Toronto Raptors 99, New York Knicks 103

So much for that Orlando win, before we dissect this performance it’s time to remind everybody that the Raptors are 4-4 in the easy month of February, a month where they were supposed to go 9-3. Let’s get the stats out of the way: We got out-rebounded 45-36 (12-5), the leaky perimeter defense gave up 43 points to Jamal Crawford and we committed 16 turnovers. Andrea Bargnani went 1-5 FG with 2 rebounds, Zach Randolph killed us with 26/15 and Bosh countered with 23/8. Enough numbers, let’s talk about why we lost to the team that got spanked by 40 in Philly.

We were shutting out the Knicks in the first quarter for one singular reason: hard double teams at Randolph/Curry, neither of which know how to pass out of double teams. It left the Knicks scrambling and struggling to get into their offense, they couldn’t establish any kind of rhythm and their bigs never got near the offensive glass, it was one and done. Starting in the second quarter, Jamal Crawford lit us up from the perimeter and for the remaining three quarters, we never adjusted. We continued to give him space on the perimeter and he kept knocking down jumpers, Jamario Moon, Anthony Parker and Carlos Delfino were all guilty of allowing too much space beyond the arc for the deadly Knick. The same old perimeter defense, the same old result. Sam any ideas on Crawford?

“With Jamal making shots like that, it’s just tough. It’s hard to overcome 43 points by one guy”

Aah, the throw-your-hands-in-the-air excuse.

But we’re used to bad perimeter defense and bad rebounding so it’s not a shock that even the lowly Knicks can beat us when they’re motivated enough to play. It’s the mysterious departure from doubling Randolph that gets me, whenever Randolph caught the ball in the third quarter, he was allowed to progress instead of give the ball up. Maybe it was the fear of Crawford that was in Sam’s mind that he refused to double Randolph, allowing him to go at Bosh and Baston without mercy. Sam does know that it’s possible to slow down a hot perimeter player AND send a double team to a guy who can’t pass out of one, right? We allowed Crawford to get hot early and he stayed hot, we allowed Randolph to get hot starting in the second and he stayed hot. A bad, bad defensive game by the Raptors.

We attempted 26 threes. Granted, we’re a three point shooting team but you can’t rely exclusively on the outside shot. Time and time again, the Raptors swung the ball out of Bosh double teams only to settle for a three. If you thought the Raptors interior rotation defense is bad, I got news: the Knicks is even worse, their communication on defense is horrible. However, we never exploited this weakness, instead of swinging the ball inside ala UCLA cuts, dump-downs or even hi-los, the Raptors were content on shooting from the perimeter at the end of the swing sequence. Case in point, this is how the Raptors ended the game on offense:

2:39	Carlos Delfino misses 23-foot three point jumper   94-97
2:36	Jamario Moon offensive rebound                     94-97
2:27	Jamario Moon misses 26-foot three point jumper     94-97
1:44	Chris Bosh misses layup                            94-97
1:15	Chris Bosh defensive rebound                       94-97
1:00	Carlos Delfino makes free throw 1 of 2             95-97
1:00	Carlos Delfino misses free throw 2 of 2            95-97
0:39	Jose Calderon misses 25-foot three point jumper    95-99
0:20	Chris Bosh misses 26-foot three point jumper       95-99
0:15	Jose Calderon personal foul                        95-99
0:14	Jamario Moon defensive rebound                     95-99
0:07	Carlos Delfino misses 23-foot three point jumper   95-99

We took 5 threes in the last two and a half minutes. The only play going to the rim was a short Bosh jumper at 1:44. That’s it. Bosh was guilty of settling more than anyone, two nights after his performance against Dwight Howard, he never challenged Zach Randolph or David Lee into guarding him, always making life easier for the defender by opting to go with the jumper. Maybe we thought we had this game won after the first quarter? We’ve had letdowns before and it’s no surprise that it happened again tonight, and we shouldn’t be surprised if it happens again next week against Indiana.

Good thing Colangelo got Primoz Brezec to come in and help out with the rebounding, I was getting real worried there for a bit. Seriously though, we can’t compete with any team with a half-decent frontline when it comes to rebounding. Chris Bosh is the only player who goes after the rebound on every play as soon as the ball hits the rim, but other than him and maybe Jamario Moon, we’re all “wait and see” rebounders. As in, let’s wait and see where the ball goes before I decide to go after it or not. Asking Bargnani to rebound is like asking Paris Hilton to do her own laundry. Bargnani prefers to shoot the ball, rebounding is meh to him. I was angry 7 seconds into the game when Bargnani launched a deep three as soon as he caught the pass from Calderon on our first possession. What the fuck are you trying to prove man? A heat check this early? Whatever happened to inside-out and using your quickness against the slow ass Curry? All that shit went in one ear and out the other?

I’d like to quote CreaM from RealGM who summed up Bargnani’s overall game in response to a poster who was blindly defending the pick:

Do you honestly think that with the type of shots Bargnani takes, he is consistently able to hit at a high percentage? The numbers don’t lie, he is inefficient as a scorer but people fail to realize this because the try as much as possible to focus on the little “positives” they can find.

Call me a hater but as long as Bargnani plays the way he does, he will never be a consistent scorer in this league. He like to get up shots in a hurry and when he hits 2 or more straight, he feels like its his right to take the next 5. I dont know if that is the way he was coached in Italy or its just a natural flawed mentality but its present. That is why you either see 4 point games or 24 point games from him. Unfortunately, the latter only happens once every 10 games.

As long as Bargs plays the way he does, he will never be a successful player in the NBA IMO. He has to change his style of play which I don’t see happening anytime soon.

It’s hard to sweep a divisional rival, no matter how pathetic, in any league. The Knicks were going to get a win in the series at some point, they almost pulled it off in January and finally managed to do it here. The worst part about it is admitting that the Knicks deserved to win this game while the Raptors pretended to have won it. This team often goes into cruise control for reasons beyond my comprehension and that is a reflection upon the coach. As soon as things start coming a little easy for us, we assume that that’s how things will be for the rest of the game. There is simply no excuse to let your guard down when you’re playing at Madison Square Garden. Sam Mitchell sees it in the same light but is obviously unable to transfer his ideas onto his players:

“You’re never supposed to win, this is professional sports. If you don’t play well and execute, you’re going to get beat. I don’t care who you’re playing.”

Calderon had a very mediocre night going 5-15 FG and Ford looked very rusty and rightfully so. This game showed how important Calderon is to this team, he needs to have a stellar game for us to have a chance in games. Any time Bosh is neutralized we can only look to Calderon to provide the necessary scoring punch and leadership. It’s sad that the two other sources of offense that we were supposed to have (Bargnani and Kapono) are struggling so bad that we’ve grown to accept their negligible offensive production. I hope the only reason Kapono remains on this team is that nobody was willing to take on his ridiculous contract, other than that there is simply no excuse why his ass is warming the bench. 8 minutes and no shots? As PsychicSpy’s conspiracy theory goes, he’s strictly looking out for his percentages and doesn’t even want to shoot unless he’s wide fucking open.

Is it me or is every Jamario Moon jumper of the bad shot! bad shot! goooood shot variety. You know, the one where you cringe while the ball is in the air and let out a sigh of relief when it goes in hoping he’ll never try that again. You just knew he wasn’t going to make that three late in the fourth, he was simply due to miss. You can’t argue with his production on the night though, 16 points and 8 rebounds is saying a lot despite the two instances where he tried to force a pass to seldom used nomad Maceo Baston. Baston’s cameo reminded me just why Sam Mitchell doesn’t play him. Brezec’s already ahead of him in the rotation.

Here’s a lame prediction: we’re going to kick the Knicks’ ass on Sunday but guess what? Just like Washington, it don’t matter if you didn’t win the first game. Going .500 against the Knicks is as bad if not worse than going .500 against a Wiz team missing Butler and Arenas.

Liners:

* What is up with the funky camera angles when interviewing Brezec at halftime? Made me dizzy.

* I’m not sure how I feel about Delfino’s game. He was 5-11 FG with a couple important deep threes and was a huge part of our comeback. But I’m not liking the shoot-first modes he goes in and out of throughout the game.

* Kris Humphries played a good 9 minutes in the first half and was never heard from again. I don’t understand it, why did we bring in Maceo Baston when Humphries was on his way to having a solid game. He already had 4 points and 4 rebounds in 9 minutes, why the exile to the bench?

* Same applies to Rasho, he should’ve been there at the end of the game instead of one of Parker/Delfino/Moon, none of who can properly box out and prevent David Lee from getting crucial offensive boards.

* Eddy Curry wasn’t even a factor in the game. He was hurting us early but Isaiah did a good job of taking him out of the game for us.

What a horrible way to start the weekend, I’m disgusted.

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