Clippers 76, Raptors 100

It’ll be a miracle if the Clippers win another game till April 7th when they play the T’Wolves at home. This was their last shot at a win this month but Baron Davis and Marcus Camby checked in with stinkers as the Raptors found a team bad enough to beat. For most of the afternoon the Clippers looked a lot like the way the Raptors usually do when they face a team sans a 35 games below .500 record so it was a welcome change. Roko was posting people up, Joey was flashing sky-hooks and we even saw Jose Calderon dunk. It was that kind of afternoon. After the game was decided midway through the third quarter it was left to the most bastardized promotion in the league to provide the final theatrics. They cheered loud and Patrick O’Bryant got off the bench, walked up to Jay Triano, demanded to be inserted into the affair. Triano, scared of what might result if he dared disobey, obliged. O’Bryant tore away his warm-ups, jumped right into the thick of the game and proceeded to hit a JordaKobeBronesque jumper to take the score from 98 to 100. Pandemonium ensued.

I thought we’d be in for a long afternoon after the first two defensive plays of the afternoon. It was Voskuhl and Jose trying to defend a pick ‘n roll – they both went to the ball-handler leaving Zach Randolph wide open with rotation responsibilities falling to Chris Bosh. On both plays he didn’t take a step towards Randolph who drained the two jumpers. Randolph had the first 8 Clipper points and I’m thinking this is Boris Diaw all over again. Things got better real fast since Baron Davis’ defense isn’t exactly enthused and includes being committed to not raising your arms as your check is shooting. That check was Jose Calderon. You knew there was something funny about this game when Jake Voskuhl got the start instead of Bargnani who was nursing a sore heel and rained down a 19-footer taking me back to the days of Rasho. 33-20 at the end of the first quarter and my pre-game faith in the Clippers had considerably dimmed. Time to switch over to the Punabi commentary for a bit.

I don’t understand the language but I could’ve sworn I heard the guy say the words “sucks”, “Kapono”, “be”, “traded” and “should” which I took to mean Jason Kapono sucks and should be traded. I have to agree with Mr. Singh on that one. After all, you have to be ultra-crappy to go 2-10 against a team whose idea of playing defense is crossing the half-court line. Kapono got outplayed by Steve Novak which is funny enough even before you consider that he makes 725% his salary. My favorite “Kapoment” was him picking up the offensive foul the first time he touched the rock in the second quarter. Whenever he comes in the game I get my iPhone stopwatch out and just wait for the first bone-headed move, definitely didn’t have to wait long today.

That second quarter was the only dark period for the Raptors and even that was a fair bit rosy. We started off shooting 2-17 (Kapono 0-4) but our lead was only shaved by 5 points. The Clippers played a little defense in this stretch too: Marion, Calderon and Graham got their shot blocked and the Clippers forced a couple turnovers but their inept offense couldn’t convert anything. Their backcourt of Gordon and Davis went 6-25 with 8 turnovers. There were plenty of rebounds to be had in this one as the Clippers shot 39% while taking 75 shots. The Raptors themselves hoisted a season-high 100 attempts (somewhere Sam Mitchell smiled) and shot 44%, no reason why we shouldn’t have reached 130. Chris Bosh was the prime beneficiary of the shooting woes as he picked up a double-double at the half. We were +23 on the glass and I got a feeling Bargnani would’ve had a career-high if he’d played.

A 14-4 defense-inspired third quarter which included a Jose Calderon steal + breakaway dunk, Shawn Marion getting out on the run and a couple Chris Bosh paint scores made it 72-48. The Twittersphere couldn’t get enough of how crappy the Clippers are and I pondered why Mike Dunleavy has a job. If a coach can’t motivate his guys to play hard he should either be fired on the players moved, but with 41 million tied up in guaranteed contracts through 2010-11, I don’t see them going anywhere. Now they’ve had their fair share of injuries but they’ve still got enough athleticism and skill to put forth more than the deplorable effort we saw yesterday. As I said, they remind me of the Raptors.

More similar than you think.

Andrea Bargnani is our best post-defender and with him out, it was left to Bosh/Voskuhl to check Zach Randolph. Randolph went for 20/7 on 10-17 and Bosh offset him with 16/13 on 7-15. It wasn’t a convincing defensive performance by Bosh whose man-defense has degenerated this year. Call it lack of motivation, intelligence or talent but we need him to be a defensive anchor down there and take it upon himself to shut down his check like he did in the Olympics. Obviously the competition is a lot different and the job much tougher but I don’t see the same hunger in his defense that was present in the summer. In short, Randolph should not be outscoring you.

Shawn Marion with 14/13. He thrives in no-defense games and struggles in half-court situations. What do the Raptors mostly play in? Half-court situations. And it follows that? Marion struggles with the Raptors. If we keep the Marion-Bosh-Calderon-Bargnani combo intact, how much success are they likely to meet? Depends if Jose can cater to Marion’s game which depends on Jose’s health and the system we have in place which depends on the coach. Will Triano return? If the Toronto media had their way they’d sign him to a 10-year extension but hopefully Colangelo’s a little wiser. If we don’t make an honest commitment to “run ‘n gun” does it make sense to re-sign Marion? I don’t think so but wouldn’t that mean we’d lose him for nothing which means we lost JO’s soon-to-be attractive contract for nothing and took on Marcus Banks for nothing and applying transitivity lost Rasho, T.J Ford, a first round pick and applying even more transitivity, Charlie V and another first round pick for nothing? But wait, we could sign-and-trade him? Does Marion demand that kind of money on the market that a sign-and-trade would be necessary? Probably not, but even if he did how much can you honestly get back in such a deal? Holy crap, this situation is pretty hairy.

Good to see Roko get 21 minutes to run rampant against a doormat defense. To think of it he could be having even more of these games in the D-League – really should’ve sent him down. In one way I’m glad Roko can’t shoot because he doesn’t even look to do so and opts for the drive any chance he gets. You give him a full head of steam and he’s not afraid to take it right at you, he doesn’t have any clever moves to get you going the wrong way but he’s got good speed off the live dribble and makes the interior defense shift. He’s not afraid of paint contact and has improved his finishing around the rim. Once he gets his dribble in order, develops the court-presence and awareness needed to make the pass out of a collapsing defense he’ll be fine. That fine is still a year or two away. Eight solid assists today – very well done.

A couple days after going -40 in PINP against the Bobcats we were +12 yesterday. Thank Joey Graham and Pops for providing a good lift off the bench which had 42 points. I was surprised to see Triano pull Pops against the Bobcats after only 8 minutes, that’s not how you deal with a struggling hustle player. Sure, he’s a little eager on defense which results in him picking up fouls (5 in 21 minutes) but that’s an area of his game which is bound to get better as he gets more playing time and adjusts to what player tendencies are when they get into the paint. He had a solid showing with 8/8 and I get a feeling we’re going to have some competition if we want to retain his services. I hope we don’t overpay, if someone’s offering him anything close to unreasonable then we back-out and ask Bosh to be the hustle guy. Pops was asked what he’s give Bosh for his birthday, he said:

Considering our salaries, he should be getting me something.

I was having a discussion in the chat about Joey Graham who had 13 on 6-11. Does anyone care if we lose him? I happen to like Joey and do think that in a solid system he’d be a solid player. For example, he’s one of those guys that I think would thrive in a system like Utah which caters to players’ advantages. Joey’s advantage is strength and every time he gets into a situation where it comes down to strength and physicality he usually wins out. I think he could be great for 18-20 minutes off the bench if we already have a solid scorer at the three. The qualifying offer is at $3,441,10 and we should be making it. His inconsistency in large part is the result of the clumsy system around him.

Finally, a word about Anthony Parker. Another good effort which further ensures that he’s going to find a NBA home next season. Just like Pops, I don’t want the Raptors to overpay only because he’s played well in meaningless games at the tail end of a season. He’s ideal for a contender looking to add a bench piece, not a team which is pseudo-rebuilding like the Raptors. He’s the ultimate professional and even though his play has been downright terrible at times this season, his effort cannot be questioned. We made the mistake of not recognizing his decline as a starter and were guilty of stretching his role. He does good things, they just come in small doses.

You can’t read too much into this game, after all it’s the Clippers.

Liners:

  • Chris Bosh in his post-game interview said the team’s trying to make the playoffs. I take that as an insult to my intelligence. He’s better of coming out and saying the truth: It’s been a crappy year, the team needs to be fixed and he himself needs to step up his game.
  • Other than Randolph’s offense the only Clipper to mildly impress was Iowa St. rookie PG Mike Taylor. Energizer bunny.
  • The Raptors won all five quarters, that hasn’t happened since we beat Indiana on December 10th.
  • Fred Jones update: He still sucks.
  • If you take out Randolph’s 10-17, the Clippers shot 19-58 for 33%.
  • If there’s one thing that comes from this season let it be the cancellation of the Pizza Pizza promotion. Free food makes sane people behave in insane ways, AltRaps once drove 150 miles to redeem a Hardee’s coupon. They should give everybody a free pizza slice, most of them probably don’t even redeem it.
  • Chris Kaman played 17 minutes? I swear I thought I never saw him.
  • I had a lot of respect of Baron Davis back in the day. He used to play through injuries, dunk on Garnett, hustle and be one of those players you hate to play against. I haven’t seen much of the Clippers but he appeared to check out early and didn’t even look to exploit Calderon. He’s not the player I remember him to be.
  • Our 100 field goal attempts were the most in a regulation game since we took 103 against Sacramento on February 23rd, 2001.
  • The win was bad news in the lottery ball department as we’re now tied with Golden State for the 7th worst record. Finishing 6th is almost impossible unless we pull the plug on everyone as OKC has a five game “lead” on us.

Thanks for reading. Follow us at @raptorsrepublic and make sure to grab our feed.

Tags: , , ,