I have to admit, for once, I had no doubt about the outcome of the game. Even with the Kings sporting a 4 point lead in the first half, I was relaxed and firm in my resolve that the Raptors would pull this one out. The Kings just don’t match up well, talent is thin up front, their wings don’t have Wade-like ability, and Udrih is just not very good.
For the second game in a row, the Raptors didn’t get out to an early double-digit lead, and you know what? I’m good with that. Clearly that strategy wasn’t working out, so I applaud the Raptors for not going that route for the 43rd time this season. This monstrous winning streak has coincided with the return of Calderon, who had another great game manning the point, and O’Neal who has been getting better coming off the bench.
Since his return, Calderon has been looking for his offense more then we saw earlier in the season. When his check runs under the high pick, he pulls up for an un-contested J, and when his check runs through the high pick, he attacks the paint opening up court for a layup or kick out to someone for an open J. Thing of beauty. The clincher for me is that his assists haven’t fallen off with his increased offensive production. I’m of that school of thought that likes his point guards to score – opens up a lot more options.
Both teams got whatever shot they wanted, and made it to start the game. The Kings however, got their scores by breaking down the Raptors perimeter defense and hitting their open jumpers. Dribble-penetration, how many times have we said this about the Raps? They let anyone who has any inkling of handles into the paint, they collapse on him, they let him kick out to a shooter, who hits an uncontested jumper. How bad was it? Let’s just say that Brad Miller took and made TWO uncontested treys.
Salmons was punishing the Raptors Moon off the bounce, in fact, Moon didn’t look like he wanted to be out there, dude was Alabama Dreamin’. I wanted to slap that stupid smile off his face. Salmons would blow by him time after time, and he would just grin. WTF man? It wasn’t until Triano got sick of him in the 3rd quarter that he replaced him permanently with Graham, that things got better. In fact, that was the turning point in the game, as the Raptors/Kings were trading buckets up until that point. WIth Joey’s ferocious ways, the Raptors not only etched out a 13 point lead heading into the 4th, they also showed some balls when Garcia pushed Bargnani from Behind, and BOTH Graham and O’Neal came to his aid in the tussle.
For me, that was the highlight of the game. As the play was developing, I was thinking that this will be another one of those situations that Bargnani will be left to fend for himself against some border-line thug, but no! Joey came in bumping Garcia and pushing him away, then O’Neal got in the mix. This team is soft, there is no doubt about it, but O’Neal, Graham, Joey, Calderon…these guys will get in your face, and need to do it more to help this team out. Imagine if these guys actually had each others back last season when TJ got mugged, he might not have developed that complex when he returned…just putting it out there.
The PR machine was in full effect again hoping Riley was watching/listening, but in all fairness, HO had a good game. I must say, I appreciate how he battles in the block. If he continues to contribute from the bench at the levels he was before he got injured, may not be a total loss if we don’t trade him for Marion. I’m not saying he is the answer or anything to that extent, but if the guy can come off the bench, put up 15/8, and not cause any ruckus, it will go a long way to improving this team because VL has clearly locked up the starting 5 spot.
Speaking of VL, what is this…the 18th solid game in a row? It is actually a question I want answered: how/what/why/where were you able to turn this around? I mean, playing at 3 wasn’t woking, any idiot who saw you try and keep up there knew that you need to play 4/5. But the fact of the matter is that you made same sort of interal decision and this is the result. My question to you is why now? Why not last year? Imagine if we get something more useful for Ford and Rasho? We would be a force in the East.
Parker chipped in with another great game: 11pts 7rebs 7ast. The guy just needed some love. He has been the Raps unsung hero for 2.5 seasons now. All he wanted was some love to re-energize the batteries. I’m kind of torn right now about Parker:he is one of a few Raps who has any trade value that isn’t untouchable, but we desperately need him, so unless he is outgoing part of a trade for a solid 2, I’m not sure I trade him. On the other hand, I am totally biased in his favour as he is my favourite Raptor. I just don’t want to see him dumped for cap space, I want a young kid in return, who can ball, at a minimum.
No post-game would be complete without talking about Bosh. Yea…he’s good. lol. I wish he would have taken it to the rack more, as Mikki Moore is a shell of his former self, Miller never really moved and Thompson is still wet behind the ears. That said, 12-22 from the field and 7-8 from the line is good enough for me. There was a moment, after Miller hit his second trey, that I thought for sure Bosh was going to jack one up…but he didn’t, and I thought it impressive he wasn’t goated into it. It’s good to see him smiling again, they have been few and far between this season.
The next two games are somewhat ‘gettable’. Gettable in the sense that the Nets and Bucks are marginally better then we are, and are due to lose a heartbreaker at our hands. We need the next two because we have a very tough 4 game stretch coming up that will be just nasty (Magic, Cavs, Lakers and Hornets).
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