Josh Smith, Amir Johnson
Poor wing play wasted a great effort from our big men including Bargnani
76ers 106, Raptors 96

The two biggest question marks coming into the season? Wing production and the backup point guard spot. The prime reason we lost today? Wing production and the backup point guard spot. It’s not a great shock that Philly came into our building and got the revenge they sought. I wasn’t expecting it but that’s only because I thought the Raptors would come out with some fire after the Boston debacle and I was wrong. It’s disheartening that our sorry excuse for wingmen wasted great games by Chris Bosh, Jermaine O’Neal and Andrea Bargnani by going a combined 6-28 (21%). Box. It’s my duty to point out that Anthony Parker went 0-6 from three and was 4-16 overall including numerous clean looks. I also wouldn’t be doing justice if I didn’t mention that the 1 in Jamario Moon’s 1-6 FG came as the final buzzer sounded off. Overall, another sad night from our wingmen.

Let’s talk about these wingmen before we get to other stuff to make things quick I’ll just quote Jack Armstrong as he’s talking after the game:

You look at the wing position tonight and they go 6 for 28. It’s unacceptable and its not getting it done. You’re not going to beat many teams if your 2/3 spots are shooting like that. You’re getting 28 shots and you have to shoot at least 42 percent to be respectable. You’re getting good play out of Bosh, Bargnani and O’Neal and you have to get something from the 2/3 spots. If you don’t get high-end play from those spots, you’re not going to win many games.

There, now you have a credible analyst saying what everybody’s been saying. Our wing position needs to be addressed, it needed to be addressed at the end of ’06-’07 and at the end of ’06-’08 but our general manager didn’t do anything about it. Jamario Moon was a nice little surprise last summer but even last season he was playing minutes that were beyond his skill and talent level. This year it’s more of the same and we don’t even have a chucker like Carlos Delfino to fall back on. I can’t see things getting much better if Parker and Moon continue to get the bulk of the minutes at their respective possessions . No, I don’t mean give them to Joey Graham, I mean Sam Mitchell needs to rethink his rotation and perhaps even consider playing Andrea Bargnani at the SF.

The way the team came out was very disappointing, they didn’t match Philly’s energy from the outset of the game and got down by 17 early in the second quarter. At this point you know you’ll be playing from behind the entire game and that takes mental and physical toll on you. After much scratching and clawing we cut the lead to 4 early in the fourth quarter and had the crowd behind us. Will Solomon then lost track of Lou Williams and got burned for a three, on the ensuing possession Solomon had the ball stolen by Williams who then lit him up for a jumper after Green broke down the defense. 9 point lead, momentum gone, game practically over.

Will Solomon got the call after Jose Calderon left the game with an injury and he looked like Will Solomon. Sure, he hit a couple threes after big man doubles but his turnovers and defense cost us. His reach 33 feet away from the basket resulted in an easy Philadelphia score in the fourth and prompted Sam Mitchell to call a timeout. Let’s look at that play from Will’s perspective, he probably tried that in Europe and got a steal because the guard was too slow to react and the crowd starts chanting ‘King Solomon’. In the NBA, Andre Miller just crosses it between his legs and makes you look a fool as he gets himself an easy assist. Picture the voice that’s in those negative campaign commercials saying the following sentence: Will Solomon: He’s just not ready.

I think if Jose Calderon goes down with an injury it’ll be a far greater deal than if Bosh suffered one. Ukic and Solomon are nowhere near ready to step in and play major minutes, especially on defense. Neither can negotiate a pick ‘n roll without looking nervous and neither one of them has the ability to absorb pressure and make an assist out of a bad situation. Our offense is dependent on big man scoring and we need a backup point guard that can get them the ball in an uneventful manner. Ukic is a young man and will likely get there but I don’t see what Solomon brings to the table. I was told that he’s a good defender but that’s not been reflected in his play of late either. We all know what Hassan Adams can do which begs the question: Aside from the TJ Ford trade, did we do anything this offseason? Sam Mitchell touched on the two PGs:

“We have two guys who are trying to learn to play in the NBA. You can watch it on TV, you can practise it but until you get in front of 19,000 people and until you’re playing against starting point guards and guys who have been in the league and know how to play, there’s a learning curve. We’re trying to get these guys up to speed as fast as possible but there’s no shortcuts.

Translation:

Please give me some real players.

We scored 96 points which sounds like it should be more than enough for a win but when Philly starts making their perimeter shots, things go awry very fast. Last time we played them we kept them on the perimeter and contested their shots resulting in them shooting 35%. This time around they made their perimeter jumpers and had their way with everyone but Bosh, O’Neal and Bargnani. Anytime a player’s offense game isn’t working, it’s natural that their defensive intensity will take a hit and that’s exactly what happened with Parker, Kapono and Moon. Andre Iguodala and Willie Green had 10 and 9 assists respectively and they all came after they broke down their checker to get into the paint and enticed help defense from our bigs. At this point Elton Brand did a phenomenal job of stepping out of the congested paint area for 14 foot jumpers and went 12-21 FG, much different than the 5-14 FG on opening night. Jermaine O’Neal talked about the defensive effort and I have to agree with him, the intensity is lacking:

“Man, it’s really hard to explain, that has been our Achilles heel. We win when we get stops and, when we lose, we can’t stop anybody. We need to do a better job of playing better defence and take it more personally”

Is anybody sick of seeing Jason Kapono drive? Would you rather he take a highly contested three which has a chance of getting blocked rather than take it to the rim at snail’s place? Sam Mitchell needs to tell Jason Kapono to shoot some shats and not insist on taking only the ones where you have at least three feet of space. Kapono’s release is quick enough for him to have twice the three point attempts he currently has. I don’t know if he’s protecting his percentages or whether he’s under specific instruction from Mitchell to create off the dribble, whatever it is one thing is for sure: he’s playing outside his comfort zone. If the shot isn’t there he should swing it back to Calderon and let him reset instead of taking things into his own hands, its not what we pay him for. Kapono had a very bad game – 3 points in 30 minutes – where he looked a step slow in his passing, catching and shooting. Probably one of his worst games as a Raptor.

A quite quote from Mitchell after the game:

“They made shots, we didn’t make any shots.”

He’s actually right today. We did miss a lot of shots.

Our big men had great games: 30/12, 19/11 and 15/5 from Bosh, O’Neal and Bargnani, respectively. You can’t ask for much more than that, for a change we actually won the 2nd chance points battle 20-7. You’ve come to expect this kind of play from Bosh so its nothing surprising but it was good to see O’Neal getting into his groove and starting to hit that mid-range jumper and get those 50-50 rebounds. Andrea Bargnani’s defense was nothing short of phenomenal, he was moving his feet, contesting shots and even providing help defense anytime he could. The offensive game looked smooth and punctuated his evening by delivering a facial in the fourth quarter. This was after he broke Reggie Evans’ ankles and then reverse jammed it earlier. Bargnani’s looking smooth and is making a case for more minutes. Maybe he should play the three? I had reservations about him playing that position after the Magic series but given how bad that spot’s been for us, it simply can’t get any worse. Something to think about for Sunday, it’s the Heat and they’re a good practice team to test things against.

It’s unfortunate that the NBA doesn’t keep a track of deflections because if there ever was a game where a team’s athleticism bothered us, it was today. It seemed Philadelphia was either tipping or deflecting the ball on every third Raptor possession and taking valuable ticks off the clock. When our wings missed their jumpers, Philly was quick to rebound the ball and use their speed to run the break, give credit to Miller, Green and Iguodala for pushing the issue every time. It paid off for them and they beat us 19-7 in fastbreak points, a stat we’re 0-8 in this season. Thaddeus Young and Marreese Speights gave Philly a big boost, the two combined for a quiet and efficient 19/11.

There’s not much else to say about this game. You get down 17 early and you’ve half killed your chances of winning the game. Your wings produce zilch and you’re in a bigger hole. Your quarterback goes down leaving the offense in the hands of a scrub and you realize its only because of our bigs this game was even close.

Have at it.