Usually I’m pretty good at sticking through the whole game but I had to turn this one off early in the fourth when Jack Armstrong started talking about how Leo was a “phenomenal passer” back in his day. No. Stop right there. Hy’s Steakhouse is phenomenal. The Rail is phenomenal. Jimi Hendrix is phenomenal. Leo Rautins, just like the Raptors, is not phenomenal.
The first paragraph of the post-game post usually succinctly summarizes the game and gives the reader the option to “Read More” if it piques their interest. I’m abandoning that routine today and plugging Twitter and the RR March Madness pool. If you care to read about this “game” (I’m reluctant to call it that because by definition its an event where two sides compete, not where one lays down and the other rolls over them), do so at the risk of learning nothing new.
The Bobcats were mired in a three game losing streak after winning six in a row and were 1.5 game out of the final playoff spot coming into this one. They knew a shoddy NBA unit was coming into their building and there was no excuse for them to drop this one. They came out and took care of business in the exact opposite way we “took care” of Milwaukee at home without Michael Redd. Remember that? That Milwaukee game to me was the season in a nutshell, we had won three in a row and had a chance to match the longest winning streak of the season but we ended up getting embarrassed by Charlie V and went on to lose 6 straight. It wasn’t a “must win” per say but a loss in such a game spoke volumes about a team’s resolve and desire. Last night the Bobcats took care of us the way we should’ve taken care of Milwaukee. They are a talented and focused bunch that enjoys playing with each other and have a goal to strive for, we are playing out the season in our division rivals’ uniforms.
I have to talk about the conditioning factor again because we appeared spent after the first quarter. We came out with good defensive energy to start the game and got the break going after some solid shot-contests by Bargnani on Okafor. Marion and Parker hooked each other up on the leakouts and Jose got us into the sets early. Parker hit a patented jumper, Bosh had a purposeful hook shot and Bargnani was giving Okafor something to think about on defense. I thought Bargnani could’ve done more on offense, he’s gotten much better at ball-faking on the perimeter and the defender usually goes for it as did Okafor. However, Bargnani ends up giving the advantage right back by passing the ball off as the defender’s being faked out, or he’ll take two dribbles in when he could’ve taken six. He’s obviously improved from last year but the next area to develop in his game is better decision making off the perimeter ball-fake. Considering how the Bobcats have had trouble with his type he could’ve had more than 13/6.
Jose Calderon picked up his second foul in the first quarter and it didn’t appear to be a big deal at the time since he wasn’t giving us much against Felton. To his credit, he did try to attack more but got sealed off on a couple occasions and then got called for a charge and another turnover. Roko got the call and he was terrible. Absolutely horrific. He needs to tighten his handle to the point where he doesn’t have to look down when switching hands and is confident enough to tempt the defender to reach so he can pull back the dribble and gain an advantage by driving. It’s a simple thing but he doesn’t/can’t do it. He came in at the 7:56 mark of the first quarter with a four point lead and left at the 4:11. In that stretch the Raptors had 7 turnovers (23 for the game) and gave up an 11-2 run. The Bobcats were trapping him early and he looked very uncomfortable running the offense; in fairness to him every other Raptor was equally clumsy. Roko didn’t see the light of day till the 2 minute mark of the third quarter when this game was essentially out of reach.
Bosh also picked up his second foul but I don’t think it really mattered. Pops was doing a good job of being a presence in the paint and it wasn’t like was Okafor was killing us. We didn’t have an answer for Gerald Wallace’s slashing, D.J Augustin’s outside shooting and dribble-penetration and Boris Diaw’s slithery ways of getting to the rim which all ended up resulting in a 52-32 point in the paint edge, a stat that most teams take as meaning inside domination but we take it as meaning getting beat off the dribble. Wallace was giving us a good idea of what we missed when we decided not to trade him straight up for T.J Ford, a trade that in hindsight would’ve been ideal for us. He was passing up wide-open perimeter shots given to him by Marion and Graham by opting to drive instead. D.J Augustin hit a couple big threes on a sagging Jose Calderon in the second quarter off of great ball movement, something the Bobcats did all night while racking up 32 assists on 44 made shots.
Shawn Marion’s defense was disappointing, he was losing track of Gerald Wallace way too easily and allowing him to gain an advantage with a first step which isn’t even that quick to begin with. Joey wasn’t much better at defending Wallace leading me to believe there wasn’t a plan in place for the Bobcats’ best scorer. But hey, coming up with plans is hard work and I don’t think anybody on the Raptors (including the coaching staff) is familiar with that concept. Or if they are they let it go a couple months back. Here’s a Shawn Marion quote:
Sometimes we just feel like we’re just there and we’re not just there. It’s hurting. I hate losing. It’s frustrating for me.
He may as well add:
I’m a pretty good player if I’m in a system that’s tailored to my style of play and I don’t see the Raptors as that team. I know I’m going to have to take a pay cut this summer because of my lack of production in the last couple years and unless you’re going to overpay me, I’ll go find a sunny weather spot with a team that’s looking in the same direction as me. I do like the city, I hope it all works out for you guys. Hey, maybe Marcus can show you a little something something. You never know, right? Naaaaah….we both know Marcus sucks. Seriously though, take care.
Other than the first few minutes of the first and third quarters the effort was questionable, but at this point I don’t know how much of that has to do with conditioning. Sure, you’re playing on the second night of a back-to-back but you got three days off coming up and you can’t tell me they couldn’t find an extra gear? Then again, what the hell is there to play for other than personal pride of which these guys have very little. Except Jose, as much as I criticize him I do believe the guy feels the losses more than anyone on that team. I think he’s trying his best to justify the contract but unfortunately for him, he’s just not been good enough. There’s no leader on this squad that can motivate or drive others into giving a committed effort despite the record. Bosh is supposed to be that guy but he can’t lead by example, doesn’t have a competitive nature and lacks the mental strength to carry and inspire his teammates through rough stretches. The fact that he can’t create his own shot and take over a game adds to the problem but I’ve learned not to expect or blame him for that. I’m not privy to what goes on in the dressing room but you have to wonder what kind of respect he commands in there.
The second and third quarter consisted entirely of the Bobcats spawning their beautiful unselfish swing sequences off of good high screen usage and individual dribble-penetration which forced the Raptors to collapse the paint and then recover out to shooters. We might’ve done a good job of recovering to the first shooter off the kick-out but once their swing sequence was in full effect our rotations needed to be accountable, crisp and followed by hard close-outs. That obviously hasn’t happened all season so no reason to expect that now. The Bobcats shot 49% for the game and got good shots whenever they wanted. After starting the third quarter on a 6-0 run to cut the lead to 7 and forcing Larry Brown to burn a timeout we conceded a 16-4 run which put the game to bed.
The Bobcats played some great defense in holding us to 38% shooting which included 3-16 from downtown. They neutralized the pick ‘n roll by switching hard, didn’t allow Calderon to turn the corner early in the game and didn’t need to double Bosh to slow him down. They boxed out Pops on the defensive glass and even the much-maligned Wallace put Marion on his back on a few occasions. Ex-Bobcat Kapono and Parker were held in close check by Raja Bell who always encouraged the contested shot which we so willingly take. On one crucial third quarter possession when the wheels were coming off they forced a shot-clock violation by playing Bosh tight, he lost the dribble and was forced beyond the three-point line with two seconds on the clock. Not demonstrating the highest basketball IQ, Bosh chose to pass it to Joey who was covered tightly on the elbow with a second left instead of heaving a three-pointer. It’s one small play that speaks of court presence.
I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Bobcats play, they reminded me of the 2006-07 edition of the Raptors which had two pretty good point guards, great ball movement and good enough outside shooting to free up an average post-player. I do hope they catch Milwaukee for that final spot, that franchise has sucked long enough and their recent good moves need to be rewarded. To give an example of specific coaching, the Bobcats spent extra time at a shootaround on Monday going over the “principles” of guarding pick-and-rolls which also included a video session. This extra coaching was deemed necessary by Larry Brown because they allowed Minnesota to shoot 53% from the field. You think the Raptors coaching staff is this serious about giving up high percentages?
The lead entering the fourth quarter was 89-72 which meant it was garbage time. And since we’re all gentlemen, we don’t talk about garbage time.
- I put up the Bobcats bench picture up partially because the Raptors bench laughing against Indiana rubbed me the wrong way. Does a team that just snapped a 7-game losing streak at home really get to celebrate that much? I’m all for patting oneself on the back but do it when you accomplish something more than avoiding a season-high losing streak. If there was a true leader on this team he’d keep those things in check.
- We’re 1-28 when we allow the opposition to shoot 48% or higher. Makes sense, our offense isn’t good enough to compensate for that kind of defense.
- We currently have the 8th pick. If we can just figure out a way to be more crappy there’s no reason why we can’t get the 6th or maybe even the 5th pick. We have 24 wins, Golden State has 23, Minny as 20 and OKC has 19. If we shut Bosh, Calderon and Marion down for the year there’s every reason to think we can “catch” OKC. Complete NBA standings.
- 44 personal fouls in this one and if it weren’t for the Raptors going 29-36 it would’ve been even uglier.
- Pops was compared to Wendel Clark by Matt Devlin.
- Jason Kapono smiled after his first made shot of the game cut the lead to 16 in the third quarter. He is a fraud and should be jailed for conning Bryan Colangelo.
- Patrick O’Bryant is half Irish, half terrible.
- The combination of Parker, Calderon and Ukic had 13 assists and 11 turnovers. They shot a combined 6-20 (30%). I’d like to put some heat on Bosh but he had as much support last night as AltRaps when he’s trying to convince me to hit the Rail on a Tuesday. In a game where everybody played like crap, he doesn’t deserve additional feces thrown at him.
- Officially, Marcus Banks stayed in Toronto to have his toe examined. In reality, he couldn’t afford to miss 24.
Thanks for reading and don’t go anywhere without checking the very sexy Roll Call. Hang in there, just 14 more games left, it’ll all soon be over.