Well, that offense sure looked like it hadn’t been practicing much. A third quarter filled with a barrage of bad shots and defensive mistakes pegged the Raptors back as they dropped another one to their hated rivals who brought out the human victory cigar, Brian Scalabrine, midway through the fourth. We soon followed it up by bringing out the human white flag, Marcus Banks. Overall, the defensive display was disappointing because all we’ve been hearing about is how hard the team is working on it and how much progress it’s making. The best thing you could say about it was that it was quick and active in the first quarter and a half; but only in the second half of a game when fatigue kicks in is a defense tested to its limits and we showed that we have lots of work to do in the next two weeks.
Turkoglu got his first taste of the pre-season and shockingly played like someone who hadn’t been practicing. He made three plays that might’ve reminded you of the Turkoglu of last year: a post-up turnaround jumper, a nice no-look pass in transition which led to a dunk and a post-up on the right wing which incited a double leading to a Calderon three – assist Hedo. A couple of his passes got picked off and he spent a good chunk of the time on offense trying to figure out who was supposed to set a screen for him. Basic confusion associated with somebody who hasn’t been part of the team. That’s the story of the Raptors this pre-season – finding chemistry amongst strangers and fighting through early injury/fatigue of two major pieces. It’s one of the topics of discussion in my chat with Jessica Camerato of WEEI.com in Boston. You can listen by clicking on the play button below or directly in iTunes. You may also download the file if you’re on a mobile device.[audio:http://raptorsrepublic.com/audio/2009-10-14-JessicaCameratoWEEI.mp3]
Before the game I mentioned how Jose Calderon needed to show us something. He did, he had a noticeable bounce in his step, knocked down a couple open jumpers that will soon become mandatory for him and played well enough on offense to make us ignore the fact that Rondo was still doing whatever he wanted out there. Still, Rondo deserves some respect and I’m inclined to call this matchup even – 12/3/1 for Jose 6/8/2 for Rondo. After yesterday’s interview about him being a 100% and feeling better, last night’s display was encouraging. He twice broke down the Boston defense on drives in the first quarter; he hadn’t done that all pre-season.
Triano didn’t play Calderon and Jack much together, instead allowing both to dictate the offense in separate stints. I thought Jack brought some tempo into the game, the C**tics like to put mild pressure on the PG in the backcourt and the guard usually stops and passes it out wasting a couple ticks of the clock. Jack noticed this and hard-dribbled his way out of the pressure to set up Weems for a couple easy scores and got open looks for Bargnani and DeRozan who couldn’t knock them down. Two of his shots were taken too early and without evaluating other, better options but overall he had a solid game. Our PG duo didn’t get exploited and held their own, good enough for me.
Bosh started off the game taking two terrible fadeaways but soon regrouped with the help of Bargnani and Calderon who got him two easy dunks in a row to get him back in the game. After that he knocked down a few jump shots, got to the line and ended with 20 points in the half. Bargnani’s first quarter play was beautiful, he was the most active player on either team, breaking down Perkins, grabbing offensive rebounds (7 rebounds in total) he had no business getting and knocking down two jumpers to keep everyone honest. Unfortunately, that was it from him on offense and he proceeded to clang everything after that. A life of a jump shooter indeed. DeRozan had a great baseline cut for a score against Pierce and then turned in the post against Allen for the same. He even gave the mega-c**t a nice shoulder to the face to shake him up a bit. But just like Bargnani, that was it for him and he didn’t have a field goal the rest of the game. The long break he took in the second quarter killed his early rhythm.
Despite all the good things happening early and Boston playing poorly, we were still in a tie game, why? It’s because our defense let us down and we took terrible, terrible shots. The 44-32 rebounding differential for the game speaks exactly to what it was – Perkins, Davis and mega-c**t getting rebounds over Raptor bigs that seemed surprised at the way the ball was bouncing. The number of long offensive rebounds we gave up was ridiculous, the concept is a simple one – if it’s a long shot, chances are you’ll have a long rebound. However, we don’t have professional rebounders on this team and Bargnani and Bosh generally collect rebounds that bounce naturally to them. Instinct and desire rarely comes into the mix. Maybe we would’ve been better off if Reggie Evans hadn’t gone down with a sprained ankle early in the first half, who know. I was a bit surprised to see Amir Johnson come into the game so late in the second half considering how we were having energy and rebounding issues. Whatever, it’s pre-season, maybe Triano wanted his main unit out on offense to get a good run but in a game where both teams shot 46%, the -12 rebounding sticks out.
I won’t criticize the offense much since Triano already admitted that he hasn’t put any of his sets in. We do look like a bunch of strangers out there, I counted four steals by the C**tics that were a direct result of a Raptor passing the ball to where he expected somebody to be. You have to think/hope those issues will be fixed before the season starts and we integrate our main playmaking combo of Turkoglu/Bosh into our offense. Last night when our offense suffered the defensive effort also took a hit because that’s just what happens when you can’t score and are getting run at by the other team which happens to have great chemistry. Boston maintained a very comfortable 10-16 point lead from the third quarter onwards which we showed no signs of biting into. Boston is too good of a defensive team and we’re too disoriented on offense at this early point. Jumpers and one-on-one play followed with Bosh taking it upon himself to salvage something only to meet a disciplined defense that’s only too trained to stop star players. To beat them you need consistent offense from multiple sources and last night we didn’t have enough firepower.
The lobs into the paint killed us. Bosh, Bargnani and Rasho all were terrible individually in the post against mega-c**t, Baby Davis and Kendrick Perkins (I know) who positioned themselves nicely for lob passes which were delivered with no help coming from the weak side. Even Mike Sweetney (who looks like he ate Oliver Miller and Tractor Trailer) got the better of Rasho on one of these occasions. We hedged on every high screen they ran and it took its toll to the point where our bigs were spent midway through the second. The physical presence of the Boston bigs was obvious and you could see that they wore out our frail, wiry big men who aren’t designed to bang like that. Rasho had 6 rebounds in 15 minutes and takes the award for Surprisingly Good Stat Line From Someone Who Didn’t Look Like He Was Playing Well.
The tale of two wings. Sonny Weems and Marco Belinelli. The Italian reminded us what the worst case scenario for him is and it’s not pretty. Think the chucking of Delfino combined with the clumsiness of Kapono and the bone-headedness of Fred Jones. All his shots came in the first 14 seconds of the shot-clock and none of them could be classified as a good shot. In fact, they were all off-balance, coming around screens ala Reggie Miller down by 1 with 0.6 seconds left type shots. I would’ve yanked his ass after the first two misses just to make a point.
Sonny Weems continues to show us that he’s better than what we thought he was. 12 points on 6-10 shooting while looking like he belongs. Sonny was running the break hard and I don’t mean just leaking out and finding a corner to camp in, I’m talking speeding up to get past his man while going straight towards the rim putting the pressure on the PG to find him – Jack did twice successfully, Calderon tried once but turned it over. You don’t have to run plays for him, he’s not a defensive liability and he’s shown he can get you points if the defense is napping and you got a point guard who’s willing to make the pass. So far so good.
The academic defensive philosophy is better but to play the style of defense Triano wants us playing we’ll need to be in peak physical condition because it relies on constant help and recovery. The Raptors right now are nowhere close to that. The awareness also wasn’t there today, early in the game we were switching randomly which resulted in matchups like Calderon v Pierce which the latter exploited to his full ability. I don’t think that was the plan. The notion of defensive responsibilities needs to be further instilled in every member of the team, especially the second unit which was running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Belinelli, Weems and DeRozan were getting caught in screens so easily that you could make out the lack of communication between them.
Big man defense is an issue. Evans got hurt early and Johnson didn’t play significant minutes which means our two hustle defenders who bring in rebounding didn’t have a say in the game. We also catch a glimpse of how vulnerable we are when Bargnani is having a subpar defensive game while not producing on offense. It becomes a lose-lose situation and it’s in exactly these times that Triano would have gone to a different option off the bench were it a real game.
It would’ve been nice to get a win but we’ll have another chance in a couple days.
Great chat and stream tonight – 106 people! As you can see we’re evaluating the Intense Debate commenting system these days, this is by no means permanent, we’re just seeing if it adds anything.