Beggars can’t be choosers so we can’t be getting too picky about the type of wins we get as long as they’re wins. Despite missing Robinson, Marbury, Randolph and Curry, the Knicks put up a very commendable fight and if it weren’t for their bad FT shooting and blown gimme layups, this one might’ve been one of those “I don’t believe we just lost that” games for the Raptors. The sense of urgency that we expected to see in these final 12 games was only there for the first quarter and after going up big on the Knicks early, we shifted down a few gears and expected NY to fade. A trend far too disconcerting for anyone.
No matter how big or small the Raptor lead was there was a general feeling that it was a comfortable one, aside from Jamal Crawford, the Knicks didn’t have a firepower scorer that could propel them to a win. Crawford and Jared Jeffries did their best in cutting a 17 point deficit down to 3 in the second quarter but fortunately for the Raptors, that was the last of the big Knick runs. We had serious trouble putting them away because our offense couldn’t handle the zone and the pressure they were applying on Bosh (5 TOs). Our defense couldn’t contain the Knicks’ playground style of ball which consisted of one-on-one moves and jacking up the first chance at a shot. If the Knicks had been a little more patient or if Fred Jones didn’t suck, they’d have a lot more to say in this one.
Neither team played very well, the Raptors struggled stopping the Knicks and the Knicks never got into any sort of offensive rhythm. If the Raptors had played better defense and played with more intensity, there was no reason why the Knicks wouldn’t have been blown out of the water by the third quarter. This might cost us against New Orleans because Bosh ended up playing a game-high 47 minutes! Yup, our superstar needed to play 47 minutes against the second worst team in the East who happened to be missing 60% of their starting lineup. Yikes!
Chris Bosh (29/10/1) had his hands full with Jared Jeffries (21/10/3) who was running the break, hitting the glass and being very aggressive by attacking the rim. Bosh had a strong but quiet night, he spread his points across the game and seemed to come up with timely baskets whenever the Knicks were about to get too close for comfort. Isiah Thomas noticed it too:
“Toronto did a good job of keeping us at bay, whenever we tried to make a run, Bosh was there to answer it.”
Stick Rasho Nesterovic into any role and he’ll produce, tonight he was at his best and kept getting deep position on David Lee and Jeffries for scores around the hoop. The beautiful part about the 18/8 from Rasho is that they all come naturally, not a single shot is forced and not a single shot can be considered a bad shot. Needless to say his play has been superb, what does get lost in his performances is what he’s been able to do on the defensive end by throwing his wide load of a body around to block out players from getting offensive rebounds. Unless there’s a serious helter-skelter under the rim, you’ll never see his man pick up an offensive rebound.
It wasn’t pretty watching the Raptors trying to figure out NY’s zone defense nor was it any fun to watch us crumble when the ball was pressured. TJ Ford did a good job of figuring out what NY was doing and never forced it by going blindly at the heart of the zone but choosing to penetrate just enough so that zone would somewhat collapse on him in the paint and he’d pick out his options. A very controlled and impressive 10 point, 9 assist and 0 turnover performance from TJ which included an ankle-breaking move on Jared Jeffries made for Sportscenter (the ESPN kind, not the TSN garbage).
Andrea Bargnani tends to play pretty well against the trash of the NBA so it wasn’t surprising to see him put up a decent night of 12/4 in 22 minutes. It’s the sort of performance you can build on, maybe go to bed happy tonight that you hit a few shots, managed to get a nice dunk and weren’t manned-out on the boards. But he should be anxious to get back on the floor on Sunday so that he can build pressure on Sam to put him back in the starting lineup. I want the man to be ticked off that he’s coming off the bench and it should motivate him to play harder and smarter. A lot’s been made of the “internal competition” on the Raptors – Graham/Moon/Delfino and Ford/Calderon – but the most interesting one is the minutes battle between Rasho and Bargnani. Idealy speaking, Bargnani would play 35 productive minutes a game and in the process hone his skill-set and start becoming the next Nowitzki while the veteran Rasho spells him for 12-17 minutes a game. But it’s turning out quite differently coming down the final stretch with Rasho playing the bigger role and Bargnani being part of the supporting cast. A bit of an unexpected role reversal. On a somewhat related unrelated note, Barraketh on RealGM summed it up nicely:
The problem with Bargs is that he was picked too high. The man has huge flaws in his game, and though it’s possible that he will be able to overcome them and become a great player, it’s by no means a sure thing. If we were a team like Seattle, we could let him play through his mistakes. However, we’re a playoff team, and we need to win now as well as later. He was given his shot as a starter, he didn’t learn on the job fast enough to keep him there – guess what, that’s NBA for you! It’s absurd to say that he hasn’t been given a chance to succeed. From here on out he has to earn his minutes just like anyone else – by contributing on the floor. Hopefully he’ll train hard this offseason and come back a much improved player.
A very stupid moment occurred in the game where Chuck Swirsky was openly laughing at how the Knicks weren’t running any set plays but just going around “freelancing” as suggested by Jack Armstrong. Do they not see the hypocrisy in this or have they completely shut out the fact that we are one of the worst when it comes to freelancing on offense? Also, did anybody catch Swirsky saying Amare Stoudamire is neck and neck with Kevin Garnett when it comes to who’s more deserving of the MVP? I hope this guy doesn’t get an MVP vote. I can point to at least 4 other very homerish/questionable things uttered by the Swirsk, but lets not dwell on it.
- Phoenix spanked Philly so we’re back in the 6th spot. Big game on Sunday, Hornets lost to the Celtics so they’ll be looking to get back to winning ways.
- I wonder where the Knicks would be if they fielded the same lineup they did tonight and didn’t have Randolph/Curry/Marbury. They’d probably win the same number of games but at least they’d be fun to watch and a lot cheaper.
- Jason Kapono with 7 scoreless minutes. I’m trying to think of how this guy can have an impact on this team and right now I’m coming up blank.
- Seeing Jamario Moon pass up a jumper to drive and dunk the ball in the first quarter was a welcome sign and Jack Armstrong very correctly pointed out that we need a lot more of that. But in typical Moon style, that was the last such play.
- We played down to the level of our competition but we have good outside shooters and the 50% shooting bailed us out.
- I disagree with Swirsky/Armstrong that David Lee is the one guy you’d pick up from the Knicks. It’s Jamal Crawford by a big margin.
- After Charlotte, Detroit is the only +.500 team we’ll face and even they’ll be resting their starters.
- CB4 = Top Rap.