung out to dry almost every time he comes out to help. Now he’s not the kind of guy that’ll turn back and give Bargnani or Parker a glare, but somebody (Sam?) needs to recognize that we need to get a LOT better in such key areas in order to actually contain a good offensive team over a series. It’s always a pain to watch Jamario Moon shoot jumpers but to his credit he’s gotten smarter and confidently dribbles in a couple steps to get the target within his limited range.

Normally a “heat check” happens when a player’s hit a few shots in a row and he wants to test whether he’s still in the zone. Carlos Delfino works the exact opposite way, his first couple shots are his heat checks. If they go in, he’ll keep shooting and if he makes them nobody complains. If he doesn’t make them, he’ll wait a few minutes and do another couple heat checks, if he’s still not making him, he’s useless on the night. Today, he made all his heat checks and it follows that he had a strong offensive game. Delfino is an extremely streaky shooter who hovers on the border of chucking far too frequently. He can’t be relied upon to provide consistent scoring, if he’s hitting his wide open jumpers presented to him by Calderon, it’s a good night but other than he’s hit and miss. Check out his recent scoring outputs:

8, 5, 0, 0, 3, 12, 2, 16, 14, 23, 26, 0, 0, 15, 18, 1, 11, 6, 7, 14, 7, 11, 7

The talk of freeing up cap space to sign Calderon often comes up but soon we’ll have to make a decision on Delfino. I doubt he’s worth more than 5M/yr and if we could just trade Kapono and give that money to Delfno, I’d call it a fair day.

Trade Deadline

The trade deadline is today and unless the coaching staff has a master plan to get production out of Kapono, he is the prime candidate to depart, not Juan Dixon. Case in point is this game: if he’s only managing to get 4 points in 14 minutes against a Magic team coming off a back-to-back, its hard to imagine how inconsequential he’ll be in the playoffs when the defense is locked in. In theory, he’s a great signing. People double Bosh and we need some outside shooting to offset that, but in reality he’s simply too easy to cover on the perimeter and there is no conscientious effort being made on the part of the coaching staff to actually get him in a rhythm leaving him to create on his own, which he can’t. I don’t believe Leo’s bullshit about Kapono not being a one-dimensional player and willing to put the ball on the floor. He’s missing the point completely: we didn’t bring him here to put the ball on the floor, just like we didn’t bring Dell Curry in here to be a swingman.

There are teams out there that could use outside shooting: Phoenix, San Antonio, LA Lakers, Golden State to name a few but Kapono’s contract is a bit on the ridiculous side to make him great trade bait. But then again, he is the best open jump shooter in the league and I find it hard to believe that there aren’t takers, even if they’re just willing to give expiring contracts in return. I just got done watching the Phoenix/Lakers game and the Suns need outside shooting and they might even do it at the expense of Kapono’s non-existent defense.

There’s also the Michael Pietrus for Juan Dixon and Joey Graham rumour that’s gaining momentum. I’m not sure if this trade will even have a ripple on the eventual record of the Raptors team, Pietrus is a good talent but at 6′ 6″ he’s a bit undersized to really help us with our rebounding problems. He’ll be able to help us out with our perimeter defense. Now his teammate, Andris Biedrins is somebody who would really help us out with some rebounding, shot-blocking and interior defense but Don Nelson isn’t demented enough to give him up.

Liners:

* Stan Van Gundy needs to relax. Taking one of two on the road on a back-to-back isn’t all that bad.

* I’m not one for the Jose Calderon/TJ Ford debate but it’s hard for a point guard to play any better than how Jose’s playing right now. I feel at ease every time he has the ball, even with the clock winding down or late in crunch time. 19 points, 13 assists, 8-10 FG.

* Andrea Bargnani was brutal tonight: 1-8 FG, 2 rebounds. He looked a lot like that Bargnani we started to loathe in January. If we lost this game, he’d be a big talking point.

* This is the easiest part of our schedule, we get to play the Knicks who got blown out by 40 in Philadelphia. It would dampen my spirits if we lose even one of the game against the Knicks.

* 127 point is a season high for the Raptors.

* How many times do we have to hear out the names of the TV crew in the truck? Chuck, stop yelling out their names and saying us how great they are. They’re mediocre as can be, hardly a game goes by where the auidence doesn’t miss at least three plays. Besides, if every time somebody got a shout-out for just doing their job, all we’d be doing is shouting shit out.

* Chris Bosh is The Top Rap.

Later.

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