As good as it gets without getting the win

Chris Bosh can’t wait for Kevin Garnett to retire
Raptors 109, Celtics 115

The end result wasn’t there but the overall effort, team play and the desire to compete was, so you can’t complain too much about a reverse in overtime against the team that’s had our number the last two years. The Raptors get swept in the season series and have lost 7 of 8 to the C**tics. This game was high-drama for 50 of the 53 minutes played. The Raptors commitment to defense was present all evening long and just when you thought they’d led up and allow the C**tics to run them over, they came back with big stops and big scores, all the while playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played: hard, aggressive and going to the hole. In the end we needed a little push from our big players but both Bargnani and Bosh remained silent in overtime, the latter fatally so.

Chris Bosh choked again but we’re so used to it that at this point it doesn’t even register. Don’t worry though, he’ll be back against the Bulls, unless of course Garnett is traded to them by Wednesday. Bosh had an inspiring dunk against Glen Davis at the 9:29 mark of the fourth quarter. Kevin Garnett returned at the 8:11 mark of the fourth quarter which meant that Bosh didn’t score again in the fourth quarter. He was held scoreless in overtime until the :21 mark when he got to the line for two meaningless free throws in a seven point game and ended with the worst +/- of any player at -10. 6-11 for 18 points isn’t a shabby line but the clutch scoring wasn’t there and we again saw him panic when guarded by Garnett. If he can drive past Davis when he’s being played tight, why not even attempt to do the same with Garnett playing tighter? Passing the ball to Will Solomon at the end of the shot clock or to Joey Graham instead isn’t what great players do. Michael Grange had a scout saying that Bosh’s basketball sense is below Charlie V, I think it’s below Roko Ukic.

Will Solomon played the entire first quarter and Roko Ukic played the second. Neither of them shut down Rajan Rondo’s penetration but they were smart enough to sag which forced Rondo to either take the jumper or drive the ball with the defense in place to challenge. Rondo was made to play some defense as Roko gave him a taste of his own medicine by rather easily getting past him as the Celtics were locked in man-to-man coverage. Andrea Bargnani must’ve read the pre-game report which called on him to attack Glen Davis and Scalabrine which he did to the tune of a B+. It would’ve been an A if he was a bit more patient in the post and not executed a couple turnaround jumpers that easily could’ve been drives. I thought he should’ve been the #1 offensive option every time he was on the floor because if there was one matchup to be exploited tonight it was Bargnani’s agility versus their bigs’ lack of mobility. Kevin Garnett was busy with Bosh and only switched on Bargnani late in overtime.

A word about our defense and point-guard play today. Impressive, Roko Ukic and Will Solomon are going to make some dumb, dumb offensive decisions as we saw in overtime and the fourth quarter. Solomon will get burned on defense and is liable to cough it up anytime. Ukic will get rejected half the time he drives to the rim. I accept all this, but I do like the defense they’re playing and how they’re looking to attack. Roko’s drive against Rondo was something to note, Rondo is one of the quickest players in the league and he made him look like a statue by lulling him to sleep and going left. Solomon splitting the trap and going right down the middle of the lane was awesome. I know, I know, I sound like I’m satisfied by mediocrity and you’re probably right but I would rather have reduced offense any day in favor of consistent defense. Jose Calderon, you’re on notice. Shuffling lineups so frequently usually throws the continuity of a unit off but I would experiment the idea of playing Jose and Roko at the same time, if for nothing else then to hide Jose while keeping him in the game as an outside threat.

Giving Bargnani the ball at the top of the key and providing him with options seems like the best way to initiate our offense. He delivered the ball on cuts across the lane (one of them a perfect one-touch to Bosh), sized up his defender and the potential help beautifully and passed out of the drive with good vision. He had the C**tics defense moving their feet which caused enough disruption for other players to be factors. Chris Bosh had it going in the first half too as he knocked down a couple patented 17-footers which made your cringe and clap at the same time. Most of our offense was going towards the rim, the starting five did a good job of being patient and not taking the first shot available, instead choosing to see if Bargnani and Bosh would attract even a soft double and working off of it.

The overall man-defense was good in the first half but we were often leaving shooters open in the corner because we were paying way too much attention to Ray Allen. Those 8 threes are hard to forget but Doc Rivers’ plan was to use him as a decoy as evidenced by his lone shot in the first quarter. Every time Allen had the ball on the strong side, the defense shifted towards him unnecessarily leaving Pierce in single-coverage against Moon. Instead of providing help when needed we were preemptively sending it which cost us as Pierce exploited his matchups tonight. After Allen burned us in Toronto I thought the natural reaction from Triano would be to switch but the Raptors didn’t do much of that at all. Pierce’s crafty head, shoulder, pump, ass, groin and pelvis fakes were too much to handle for Moon, Graham or Parker who were biting on everything. Helping on Allen while sagging on Pierce and not rotation hurt us. Pierce didn’t see a live-dribble double team the entire game and took advantage as he should. Chris Bosh talked about the rotations later and for what its worth, he’s 100% right:

We shot ourselves in the foot tonight. There were a couple of rotations that we made mistakes on. We gave up a couple of layups and on one we left the hottest guy on the court, Paul Pierce, wide open. Out of everybody, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen seem to get open at the wrong time. We get so caught up in helping out baseline that we do it too much. And while helping out a teammate is a great thing and I love it, but if we have our guy contained don’t overhelp. We got caught doing that a little bit.

At half time Doc Rivers must have commanded Scalabrine to take those threes he was passing up in the first half because the Celtics opened the third quarter with him hitting two long-distance jumpers to cut the lead from 9 to 4 and it looked like the dreaded third quarter collapse was here. Bargnani’s defense on Scalabrine was bad, he was leaving him without communicating with a teammate about the rotation. Scalabrine literally walked over to the other side of the court and Bargnani just didn’t follow him for whatever reason. Anyway, Moon, Parker and then Bargnani responded with huge jumpers to keep the Celtics at bay but you knew the eventual run was inevitable. Pierce went off for 14 in the quarter as the gutsy Raptors traded punches. The earlier defense wasn’t there but we were making up for it by scoring consistently. Bargnani scored the last five Raptors points giving us a 4 point lead heading into the fourth quarter. We gave up three crucial offensive rebounds in the third quarter which ended up being 5 C**tic points, I got the feel that the lead heading into the fourth needed to be slightly larger.

Rebounding, especially the offensive kind, was becoming a problem. Bosh and Humphries’ boxing out of Davis and Powe was poor by any standards. I thought Voskuhl did a decent job of boxing out their bigs on Sunday as we won the rebounding battle +1 but he never saw the light of day. Last night we got outrebounded 46-37 (13-6) and more importantly gave up 21 second chance points. This along with Pierce waltzing his way into the lane to the tune of a song in his head resulted in a 52-30 PINP drubbing. Expected really, out power-forward plays 16 feet out and our center is perimeter-oriented. Moon who’s been hitting the glass of late had 1 in 23 minutes. Believe it or not he did a phenomenal job on Paul Pierce for about three possessions or so in the first half but that was about it. His grin returned and the bench came calling as Joey got up, but he too was no match for Pierce. This is the NBA and you’re at the mercy of athletic wings of which we have none and unfortunately, can’t defend any either.

The final frame started with two missed jumpers from Chris Bosh and Jason Kapono which were promptly answered by two threes from Eddie House and Gabe Pruitt. The lead we had worked so hard to protect the entire third quarter was gone in 60 seconds, literally. Chris Bosh then responded with a three point play against Glen Davis which I alluded to earlier and then may as well have caught the early charter home. Then the weirdest and most crucial stretch of the game happened, the Raptors didn’t score for a full 6 minutes and 16 seconds. Here’s our offensive stretch:

7:46	Jason Kapono misses 24-foot three point jumper	84-82	 
7:16	Roko Ukic misses layup	84-82	 
6:48	Roko Ukic misses 6-foot jumper	84-84	 
6:09	Joey Graham misses layup	84-84	 
5:31	Andrea Bargnani misses layup	84-84	 
4:56	Anthony Parker misses 19-foot jumper	84-84	 
4:35	Kevin Garnett blocks Chris Bosh's layup	84-84	 
3:40	Andrea Bargnani misses 26-foot three point jumper	84-86	 
2:51	Anthony Parker misses 24-foot three point jumper	84-88	 
1:55	Joey Graham makes free throw 1 of 2	85-90	 

The C**tics went from -2 to +6 in this stretch as the Rapors failed to score on 9 straight possessions, 6 of which the C**tics themselves didn’t score on thus. Blown opportunity indeed. Will Solomon taking a horrible three but making it combined with Pierce missing a big FT and two jumpers set the stage for Andrea Bargnani’s heroics. The play coming out of the timeout was a horrible one, it was basically a half-hearted screen for Parker allowing him to launch a 24-foot three which he obviously missed. Bosh managed to fight for the rebound and it fell to Kapono who passed it up to Bargnani. The ensuing three would’ve been the stuff of legends if we would’ve won. It reminded me of Vince Carter’s three at the Fleet Center (sigh, those were the days). Nerves of steel by Bargnani.

Having Kapono on the floor to start overtime made me nervous and those fears were realized as our wings left Pierce open for two threes. We were once again caught overplaying the strong-side with Ray Allen as we had done all game long. Game over.

Just like Allen had killed us on Sunday, Pierce killed us today. That’s the C**tics for you, too much talent to contend with. Hey, do you like to puke? If so, Garnett gushing over Pierce should help:

I’ll be Batman. I’ll be Robin. I’ll be anybody you want me to be. I’ll be the garbage man. But this is Clark Kent right here.

I can’t stand these *&^%$.

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