Kyrie Irving
Return of The King
Raptors 127, Nets 129 (OT)

OK, let me try to get through this as best as I can because I honestly feel sick. As I sat there at Philthy McNasty’s watching the fourth quarter of this game I couldn’t help but think, damn, Devin Harris is good. He can do anything he wants on the floor tonight, there’s nothing Jose can do to stop him. Nothing. He doesn’t even have to make a move to get past him, just pure unadulterated quickness will get him scores and others open shots (and they did). Impressive. Then I watched Carter do his thing and I’m thinking if he ever decided to give 100% he’d challenge for the best player in the league year in and year out. Why does he always have to bring his A-game against us? Why can’t he just let bygones be bygones and then I remembered that we’re the ones who are booing him and reminding him how good he can be. Harris and Carter were simply amazing to watch and made Calderon and Parker look like severely inferior players in crunch time.

We all know that Sam Mitchell is quite the joke of a coach but last night we saw him at the height of his incompetency and it had nothing to do with the choking fourth quarter offense. Forget about designing plays to get us scores in crunch time, the man failed to come up with an inbounds play. Twice. Both times coming out of a timeout. It cannot get any more pathetic than that, it just can’t. With 24 seconds left all we had to do was inbound the ball and NJ was going to foul us and we would’ve had to hit a FT to ice the game. Mitchell failed, the players failed, we couldn’t even run a simple flare to get this thing in, the movement was restricted to within 20 feet of the inbounder and the look on Sam Mitchell’s face when the 5-second whistle blew wasn’t that of disappointment in his players, it was a realization of just how bad he is. Lawrence Frank once again pw3ns Sam. So that’s the first key play that cost us the game.

Vince Carter game-winner alley-oop dunk toronto raptors nj new jersey nets animated gif

The second agonizing moment was Anthony Parker’s missed FT which was entirely expected. He’s the king of missing clutch FTs and he came up short once again. Stop, don’t tell me he hit that three to tie it because that’s not a clutch shot, nobody’s expecting him to nail that three and its basically pressure-free. No, you don’t believe me? Well, you’re wrong. The FT would’ve iced the game and Parker choked, just like he has in the past and just like he will in the future. Usually his miserable offensive game is somewhat forgivable because he tries to make life difficult for the opposing SG but not tonight, Vince lit him up like a cigarette after sex – 39 points on 17-29 FG. Parker should’ve been replaced in the summer but Colangelo gambled and thought he could get another year out of him, gamble lost. This guy is done.

Let’s talk about the alley-oop. Why is Calderon in the game? Is he known for his athleticism, leaping ability and defense? No, right, so why is he in the game? With 2 seconds left there is nothing Jose Calderon can possibly contribute to the situation, he should be benched in favor of Joey Graham or another big who can at least protect the rim and bother Carter as he’s trying to execute the game-winning alley-oop, not be a spectator with both feet grounded to the ACC floor. We did half the job by covering the inbounder and putting a 7-footer on him but didn’t bother dealing with the guy most likely to catch the pass. Just another coaching mistake that prevented the game from going into double overtime. Add another feather to Sam’s cap.

Then of course there’s the three-pointer. The Nets are down three with three seconds left and everybody in the house knows that a three is coming up. Two questions. 1) Why aren’t we switching on defense? This is common strategy in these cases, nobody bothers to fight through screens with such little time left since you’re playing right into the hands of the offense by giving them the quarter second they’re looking for to launch that shot. What’s ironic is that we seem to switch on defense almost randomly which is one of the reasons our recovery defense is so bad, yet we fail to switch when we absolutely had to Again, big time coaching error. 2) Why not just foul? This strategy is only adopted if your players are smart and confident enough to know what the “act of shooting” means so I don’t really blame Mitchell for not using this but it needs to be brought up, we know Vince Carter has ice in his veins and there’s no need to test him. In Mitchell’s he apparently instructed the players to foul if the Nets caught the ball with their back to the rim. The real solution is a combination of #1 and #2. If you switch you’ll be able to get to the guy catching the ball quicker and have a higher chance of fouling him while he’s still trying to control the ball.

I’ll get to Bosh, Bargnani and O’Neal in a bit but before we get to whatever good we can salvage from this horrible defeat we need to discuss what went wrong and there’s a lot. Our offense mostly produced points when we gave the ball to Bosh in the block and or at the top of the key and asked him to abuse Yi, Brook Lopez or Sean Williams. To his credit Bosh delivered and bailed out the joke of an offensive system that Sam Mitchell has designed over the past 4+ years. Our high pick’ n roll was featured on almost every fourth quarter and OT possession and it wasn’t accompanied by any meaningful weak-side movement, it was just Bosh and Calderon going through the PNR motions before one of them decided to take a shot. Jose Calderon had a nice little game shooting a high percentage and spreading his points across the quarters but the man got torched by Devin Harris when it counted. Make no mistake, Jose was at Harris’ mercy the entire game and when crunch time came Harris burned him for 23 in the fourth quarter and OT. Jose’s just not quick or good enough to stay with an athlete and true PG like Harris. It was fun to watch a baller ball.

That was not a flagrant foul. O’Neal came down awkwardly on his knee because he tried to resist going down by putting pressure on it. If he didn’t have the knee-brace I suspect it would’ve been in two pieces. We were up 85-76 when O’Neal left the game and immediately following his departure the Nets went on a 9-1 run. Coincidence? No. Jermaine O’Neal got abused by Brook Lopez on 5 possessions, great patient moves by Lopez had O’Neal clutching for air but aside from that you can’t say that he had a bad game. As long as he was in the game Carter and Harris stuck to the perimeter and New Jersey was weary of doubling Bosh, as soon as he went out Carter and Harris went on a tear. You know those two plays in the epic “12 points in 44 seconds” stretch where Vince Carter drove by Anthony Parker for layups? That doesn’t happen with Jermaine O’Neal in there.

Nothing I can say about Chris Bosh will do justice. I would just like to thank him for playing so well and so hard for 44 minutes and carrying this entire team on his back. That’s all. Andrea Bargnani’s coming along nicely, he finally cracked double digits in rebounding, stayed aggressive and got his 29 on efficient shooting. He even held Bobby Simmons, a player who we feared could exploit him, to only 8 points by taking away his drive while not leaving himself exposed to his quickness disadvantage. Jermaine O’Neal waiting in the wings has a lot to do with it but give Bargnani credit for playing some very solid and fundamentally sound wing defense – knees bent, hand outstretched, playing the angle right and forcing the defense towards the help. Keep up the D big guy. Yes, he missed two big threes late but it should’ve never come to that. Here’s some Bosh quotes about our perimeter defense, the inbounds play and the alley-oop:

“We have to keep a better job of keeping guys in front of us, next time we can’t leave Jarvis Hayes and Vince Carter open in the corners, they’ll knock them down every time.”

“Just throw the ball, don’t be scared, there’s nothing to be scared about, just throw the ball. That’s all.”

“Lawrence Frank drew up a fantastic play and he left it up to his best player”

You think Bosh is getting sick of his teammates’ incompetence?

Give New Jersey credit, they put Devin Harris (vomiting in the third quarter) and Vince Carter (easily could’ve had 25 assists) in one-on-one positions and allowed them to create and score. The Raptors never adjusted and didn’t bother going into a zone to compensate for Harris’ quickness nor did they wear out Carter on the defensive end leaving him fresh as a spring daisy to mount his assault. There was no effort made to take the ball out of Carter and Harris’ hands and make Sean Williams or Boki Nachbar beat you. Our overall defense was bad as ever, we gave wide-open threes to their shooters and couldn’t keep our checks in front of us. Can’t expect to win too many games when you let the other team’s guards dictate things. Our best perimeter defender was easily Bargnani. We had an 18 point lead in the third quarter and instead of putting the hammer down we let our guard down and got complacent, starting missing defensive assignments and started turning the ball over (10 in the fourth quarter and OT). We have to realize that we’re not good enough to play half a game, I thought we would’ve learned that after Boston and Orlando but no such luck.

We lose the fast-break points battle 15-8 (as expected) and get dominated in the paint 60-36, many of these points coming after O’Neal went down. Our defense was never tight in this game so even when we built up the 18 point lead the door for New Jersey was always open. Carter showed early that Anthony Parker was just a pylon and Devin Harris made it clear that it was only a matter of time before he would take the game over. Harris only had 5 assists to go along with his 30 points but its very important to note that one of them came late in the fourth quarter and the other in OT and setup Vince Carter and Jarvis Hayes for wide open threes. It was beautiful, he blew by Calderon, attracted four Raptors and kicked out beautifully, it was stuff you just don’t see with the Raptors since TJ Ford left.

What’s truly scary is that we’re seeing that our Big 3 can have great games but we can still lose to supposedly inferior teams at home. If nothing else this has to tell Bryan Colangelo that the supporting cast he’s put together is not adequate for us to achieve any meaningful success this year. Parker’s in a downward spiral, Moon has shown that he can’t be relied on to contribute anything and Jason Kapono is the mystery Sam Mitchell just cannot solve. Something’s go to give because it appears that the current assembly of the squad isn’t likely to achieve much, something the fans knew a long time ago.

A very bad loss before the upcoming C*ntics revenge mission. The team’s needs to forget about this loss, use hypnosis if you have to and come back to practice on Saturday with a new mindset. This is one of those losses that can turn a season for the worse, we have a tough upcoming schedule and really needed this to springboard ourselves to a good start. It didn’t happen but if we can beat Boston even a horrible loss like this can be forgotten.

Sorry about forgetting to start the chat for this game. My fault. Thanks to those who showed up at Philthy’s, it was fun watching the VC of old. We’ll do it again next Friday.

I feel sick.