Spots of great defense win games

Chris Bosh, Toronto Raptors Black Jersey
Golden State Warriors 108, Toronto Raptors 112 (OT)

The Raptors were a hair’s breadth from losing this game in regulation and if they had the theme of this post would’ve been completely different. Instead of focusing on Anthony Parker’s great defense on Maggette in overtime we would’ve focused on the -10 rebounding, missed FTs, bad rotations, late close-outs and other such things. But a win puts an entirely different flavor on the game and sometimes makes us forget what actually went wrong. So before we start with what went right, I want to address a defensive problem that almost cost us this game.

The major problem for us defensively tonight was Jose Calderon. He was basically the main engine of Golden State’s offense for almost three quarters. Golden State’s all-swingmen lineup forced Calderon to check Stephen Jackson or Kelenna Azubuike who both showed no hesitation in going straight at Calderon. The Raptors were forced to help and Sam Mitchell sent the double from all areas of the court. He tried the weak side double, top of the key double, blind-side double, you name it, he tried it. But nothing worked. They kept effectively passing the ball out of the double team through cross-court passes, swing sequences and even clever dump-downs for scores for the final three quarters. The main beneficiary of all this turned out to be Al Harrington whose man was always late on the rotation (you can’t really blame him either, that’s a lot of passes!). Don Nelson’s plan almost worked.

Anthony Parker’s fourth quarter and overtime defense on Corey Maggette and the Raptors’ clutch FT shooting eventually won us the game but it was the consistent offense that we were able to generate throughout that kept us in it. The Raptors kept this game close by making sure they never went in an offensive drought and for that we have Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani and Anthony Parker to thank. I thought we showed great resilience in playing from behind in the fourth quarter and did a tremendous job in sending the game to overtime. For a second it looked like the Raptors were going to throw this one away but Bosh came up with huge scores to keep us within +/- 1 possession – kudos for being clutch! It’s close games like these that build the character of a team and serve as a template of how to play in clutch circumstances. We need more games like these to test the mettle of this team.

It never looked like we were going to blow Golden State away so it was imperative that our offense kept on clicking right through the second unit to keep pace. Bargnani’s second quarter spurt which consisted of some great one-on-one play kept the Raptors in the game despite the offense not functioning smoothly. The energy he brought in the fourth quarter and overtime were also key and the three blocks he registered can be easily viewed as 6 points being saved. The rebounding numbers aren’t there for him right now (5) but just like the Philly game he did the right things on the court. No more jacking up threes you just faked or jab-stepping for low-percentage pull-ups, that set of moves has hopefully been removed from his arsenal in favor of low-block post-ups and a mid-range game. There was one play where he backed Stephen Jackson down to pick up an offensive foul (bad call) and it got me excited. When was the last time we saw Bargnani post somebody up with that sort of conviction? It’s only been two games but he’s on track and let’s hope he stays on it because its very easy to come off it by becoming undisciplined. Afterward Mitchell spoke of Bargnani’s importance in the win:

“I’m proud of Andrea, he had a tough game opening night in Philadelphia and he came back. We couldn’t have won the game without the way Andrea played, his scoring, his defence and you look at some of the blocks he had down the stretch…”

The good news is that Chris Bosh is nailing his perimeter jump shots, the bad news is that Chris Bosh is taking perimeter jump shots. I’m starting to accept the fact that Bosh will drift on the perimeter when given space and I can see why he would do that. If Ronny Turiaf is giving you 5 feet of shooting space its hard to resist unless you have a bulky and strong post-up game which he doesn’t. The jumpshot is becoming the lone option in these cases. He did drive to the rim and finished with authority with 29 seconds left when the game was tied at 93. He could have taken a J but didn’t. Bosh’s clutch fourth quarter play (11 points) included two nerve-racking FTs which were needed to tie the game with 13 seconds left. Bosh was the leader on the court today, offensively he carried the load whenever we needed him to and as always he had a strong rebounding game with 9, something that always gets lost in his performance. Game ball goes to CB4 and even Stephen Jackson thinks so:

“Towards the end of the game, Chris Bosh just took over, playing like the all-star he is. He made plays and knocked down his free throws and there wasn’t too much we could do.”

Jermaine O’Neal didn’t have a great offensive game but Anthony Parker stepped in with 23 points. When one engine fails there better be another to take its place. This will be the difference between winning 48 games and going .500 and so far in two games we’ve made up for a player under-performing by another over-performing. Although O’Neal’s stats are humble (6 and 4 on 2-10 shooting), he had an impact in this game by getting 3 big blocks and challenging their wings whenever they got in the paint. Biedrins beat O’Neal a few times to rebounds and got scores on him but then again Biedrins is a pretty good player. How great was O’Neal’s finger-waving act after pinning a block against the glass? Even if you were completely against the O’Neal trade, tell me that didn’t get you pumped up?

The Raptors offense overall looked good. Calderon looked to push on the break and found Moon, Parker and Kapono early in the clock to initiate the offense. This isn’t reflected in the 6 fastbreak points but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. Sometimes the second pass is the one that gets you the points and that was the case today, we got into our offense early which gave us more time to deal with the Warriors pressure and we ended up exploring second and even third options. Calderon’s high pick ‘n roll with Bosh and O’Neal was effective, he nailed three mid-range jumpers and racked up assists by hitting cutters. Anyone see Kapono cut to the rim when Calderon was trapped in the first half? I don’t think that ever happened last year.

I think it’s great that Sam Mitchell is using Joey Graham in spots. Joey’s at least playing hard if not smart. He’s aggressively attacking the rim and it’s eliciting a reaction from the defense but Joey’s just not smart enough to realize that he’s got the attention of three players and can kick our for an easy assist. Once he makes up his mind to do something that’s all he’s focused on doing, thinking on his feet was never his strength. Jamario Moon had 11 points and 0 rebounds along with 2 steals. The 11 points came almost exclusively through jumpers but at least they weren’t forced (except one) and came in the natural order of things. The 0 rebounds can be overlooked, he was working hard in dealing with Maggette and provided good weak-side defense.

In the first two games of the season we’ve beaten two teams that have talented SFs that are far superior to ours. Coming into the season this was the number one concern for many fans; that we would get dominated by athletic wings on the defensive end and that our SF position wouldn’t provide enough offense. So far both assumptions have been incorrect and the rest of the team has stepped up to compensate when anybody has been lagging off. If we can continue doing this we can sustain ourselves, if we don’t, we’ll get burned.


  • Kris Humphries failed to get in the game and you have to wonder what his role will be if Bargnani continues to play well. For that matter, what’s Jawai’s role going to be?
  • The Warriors’ PG situation might be the worst in the league. DeMarcus Nelson and C.J Watson are just not good enough and if one of them could consistently make a jumper they’d probably win this game.
  • Roko Ukic got his shot blocked after driving to the rim. I think I’ve seen one of these every game we’ve played thus far. It’s the right idea but he’s got to realize his finishing needs to be a lot quicker because unlike Europe, players get to you here.
  • Raptors high pick ‘n roll was working well. The Warriors were content in letting Calderon use the screen and were going underneath which I thought was a mistake.
  • Four of the five Warriors played 46, 46, 45 and 44 minutes. Talk about a short bench. As was brought up with my interview with Matt Steinmetz, Don Nelson’s way trying to win games is not playing his bench. Doesn’t exactly exude confidence in his reserves.
  • Where are Hassan Adams and Will Solomon in the rotation?
  • Aside from that one Harrington three which came off an O’Neal block and tapout, we got a stop when we needed a stop.
  • Player Ratings.
  • Anybody still remember the preseason?
  • Warrior Blog’s perspective

Quick note. Thanks to everybody who showed up at Philthy McNasty’s. I met Drizz there who I found out can drink anyone under the table. Challenge him next time. I don’t know what happened with the Live Blog since it was entirely unmanned. We’ll have somebody there tonight to keep the discussion going.

Nice win tonight. Let’s forget about it and deal with Milwaukee, but if you still want more of this game there’s tons of links on the front page under ‘Latest Web Articles’.

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