Bargnani vs. What we want Bargnani to be.
Raptors 98, Mavericks 109

If we had just shot a higher percentage we would’ve lost this game in the fourth quarter instead of the third. I know, my standards for this team have gotten pretty low. It’s hard to beat anyone when you shoot 37% but what makes this one harder to swallow is that we shot 37% against the Dallas Mavericks who are far from a defensive juggernaut. In fact, they’ve been nice enough to allow opponents to shoot 45% all season. The reason we shot so poorly? Yup, you guessed it, too many jumpers. It’s an occurrence that’s so often become the reason for our losses that I almost feel like I’m cheating the readers by telling them the same stuff over and over again. But dear reader, understand that when the team’s top five offensive weapons are Chris Bosh, Andrea Bargnani, a 76.7631% Jose Calderon, Anthony Parker and Jason Kapono, jumpers will always be the first option.

Let me elaborate on the title of this post before I continue. I haven’t seen anyone on this team be too upset about the losing. Not Bosh, not Parker, not Jose, not Triano, not anybody. For a team that’s supposedly got leadership and talent, losing this much should be driving the players and coaches insane yet it’s accepted and nothing is done about it. There are no player-only meetings, angry bust-ups in the locker-room, pent-up emotions overflowing on the court or even a pissed-off sound byte coming from the locker room. Charlie V got lit up by Lebron and he started choking Big Z and pulling Varejao’s eyes out. I’m not advocating violence, just saying that I haven’t seen a single reaction from the Raptors that might indicate anything is bothering them. We seem content to play the season out, spread the blame evenly enough so we’re all friends and just move along. Somebody needs to throw some chairs against the walls in that locker-room, its not going to do much in terms of a playoff run but at least it’ll wake this crew up from their season long slumber.

In order for the Raptors to beat a decent team they’ll need at least three players to have high-impact games and tonight we only got it from Chris Bosh, and even he was ineffective when it mattered. After starting the game by offering two jumpers that only added fuel to the naysayer’s fire he started with his defensive performance against Phoenix, Bosh corrected his course and realized that it was Erick Dampier guarding him, not Bill Russell. For a ten minute stretch in the first half Chris Bosh looked like a max-money player, he was grabbing offensive rebounds, leaning with his shoulder on his drives, finishing in the paint and when the defense was scared and confused, he took appropriate jumpers. He had 16 first half points and was making the Raptors look good.

It wasn’t just Bosh that got the party started for the Raptors. Shawn Marion had to leave the game in the first due to flu-like symptoms which gave Good Joey the call off the bench and he was feeling it. He was putting Dirk on his back on the offensive and defensive glass, sizing him up on the perimeter and knocking down jumpers, even had a dunk on the break and a drive for a finish. With Bosh and Joey both playing like we want them to play, it felt good until you looked at how Calderon, Bargnani and our defense was doing. Jose was giving us nothing on offense and neither his legs or heart were in his jumper which meant he was useless. So what do you do when your jumper isn’t working? Why, you take more jumpers of course!

I’m terribly confused about Bargnani. I see that his size and skill could give him an advantage over other players at his position but what’s the point if he’s not actually taking that advantage consistently? His jumper started going in for him in January and he shot 49% for the month, February hasn’t been so kind as he dropped to 41% but that’s to be expected. He’s a jump shooter and those happen to be the ebbs and flows of being one. So when he went 6-18 tonight after going 7-13 in Phoenix, should we be surprised? No, that’s just the mathematics of a jump shooter. In this game he was missing three-pointers, pull-up jumpers and layups. When he finally managed to knock a couple down in a row you hoped he’s find a groove and carry the team through a stretch where we couldn’t buy a stop but wouldn’t you know it, he went cold. To me Bargnani’s best moment in the game came in the second quarter when he drew back-to-back fouls on Erick Dampier and Dirk Nowitzki, the latter picking up his third at the 2:28 mark. I was looking forward to Bargnani and Bosh attacking Dirk in the third quarter and getting him out of the game for good, but just like we didn’t attack Shaq in Phoenix, we didn’t attack Dirk. He went the entire third without having to defend and worry about his fouls and scored 7 points in the frame, a quarter which we lost 30-22 and one which decided the game.

Dallas’s offense is dead simple – give the ball to Kidd, spread the floor and see what happens. If nothing much is going on, go to Dirk who has an advantage in most matchups and have him go one-on-one. Just in case he misses, crash the boards with reckless abandon through Dampier and Singleton. Its not an offense as specialized as Phoenix, as intricate as Utah, as diverse as Orlando and as predictable as Cleveland. They’re liable to go in funks just like us, the only difference is that they have enough talent on the wings and enough rebounders to compensate for the streaky nature of their offense. We on the other hand better be making our shots at a 50% clip if we want to stay in the game. Example: Jason Terry and Josh Howard were cold early but Antoine Wright and James Singleton stepped up for them in the first half to prevent the Raptors from building a lead. The Raptors on the other hand had nobody to turn to once Bosh went chokey in the second half and Jose continued his miserable evening. Jose Barea gave them a huge lift of the bench, especially on defense. He got a steal on Ukic, forced Calderon into an 8-second violation and got a couple drives which reignited his team. The Raptors on the other hand gave the ball to Roko and Banks who looked like D-League material. Singleton was crashing the boards, cutting hard on the pick ‘n roll, boxing out and D’ing up Bosh while we on the other hand got Jake Voskuhl and his headband off the bench. You get the picture, they’re just better than us at every position and it showed.

Jose Calderon had Dirk switched up on him a couple times in the first half and to any point guard in the league that’s an invitation to break him down. Not Jose, he softly passes it to Bosh on the top of the key rather than initiating something off the drive. Isn’t it sickening? It’s not just that though, his passiveness in transition really shows when you compare his play to Anthony Parker who is genuinely looking to push rather than only pretending to. I’m always harsh on Parker because he’s old and washed up but the guy’s effort and intent can never be questioned. For example, he makes that FT line to FT line pass that gives Bosh early position, he passes the ball as soon as he gets the rebound instead of dribbling it three times without reason. It’s those kinds of plays that fuel a run ‘n gun offense and I’m just not sure Jose gets it. He’s turned into a half-court PG that can make the pass as long as the coach diagrams the play but when asked to think on his feet, he stumbles and fumbles.

Anyway, first half ended with us only down seven thanks to Bosh’s big first half and Graham’s early spurt. All things considered it wasn’t a terrible deficit seeing how poorly the rest of the team was playing and how Dallas can let you back in a game. We just needed to come out in the third the same way we had started the game: aggressive. Instead, this happened. We didn’t attack through Bosh like we had done earlier, there was no sign of testing Dampier or Singleton’s man-defense, Bargnani didn’t force the issue against a foul-ridden Dirk, Jose didn’t test Jason Kidd’s legs, and instead of running a proper offense or gunning on the break we settled for first options which weren’t that great. Typical Raptors really.

Here’s something that bugged me to no end in the second half. There were too many possessions where Dirk was somehow matched up with Parker, Kapono and even Calderon. This of course was a result of a passive switch instead of an aggressive hedge/fight-through. You’re only supposed to switch in those situations when your 1/4 or 2/4 positions can guard the 1/4 or 2/4 positions. If you’re conceding an 18 footer to Dirk over a player who is six inches shorter than him, he’s going to make that jumper all night long. This switch happened so many times that I’m forced to infer that Triano just didn’t catch it. This is a defensive gaffe that warrants an immediate timeout, a brief but firm lecture in the huddle and a warning that any more of this nonsense will result in an extra 50 suicides. But hey, Triano can’t really say that kind of stuff because he’s an interim head coach that’s only doing what Colangelo tells him to do, that’s why I think its imperative that the Raptors hire a coach that has the authority and intelligence to point out the basic things we’re doing wrong.

I was hoping to see more of Joey in the third quarter, Dallas didn’t have an answer for his aggressiveness and I was looking for Triano to run a few post-ups for Joey but instead we got one-on-one jumpers for Bargnani and Calderon. After scoring at the 6:48 mark of the second Joey didn’t get his next points till the 5:26 mark of the fourth, a span in which he took only two shots. Does that make any sense? Chris Bosh started the third quarter scoring the Raptors’ first 6 points and finished with 8 in the quarter but people generally tend to remember the fourth quarter much more clearly and it wasn’t pretty for Bosh – 0-4 for 4 points. Still, a 28 point 10 rebound night is nothing to be scoffed at, I’d say if he had any kind of support from Calderon or Bargnani things might’ve been different.

We cut the lead to 1 on an 8-2 run to start the third but the defense that needed to be played to keep Dallas in check wasn’t to be seen after that. Josh Howard started to make the jumpers he was missing in the first half and had 8 in the quarter. James Singleton was out to make a name for himself against Bosh by playing high-energy basketball had 6 points and 9 rebounds in the third alone. Calderon didn’t pick up Jason Kidd in transition allowing him to run at us and set up open shots for his shooters which meant our rebounding position wasn’t there resulting in crucial second chance points for the Mavericks. Parker and Bargnani hit sporadic jumpers to keep us somewhat close but the lead was almost touching double digits and it was only a matter of time before the hammer came. Said hammer came at the end of the third as the Mavericks went on a 7-0 run punctuated by Roko getting blocked, losing Jason Terry in the process who knocked down a killer three to push the lead to 15 heading into the fourth. At this point I wouldn’t blame you for turning your TV off because you’ve got a better chance of bumping into AltRaps at church than seeing a fourth quarter comeback from an anemic offense such as ours.

Liners:

  • Bargnani had a poor shooting night but you have to give him credit for showing something that resembled toughness. He boxed out well enough, grabbed 7 boards and had 4 blocks and looked emotionally into the game which is more than you can say about most of the team.
  • Jason Kapono: His face pisses me off. It’s hard to explain but every time I look at his face all I can think of his how crappy he is and how much money we pay him. Just like the rest of this bunch he’s only watchable if his jumper is falling and tonight it wasn’t. All you needed to evaluate his defensive prowess is how he hacked Antoine Wright on the break instead of stepping in for the charge.
  • Jose Calderon: 4-12, 3 assists and a turnover. Sorry to say but all signs are pointing to Colangelo overpaying him. Maybe he’s hurting, maybe he’s not used to playing run ‘n gun, maybe he’s in a shooting slump, or maybe he’s just a backup. Considering how much of the 24 seconds are spent with him dribbling we’re not getting nearly enough vision or scoring out of him. He’s going to be a Raptor for a long time as I don’t see any team wanting him and I don’t see Colangelo falling out of love with him, I just hope he gets better.
  • Dallas outrebounded us 57-45 and we have James Singleton’s 16 rebounds in 30 minutes to thank for that. That is a career-high for him which makes sense since basically every scrub in the league has something on us. What did our hustle guy off the bench do? Voskuhl played two minute and had more zeroes in his line than JO’s salary. Patrick O’Bryant didn’t come off the bench.
  • Dallas got the better of us in the paint 42-30 even though their primary big man is Dirk who stays on the perimeter and Dampier who’s not that good. I was expecting/hoping Bosh and Bargnani to kill Dirk/Dampier off the dribble and win this number for us but it wasn’t to be. At least we didn’t give up 90.
  • Best Lineup: Graham, Kapono, Ukic, Parker and Bargnani going +6 in the first when the going was good for Bosh. Worst Lineup: Banks, Parker, Bosh, Bargnani and Calderon slumping in that second quarter once Joey was done with his scoring. Source.
  • Drew Gooden anyone?
  • Marcus Banks had the best drive and finish of the season for us, he needs to do that more if he can.
  • Shaq called Bosh RuPaul. I’m disappointed with the lack of respect shown to Bosh by his peers.

I’ve decided not to do the playoff mathematics anymore. Thanks for reading, follow us on Twitter for the latest Raptors stories throughout the day.

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