Raptors 87, Celtics 94

Well that sucked, eh? I don’t know what’s worse, getting blown out completely or blowing out the other team for the first half and then choking your chicken in the second. The first half was too good to be true, our movement was too perfect, the scoring was too balanced, our execution too sound, it was nothing like the real Raptors. You just knew it wasn’t going to last for two reasons: 1) The second half is where the pressure is at and 2) We weren’t getting production from Bosh. No matter how good the supporting cast is playing, road games against great teams are won by your superstars. Paul Pierce stepped up the scoring for the Celtics in the fourth quarter and our superstar got neutralized by Kevin Garnett. Again. And once more the overarching reason for the loss was the pathetic fourth quarter offense that resembled that of a middle-school JV team.

Paul Pierce had 22 points in the fourth quarter. Chris Bosh had 0. Box. In fact, he had 2 points in the entire second half and took only one shot. Let me say that I’m thankful to Bosh for saving us against the Bobcats and coming through against Golden State and hitting tons of clutch shots for us this year but all that doesn’t mean a damn thing if you don’t even wake up for the big games. This right here was a big game and we needed him, we needed his scoring, his intensity, his leadership and his passion and we got nothing. Jermaine O’Neal carried the team in the first half and Jason Kapono did all that’s in his power to keep the offense chugging along in the second half. Jose Calderon didn’t have a great game but when you have Kevin Garnett’s sweating dripping on your face you’re going to look at your big man for help and when its not there, you’re going to struggle. Even Joey Graham and Kris Humphries came off the bench to give us a spark. The guy that was missing was Chris Bosh and what made things even worse was that Garnett was bringing the intensity, trash talking every Raptor, D’ing up Bosh on the perimeter, fronting him in the post, playing him physical and we didn’t manage a whimper in response. We just sat there and took it. Disgusting. Chris Bosh, go look yourself hard in the mirror tonight.

Let’s talk about wing production again. You’ve been reading these posts now, I don’t need to dig up the Detroit and Atlanta numbers up for you to guess that we got killed here again. Pierce/Allen outscored Moon/Parker 55-20. That alone is a stat that should lose you the game but thanks to our strong rebounding effort (even at 39) and good ball movement (25 assists), we were somehow in the game till late but just never got the boost we needed. Obviously Chris Bosh didn’t provide that boost so we looked at Andrea Bargnani who picked up 4 fouls in 11 minutes and went 1-4 for two points and 0 rebounds. We can’t really ask more than we got from O’Neal so we looked to Jose to provide that boost but its hard when you’re running the same play 30 straight times in the second half and Boston keeps negating the pick ‘n roll by not allowing you shooting space and not allowing the pick setter to roll. What do you do then? Nothing. Nothing because that’s all we’ve got. That’s all Sam Mitchell’s pathetic excuse for a playbook has in it. All that movement we saw in the first half doesn’t work in the fourth quarter because the Celtics are awake and playing defense, not just loafing around. We needed somebody to demand the ball and want to win this game by attacking and putting the onus on the defense to stop them. Never happened.

This team just isn’t able to get easy baskets. In the seven games we’re played so far, here are our fast-break points:

4, 6, 4, 0, 3, 2, 2

I don’t know who’s fault it is, maybe its Jose not being aggressive enough or our wings not running the break or making attempts to leak out, bottom line is that we can’t run or play transition basketball. This would be more than acceptable if our offense functioned properly but since we labor to get good shots and struggle to score when it counts, it becomes crucial that we make up for it elsewhere. Having a strictly half-court offense while being crappy at it will only lead to losses like these. We need points and need to be creative in getting them. High pick ‘n roll only takes you so far.

It’s no surprise that Sam Mitchell’s playbook is thinner than a menu at a hot dog stand but at least we can expect some sensible substitutions, no? Is Jason Kapono qualified to be guarding Paul Pierce in the fourth quarter? I mean, you’d think after Pierce’s first 30 points he’d switch and let Moon or even Graham check the man or maybe God forbid double him since our rotations weren’t bad last night. I’d even settle for Kapono checking Ray Allen instead of Pierce, at least he wouldn’t have gotten blown-by and posted-up on the same play. I understand that if Bosh is choking to death you have to keep Kapono out there because he’s the only guy who’s got something going but does he have to guard Pierce? We didn’t even do offense/defense substitutions late in the game!!! How appalling is that?? Hey Sam, what’d you think of Kapono guarding Pierce:

“You look at the shots Paul Pierce made. He drove the basket a couple of times, but he was making a lot of 18, 19-foot shots with guys contesting him.”

No you clown, he had Jason Kapono guarding him and Paul Pierce has made a career out of hitting the 18 footer. If you think getting a token hand in the face is called a “contest” then you’re sadly mistaken. Once again Sam throws his hands up in the air and goes “Oh well, what can you do”. No, this should not be tolerated. We need to get him some coaching help ASAP, maybe a willy old defensive-minded assistant coach or a guy who can remind him when to play offense/defense. Something. Anything to keep him from doing shit like using Bosh as a decoy for an entire quarter.

There was a key play in this game. Trailing 84-81, Boston called timeout and came out with a great play that got Ray Allen a wide open three and he drained it to tie the game. The Raptors in response brough the following out of their timeout:

2:41        Jermaine O'Neal bad pass                                    84-84
1:50        Kendrick Perkins blocks Jermaine O'Neal's 15-foot jumper    84-84
1:17        Jermaine O'Neal turnover                                    84-86	
0:52        Jose Calderon misses 13-foot jumper                         84-88	 
0:30        Anthony Parker misses 26-foot three point jumper            84-90	 
0:17        Jason Kapono misses 26-foot three point jumper              84-92	 

Pretty pathetic eh. What these lines don’t tell you is that we took most of these shots with less than 3 seconds on the shot-clock and basically threw the ball into O’Neal when nothing else worked. There was no semblance of a play being run here, just us running around like chickens with our heads cut off.

One of the substitutions that hurt us the most was Jose Calderon being pulled for Will Solomon for absolutely no reason. We’re just coming off the third quarter break and there’s no reason to give the reigns to Will Solomon in this pressure packed environment. We’re nursing an 8 point lead and should be focusing on extending it rather than letting the Celtics back in the game. Mitchell goes with Solomon and here’s what our offense does under Solomon who struggled to get anyone the ball without at least 16 seconds running of the shot-clock:

10:57        Will Solomon enters the game for Jose Calderon                       69-61	 
10:41        Will Solomon bad pass (Tony Allen steals)                            69-62
10:18        Jason Kapono bad pass (Eddie House steals)                           69-63
10:00        Jermaine O'Neal offensive foul (Leon Powe draws the foul)            69-65

It’s only three possessions but its three fourth quarter possessions that we get nothing out of and continue giving the momentum back to Boston. We have a day off tomorrow and our big guns need to be in there to see this thing through, there’s time to rest later. I’m just singling out one substitution but there’s also Joey Graham who had a great first half but didn’t play the entire third quarter and then was brought back in the game in the fourth ice cold.

Give kudos to Jermaine O’Neal for getting the Raptors off to a hot start, his 19 first half points were the main reason the Raptors were in this one and I’m starting to think that if it weren’t for him this game could’ve gotten out of hand early. He’s also the only guy that showed some real intensity by getting in Kendrick Perkins’ face in the first half and backing people down like a man possessed. In the second half we stopped looking for him and when we did, he got doubled and passed the ball well out of it. For the Raptors to win games consistently we need three scorers, tonight we got one and it wasn’t our main guy. I’m shocked we didn’t get blown out, oh wait, we did: 58-39 in the second half.

Is it me or did you want to throw a brick at your TV when you saw KG trash talking Calderon as poor Jose couldn’t believe it. Or how about Pierce crying out at the sky as he sinks another clutch jumper. Did you wish we had players that did that kind of stuff? Show outright emotion, play with their hearts on their sleeves, get pumped up and inspire their teammates, not settle for a loss and will their teams to big wins in big divisional games. I’m sad, it makes me sad that we don’t have anybody like that.

The Raptors last year beat the weak teams and lost to the good ones and this year appears to be no different. We just took one up the arse!

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