In my efforts to compose poetry yesterday I completely forgot about Hoop Heads North winning the RR March Madness Pool. Here’s his bracket in which he went a whopping 51/63. Congratulations and take a bow, I’ve dispatched my carrier pigeon which will shower you with presents and such.
If this were a baseball game the Hawks would’ve won 18-14 and the two teams would’ve combined for 11 errors. I suppose that’s what you get when one team has nothing to play for and the other is seemingly unaware for three and a half quarters that they’re in danger of losing home-court. Then again Phillips Arena is about as intimidating a venue as a McDonald’s playhouse. So the Hawks left it till late against us and we didn’t help the winning cause by treating the game as an audition of sorts, except we were also trying to win.
Let me preface this story by letting you know that there was more defense played in the Knicks game on Sunday than there was on Tuesday. The Raptors shot 54% and the Hawks 51%, there was very little resistance offered by either team until late in the fourth when the Hawks simply upped their intensity and let All-Star Joe Johnson, the athletic Josh Smith and professional scorer Flip Murray take over the game. Unfortunately the Raptors don’t have the luxury of an athletic wing creating off the bounce and passing it off to another athletic wing who drives and pops for scores. Our offensive team play has to be near perfect for us to compensate for the defense we were playing. Three empty fourth quarter possessions which included two turnovers, both converted by the Hawks, were part of an 11-4 run which spelled our end.
To start the game, the Hawks switched Joe Johnson on Jose Calderon, presumably because he’d have to expend less effort than if he’d had to guard the prolific Anthony Parker. The Hawks must think they were playing against the pre-March Calderon because they refused to guard him. Outright refused to. On the high screen they’d cheat towards Bosh and not even come close to rotating back to Calderon, leaving him with open jumper after jumper. Forget about going over the screen, they were practically begging him to shoot. Credit to Calderon for making them pay and coming up sneaky on the defensive end with a couple steals. The man’s a regular John Stockton. On the flip side of this matchup Anthony Parker couldn’t exploit the shorter Bibby and finished 4-10. A good first quarter that, they told me we had 10 fastbreak points but I thought I counted more. The defense was an afterthought, kinda like buying the card to go along with an expensive present.
The second quarter belonged to KFraud who made the most of some good screens set by Bosh and Pops to drain 4 jumpers. Andrea Bargnani had played good defense on Al Horford but had a couple iffy calls go against him which forced him to the bench and affected his rhythm. The refs need to call the game as it is and stop anticipating fouls, I know NBA refereeing is hard but the way to make it easy isn’t by making up your mind before the play happens. Anyway, after he clearly fouled Zaza Pachulia he picked up a technical for complaining to the ref, but really he was still complaining about the calls in the first quarter. Zaza didn’t appear to respect Pops or O’Bryant (you know it’s audition time when he’s in the game) and went straight at them giving them pump-fakes aplenty. He had 8 and canceled KFraud.
Every game has one and in this one it was all about Josh Smith. He was Leo’s whipping boy, apparently Smith “does what he wants” not “what’s right”. Huh? Could Leo get any more generic, boring and repetitive? I think not, I say put AltRaps on the broadcast along with Cinnamon from the Rail. There’s your show right there. So yeah, back to Smith. Sure, he slipped a few times, played the wrong angle on Bosh for a dunk, didn’t cover Bargnani on the perimeter but it’s not like he was the only one taking possessions off. Give the man a break, his team’s in the playoffs with home-court, if you have to shower criticism there’s plenty of men in white shirts to throw that at. The Bosh/Smith matchup was played even, with the edge going to Smith for hitting a big-time three in the fourth and because of Bosh not doing the roll part of the pick ‘n roll late in the fourth thus causing a turnover.
Roko showed us more of what we already know, took it to the rim and once there tried to finish it instead of picking out shooters. The guy’s got a serious case of tunnel-vision at times, especially in end-of-quarter situations. Just because you’re 6-feet out doesn’t mean you have to shoot it. Did you know his Per48 FGA is only surpassed by Bosh and Bargnani? Ha! You didn’t.
The third quarter rolled around along with my desire to throw a brick at the TV because of the amount of clean looks the Hawks were getting off dribble-penetration. It’s not so much the drive ‘n kick that bothers me than the look Parker, Calderon and Bargnani get in their eyes when they realize they’re supposed to be about 16 feet from where they are. For all the good Bargnani’s shown us on the defensive end, his perimeter rotations are downright terrible and close to being as bad as Parker’s. On offense we decided to explore what Marion could give us on the switch against smaller players, but our entry-passes negated the position he had gained and he ended with four points in the quarter despite Bibby and Murray switched on him. To be fair to Marion he was checking Joe Johnson all game long and was being made to run around quite a bit. Our modest four point halftime lead had been converted into a one point deficit.
The latter part of the third saw one Quincy Douby come into the game and show us some quick intelligent passing, a nice spot-up jumper and in general, high basketball IQ. He started the fourth and got a deflection, made a three, scored on a drive and then ran the aforementioned pick ‘n roll with Bosh. His fault was assuming that Bosh was actually going to roll instead of trail him for whatever reason. The return pass was converted by Flip Murray for a layup. Quincy ended up with 9 points on 4-5 shooting in 9 minutes, albeit against a less than stellar Hawks defense, nonetheless, a tidy performance for a guy fighting for his NBA-life. Here’s hoping Colangelo doesn’t give him a 3-year deal.
So after Josh Smith nailed a three from the wing which Bosh didn’t see coming, the Hawks had a 6 point lead with 6:28 left. Bargnani answered immediately after Bosh made the right pass out of the soft double to cut it back to three. Parker, immediately after replacing Douby, turned the ball over and then Josh Smith made the defensive play of the game on Bargnani. Andrea was the only guy actually cutting right through the heart of the paint looking for a pass, everybody else kinda just rolls to the elbow or to the mid-point area, and for that he was getting rewarded by some fouls and scores. Unfortunately, this time around Smith blocked him and it was converted on the break for two giving the Hawks a pretty big 9 point edge with 4:46 left.
Calderon is honestly and with full heart trying to play the up-tempo game, he found Marion on the break with a great pass and then found a cutting Bargnani for two more to cut it to five. I was glad to see that but the joy was short-lived. After Bibby blew by him to create a jumper for Joe Johnson, Calderon tried to find Marion on an alley-oop and the pass was too high and too terrible. He’s obviously learning this style of play, I doubt he’s ever played with a player of Marion’s caliber and is just finding out the things that are possible when he’s on the court. The turnover led to another JJ three in transition. Ice.
The damage was done, Bosh got the next four points for us but Josh Smith countered him for the same. In the end it was the playmaking ability of Joe Johnson (9 points in the fourth) and Flip Murray that led to Atlanta points while the Raptors offense was forced to find theirs in rigid sets that when defended with discipline, can always be stopped. This game furthers my belief that if you’re going to have an All-Star player, it’s always better to have him at the wing.
Some quotes, Josh Smith on playing defense in the fourth:
We just wanted to play defense and we wanted to focus on the defensive end. We were giving them too many easy looks at the basket and we wanted to settle down on the defensive end and get out and run a little bit.
Chris Bosh on Joe Johnson’s impact:
We were stacking the lane pretty good,” Bosh said. “I think Joe Johnson did a good job of creating for his teammates. They shot it with a lot of confidence and they just really let it go.
- Try Out #1 Quincy Douby: In 9 minutes showed he can get his against a not-so great defense. Doesn’t prove anything nor should it go in any way towards tendering him a contract. Summer league invite at best.
- Try Out #2 Patrick O’Bryant: 16 minutes, four fouls, a touch of that soft feathery jumper and a penchant for losing rebounding position. He’s guaranteed $500,000 for next season, if I had that money I’d quit my job and do this full-time. I’d even consider swallowing his contract for a roster spot, I hear Luke Jackson’s killing in the D-League.
- Try Out #3 Pops Mensah-Bonsu: 6 minutes, 1 rebound. Thou shall try to dunk the ball even though thou are in no position to do so. He’s freestyling out there, setting screens on the nearest man, rolling to the rim when there’s zero chance of a pass coming his way, you know, just freestyling. One year contract, if another team’s in the mix, offer him a two-year deal with a team option.
- Try Out #4 Joey Graham: 14 minutes, a half-court turnover, 1 rebound and four points. This game was a chance for him to show something against high-caliber wing opposition but he fizzled and tried to go one-on-one a little too much. Good Joey‘s game is 80% off-the-ball, Bad Joey‘s game is what we saw last night.
- A nice offensive game by most of the Raptors but allowing the Hawks to shoot 11-22 on threes and giving up dribble penetration while not rotating is a recipe for a home L.
- I’m 4-0 in my last four calls against the spread.
- Al Horford with 15 and 12. Would you do a Bargnani for Horford swap?
- The Hawks were +4 in rebounds, +5 in second chance points and +6 in points in the paint.
Thanks for reading. Once again, congratulations to Hoop Heads North. Follow us @raptorsrepublic. We also have a Facebook group where Realizar posts pictures of waitresses, mostly of the up-skirt variety. Like the Arsenal, Java or other such phenomenon? @arsenalist.