A tough one to swallow that Game 1, but if anything came out of it, it was that we did outscore the Magic 77-71 in the final three quarters and did something right. Needless to stay a better first quarter and a strong-minded defensive effort is required tonight in Orlando. The Game 1 fallout has included claims that Sam Mitchell is on the hot seat if the Raptors don’t show something of substance before the post-season is over. I’m sure it doesn’t help when your All-Star starts openly questioning a failed unorthodox strategy of creating mismatches that backfired in the very first quarter.
Bryan Colangelo is clearly upset at the way the team performed in Game 1 but directed his wrath towards the officiating crew who ignored potential Howard goaltends and let Keyon Dooling suffocate Calderon into frustration. This is an instance where the Magic need to be given credit for playing aggressive and seeing what they can get away with, if the Raptors would’ve played Dooling-type defense on their guards, the officials would’ve allowed it. To the aggressor goes the advantage and that’s the lesson learned from Game 1.
The Raptors regroup for Game 2 with an emphasis on defense, more specifically defending the pick ‘n roll without compromising coverage on outside shooters. Andrea Bargnani had some trouble defending the high screen ‘n roll and both Jose Calderon and TJ Ford allowed excessive guard penetration which wiped out any chance of a defensive stand. Although Bargnani’s starting Game 2 (insane since he’s never ever played the 3 before), I’m hoping for Jamario Moon to see more playing time against Hedo Turkoglo, Bargnani’s size does no good on defense because Turkoglu can easily blow past him. However, the shorter but quicker Moon can use his athletic ability and reach to bother Turkoglu as long as he’s disciplined and aware of the numerous fakes the Turk uses.
Chris Bosh must exploit Rashard Lewis better than he did in Game 1, Lewis was fronting Bosh and pushing him out of his comfort zone and forcing him into tough situations which would always yield a low percentage shot. Chris Bosh by his own admission acknowledged this and looks to be ready for Lewis in Game 2. Lewis is an extremely tough matchup for Bosh because he matches his quickness and length, if Bosh had a more refined post-up game, he could’ve exploited Lewis far more easily but as it is, its going to be up to sheer positioning and effort that Bosh might outplay Lewis.
The other question even the Magic media is wondering is whether the shooting in Game 1 was just one of those lucky nights and something that can’t be produced with any sort of consistency. Probably not, 9/11 3FG is something sick and hard to repeat but the Raptors can’t look at it that way. They need to be aware that in the final three quarters the Magic were getting open looks and simply missing them. At the end of the day the Magic ended up shooting a not-so-insane 45% from three which can be easily reproduced. We need to keep them between 20-30% for us to have a shot.
Dealing with Dwight Howard can be tricky but excessive double teaming and cheating off your man to fake a double is something that will never work, the Magic are too athletic and too good of a shooting team to be played like that. Rasho can slow down Dwight Howard as long as he avoids giving up deep positioning, and even if he does, a double should only come if it can result in Howard being put under pressure, not just for the sake of doubling. The best strategy for the Raptors is to let Howard beat you and get his points rather than let everybody on the Magic heat up. Offensively, we need to go at Howard a bit more, create Bosh on Howard matchups through screen ‘n rolls and try to pick up fouls on him – something he’s very susceptible to.
If we play to our strengths and show some passion and intensity on defense, there’s every chance that we come back to Toronto with home-court advantage.
Let’s go you Raptors!!!!