Watching casually as the Raptors beat the Knicks

New York Knicks 111, Toronto Raptors 113

It’s very hard to judge a preseason game because you don’t know whether to attribute mistakes to rust or inability. How seriously does one look at missed defensive assignments, box-out problems and general chaos on the defensive end? Is it just a bunch players trying to get a run in or is there a bigger purpose to this? Although we won the game it felt like there were many things wrong with the way we played not the least of which was our team defense. On the other hand we saw some good positive play which if replicated throughout the season could give us a chance to win a lot of games. Instead of analyzing the overall team and individual play to death, I’ll just try to point out some of the things that went right and some that went wrong:

Chris Bosh: Good: A very good scoring game, most of his points came by taking the 15 to 21 foot jumper. The jumper looks smoother and he’s got a lot of confidence in it. He’s setting an example for his teammates by diving for loose balls and playing the boards aggressively Bad: Took a lot of jumpers and we never saw a single post-up move from him. The one time he did post-up he took a fadeaway….and made it.

Jermaine O’Neal: Good: Looked rusty, his bread and butter move is the drive into the paint, stopping on a dime and either shooting over the defender or powering into him for a layup. He executed it successfully a couple times and got fouled twice. The jumper looked sharp even though me missed a couple. Got early position by establishing himself in transition and made an impact. Bad: Either wasn’t very into rebounding today or just had a bad game where he was in the wrong position a little too often. Got dunked on by Chandler. Pretty bad too.

The chemistry with Bosh is coming and you can see that that they’ll be using the hi-lo a lot. Chris Bosh is making an honest effort in trying to establish a 1-2 game with O’Neal and is trying hard to feed him the ball.

Roko Ukic: Good: Showed a very nice tendency to drive the ball into the paint and create off of the bounce. Solid in his defensive stance although couldn’t check Crawford or Marbury when matched up with them. Played a little point with Solomon and some off-guard with Calderon and showed that he could contribute for 5-8 minutes a game….against the Knicks. Bad: Defense is an issue but you’re not going to notice it on a night like this because everything was in shambles. The 3-shot foul on Crawford was unacceptable but he’ll learn.

Andrea Bargnani: Good: Displayed a much smoother mid-range jumper which had a “float” aspect to it rather than the usual line-drive. Made an effort to play inside; always looked to post-up first rather than just stand at the three-point line. Even the jumpers he hit started off with him either posting-up or catching the ball near the rim. Had a couple nice drive to the rims where he finished one of them. Had a nice block on Randolph. Bad: Couldn’t really see the improvement in rebounding technique, its early but he got caught a ball-watching a couple times.

Jason Kapono: Good: Showed once again that he can drive to the rim. Bad: The shooting was off-target but its early, no need to be concerned. We all know what he can do.

Willie Solomon: Good: Has a little TJ Ford to his game. Doesn’t mind jacking up shots and has a good enough stroke to make you pay for playing off of him. Hard-nosed defender but we only saw glimpses of that today since the overall team play was so poor. Bad: Could not penetrate a not-so-tough Knicks defense as much as you would’ve liked. Content to stay on the perimeter rather than create by force.

Kris Humphries: Good: Very nice game. Couple put-back dunks, boxed his man out, showed an ability to finish in traffic and always hustled. It’s basically even between him and Bargnani right now. Good: Took a couple 16 footers and missed them badly (as expected).

Jamario Moon: Good: Made his jumpers. Bad: Took way too many jumpers, he never looked to drive the ball and when he finally did in the fourth quarter it ended badly for him.

Jose Calderon: Had a rather anonymous game where he hit a few jumpers, had some bad passes, had trouble guarding Marbury and pushed the ball up the court without actually pushing the ball up the court. It’s hard to get a take on his game right now except to say that he’s definitely in cruise-control and is picking the spots where he decides to go hard in pre-season. There’s an article out there today which talks about him and new role (which is a lot like his old role) except its full-time.

Matt Devlin: Good: He’s not Chuck Swirsky. Bad: He’s not Chuck Swirsky. He’s a little monotonous and boring but I’m all for that. I’d much rather have my brain do the analyzing than have it done for me. Article in G&M about him today.

Again, its tough to read too much into this game, you have to like the way Chris Bosh played and its easy to appreciate what Jermaine O’Neal brings to the table. Somewhere in the muck that is our roster there could be a good 7-man rotation. It’s exciting to see Ukic and I can see him being a good solid NBA player, he might even take less time to develop than Calderon. So there’s another reason to thank Rob Babcock. The defense was a big mess, close-outs were non-existent, pick ‘n roll defense was bad and the concentration level wasn’t there. The offense basically worked through one-on-one moves and the pick ‘n roll wasn’t featured as much as we’re used to but even so we managed to score rather easily. Again, its the Knicks and its the preseason so I’m willing to let a lot of things slide.

The Knicks appear to be a free-wheeling team that aren’t scared to jack-up shots regardless of quantity or quality. It makes them more fun to watch and they look like they want to be on the court which alone counts for something in the New York media. David Lee and Nate Robinson were impressive, both broke down the Raptors defense with relative ease and always looked to cause problems. At the end of the day the Raptors defense tightened up a little and Will Solomon made a couple big shots to ice the game.

We got a good run in, that’s what counts.

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