Channing Frye provided the daggers from deep, this one in the third quarter.
Raptors 100, Suns 101 – Box

Sometimes it hurts bad to lose a game and this one brought that hurt big time. A one point loss to the Suns when we easily could have and probably should have won. Turkoglu misses one at the buzzer capping off an evening that saw the Raptors compete at every level against the NBA’s best. Nobody had given the Raptors a chance in this one (including me) but they proved everybody wrong by giving a great effort that deserved better. There aren’t many moral victories to be had in the NBA but last night was one of them, we were an inch away from a win and should have had it if it hadn’t been for some execution errors in the strategy deployed to handle the pick ‘n roll.

I’m not sure what to make of switching on the Amare/Nash screen. I figure you try that out for a few possessions and if things work out, great, if they don’t you try other ways of stopping them. You definitely don’t let him go 10-15 FG, 10-11 FT, and have his short chart looking as concentrated as this. I don’t have an issue with the philosophy because it takes away penetration which means no wide open threes, but you also have to consistently provide help on the big once he gets the ball in the post, if you’re late on that it’s suicide. The Raptors strategy played right into Phoenix’s hands and even though we had some success with it, over the full 48 Phoenix was more than content to play along. Phoenix adapted well to Triano’s strategy and worked the advantage they were handed. Watching poor Jose Calderon get scored on from four feet over and over again was painful, he did pick up two steals by swiping the ball away but that was the highlight of that matchup. Triano explained it later:

It’s a team that feeds of penetrating and picks you apart on screen and roll action and kicks it for threes. We wanted to really restrict the number of threes that they took, that meant two guys had to score for them – Nash and Stoudemire – and they had to be two pointers for the most part. We were going to switch and stay up on guys, we knew we were going to have some mismatches inside but we had to come with some help. We didn’t want to come off shooters, it really restricts where you can help form.

Another resultant of this was a big being switched over to Nash as he victimized Bosh and Johnson on 16-footers early. Late in the fourth quarter it was Andrea Bargnani who was defending Nash with five fouls, something he did a solid job off despite visibly trembling; if he would’ve picked up his sixth foul that way, Triano would’ve had a lot of questions to answer. The big on small switches we gave up killed us and our refusal to alter our strategy despite Phoenix proving that they can beat us at it didn’t make much sense. Perhaps the effect was most felt by Phoenix’s wing quartet of Grant Hill, Jason Richardson, Leandro Barbosa and Jared Dudley who were a combined 8-for-28 from the field and struggled to get clean looks. However, Frye’s five threes offset any advantage gained.

Both team started the game on fire, Phoenix running everything through Nash who bailed them out in several short-clock situations and the Raptors going inside to Bosh against Stoudemire whose defense remains brutal. Bosh took him for 10 early points and Stoudemire did the same, only difference is that half of his came against Jose Calderon. DeRozan started off the game with great energy, he was D’ing up Richardson, beating him down the floor, helping and recovering against Nash, even had a great sweeping move for two which he followed it up with a jumper. Whatever went wrong for him in LA was going right early, a good comeback performance from the rookie. Turkoglu’s shot was on early and he didn’t show any sign of the hip problem that’s been bothering him, he had 8 in the first quarter. The Raptors shot 58% in the first while the Suns were at 62%, we had kept pace with the Suns’ offense so far and held a 2 point lead, but I also got the feeling we couldn’t sustain this kind of game and needed to slow things down to keep pace. Either our transition defense needed to significantly improve or we’d need to slow the pace down just a tad.

The first quarter point total was 64 but the second quarter only saw 39 points being scored. A big part of the reason was both starting PGs taking a big breather, Nash missed close to half the quarter as Goran Dragic got some run and Triano went with Jack who was once again atrocious. And I mean he was bad. Will Solomon bad. His ridiculously lazy pass got picked off for a steal, he couldn’t facilitate anything on offense and his jumper was clanging rim. The bright spot for the Raptors here was Sonny Weems who got in and looked agile and athletic, he was found by Marco Belinelli for a alley-oop slam that’s sure to be on a few highlight reels. The Italian also stepped in to knock down some solid threes with his mouthguard hanging out, I love his swagger.

Bosh and Bargnani were the well we drank from in the first half and Belinelli and Johnson gave us the lift off the bench. Amir Johnson (9 rebounds) was making Amundson a non-factor and our interior defense in the latter half of the second quarter was downright solid. Johnson deserves a lot of credit for bringing the intensity and effort, something that really wasn’t an issue at all tonight.

As Jack’s struggling to do anything positive, Belinelli’s showing a little more diversity in his game. He took some questionable shots, made some and missed some but I was impressed by his defensive work-rate, it’s consistently effective. He’s not a stopper, not even an above-average defender but the guy does fight on defense which is more than I can say for Jack. I suggest easing back Jack’s minutes and trying Belinelli as a point-forward, it can only be a positive and it’ll send Jack a message that minutes aren’t guaranteed around these parts.

After the Raps got themselves an early 5 point lead, it was Channing Frye time. Up until now Bargnani had gotten the better of him, Frye had knocked down a three in each of the first two quarters but had remained relatively anonymous. He was left wide open for three in the third and he knocked them all down. If you give back on defense what you score on offense, you haven’t had much of a game. Bargnani had 17/4 on 6-15, Frye had 20/7 on 6-9. I think the number’s speak for themselves. It’s hard for me to believe why Bargnani would leave Frye open without reason, if you look at those three plays, there is no reason Frye should be getting those looks. There are no screens set for him, Bargnani doesn’t have urgent help issues, it’s just mind-boggling. I don’t want Frye’s offensive display to take away from some of the good things Bargnani brought to the mix, I thought he created very well (despite having zero assists) by pulling the defense towards him and kicking it out efficiently, his drives on the baseline were solid and his jumper was good enough to keep Phoenix honest. Still, wouldn’t you like to see Bargnani punish the frail looking Frye in the post?

You also have to give Phoenix credit, they are the best at finding the open wing man after even a mild double. It literally takes them a second and a half between attracting a double and finding the shooter, an area the Raptors have to work on. As well as Bosh played last night, he needs to be more aware of where the shooter’s are on the floor. Phoenix was very keen on cheating off our wing men to help on Bosh all night long and we didn’t make them pay enough. This will need to be looked at in the film room and Bosh needs to be made aware of this.

After going scoreless in the second, Turkoglu returned to score 5 in the third and got some help from Bosh and Bargnani as well. Weems got off the bench again to knock down a good-looking pull-up jumper and played sound defense on Richardson who was held to 2-9FG through the first three quarters by the combination of DeRozan, Belinelli and Weems. Nash wasn’t allowed to run rampant and the Raptors defense did a good job of keeping him in front of them by switching taller wings on him, this was the quarter where we defended their high screen the best by providing quick additional help whenever Amare got deep in the post. A two point lead at the end of three, not much to complain about except if we had only contained Frye, we would’ve had a much bigger cushion.

We needed some real leadership and focus at the start of the fourth and didn’t get it. Jack made one good play – a drive and kick to Belinelli for a corner three – but other than that the offense under him was awful as we conceded a 14-2 run. An ill-advised Bosh three, Jack missing a step-back three early in the clock, Dudley blocking Jack on a weak drive, and the killer – a Jack turnover leading to a Richardson fast-break which gave the Suns a 5 point lead. Why Jack was even handling the ball is a mystery since Jose was also on the floor (I’ll resist going into a diatribe about them playing together). Mother momentum had switched sides after that play. I don’t understand why we are so comfortable giving Turkoglu the ball late in the fourth quarter but don’t let him handle it early in the fourth? Is there a difference? I don’t think so.

We also forgot about Chris Bosh for a long stretch after the smaller Dudley was given the assignment, instead of going inside to what worked, we launched jumpers. It’s partially Bosh’s fault for not demanding the ball and fighting for position against a smaller player, but Jack needs to take some heat for not correcting a misguided offense. On the next possession we ran the hi-lo which netted him a foul and he went 1-2FT. In a one point loss you have to point to these sorts of plays. Not the l

After battling back from 5 down thanks to a great Jose Calderon drive and a Bosh score, Frye’s final dagger hit us hard at 2:19. A wide open three after being left open by Bargnani, a defensive error to say the least. Bargnani made amends on the ensuing possession by driving for two but after that the officials, who were really giving Phoenix the benefit of the doubt on charges and personal fouls all night long, handed Stoudemire two FTs. Triano called Turkoglu’s number who hit two long contested jumpers to give the Raptors a 2 point lead with 0:51 left but the lead was short-lived. Nash missed a three and Triano called another iso only to see Turkoglu’s long-range effort rim out. Nash then drove past Calderon for an And1 (there was no foul anywhere in sight) to put Phoenix up one with 12 ticks left.

I thought the final play was going to be a drive and happen early enough so that we’d have a chance to go at the offensive rebound, and maybe that was the intent, but Turkoglu held on to the ball too long, bumbled it and was forced into a shot he’d rather not have taken. Game over.

Liners:

  • Anybody wonder where Sonny Weems went in the fourth?
  • From chat on Amare: [21:56] birdmanpresents: We know u didnt hurt ur eyes on the court, ur ugly ass just looked in the mirror.
  • Bargnani’s fifth foul which sent him to the bench was very stupid. I appreciate the hustle but going after an offensive rebound that you have on chance of getting is not the way to go, especially when you have four fouls.
  • Jose Calderon could’ve been more aggressive today, 8/3/7 on 3-7FG with zero turnovers is a clean stat line but there’s no reason he couldn’t have gotten 15+ tonight. Also saw some very conservative play from him today, something which hasn’t been there this season.
  • All three of Jarrett Jack’s turnovers were lazy and unprofessional. If this guy’s getting flustered playing in Game 10, how’s he going to hold up if we’re in a playoff race? I’m not going to give up on him, but it’s hard to stay with him.
  • Raptors were -7 no the glass but held Phoenix to 44.9% while shooting 45.5%.
  • Belinelli missed a clean look at 6:37 which would’ve stopped the bleeding in that 14-2 fourth quarter run.

This was a loss but there were many positives to be taken from it. Rest easy Republic.

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