At least it’s over. This killer road trip that everyone said would be the first true test for the Raptors has finally run its course. After dropping two tough ones in Phoenix and Denver, the hope was that the ‘moral’ victories and lessons learned would help the Raptors steal a game from an injured 4-6 Utah Jazz team. Didn’t work out that way, but the Raptors did learn a lesson on what it takes to be a top level team.
The Raptors have played more road games in the West then any Eastern conference team, having gone 2-6 (Memphis before this trip). We can be thankful that this trial by fire is over with. It wont be until February, where the Raptors play 7 of 10 at home, that we can expect to make up some ground from this early scheduling fiasco.
The game started ugly with Bosh and Calderon each fumbling the ball, leading to four quick Utah points off the fast break. This seem to be the trend the entire game: the Jazz being able to push on the break, creating very easy scoring opportunities for each other. The Raptors laboured on each and every possession and could score only in contested one-on-one situations.
In fact, the first quarter was probably the worst quarter the Raptors have played all season. D-Will and rookie Wes Mathews got the best of the Raptors back court. If it wasn’t Deron punishing the Raptors for each and every turnover, pushing the ball and making the right play each and every time, it was this dude Mathews, who I’ve never heard, getting into a nice rhythm and making the Raptors pay for some weak defense on the perimeter. Not much else to report about the 1st quarter. I could have been out on the court and things wouldn’t have gotten any worse.
In the early second quarter things went from bad to worse. Where the Raptors were going one-and-done on offense, taking bad jumpers with our rebounders nowhere to be found, the Jazz were working the ball into the paint, getting great looks from inside 15ft. The Jazz were executing so well that they had 13 uncontested shots on their first 26 attempts, the pick ‘n roll working magic for them and our bigs unable to cope. They literally scored 26 points with no one between them and the basket.
Seemed like Bosh was all alone in this quarter. My game notes literally either had Bosh losing someone on defense (4pts off layups), Bosh rotating to help with no one picking up his man (2pts off layups), or Bosh finding his game in the latter half of the quarter being active on the boards, contesting shots, and scoring.
It was Bosh who put the Raptors on his back and scored 11pts in the last three and a half minutes of the half to pace a 16-6 run. In fact, this was the problem the entire night. The Raptors were just running around trying to make things happen but not playing basketball. Every single point Bosh scored was because he created for himself. They were unassisted and weren’t the result of any ball movement. Bosh got the ball, and everyone else stood around watching him do his thing. Whatever, it cut a 17 point lead to 9 with momentum building for the Raptors slowly. You’d hope at some point either our vaunted offense or a semblance of defense would make an appearance.
The 3rd started the way the 2nd ended, with the Raptors scoring off of one-on-plays. Only one of the shots (a high-lo feed from Bargnani to Bosh) was the result of someone creating for another Raptor. This 10-4 run to start the 3rd was paced by some really good defense. Jose was up on Deron, staying with him on the penetration and forcing a contested layup (missed). Bosh contested a Boozer jumper, DeRozan stole the outlet pass from Boozer to Deron.
Then it happened, the Raptors hit the wall, going scoreless for 4 minutes. Brick after brick rained down. Every single one a jumper that was forced. With Bosh on the bench, the Jazz pushed their lead to 9, then he entered:
MARCO BELINELLI TIME
In a span of 2:30, Belinelli either scored or assisted on every made basket. The Raptors closed the 3rd on a 9-3 run, capped with an off-balance buzzer beating three by our boy. On a side note, Belinelli is going to be the end of me this season. I like him, but the dude is just plain nuts. He cut the lead the lead to 1, with a layup in traffic (assisted by Hedo), but then the Raptors reverted back to first-option jumpers. One-and-done. Catch-and-shoot. Watch as your check blows by you for 5 minutes. Literally; the Raptors were scoreless for 5:19.
This time it was another unrecognized rookie, Eric Maynor, anchoring the Jazz as they slowly but surely pulled away. This Raptors had no answer for him. He was quick, crafty and did what he wanted. 11pts and 2ast in the 4th. The Raptors as a team scored 16 and had 2 assists just to put it in perspective.
Four Factors to Losing
Shooting the Ball Well
They did not shoot the ball well for one reason: Calderon/Hedo/Jack did a poor job of creating for the rest of the team. 14 assists on the night, seriously? The Raptors scored on great individual playmaking, not as a team. When you can’t hit your jumpers, you usually move it in, try to get a couple easy layups and build some confidence. No, the Raptors kept shooting and missing. To put it in perspective, the Raptors grabbed more offensive rebounds then they dished out assists.
Raptors – 40.6%
Jazz – 50.5%
Taking Care of the Ball
Both teams took care of the ball well here, which is no surprise given Calderon’s and Williams’ track record. Sadly, Calderon had 2tos to 2ast. That hurt.
Raptors – 11.5%
Jazz – 10.5%
This was the sole reason the Raptors were able to weather going scoreless for 4 minutes in the 3rd quarter: they grabbed offensive rebounds. With Okur out, the Raptors were able to use their size advantage to crash the boards and grab 16 offensive boards. The Raptors did a great job of crashing the boards, grabbing 50.
Raptors – 30.7%
Jazz – 27.6%
Getting to the Free Throw Line
Not gonna get to the line when you’re shooting jumpers, but Bosh managed 9 trips on his own to ensure that all was not lost in this department.
Raptors – 24.1%
Jazz – 34.5%
Not surprising that Bosh led the way, again: 32pts 17rebs – ridiculous. I shudder to think where this team will be if we run him out of town.
One the thing the Raptors have done really well is shown resiliency when the chips are down. This is a tough team that has some fight in them. It takes its toll though, you can’t keep getting into double digit deficits and expect to grind your way back every single game. Oh, I freaking hate Jarrett Jack. Hate him. He is my new Jamario Moon with that garbage jumper of his. I’d rather Rasho pop J’s from 17.
Arse has more of the grizzly details as they happened.