I dunk, you decide.
Raptors 106, 76ers 115

They say that the first stage of any torture procedure is the worst because once you become used to the initial pain, whatever follows becomes easier to handle. That’s exactly how I feel about the Raptors. If they had put out the first half effort they did last night in Game 6 of the season I’d be outraged, but at this point it hardly makes sense to get angry about it and you’re probably better off thinking in terms of lottery balls. Someone asked me yesterday why this site is so negative and what’s the point of having a “fan site” if you’re not going to say anything nice. Fact is that the negatives outweigh the positives by so much that more than a 10% mention of the positives would be distorted blogging. Just take this game for example, Bargnani had a nice night despite the flu but that’s about it; the rest of the team mailed it in for the first half which is the only one that ended up mattering.

It started off harmlessly enough by Bosh attacking Dalembert on three of the first four possessions resulting in a missed jumper, a foul, a rejection and a dunk. That’s not too bad of a success rate for Bosh so I’m left scratching my head why he didn’t keep on doing that instead of taking jumpers for the rest of the half. Meh, I’m used to that too. Bargnani who was a game-time decision and decided on his own to give it a shot, he showed up smoking hot from downtown and knocked down 3 threes and had a nice drive for a layup in the first quarter. He was the only reason we got blown out in the second instead of the first. Bargnani was 4-5 in the first for 11 points while the rest of the team went a sad 4-16. Philly also struggled from the field and shot only 35% in the quarter which kept us in the game at 19 apiece, but that was all about to change. They shot 64% for the remaining three quarters.

The death-blow came in the second when we checked out defensively, couldn’t string together three proper passes and were as silent on defense as a victim in a snuff movie. Pick ‘n roll defense, ha! Why do I still expect them to defend it like a proper unit, am I insane? The way Banks/Bosh and Calderon/Bosh defended the pick ‘n roll against Andre Miller and Lou Williams was so bush-league that you have to wonder whether these guys even get rudimentary training in their practices. I haven’t played the game a high level, just some high school basketball and pick-up games two or three times a week but even I know that defending a pick ‘n roll involves components such as showing, hedging, recovering and most of all, communication. Assuming Jose, Bosh and Banks are familiar with these concepts, why is it that Bosh makes zero effort in trying to forestall the dribble penetration by forcing the ball-handler away from the paint? Why aren’t Jose and Bosh even calling out to each other during the play and why don’t they already know exactly what to do when Miller versus Williams are running the play? Why? Is it effort or just bad coaching? I’d peg it at 50-50.

We got killed in the second quarter by Iggy’s, Lou’s and Miller’s penetration which was finished in style and authority by Young, Dalembert and Speights. The on-the-ball defense was obviously terrible but what made the situation worse was how we weren’t bumping cutters and preventing them from having a clear path to the rim. Parker, Marion and Bargnani were too confused too often as to which one was responsible for the cutter resulting in all three of them starring as innocent bystanders in more than a few posters. The reaction from Parker after each one of these plays is the best, he just can’t come to terms with the fact that they’re this bad. It upsets him, I respect that. To counter the dribble-penetration we even went into a zone but it didn’t matter, they busted it open by hitting threes since we didn’t close-out. Zone doesn’t mean you back-up and let them shoot uncontested shots, sadly, I don’t think all the Raptors know that. Iggy, who’s a 29% three-point shooter hit a couple threes as Philly went 3-6 from downtown and forced the Raptors into 6 turnovers which upped the tempo of the game playing right into Philly’s hands, even though we’re supposed to be a running team (ha!).

Weird substitution late in first quarter saw Parker relieve Calderon to play the point which made no sense. AP has no reason to still be playing the point at the expense of Roko, does Triano know where the team is in the standings? As if feeling guilty for not playing Roko and Banks in the first quarter, he brought them both on in the second with Banks at the point and Roko at the off-guard. Neither could properly dribble the ball let alone create for their mates and the exercise was a failure. Banks doesn’t have the desire to attack and Willie Green was laying off Roko like he had SARS. The team was going through an offensive funk and needed someone to step up and pick up the scoring load like Bargnani had in the first. Bosh, you there? He had 2 points in the first, 3 in the second and finished the half 2-8. As mentioned already, his defense on the PNR was terrible and Dalembert easily neutralized him while getting his points by being active near the rim and presenting himself to his driving teammates. Our second-best player (Calderon if you need a reminder) had two points. The halftime deficit was 17.

When talking about the Raptors offense you have to start with Calderon. We know that his vision in the full-court is limited but he’s equally as inept in the half-court. It’s been said a thousand times but all he does is use a pointless screen only to pass it back to Bosh 18-feet out. If not that, he’ll waive of someone (often Bargnani) who might be demanding the ball on the wing only to use a pick with Bosh, pick up his dribble too early, and then look around for a teammate so he can reset his dribble. That back-court violation that resulted exactly because of this was bench-worthy. He’s even getting lazy on his top-to-wing and lob passes which get deflected and disrupt the flow of the possession. I don’t even expect him to put the defense on its heels by taking it to them off the dribble but can he at least try to turn off the high screen, attract a defender from the corner and try to kick it out? Please man, you’re killing us. Lastly, he seems to bark out a lot of orders on offense which don’t end up meaning anything. I’d love to blog one game sitting courtside so I can figure just what the hell Triano’s instructions to him are and whether it’s the coaching or Calderon that’s the problem.

Some post-game interview stuff. Anthony Parker’s saying offense wasn’t a problem since they shot a high percentage. I disagree, it was the lack of offense combined with the dismal defensive effort in the second quarter which cost us this one. He hit one thing right on the head, things are too easy for the other team. Shawn Marion’s talking about increasing the defensive intensity and asking us to go up to every Raptor and ask them about their defense. Chris Bosh gives the most hypocritical interview about playing defense by claiming that he cares to play any. The smile and jokes are sounding very Vinceish. Jay Triano’s pointing to dribble-penetration as the major problem by saying Bargnani and Bosh were forced to help and Dalembert was the chief beneficiary. He’s also pointing to Bosh’s lack of FTs by saying it’s because of Dalembert’s defense and Bosh’s unwillingness to drive. But the major finger is pointed towards the wing defense:

Bottom line is you got to keep your guy in front of you at some point.

I like how the reporters are now asking effort questions about whether it’s hard for the team to get up for these games since they don’t mean anything. Nobody’s obviously going to respond in the affirmative but you can tell by the tone of their answers that the fat lady has sung.

The task to turn around 17 point deficits on the road against a division rival isn’t something you want to be assigned. If you are by some divine miracle to complete it, you’ll have to play some suffocating defense or pray the other team just goes ice cold. Since we don’t play defense we had to hope that Philly starts taking bad shots and doing dumb stuff and that didn’t happen. Our scoring picked up as we managed to get on the run a little and Jose made some shots, set up Parker on the perimeter for scores but it was all a wash since Philly continued their unabated assault on the rim courtesy of dribble-penetration and cuts which were finished off by Young and Dalembert through all kinds of dunks, mostly of lobs and good interior passing. The result was a fast-paced high-scoring quarter where the Raptors failed to chip in to the lead. You got the feeling that Philly was comfortably in control because our defensive intensity (ha!) was non-existent. We had shown little defensive strategy other than playing some hopeful zone which got busted immediately and some early-pressure which was converted to layups by a spaced-out Philly 2-1-2. It was like picking up your only gun and shooting it right in your own face. Give points to Triano for trying.

Fourth quarter was a joke. Stat-padding all around. We made a “run” but it had everything to do with Philly already having the game in the bag more than anything else. It was one of those runs that you just know the Raptors will never actually compete because if it ever got too close for comfort for Philly, they’d up their defense and get the stops against a perimeter-oriented offense. Chalk up another L and yet another lottery ball.

One-Liners:

  • Reggie Evans had an impact in the second quarter when Philly made their decisive run. I thought Triano should’ve countered with Pops immediately but waited too late.
  • Bargnani with a very nice shooting game but he lost track of Dalembert on the boards way too easily. It’s not even a question of Dalembert jumping higher or being more aggressive, Bargnani just didn’t box him out or when he did, did it after he had conceded position. Kind of puts a damper on his otherwise fine game. He looks as comfortable putting the ball on the floor as I’ve ever seen him.
  • Chris Bosh with a game-worst -27. Didn’t score when we needed him the most (second quarter) and seemed intimidated by Dalembert after he got his shot blocked a couple times. Mentally weak. Poor Raps Fan in an effort to be positive had given the edge to Bosh in the pre-game over Young.
  • Other than Bargnani’s game, Joey Graham’s massive dunk on Dalembert and Parker’s good shooting game were positives. It is to be note that Parker’s off-the-ball defense and wandering, unplanned help did offset anything positive he did.
  • Jason Kapono with another stinker on both ends. Held scoreless on 0-3 shooting and targeted by Philly on the defensive end. Got the hook after 9 minutes when it became clear he was a giant liability.
  • If he is anything other than 100%, we need to shut Jose Calderon down ASAP. It’s lunacy to play him like this.
  • Pops Mensah-Bonsu with 8 rebounds. What’s not to like about this guy? Isn’t it pathetic that after Bargnani’s 2009 play he’s the best thing that happened to the Raptors?
  • Thaddeus Young and Marreese Speights: Two examples of good drafting.
  • The more I see of Marcus Banks, the more I hate the Marion trade.
  • Shawn Marion with 18 points but the majority of those were in the second half when things didn’t matter as much. Missed about three easy layups in the second quarter which could’ve helped us stay in the game. We put him on Iggy early on which did have its intended effect as he didn’t go off but in hindsight, maybe he should’ve taken care of Young. Triano couldn’t have known.
  • Philly shot 56%. Could’ve been higher but for garbage time.
  • Nice to see Ukic get out and play a bit in the second half. I’d much rather see him screw up while trying to do something rather than Jose not do anything at all.
  • I remember the season-opener and wonder what the hell happened.
  • Best Lineup: Banks, Ukic, O’Bryant, Marion and Pops going +8 to end the game in what was essentially garbage time. Worst Lineup: Kapono, Parker, Bargnani, Bosh and Calderon going -5 in that stink bomb of a second quarter.

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