Three wins in a row!
Raptors 107, Nets 106

Devin Harris’ questionable decision to let the clock run down so he could take the final shot of the game worked in our favor. When he broke Joey Graham to create 8 feet of shooting space and rose for that jumper a feeling of nausea came over me. At that moment the only thing to be grateful for was that it wasn’t Vince taking the shot because you know he would’ve drained it. Time expired as Harris missed and the prevalent feeling amongst every Raptor fan wasn’t of joy but of relief. The Nets went on a 16-5 run to end the game as the Raptors saw their well-deserved 11 point lead whittled down to one thanks to some very shaky offense late in the fourth. In the end the Raptors’ blistering 56% shooting and Jose Calderon’s intelligent PG play was too much to overcome for the defensively listless Nets. The Raptors weren’t much better, we allowed enough drive ‘n kick scores to make your stomach queasy but when you shoot that high of a percentage, basketball becomes a forgiving game.

Quick quote from Calderon:

“We’ve got to be more aggressive and try to make plays for one another. We need more games like tonight, where we make a good defensive play at the end. We knew we would turn this around.”

I have no idea what “good defensive play” he’s talking about. To my knowledge Harris’ shot was as clean a look as one can possibly ask for. Still though, I’ll take the win and the three game winning streak, something we haven’t seen since 3-0, remember those days?

The Nets started this game hitting their first five threes – four of them by Vince. He had 16 points in the first 6:53 of the game and had the Nets up 25-12. It was a start that reminded you of the Raptors in some games, shooting a high percentage, forcing turnovers and building an early lead only to blow it by halftime as the percentages evened out. Getting down to the Nets early didn’t seem to be much of a problem as neither team was showing any sort of defensive resistance. The high pick ‘n roll which we’ve seen less off under Triano was in full-effect last night and was producing early results for Andrea Bargnani, Anthony Parker and Jose Calderon. Calderon was masterful in his usage of the high screen, after he had forced the switch his recognition of how to play the big that was on him was a sight to behold, his decision making of when to step back for a jumper and when to drive against an eager defense was something you could make instructional videos out of.

Dribble penetration was a problem in the first half as the Nets got good shots off Vince and Harris drive ‘n kick anytime they wanted, Harris continued to attack but Vince eased up. His early threes turned out to be good for us because it made him believe that he could knock down every shot and it kept him on the perimeter all night long (shot chart). As bad as our defense against Harris has been this year there were some good things to point out today. Jay Triano had Parker defending Harris in spots and he did a great job of staying in front of him by conceding the jumper. Harris was reluctant to shoot and tried to get Parker in the air so he could draw the foul but the latter did a fantastic job of avoiding body contact and staying straight in his defense. When Harris had a full head of steam he drove by whoever he wanted to but picking him up early in the possession limited those opportunities for him. On the other end Parker had no issue finding space in semi-transition and elevating over the smaller Harris or the ever-late Carter or Simmons, he had 16 first half points and led the second quarter charge that cut the Nets lead down to 54-50 at halftime.

Bosh wasn’t playing well and seemed totally out of it. He had the ball slip out of his hands twice in the half and on another play it looked like the pass hit him on his thigh and he simply watched the ball roll out of bounds. His waiting game with the ball was getting annoying as it wasn’t fooling Brook Lopez or Josh Boone who were more than happy to give him space for the jumper, Lopez only bit for his fake once the entire game! Bosh hit his fair share of jumpers (shot chart) but wasn’t causing the havoc he usually does by forcing the defense to foul as he drives the paint. He finished with a relatively quiet 18 points and 6 rebounds on 7-13 shooting and went to the FT line only five times. Lot of credit goes to the Nets big men, especially late in the fourth quarter as we’ll talk about later. We also saw an instance of Bobby Simmons, a SF, guarding him effectively by playing him tight on the perimeter. That’s always disappointing.

I though Andrea Bargnani started the game off very well, he hit a couple early jumpers and had a nice power drive which he was unable to finish. He was setting good screens for Calderon and moving to the right positions on the court giving Calderon the option to pass back in case he was sealed off. He was the victim of some terrible calls in the first half including a very cheeky lose ball foul. Jermaine O’Neal replaced him and immediately went to his patented “power fadeaways”. You know what I mean? He’s backing his man down like he’s about to take a sword to his head but then as soon as he enters the paint his body fades and he launches a seemingly high percentage shot that has all kinds of wrong English on it to make it rim out or hit back rim. To his credit he did make a very important “Old O’Neal” move in the fourth quarter when he drove the paint and layed it in, as it turned out we needed every point.

The third quarter started off as every third quarter should – with an 8-0 run. Jose Calderon and Anthony Parker hit two threes (the other one assisting) and Chris Bosh was found by Andrea Bargnani for a jumper. The Nets finally decided to do something other than shoot jumpers and went inside to Brook Lopez who had already shown that he could handle O’Neal or Bargnani in the post. He established good position for himself on three straight possessions and was picked out nicely by the guard for solid post-scores. Impressive display, he’s going to be great. Andrea Bargnani picked up his fourth foul and I was shocked to see Triano basically take him out for the entire game, reminded me of Sam Mitchell. In Triano’s defense, the Raptors were shooting a ridiculously high percentage by playing small ball, basically matching Lopez with a big and having Graham, Moon/Kapono, Parker and Calderon out there for offensive purposes. With the offense clicking so well there wasn’t much reason to change things. Granted, if we would’ve lost there would’ve been a lot of questions raised as to why Bargnani wasn’t brought in to circumvent the failing fourth quarter offense.

We won the third quarter 34-23 as Calderon’s chipped in with an efficient 10 points, Joey Graham drew some fouls to get to the FT line, Moon hit his uh-oh jumpers and even Kapono made a three. Quick observation about Jason Kapono. We often complain that the guy passes up a clean look by pump-faking, stepping in and traveling in the process. I don’t mind the pump-faking part, it’s the stepping in which is unnecessary and throws everything off, he just needs to immediately get rid of the ball if the shot isn’t dead obvious to him. He had a bad turnover in the fourth quarter and got lit up on the drives but I really didn’t see anything terrible in his game today so I don’t know why the chat folk were angry with him. Maybe it’s just habit? Anyway, seven point lead heading into the fourth was nice but you knew the Nets had a run in them.

Before the season started I was of the firm belief that if Joey Graham was to make anything out of his NBA career it wasn’t going to be in Toronto. He was locked in Sam Mitchell’s doghouse and the keys were lost. Many fans pointed out his misuse and debated on his behalf in training camp for the last two years when the SF position was up for grabs, but it always clear that Mitchell had a special place for Moon in his heart which translated into a very long leash for Moon and practically nothing for Graham. It seemed that Graham would only get in the game if Moon did something asinine. Under Triano, Joey’s shown us two things that makes me want to keep him on this team in the future. First, he’s shown great composure in the paint when he’s applying finishes and secondly, his mindset is that off a true slasher. The jumper is his second option and he’s willing to move without the ball as long as there’s a chance that he’ll receive it. He’ll still have his stinker games but to me he’s shown enough to be ahead of Moon in the depth chart. He also feels that we’re back in the playoff run:

“This is a momentum booster and a confidence booster. We were looking for stretches of games like this during our stretch of loses. We needed these games to get us back on track, to get us back in the playoff run.”

The Raptors started the fourth quarter with the lineup of O’Neal, Kapono, Calderon, Moon and Graham. This crew maintained the seven point advantage by playing the Nets even for the first 5:36 of the quarter. In the +/- department this counts as a 0 but in reality they withstood a determined Nets rally led by Harris and Lopez. Calderon went cold to start the fourth and it was Joey Graham’s 8 fourth quarter points and O’Neal’s two crucial scores that kept us afloat in the first half of the frame when the Nets were making their jumpers setup by dribble penetration. We managed to extend the lead to 102-90 with 4:47 left when the inevitable choke job happened.

Chris Bosh, Jason Kapono and Jamario Moon took questionable shots which led to Harris and Carter driving the paint and kicking out for open looks – a Dooling three sandwiched between two Simmons threes. The lead was slashed to three on Simmons’ second but Chris Bosh drew a foul and nailed both FTs. Parker then went a classic 1-2 from the line and gave the Raptors a 6 point lead with 1:59 left. Calderon couldn’t get the offense to produce anything as the Nets were showing intent in fighting through the high screen. He forced settled for two jumpers, the first miss leading to a Vince three. With the Raptors nursing a one point lead with 1:05 left, they went to Bosh against Lopez who drove the ball but tried the tougher reverse instead of going straight up – the shot was blocked with a hint of a foul. On the ensuing possession Devin Harris broke down Calderon at the top of the key with mild help from a screen and went in for the score. Calderon had another chance to ice it but missed the jumper and that setup the final play already described in the first paragraph of this discourse. Did we choke down the stretch? Yes, but when you’re 10 games under .500 you’ll take anything.

One-Liners:

  • Nets announcers were brutal. They were the biggest homers and questioned ever foul call. They couldn’t get Roko’s name right and made fun of Ukeeec about four times. Ukic’s old haircut was deemed as being something of a “Croatian Afro” by the Nets announcers. SirCarlEnglish in the chat quickly patented the word AfCro.
  • Calderon went 1-5 in the fourth quarter and would’ve been the goat along with Bosh if Harris’ jumper had fallen.
  • Calderon’s assist distribution: Parker: 7. Kapono, Bosh, Moon, O’Neal: 1 each.
  • Will Solomon did not play and Roko Ukic only played three minutes with a line full of zeroes. Anthony Parker is your official backup PG. I still say we trade him.
  • Chris Botch was the nickname given when he bumbled those first half passes.
  • We are 2-2 this year when Joey Crawford is officiating so as evil, inconsiderate and conceited as he appears to be, he doesn’t have much bearing on the Raptors winning or losing. Although, some of those calls on Bargnani were terrible.
  • Some stats: The Nets shot 15-32 from threes, the Raptors were 11-22. 25 of the Raptors’ 39 field goals came off assists. The Raptors split the season series with the Nets, both teams losing the home games and winning on the road.
  • Harris’ decision to let the clock run all the way down before firing was poor. That’s something you only do when you’re tied, he should’ve shot it a few seconds earlier allowing for offensive rebounding opportunities.
  • The announced crowd was 10,138. Riiiight.
  • Our man Matt Devlin yelled out Overtime! as Harris missed. Forward to 6:03 mark of this clip.
  • Best Lineup: Graham, Kapono, Parker, Bosh and Moon going +4 to end the third. Worst Lineup: Parker, Bargnani, Bosh, Moon and Calderon going -12 to start the game, mostly due to Nets’ hot shooting.

You can check the Roll Call for more on the game. Be sure to use Twitter to keep in touch with Raptors stories throughout the day and there’s also our RSS feed. Thanks for reading.

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