garrett-hinchey
You could even look past that shot if it wasn’t accompanied by the grin.
Raptors 84, Hawks 87

Alright, let’s get the Jamario Moon hate out of the way early. Sure, he was probably dropped on his head when he was young and then run over by an off-road vehicle. Repeatedly. Yup, that’s the only explanation of why he did what he did yesterday, there can be no other. You have to be dumber than dirt to even try the stunt he pulled. Either he’s got a voice in his head controlled by Mike Woodson which tells him what to do or he’s, well, just plain dumb. The Raptors after playing a solid game were in the midst of some utterly idiotic behavior late in the fourth which included Joey Graham looking off Bosh and taking a contested jumper, Bosh dribbling it off his foot and Moon looking like a landmine had got him when he was faked by Joe Johnson. All this commotion resulted in the Raptors getting the ball back being down one with 41 seconds left. Anthony Parker made the fatal mistake of passing it to Moon on the wing who had made his mind up to shoot four possessions ago and launched a contested 26-footer which clanged violently off the rim. To make matters worse, he follows it up with the grin, you know, the grin?

The Hawks end the game on a 7-2 run as the Raptors come up empty on their last five possessions and further solidify the perception that they’re chokers, have a look at the play-by-play to end the game.

1:46	Roko Ukic turnover				84-82	 
1:15	Joey Graham misses 9-foot jumper		84-83	 
0:50	Chris Bosh lost ball (Josh Smith steals)	84-85	 
0:35	Jamario Moon misses 26-foot three point jumper	84-85	 
0:02	Jason Kapono misses 26-foot three point jumper	84-87	 

Triano had two timeouts in his pocket when Moon launched his jumper and should have called one as soon as Bosh got the rebound. After the failures of the three earlier possession and the inability displayed by the team in the late stages of the Phoenix and Indiana games, it was too obvious of a decision. The Raptors have not shown the mental toughness or basketball decision-making skill to execute “on the fly” in these stretches. We don’t have a player who can analyze a situation and create off the dribble for himself or his teammates, this team needs to be spoon-fed and down one with 35 ticks left is when a coach earns his money. Triano, inexplicably, chose to let the players figure it out and it led to Moon’s brain fart. Later on, he touched on the mental toughness and the decision not to setup a play.

Our mental toughness has to get better, we have to finish of possessions, quarters, halves and games. We didn’t execute down the stretch at either end of the floor in the last minute and a half and it cost us the game. Part of my job is to teach them mental toughness, if it means diagramming more plays, taking more timeouts, we have to do it. In situations like that you look to exploit mismatches and I thought we had good flow, we had the ball in a one-point game. We had two timeouts but you want to save them in case you want to advance the ball later on but you have to get a better shot than that [Moon's jumper].

I don’t know if mental toughness can be taught, I think you either have it or you don’t.

Moon, Bosh and Bargnani took the same amount of shots in the fourth quarter – four. Either Bosh or Bargnani aren’t getting the ball and aren’t being assertive, or Jamario Moon is at the same offensive level as those guys. The Raptors have gone away from Bargnani in the fourth quarter in three straight games – all losses. Clutch execution was a problem with this team under Mitchell and we tended to blame the problems on him, but we’re seeing similar patterns in the fourth quarter under Triano. There’s a little too much one-on-one play which would be okay if we had the talent to pull it off, but since we don’t it ends up looking very bad. The Raptors’ inability to execute in the clutch is something that’s been talked about in this space for over two years and I’m sorry to report that nothing has changed. Bosh’s game isn’t fluid enough for these moments nor does he possess the skill-set to be the creator in the fourth quarter and it ends up with finishes like these. We should note that if Calderon was playing we would’ve had a better chance of executing with under two minutes and might’ve won a couple of these. The trouble we had making an entry-pass into Bosh as Smith was fronting him was unreal, I’m not saying Jose would’ve made that pass but at least he wouldn’t have shied away from it like Roko. Speaking of Bosh in the post, still would like to see him fight for position harder and pin his man on his back and demand for the ball rather than meekly ask for it knowing that the PG would be risking a steal if he tried the pass. As for Bargnani’s lack of touches, the fix should be mandated from the bench, Roko and Will don’t have the experience to recognize these sorts of things.

The overall effort today was much better than against Indiana or Chicago and one can honestly say that the Raptors deserved to win this game after leading for most of it. I was actually proud of this team after the first half, we had 24 points in the paint and were holding the Hawks to 39% shooting. We established Bosh and Bargnani in the blocks and were +6 on the boards, if there was one word to describe the offensive play of our guards, it was aggressive. We ended the quarter on a 10-4 run which included one of the best Raptor plays of the season, a Moon theft of Bibby followed by him running the break and being found by Bosh for the jam, that play characterized the first half. We rightfully had a 9-point halftime lead which seemed too good to be true given what happened to us the last time we were in this building. Check out the second quarter Raptors shot-chart. It’s beautiful.

Bargnani was 5-7 in the first half and was giving Zaza Pachulia all kinds of fits as he should. Josh Smith has issues guarding Chris Bosh, Bosh averaged 26+ against the Hawks last year and today he took him to the rim and drained a couple jumpers for 8 first quarter points. Anthony Parker got the call at PG again and unlike Nash, Bibby lit him up early scoring the first 7 points for the Hawks. The pick ‘n roll defense was slightly better in the first half as Parker was doing a good job of trying to fight through the screen instead of lazily switching against the jumper-happy Bibby. There was a defensive energy that you just knew couldn’t last.

As the second half started the pick ‘n roll defense got worse. Bibby was allowed wide open jumpers off the screen for one of two reasons. 1) The pick-setter’s man was caught in a screen somewhere under the basket and wasn’t even there to show or hedge leaving Bibby open. 2) The Raptors went into switching mode which presented the Hawks with matchups like Bibby/Johnson vs Bosh/Voskhuhl. The Raptors were also over-helping by using a man from the weakside to help on drives on the strong-side. I know, it doesn’t make any sense but Bargnani, Parker and Graham were caught in a few such positions and no matter how great your rotations are, if you have to cover that much space you’re not going to close-out.

Mike Woodson did something very smart in this game, when Parker was playing the point he switched Joe Johnson on him and had Mike Bibby take Jamario Moon, almost challenging him to take advantage. The Raptors went to Moon on the block but he couldn’t take advantage of the 6″ difference in height. The Hawks didn’t even have to send help, Moon either passed the ball up or took low-percentage shots. As has been the theme all season with the team, we don’t have enough players that command double teams and when a situation like this arises, we have to make them pay. Josh Smith who was being tempted to shoot early was suddenly being played tight by Bargnani and Bosh and he was wise enough to cut to the rim and was found by the Hawks’ guards for six third quarter points. Bosh had one in the frame as the Raptors were all perimeter, check out the third quarter shot-chart if you don’t believe me.

The fourth started with the Raptors precariously hanging on to a two point lead. We would either go back to our first half play and take it to the Hawks inside, or settle on the perimeter and give up the lead. We did the latter. Two turnovers and a missed jumper from Roko Ukic, a turnover and a missed jumper from Chris Bosh and a missed 16-footer from Jamario Moon (you guessed it, the defense sagged) resulted in a 8-3 Hawks run which put them up 3. Timeout Toronto. Roko committed four costly fourth quarter turnovers and Bosh had 2 in the quarter. If you want a reason why we lost this game, look no further. The back-to-back threes drained by Murray and Evans because of overhelping pushed the lead to 7 but the Raptors fought back and tied the game on an uh-oh Moon three and later on he told us in his Dickensian way that that three was the reason why he later took the other one:

It felt like a good shot. I had just made one before that and you know, when AP passed it to me I caught it in rhythm and took it and missed it. I guess everybody’s upset with me that I missed the shot. You gotta live with it.

As for Bosh yelling at him, he gave the reason:

I was guarding Joe Johnson. He told me that I gave him too much of a straight-line drive, we were forcing him to his weak hand and he just told me that I gave him too much of a straight-line drive.

A bit hypocritical of Bosh, no? And Moon’s the only player he sees having faulty man-to-man defense? He himself was getting schooled by Josh Smith in the second half, maybe he should clean his own act up before preaching to others. I can’t imagine his words carrying any weight when he dishes out advice to his mates. BTW, Parker, Graham and Ukic were making defensive mistakes all around but he only had the cahones to pick on Moon. Brutal.

After Moon’s miss, the Hawks got the ball and we saw first-hand what an All-Star caliber wing can do for your team. Atlanta isolated him on Anthony Parker and he created space and drained the jumper over Parker’s good defense. A great clutch shot by Johnson when his team needed him the most, that’s what All-Stars are for, that’s what max-money players should do for you. Kudos to him for nailing that one, it sucks from a Raptors’ perspective but as a basketball fan you got to love that kind of confidence. The Raptors got the ball back and set screens for Kapono on the wing who had a contested look which he would’ve gotten off, instead in typical Kapono style he tried to do too much and tried passing it to Bargnani in the corner. The pass was deflected, game over. Triano said the play had two options, one for Kapono to take the shot or if he was covered, to pass to Bargnani in the corner. He probably should’ve just taken it.

We did see some good things again as we usually do. Bargnani finished with 20/10 after cooling off in the second half, he’s averaging 21 points, 6.6 rebounds and shooting 52% in 2009. Is it safe to say he’s turned the corner? His development is one of the few things to look forward to as this season moves closer and closer to become apathetic. Chris Bosh had 22/14 but what you’ll remember most from this game about him is how Josh Smith was scoring on him in the second half and that crucial turnover which can only add fuel to the fiery chant that he’s not a clutch player. I certainly think that he gets flustered in late-game situations and doesn’t have the composure needed of a franchise player. Unless he manages to completely beat his man on the blow-by move, he has trouble scoring because he cannot take contact, adjust his shot and finish. It’s just not in him.

Anthony Parker with 12 points, 9 assists and 9 rebounds. He seems to have found a groove and that’s excellent for his trade value. I hate to think of things in those terms but having him start at PG might have more to do with showcasing than actual strategy. Colangelo’s not a stupid man, he knows what the probable and realistic end to this season will be and is gauging his options. If he can get a first round pick for Parker I’d hand him his third EoY.

Roko Ukic had a decent offensive game but his turnovers were back-breakers. The kid needs to tighten up his handles and learn to dribble with the ball on his side rather than protecting it with his back. He had some nice blow-bys against the Hawks’ unassuming defense but as I said, I have a very hard time looking past his turnovers which really hurt us. Will Solomon never got in the game for whatever reason, not too sure what Triano’s plan is as to when which one plays. You can check the Roll Call for additional player analysis along with the usual humor. For more on the game and just about everything Raptors related, check the Latest Web Articles throughout the day.

Best Lineup: Ukic, Parker, Bargnani, Moon and Bosh. +6 in the 2nd quarter. Worst Lineup: Graham, Parker, Bargnani, Moon and Bosh. -6 in the 3rd. Graham, Kapono, Ukic, Moon and Bosh were also -5 to start the fourth.

11 games under .500. I’m just waiting on official word from the Raptors that this season’s goal has switched from challenging for a high-seed to……fill in the blank.