Raptors 34, Knicks 84678

This was the most humiliating defeat of all time. Yes, all time. Just look at the circumstances under which the Knicks ran us off the court: We pulled off a big trade and are in a backs-to-the-wall situation where we need to claw out wins almost every night to make the playoffs; Our “star” player just got back to give the team the boost they need; It’s time for us to dig deep, make a stand and send a message to the fans that there’s something to look forward to and that this roster isn’t entirely useless; We’re in the spotlight of the Mecca of Basketball and have a chance to make a statement against a division rival we need to overtake to make the playoffs; All eyes and hopes are on the Bosh-Marion-Bargnani-Calderon lineup which Colangelo hopes to be a staple of the future. Our response? Come out taking jumpers like pansies, check out shortly after, roll over and die, and then let the Knicks run rampage over the dead bodies.

Knicks went up 9-0 after the first two minutes and didn’t look back. The Raptors didn’t care enough to catch them and the Knicks build a 20 point lead at the end of the first quarter by shooting 73% and had 75 points at halftime. We ended up getting our asses handed to us in a game where we were down by as many as 38. No quarter by quarter analysis is necessary, let’s just say the Knicks kicked our asses in every regard and the only thing that went right for us was a pointless 11-0 run at the end of the third quarter which felt like licking ice cream off of dog turd. You can add Wilson Chandler to the list of scrubs that have had career games against us. 32 points including 6 threes, most of them in the first half when the Knicks shot 10 of them. This was definitely worse than Denver, we at least had the altitude excuse to hang on to there.

David Lee who averages 16 points had that many in the first quarter and took it to the Bosh on the boards and the blocks. Bosh’s response was typical trash as usual – settle for jumpers when nobody on your team can buy a basket. Is that what a floor leader and franchise player is supposed to do? Clutch sequences sometimes come early in the game and weathering that first quarter assault by making defensive stands and playing smart offense was what was needed but as usual Bosh didn’t deliver. Lee ate him up by being the aggressor and showing him no respect on either end. Later on with the Raptors down 20+ Bosh cracked a smile with Lee reminding me of one Vince Carter.

Lee is the anti-Bosh. On every pick ‘n roll the Knicks ran, Lee looked to roll towards the basket and make himself available for a pass from Duhon. Every time Bosh sets a screen for the 76.1395% Calderon he pops out to the elbow and receives the most predictable pass in basketball and fakes a shot that everybody wants him to take. Where’s the sense in that? All that stupidity ends up being a reset and wastes time off the clock. Actually, most of the plays we run don’t end up fooling the defense and in the end we go into one-on-one mode with bad results. I don’t know if it’s Triano’s plays or their pathetic execution that’s the problem but rest assured that our offense sucks just as bad as our defense. Of course the effort, intensity and determination is lacking as usual so it doesn’t really matter what you’re trying to do basketball-wise because you’re just not that into it.

The worst moment for me is when a Raptor player realizes too late that he’s supposed to be closing somebody out and then dejectedly makes his way to the shooter at half-speed. As the shot goes in he exchanges glances with a teammate and they both look away knowing that next time down the court they’ll run into the exact same situation again and make the same mistake. Viscous cycle. The other is when Bosh or Bargnani “box out” by turning their backs to their man thinking that he won’t move as the ball bounces off the rim. Lo and behold, the player turns out to be more agile than expected and comes across the lane to collect the offensive rebound.

When was the last time we successfully trapped a guard on the pick ‘n roll? Or even negated it? There’s too much confusion and not enough communication when the screener’s man comes out to meet the ball-handler causing a momentary double team. The rotations behind the play never happen and you’re left to defend a pass back to the pick-setter who is rolling to the rim or the PG splitting the weak double to get into the paint causing havoc. I’m sick and tired writing about this stuff.

We’ll get to the rest of this sorry excuse for a team in a bit but let’s put Bosh out of his misery first. A penguin has a better feel for the game than Bosh, this guy doesn’t know when to dribble, when to drive, when to pass and when to shoot. I’m not joking, the amount of times he picks up his dribble to make the trap easier is sickening, his idea of a strong move against a smaller player is catching the ball, facing him up, acting like he’s going to post him up but then face up again. WTF man? Make up your mind? And stop taking jumpers because that’s what other teams want you to do! Bosh also gets the Miller Lite Smart Player of The Game award by throwing the ball out of bounds on an in-bounds play with 3.5 seconds left thus giving the Knicks possession in the Raptors half of the court. Nate Robinson then drilled a three to add insult to insult. Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that he got his ass swatted by Nate. Low-point of his career.

That sound you just heard is Nate Robinson blowing by Parker, Kapono and Calderon all at once to drive the paint and finish as Bargnani was too late/lazy to cover. A normal NBA defense is a lot like a fortress, it’s not just one wall you have to crack. You got to crack the outer wall, then the inner wall, then you meet the cavalry and if you beat them you might have a shot at conquering it. Not the Raptors defense, all you need to do is beat your man off the dribble 20 feet out (very easy to do against Calderon, Parker and Kapono) and you’ll have a clear path to the rim because the rotation will always be late. If by some divine miracle somebody actually steps up to challenge, rest assured that the second rotation will NEVER be there and you’re going to get an open three from the corner. This has been happening so consistently that its become funny. Give credit to Bargnani for actually trying to cover the paint but he’s not blessed with the athleticism, shot-blocking ability or the pride needed by a 7-footer to make the paint his house.

Before we got to Jose Calderon who’s the master of directing traffic without passing the ball, let’s deal with Anthony Parker. It scares me to think that Bryan Colangelo is seriously considering bringing this has-been back next year. All the Raptors except Marion have a love of going under the screen on shooters, it’s because that’s generally the easier option as fighting through a screen, communicating with the hedge-man and recovering is generally considered hard work. Parker is the star in this act of shame; there is no reason why he should be going under screens set for Wilson Chandler and Al Harrington when they haven’t shown that they can drive but have shown that they can shoot. Whatever, I’m too used to his incompetency to complain about it further but let me say that I did see this sorry excuse for an NBAer leave Chandler open on the weak-side to in the third quarter to help out on nobody on the strong-side. The pass went back to Chandler who drained his 64th three of the game. Anthony Parker might play hard but he’s a liability on defense and doesn’t provide nearly enough offense to make up for his crapiness in every other aspect of the game. I’m glad Moon is out, Parker is next on my hit-list.

Can somebody name me a point guard who Jose Calderon can dominate in a game as he leads us to victory? He hasn’t had an impact game since we beat the Bulls and last night was more of the same pedestrian overpaid PG play from Jose. The defense was cheating off of him to help down low on Bosh and he kept clanging those babies early on which is when it mattered. He ended up with 10 useless assists and 2 turnovers which should keep the old AST/TO stat nice and healthy. Roko Ukic has a bigger impact on games than Jose Calderon and that’s a serious statement. Nothing Jose does creates scoring opportunities for his teammates or bothers the defense to a degree where they’ll have to think about helping on him. Put an average defender on him and you have him contained, put a bad one and you’re still likely to even his impact.

Let’s remember that the Knicks aren’t exactly in the same league as the Celtics, they were 22-31 coming into this game and only 2 games better than us and yet they manage to convincingly hammer us. Why? Because they now have an identity and are starting to acquire the personnel needed to personify that identity. You might hate D’Antoni and his no-defense philosophy on basketball but at least he’s got the Knicks playing and believing in a style. They might not win a championship but they’re at least entertaining to watch and genuinely believe in what they’re trying to do. We on the other hand don’t have a clue of our strengths are and are trying to be run ‘n gun and half-court at the same time while doing neither properly.

I have to feel sorry for Shawn Marion, he must be just starting to realize what he’s in for for the next two months. In a game where we couldn’t defend a baby in a three-legged stroller, Marion’s defensive performance stood out. It doesn’t mean anything in the larger context because if all the other pieces in the machine are broken, it doesn’t matter how well-oiled one of them is. Marion was actually able to push Lee further out than Bosh who conceded position too easily too often, and was always helping and recovering on the strong-side, something Parker can learn from. 14 points and 12 rebounds for Marion who’s basically thrown out there and asked to do his thing. Marion’s a very good player but let’s not forget that he’s a system-guy. If he is to flourish in Toronto we’re going to have to play a style that is suited to his game, he’s not a shot-creating wing like Joe Johnson or Hedo Turkoglu, he needs to be part of something larger and something more meaningful if he’s to be utilized effectively. If we’re to play run ‘n gun with Marion we need to get some rebounding in here and ignite a fire under Jose, otherwise the best thing for the Raptors is a sign-and-trade.

The Raptors definitely lack a floor leader and it’s not hard to imagine that it’s missing from the locker-room as well. Bosh isn’t cutting it in either place and I’m tired of him stumbling and bumbling with the ball when we need him to deliver and carry the team. My original opinion on Bosh still stands – not a franchise player but a great second option and one who’s trade value is falling as we speak. As the losing continues teams will figure that he’s going to walk in 2010 and won’t tender the same offers for him as they would’ve done at this trade deadline. If he’s with the team at the start of next season and we struggle, we’re not going to get more than a pick for him at next year’s deadline.

Who knows what Colangelo’s plan with him is, maybe what Stephen A. Smith was saying is true? Maybe Colangelo will try to do all he can to build a solid team for next season but you have to wonder how many players want to come into a situation like this. I doubt Triano stays on past this year, even as an assistant coach. If you want to change the direction and perception of a team you start with a new GM but since we’ve fallen hook, line and sinker for Colangelo, I would expect him to get a big name coach and hope he becomes the attraction that Bosh isn’t. And let’s not forget that Mitchell was fired for being 8-9, Triano’s 13-27.

All playoff talk is insane after this loss, not because its not possible but because there’s no true desire to get there. If this team can’t motivate themselves to compete in a game and setting like this, it’s asinine to talk playoffs. I’ll admit, I was stupidly optimistic and enthusiastic after the trade and hoped it would kick-start them but as we’ve been saying all season long, motivation problems are of the worst kind.

Having said all that, look for the Knicks to be somewhat content after earning a split and probably drop one on Sunday but it doesn’t mean a thing. At some point we’ll have to consider pulling the plug on Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon and give that time to Jawai, Ukic and Banks so that proper evaluation can be performed.

Raps get massacred at the Garden in a game that was over after the first quarter.

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