Roko loves the rim so I love Roko.

Finishing this off for a distraught Arsenalist who is down and out after KU’s defeat.

The Raptors are like a medieval army that’s returning home after losing a war. On their way back they stop by little towns and villages plundering, pillaging and collecting booty. These same warriors when called upon in the real battlefield with heightened stakes came up short, but now that all’s left to do is look forward to a lengthy layoff they may as well get what they can from the minnows. One of those little villages is known as the Thunder, although they possess a young and promising squadron, they’re highly inexperienced and very much still learning how to play the NBA game. In time they’ll be good, maybe even great, but for now nights like these continue to be a routine. The Raptors took care of business early and then had some fun for the rest of the night.

This looked like a continuation of the Milwaukee game, everything from movement filled sets, Bosh attacking the boards, Marion running on the break to Parker hitting his jumpers. After watching this game you have to scratch your head at how we managed to lose the game in OKC, oh wait, I got it. It’s because we played with a little defensive pride instead of letting Westbrook and Durant go unmolested into the paint every time. We were patient in or offense safe in the knowledge that the Thunder are just too inexperienced at the basics of basketball at this level. They can’t defend pick ‘n rolls, don’t know how or who to close-out, have serious issues with shot-selection, aren’t in tune with the concept of rotation and I get the funny feeling they only glance at the scouting reports while riding the team bus to the arena with an iPhone plugged in.

The only time the Thunder ever bothered us was when Russell Westbrook broke us down at the point-of-attack and either snuck in for lay-ups or shoveled an interior pass for a lay-up, dunk or a Krstic jumper. They had some success on the break when we turned the ball over or took a quick shot but other than that they struggled against a Raptor team that smelt a win all the way. Kevin Durant struggled from the field shooting a mere 4-13, but he did get to the line 11 times because of his aggressiveness to create something more than easy 15 foot jimmy shot.
Looking at the Thunder roster, it’s somewhat a shame they rescinded their trade-deadline deal for Tyson Chandler because he would have filled what is their only glaring hole: post defence and rebounding. Seeing a broken down Krstic start the game reinforced the fact that they need to acquire a legit starting center to compliment their young talent and dept at every other position. Just imagine Chandler guarding the paint behind Jeff Greene and Kevin Durant. His presence alone would definitely increase their self-confidence on the defensive end of the court, and on offence, Chandler would probably help create more perimeter space for his teammates to do what they do best, which is breakdown defenders off the dribble. All they would need then would be another consistent shooter to help Durant and Westbrook score assists off drive and kick opportunities. Even though Chandler is presently out with an ankle injury, I don’t think he failed his physical due to that. So without shot-blocking threat, the Raptors frontcourt destroyed the Thunder by scoring at will in the paint and dominating the boards.

As great of a game both Bosh and Marion had, Anthony Parker’s play was just as refined. Was it not fantastic to see Parker finally use Marion the way he should be used on offense? Parker found Marion flashing and slashing into the paint on at least 3 occasions resulting in the Return Of The Matrix. Marion’s performance was a quintessential repeat of his good old Phoenix days. He scored 20 points while holding the ball of about as many seconds. And when he wasn’t flashing ‘n slashing he was crashing the boards and scoring put-back buckets. Somewhere, Steve Nash watched the highlights and smiled.

It would also be a huge injustice if I didn’t praise Bargnani’s play last night. At the start of the game, he was running the floor, fighting for post-position and scoring inside and outside. To his discredit, he picked up a couple of weak calls and forced out of the game with 3 fouls in the first quarter. No matter. He played strong, showed a willingness to play in the paint and used his size and skills to take advantage of obvious mismatches. Kudos Bargs! Keep it up.

We’ve now tied our season-long winning streak by not just beating three teams, but by jumping on them early in the game and putting the game away after the half. Garbage time is a good time. Everyone likes to play and our bench-fodder have not had this much court-burn all season. Triano better start watching Ukic’s minutes.

So now the on-court “caliper test” for this disappointing yet intriguing Raptors squad comes tomorrow against an actual playoff-seeded team in the Bulls. Since acquiring John “Thank God” Salmons and Brad “All-Business” Miller, the Bulls have all but assured themselves of a playoff spot. Hopefully the Raptors continue their home-court dominating run.

Liners

  • Last night at RFF, the Philthy’s drunk commented that Rick James would probably refer to Pops and Jawai as the Raptors Brother’s Darkness (Twin Brother’s Darkness). The drunk thinks Eddie and Charlie Murphy are laughing and he misses Rick James (and Dave Chappelle).
  • If… if, we win every remaining game, can we make the playoffs? Just wondering?
  • Parker will be successful coming off the bench for any team next season.
  • This summer, BC has to decide to keep either Marion or Graham. We can’t lose both. We’ll probably keep the cheapest option (see Graham).
  • Thunder head-coach Scotty Brooks looks a lot like Liam Neeson.
  • Since becoming head-coach 3 months ago, Jay Triano looks like he’s aged 10 years.
  • Nathan Jawai’s black sport-coat is back. We need to play him enough so that he can afford a change of clothes.

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