If you take any great pleasure out of beating the Heat in your own backyard you’re probably the type that likes to post-up your five year old nephew and trash talk after each score. Nothing wrong with that except you’d be thinking too highly of yourself because after all, he’s five years old. So keeping that in mind yesterday afternoon was quite a fine one for our beloved Raps. We start Andrea Bargnani who puts on a show to remember, Will Solomon comes in and looks like an NBA’er, Jermaine O’Neal does his best Dwight Howard impression and Chris Bosh has a quiet and professional 27/7. The pessimist would point out that we gave up 96 points to a bad team at home and they’d be right, but overall we can’t really complain about much, especially after what happened against the C*nty Celtics and Philly.
Andrea Bargnani gets the start and you’re thinking, “Uh oh, Marion will do to him what Hedo did to him and then some”. Au contraire. Bargnani came out of the gates looking like the player we all want him to be. You know, like Dirk. Hitting his jumpers, posting up dwarfs who think they can guard him, driving and kicking to find open shooters and looking as confident of scores as Hugh Hefner at a Playboy party. Neither Shawn Marion or Udonis Haslem could check him and when the switch had him matched up with Wade or Chalmers, it meant easy scores. Andrea finished with only 12 points but they call came early and set the offensive tone for the afternoon. He actually gets a look in his eyes when he’s confident and playing well, its a look that says: Don’t even test this white boy – I’ve been aceing Caliper tests since I was 15 and am about to prove that this #1 pick was well worth it. At least for this game. I love that look in Bargnani, he’s focused, looking out for himself and playing with confidence. When he’s in that zone even MJ would defer to him.
Bargnani’s great early play made us forget not only about Jamario Moon but also of the fact that we weren’t playing any defense at all. None. The pick ‘n roll type was the worst with Wade basically picking out the screen-setter every time or doing it himself. Will Solomon ended up with a sexy 11 assists but early on Mario Chalmers was going by him at ‘will’. One of the reasons why the Heat hit four first-quarter threes and were right in the game down 2 at the end of the first. Once Bargnani went out in the second the scoring dipped even though Hump tried to do his best Hump impression and JKilla registered with a couple jumpers. Too much Heat penetration for the entire quarter and Wade finishing it off with two big hoops means we’re down 4 at the break. Seen some good things so far but the defense has been very crappy: confusion about PNRs, can’t stop dribble penetration and all it takes to beat us for a score are two good passes. Still, I’ll take it, at least we didn’t come out of the game like we’re OD’d on Valium. Despite the deficit, it’s still looking like a W because we’re killing them on the boards and Bosh is yet to even get heated up.
You’re probably wondering how Solomon fared in his first start, good question, let’s ask Mitchell about Willie and Uki.
“I thought Will did a good job of pushing the basketball and getting us into our spots. He and Roko controlled the tempo for us and we had a chance to get some easy baskets. When we had to set up, we got the ball to the people who we wanted to get the ball to.”
He’s right, we did push the ball and won the fastbreak-points matchup 14-2, something we’d done only once under Calderon. But again this is the Heat, not the Celtics.
“The bench is a great motivator”. Those are the words of Jack Armstrong and apply to Jamario Moon who had a miserable first half where he missed numerous covers and invited the ire of many a Raptor
fan supporter. Moon drove three times in the second half, twice for fouls and once for a score. To put this in perspective he had driven the ball once all year. This guy uses gears when he plays, I don’t like that. I can see Bosh or JO shifting gears but not Jamario “Who?” Moon. Never liked him but if he can produce like yesterday in a bench role in limited minutes, I can be convinced to tolerate him. Moving along, we played aggressively in the third quarter and went to the line 8 times. O’Neal continued to miss easy layups and pick up cheap fouls but his effort on the boards was gargantuan – 18 rebounds to go along with 11 points which helped balloon the rebounding differential to +17 at 52-35 and took the Raptors from 30th to 28th overall.
Notice I haven’t even mentioned Bosh – 13-15 FT. It’s because the man is quieter than a mouse pissing on cotton. He ended up with 27/7 and I have no idea how he got them. We tend to only remember him missing bad jumpers and not the other good stuff. It’s probably because we’re all still hurting from the C*ntics game. We don’t win this game without Bosh, he’s the guy you dump the ball down to when nothing’s going right and he’ll give you something. He had a key drive and dunk in the fourth quarter when the Heat and Wade were making their run and invited a double every time he caught the ball, something that will never show up in the boxscore.
The only reason we would lose this game is that if we didn’t utilize our size advantage and stick strictly to perimeter jumpers. We did neither of that and have the 38-32 PINP advantage to prove that. Miami’s got nobody over 6’8″ in their regular rotation and give credit to Mitchell for recognizing that and increasing this advantage by starting Bargnani. It also helps that the team shoots 47% and makes you look smart whil everybody gets a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. But remember, it’s the Heat and they won 15 games last year.
Miami started to fade in the second half because they were simply overmatched, we’re a bigger, stronger team that has no business being within 10 points of Miami at any time. Maybe it had something to do with Wade spraining his ankle but I don’t think so. The only reason this game is even close is because we have no answer for Wade. He was checked by Anthony Parker for most of the night and Parker did a good enough job on him, he took 31 shots to get 29 points and we should give some credit to Parker. I don’t think he stopped Wade by any means because he was going by him almost every time and getting clean looks. The difference was the interior defense of Jermaine O’Neal which was on the court and effective for 34 minutes tonight. O’Neal provided the second line of defense all night long and altered many a shot, he also sparked the key Raptors run in the fourth quarter by getting two huge blocks on Marion and Cook, the latter being highlight reel material. We also held the Heat to 27% shooting in the fourth quarter. With Bosh carrying the offensive load and O’Neal handling the defensive side of things, all the rest of the Raptors had to do was play reasonably well to win this game and Will Solomon, Andrea Bargnani and Anthony Parker delivered. Throw in 32 points off of the bench and some Hump hustle and you got yourself a W against a bad team at home. Congratulations, let’s go to Orlando for a real test.
Those of you who are missing TJ Ford must love Will Solomon. When his shot’s going and he’s not making dumb turnovers he’s the greatest playa eva but when he’s playing like he did against Philly, you want to choke him. Point is that expecting Will to deliver anything close to 15/11 is unreasonable and this game should be written off as an anomaly (I know, it sucks). What can’t be written off as an anomaly is the play of Bargnani who got his scores against Haslem and Marion, two pretty good defenders. He’ll likely get a chance at redemption against the Magic in the same spot he got burned in last year, let’s see what he’s learned.
Notes (stuff that you can’t fit into paragraphs):
- Note to Matt Devlin: Please stop calling a double-double a ‘Tim Hortons’. They don’t need plugs, maybe instead plug RR? Double R’s, get it?
- Retarded post-game quote goes to Jamario Moon: “My job is just to play basketball”.
- One thing I’d like to see on the Raptors: Bargnani improving his rebounding, he’s averaging 4.0 per game. Ouch.
- Jason Kapono stuck to shooting the ball and not driving it. So much more effective when he’s doing that, he even took a shot today when the D was right up on him, something he refused to do against Philly. Result: he made it. See Kap, its better if you just let it go rather than think about it.
- Heat perspective on the game: The Raptors are too big.
- Random link of the day: MJ vs CEO
Thanks to everybody for making it to the live chat and checking out the game with us. We’ll try doing this more often.Follow @raptorsrepublic