Toronto Raptors 100, Sacramento Kings 106

The first three quarters were marred by stretches of bad defense, spotty offense, turnovers and generally speaking, some low quality basketball on both ends. Both teams were thankful that the other hadn’t blown them out so the fourth quarter began with the Kings nursing a three point lead and the Raptors looking to salvage a win on this roadtrip before they get a lesson in Basketball 101 tomorrow in Utah. The game was up for grabs in the fourth quarter but the Raptors, not surprisingly, failed to execute down the stretch on both ends and the core flaws of this team were yet again exposed.

Let’s fast forward to the fourth quarter to the part where we’re intentionally fouling Sacramento to stretch the game. Who’s their best FT shooter? It’s Kevin Martin at 86.4%. Who do we allow to easily catch the ball four straight times and get fouled? Kevin Martin. There was zero ball denial being deployed and Martin iced the game going 6-8 and Sacramento grabbed the offensive rebound on his last missed FT (how fitting). The inbounds play where Delfino allowed Artest to walk right underneath the rim to catch and lay the ball in reminded me of Corliss Williamson in Game 5 of the Detroit series. It was that dumb and obvious. The Raptors weren’t even on the same page when it came to fouling, Mitchell wanted the Raptors to play defense with 34 seconds left but Jose Calderon didn’t get the memo and so began the fouling fiasco. Maybe it’s stretches like these that’s prompted TSN’s Tim Chisholm to openly rip Sam Mitchell:

Mitchell can (and does) blame the players all he wants, but his Raptors have become a purely reactive team because he coaches them that way. This is not a team that walks into a game knowing who they are and how they’re going to beat their opponent, they’re a team that looks to interrupt what their opponent does and hope that they fall apart like the Raptors do in similar circumstances. They never impose their will on their opponents, but rather try and counter every move their opponent makes against them, tacitly admitting that they can’t conceive of a plan to beat them in advance and giving all the psychological power that implies to the opponent.

Rasho Nesterovic’s soft hands and Jason Kapono’s outside shooting kept us in this game of runs where the first team to play defense was going to come out on top. Just like the Golden State fourth quarter, nobody played any real D, the Raptors just cooled off between the 2:40 and 1:04 marks of the quarter where Jamario Moon missed a three and Jose Calderon missed a jumper. On the other end in this same stretch Kevin Martin and Ron Artest got scores while Brad Miller hit 2 free throws. A 1 point game turned into a 7 point deficit and that’s all she wrote. Talk all you want about whether Jamario Moon is the guy to be taking threes in crunch time (and why Kapono was on the bench) but that’s a whole other topic. This paragraph is to let you know what key stretch cost us the game.

This blog is becoming pretty boring because I keep saying the same shit over and over again: Their guards got into the paint way too easily and created opportunities for everybody around them. 19, 17, 14, 32, 15. Those aren’t the lottery numbers, those are the point totals for Sacramento starters who were benefiting from PG penetration and the Raptors’ inability to fight through the pick part of the pick ‘n roll. For a team that runs the pick ‘n roll on eveerry siingllle plaaay the Raptors can’t defend it for shit, Jose Calderon is the worst when it comes to this. He firmly believes that going underneath on a shooter is a valid option as long as you flail an arm after the shot’s been taken. This is pretty basic stuff, almost man-you-ball basic. The rebounding was expectedly bad again, 50-36 is the final tally with Sacramento grabbing 5 key offensive boards in the crucial fourth quarter. Ho hum.

Looking at Mikki Moore (17/7) and his snake collection I can’t help but think that’s the type of guy this team needs. A banger, a banger that knows how to bang and rebound, and be angry and collect snakes. That’s what we need, a snake-collecting, mean, tattooed, angry, tough rebounder to set some things right. Plus he can hit the mid-range jumper better than Brezec, Hump and Bargnani. Yes, I said Bargnani. What did Sacramento get him for? 5.3M. We threw away four times that much on Jason Kapono who had his second great game of the year. Bryan Colangelo dropped the ball on this one, he knew Garbajosa had injury issues and didn’t address our interior defense need even after having an up-close view of Moore in the NJ series.

It’s becoming clear as my Dasani bottle that Jose Calderon and TJ Ford cannot coexist. I’m not being a drama queen nor am I a supporter of one over the other. They’re hampering each others games, Calderon hasn’t been the same since TJ got back and TJ hasn’t been the same since he’s been coming off the bench. Let’s face it, he’s over his injuries now so the deserving player should get the starting job and since TJ is our official starter, there’s no need for him to come off the bench anymore since you can’t really lose your job to injury. It’s not like the team is in some great rhythm that something might be disrupted if TJ starts. Maybe they can play better if they have well defined roles, like it was in the beginning of the season. What do you think?

Although they won’t admit it, the other is a distraction to them. More Ford to Calderon, than vice-versa. We need to get back to having a traditional PG setup and trade one of the two to address one of our many other needs. Which one do we trade? Do you really care? Is one of them that much better than the other?

This one hurt. Tomorrow in Utah will be very tough, Matthew Sekeres agrees.

Liners:

  • If Sacramento doesn’t commit 22 turnovers, this one might’ve not even been close.
  • Andrea Bargnani supporters, let’s hear it: 2-7 FG against a Kings team that doesn’t have a center. 37% shooting in the last five games? Why is he taking transition threes when he has the laterally challenged Brad Miller on him? Didn’t we draft him to blow by slower bigs? What gives? What are we waiting for? I thought this was the perfect opportunity for him to step up with Bosh being out? Huh? Anybody?
  • Sam Mitchell doubling Anthony Johnson with TJ Ford on him in the post is questionable. Johnson is not a great offensive player and even if he can score, why not let him make a shot before respecting his post-up game?
  • The Raptors need to get better at double-teaming. For starters, either do a hard double team or don’t do it at all. Poor Jose Calderon is often asked to provide temporary help on the post-up player which doesn’t bother him at all. All it does is pull Calderon out of place so his man can drift, catch a pass and make an open jumper.
  • Our close-outs on Kevin Martin, Ron Artest and Beno Udrih were very bad. We have to do a better job of keeping track of our man on the floor and must rotate briskly, quickly and with a purpose to shooters. I sound like a broken record but perimeter D and blow-bys are killing us.
  • Leo Rautins love Jason Kapono. Leo calling out TJ Ford as being the reason why Kapono missed clutch threes was asinine, Leo argued that Ford wasn’t finding Kapono on the floor and that cooled him off. Wrong! Only once did TJ not pass him the ball on the wing, that does not cool off the reigning 3-pt champ.
  • I want a job like Doug Smith. Sitting courtside, I promise you I’d report a helluva lot more than what he does.

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