Quick take on the Washington game: We were completely healthy and played our starters regular minutes but still couldn’t manage to beat the worst team in the East at home. Technically speaking, that was the worst loss of the season and a fitting result given the defensive effort put forth. Tonight we end our home season against Philly, another team that made a move for a big man in the summer which came back to bite them, the difference is that they’ve got the depth to absorb such setbacks whereas we were counting on about 6-8 things to go perfectly for us to have a chance.
Philly comes in to this one having lost four straight and only half a game ahead of Chicago for the precious sixth spot which would allow them to avoid Boston and play Orlando. Philly’s remaining two games are against Boston and Cleveland while Chicago plays Charlotte, Detroit and Toronto. It’s easy to surmise that Philly could easily fall to 7th. The Bulls and Sixers split their season series which means it would make their conference record the tiebreaker and even that is very close – Sixers are 24-25 and the Bulls are 23-27. If that ends up tied they’d have to go down to who had the higher winning percentage against playoff teams in the conference. What I’m trying to get at is that this game means something to them and could be their last shot at a win this season.
Thaddeus Young is out with a sprained right ankle and is expected to miss at least another week if not two. The Raptors must be glad to see him out of the lineup, he’s averaging 15 points and 5 rebounds against us on 61% shooting including a 29 point performance on March 11th. Since our opening night win in Philadelphia we’ve lost both meetings against them and our defense has allowed an average of 110.5 points on 55% shooting. If our defensive effort in this game mirrors anything we’ve seen against Washington or Indiana this one could end in boos. All signs point to that happening: we’ve allowed an average of 52% shooting, 115 points and are -5.75 on the glass in our losing streak. Our defense is shot.
For the past three weeks I’ve been hoping that the Raptors empty their bench and this game’s no different. There’s no reason, value or meaning for any one of our regular starters to play more than 15 minutes. I understand that we don’t have any great talent to develop but it’s still a great opportunity for fans and coaches to get a good look at Quincy Douby, Roko Ukic and Joey Graham go up against a team that’s going to be gunning for victory. Honestly, there’s not a sole reason why Calderon or Bosh should play this game. I know it’s not going to happen and they’ll come out and put out a stinker and we’ll all feel worse about them. Jawai, Pops, Ukic and to a lesser degree Douby, should have been playing heavy minutes for the last two weeks, there’s not a better time to evaluate the end of the bench and we’ve wasted the opportunity. No matter how much summer-league ball they’ll play the 7-8 games they would’ve played here would’ve told us a whole lot more.
When we were in the middle of that 6-game win streak (distant memory), Jose had blogged about the importance of Pops:
One reason for our improvement is the inside rotation Pops has given us. The truth is that his input has been important to us. He gave us energy and toughness.
Now that we’re back to our losing ways I wonder what his assessment of the man is and whether he would like Pops back. He’s 7-27 in this losing streak and is averaging 5.25 rebounds in 12.5 minutes. It’s still very high PER48 rebounding but his impact on the game isn’t the same as it was when he first came to us. He’s almost too aggressive around the rim, instead of using a simple pump-fake to throw the defender off, he’ll gather himself for the dunk an in the process show the defense exactly what he’s trying to do. This gives them ample time to prepare for the block or the strip and start their transition offense.
I was reading this generic Hoopsworld article about the Raptors and tried to take something out of it even after they referred to Anthony Parker as a forward and as a ‘glue-guy’ who is ‘worth more than his cumulative statistics’. There’s been a lot of talk about him returning in a reduced role and I just don’t think it’s possible, at least not unless we swing a trade or two. If we fail to unload Banks there aren’t enough minutes at the backup PG spot since we also want to develop Ukic and reducing Roko’s playing time in favor of Parker’s doesn’t make long-term sense. If we get a new starting SG through the draft or free-agency, Parker would compete with Kapono for the backup duties thus rendering KFraud even more useless than he is right now. If Parker is to return, one of Kapono or Banks must be shown the door. There are only so many roster spots to go around and we can’t have dead weight lying around.
As if having Parker and Delfino return wasn’t enough to jog the memory of failures past, Paul Jones is hinting at Juan Dixon returning to Toronto. Can we please stop this nonsense, drain the loser mentality and start signing/drafting some talent instead of bringing back has-beens and never-weres.
It’s too bad we won’t get to hear Leo Rautins go at Samuel Dalembert (19 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks last time) for not driving the ball or playing smart. He would be the natural enemy in this game joining the ranks of Tyrus Thomas, Josh Smith, Al Harrington, Charlie V to name a few. After the game in Philly, Eric Smith asked him what his plans with Team Canada were to which he responded: When they get a real coach I’ll think about it.
The line for this game is even right now and seeing how I’m 4-0 in my last four calls against the spread I deserve some respect. Take Philly to win this one, they realize they need to win this if they want to have a chance at hanging on to the 6th spot. The Raptors have nothing to play for and the home loss to the Wizards told you all there is to know.
My pick is Erica because she’s the only one that doesn’t immediately remind me of the fine ladies I meet on my evening strolls on Sherbourne. Just like almost every other cheeleader, she started doing this at the tender age of four.
Here’s a pic emailed to me which illustrates some great defense being played by O’Neal and Moon in Miami.
This is the last TSN2 game so get your popcorn and coke ready for the final installment of The Jackies. Nothing like some fake awards to get you back in the mood after a first half pummeling where they missed every important replay. This game will also be shown on NBA TV (not Raptors TV), TSN will follow with a replay about an hour after the live telecast ends. Well, try to enjoy the game and by enjoy I mean suffer through it.