Toronto Raptors 87, Orlando Magic 102

Rarely are there instances where you can definitively blame a loss on one player but last night the horrid stretch of play by TJ Ford in the fourth quarter undoubtedly killed any shot that the Raptors might have had. Missing Chris Bosh is a lot to overcome against Dwight Howard and the Magic, but the Raptors managed to do that by getting their big gun in foul trouble and making him an essential non-factor for the better part of the game. After surviving the first half thanks to Jose Calderon and Anthony Parker’s hot shooting and after a battling effort in the third quarter, we managed to stay in this one going into the fourth. That’s where Ford took over for the worse.

Now you can look at perennial non-factor and Harry Rosen mannequin Andrea Bargnani’s 2-11 FG and 6 points and surmise that perhaps if a better effort had been put out, the Raptors would’ve handled the Magic rather easily. But his performances have been so inconsistent and the excuses surrounding his play have been so many that we’ve all come to accept him being an inconsequential piece of the Raptors season. To expect anything positive out of him over more than a 1-game stretch is asking too much so let’s leave him on the side. The focus of my anger is Ford. Consider this stretch starting the fourth quarter:

11:27	T.J. Ford makes 14-foot jumper	70-73
11:11	Kris Humphries shooting foul (Dwight Howard draws the foul)	70-73
11:11	T.J. Ford defensive rebound	70-74
10:57	T.J. Ford makes 14-foot jumper	72-74
10:42	Jason Kapono defensive rebound	72-74
10:33	T.J. Ford bad pass	72-74
10:00	T.J. Ford misses 12-foot jumper	72-77
9:48	Jason Kapono shooting foul (Dwight Howard draws the foul)	72-77
9:36	T.J. Ford misses driving layup	72-78
9:15	Toronto full timeout
9:06	T.J. Ford misses 11-foot jumper	72-80
8:52	T.J. Ford bad pass (Rashard Lewis steals)	72-80
8:45	T.J. Ford makes layup	74-80
8:17	T.J. Ford bad pass (Dwight Howard steals)	74-80
7:54	T.J. Ford makes 26-foot three point jumper	77-83
7:16	T.J. Ford makes 18-foot jumper	79-85
6:58	Jamario Moon personal foul (Dwight Howard draws the foul)	79-85
6:28	T.J. Ford lost ball (Carlos Arroyo steals)	79-87
6:11	Toronto 20 Sec. timeout
5:58	T.J. Ford makes free throw 1 of 2	80-89
5:58	T.J. Ford makes free throw 2 of 2

Our starting point guard just tried to do a Michael Jordan impersonation and simply ball-hogged for the first 6:30 of the fourth quarter not allowing any Raptor to take a shot in that span. Sam Mitchell had nailed Calderon to the bench despite him having great success against Jameer Nelson and Carlos Arroyo on almost every possession. Instead of Calderon, Ford started the fourth quarter and practically shot the Raptors out of this game. A 5 point deficit was increased to 11 and to make matters worse 6:30 crucial minutes were shaved off the clock. Two questions: Why didn’t Calderon start the fourth? Why wasn’t TJ yanked after he obviously made the game about him and Carlos Arroyo by looking past his teammates? I’m not saying we would’ve won the game if Calderon had the reigns in the fourth, I’m saying we would’ve had a much better shot at it.

It’s hard to look past the Ford fiasco but let’s move on. Rasho Nesterovic had a very good game, nothing spectacular but he held his position against Howard, hit the glass and got some contested rebounds, he was unfortunate to get called for some fouls and had a couple non-calls go against his way on the other end. However, in the fourth quarter with the game hanging in the balance, Rasho was nowhere to be found guarding Howard who found himself covered by Andrea Bargnani. Howard proceeded to torch Bargnani for 6 straight points where the defense was so bad that even a Grade 8 coach would’ve had a meltdown. The number one rule of defense is to stay between your man and the the basket which Bargnani forgot twice, on the other play Howard eluded him quite easily on the baseline for a hook shot which should’ve been sealed off. That little stretch combined with Ford’s theatrics was the TSN turning point.

I need to give credit to Anthony Parker for playing with his heart on his sleeve, you can tell that this guy wants to win and is looking to compete. 19 points and a team-leading 9 rebounds is no joke for a 2-guard who along with Calderon were the two people who really showed up to play. You never know what you’re going to get on offense with Delfino, today he laid an egg doing 1-7 FG for 4 points but you can look past that because he did manage to snatch 9 rebounds. That’s more than you can say about our starting small forward who on any other team would’ve been benched for his lack of production. No offense to Moon but bad perimeter shooters who struggle to defend and rarely slash to the rim are dime a dozen in the D-League. Perhaps Colangelo should take another peek in the cesspool of D-League talent and see if he can find himself a hungry SF who’s willing to fight it out in the NBA and doesn’t get too comfortable just because the coach seems to have blind faith in him.

The Magic weren’t playing well and the Raptors were staying in the game by taking advantage of Orlando turnovers, cleaning the boards (47-41) and answering back every Orlando run with a few shots of their own. The failing perimeter defense failed again but not to the degree it did against Charlotte or Indiana, or maybe that only appears the case because the Magic only made 8 of their 23 threes. They did shoot 52% and Turkoglu and Lewis proved to be deadly from the perimeter and by going to the rim. Again, with no Bosh in there it’s super-easy for any semi-athletic swingman to drive the lane and take a shit on us. Our perimeter rotations have been poor for three years in a row and our interior rotations have been non-existent. The only reason it’s not glaringly evident more often is because Bosh hides a lot of our problems.

Why am I so pissed off? We weren’t expecting a win here anyway but as we always say, the way you lose matters more than the loss itself.

Miami tomorrow, winnable? Hmmm.

Liners:

* Don’t tell Leo Rautins that Jason Kapono is struggling. He’s not having any of it, No sirree, Bob!. Kapono’s crafty see, he leans in for jumpers and goes 1-4 FG, that’s not struggling, that’s him being multi-dimensional. WTF Leo? We’re not idiots, we can see through your lame ass shit excuses which try to portray Kapono as a half-decent signing and try to ignore the obvious fact that he’s as useless as an appendix.

* Rashard Lewis was begging Sam Mitchell to put Jamario Moon on him so he could show rookie just exactly how you back someone into the post, create space and lay the ball in.

* Do we have any plays? I can’t seem to remember seeing one, everything is freestyling based on whatever pops in your mind. I know ripping on Sam about his X’s and O’s is getting old but the guy doesn’t have any X’s and O’s. Fuck, I’ll even settle for a strategy or a method or a gameplan, anything at this point. Dwight Howard getting in foul trouble was totally unplanned, it just so worked out that the guy picked a few fouls up helping our cause.

* Primoz Brezec gets into the game in the 1st quarter after being chained to the bench until the 3rd against Charlotte? Somebody please explain this to me, really, please explain this to me. How do these subs work? Based on gut feeling?

* Sam should’ve seen that TJ had made this game about himself and was being a detriment to this team and taken him out early in the fourth.

* We lose the season series 2-1, not that it matters. We’ll probably end up playing Orlando in the 3-6 matchup.

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