Raptors 103, C**tics 116 – Box

Settle in fellas, it’s a long one. Grab a JD if you have to.

Option 1: Rip this team a new one for pussying out. Again. I mean, are our coaches really the toughest people on the team? Again? Option 2: Debate whether Triano’s sub-pattern in the third along with letting them play through a barren stretch instead of calling a timeout turned the tide? Option 3: Focus on why we haven’t figured out how to defend a pick ‘n roll after 17 games. Option 4: Question the overall effort level and intensity with which we played with. Option 5: Ponder what our franchise player is doing laughing in a blowout where he got dunked on…so, which one do you pick? *&^% it, let’s do ‘em all.

This was a disappointing game right from the start because the Raptors had no intentions of treating this game as a ‘statement game’ or one that might prove a point or right the wrong of Charlotte. On the other hand, Boston doesn’t respect us and are far from fearing us, rightfully so indeed. They treated this game as one you could afford to take a couple quarters off and still have a great chance of winning – no intensity or visible desire from them to expend any more effort than they absolutely have to. I really can’t blame them, when you play your 12-year old nephew in the driveway, the competitive side of you still wants to win which you’ll make sure you do, but at the same time you don’t want to break a sweat doing it, right? That would be a little embarrassing now.

Ray Allen was in a slump coming into this game shooting 9 of his last 27, he ended up going 8-15. Rasheed Wallace came in shooting 28% in his last 11 games and went 6-11, the first time he’s shot over .500 in that span and as many FGs as he’s had in the last three games. Jack Armstrong says this team needs to find an identity, they have one, they let let struggling players come out of their slump against them. It’s just an awfully nice characteristic of the Raptors franchise, not just this version of the team.

Rondo penetration against a clappy Jose and the predictably poor PnR defense were the early problems. Boston running the set on every play making the Raptors hedge and recover all over the court before a drive knifed us open. The usually stuff, really. I lost track of how many times a pass split open the two Raptors defending the PnR forcing others to help and rotate. We’re a team that struggles to string together two consecutive solid defensive possessions, so asking us to recover out to shooters after already being beaten on the pick ‘n roll coverage is too much. Great defensive teams make three strong rotations on most plays, good ones make two and the bad ones struggle to make one. We’re a bad one, and so we struggled whenever Rondo or Allen brushed their defenders off a screen forcing others to get involved.

Jose Calderon had a nice drive early in the game against Garnett where he drew a foul and a nice cheer from the crowd at SCC, but after that as we saw him get beat on play after play, the fuzzy memory of the drive wore off and on settled the gloom and doom of his defensive play. At this point I could talk about his individual defense but you’ve heard the story before – it wasn’t every good. But wait Arse, you say, Rondo’s a very good PG, no shame in being beaten by him. To which I say, f**k you for having such low standards! Yes, there is shame in losing to him, even more shame when you’re actually giving him space to shoot and he still manages to blow past you.

We gave up 33 points in two quarters even though Boston has only once managed to have two 30+ quarters in a game all year. After giving that amount in the first and letting them shoot 82% (no, that’s not a typo), we were down 6, mostly because our bigs in help situations were clueless and Jose was being penetrated. At the same time, it wasn’t a bad outcome because Bosh had it going early against Perkins (Garnett was guarding Bargnani) and it looked like the C**tics weren’t too serious about this. It at least appeared like we’d make this interesting in the second half. Once Jose and Bargnani went to the bench, the defense immediately improved. Jack, Johnson, Turkoglu and Bosh were part of our best unit all game as we won the second 28-21. Hedo Turkoglu had 13 first half points and was in good rhythm, the rookie DeRozan had given us an early lift and Jack played some sound man-defense and read the passing lanes well to get us some easy points. Rapper Dino Gunners wants you to know this. Good frame for the Raps but we had 8 turnovers in that quarter which prevented us from getting a healthy lead going into the half.

A word on Andrea Bargnani, he’s not just under the bus, the bus ran over him, backed up, ran over him again hard, backed up again and then stood on top of him before backing up and running over him again. His game is a derivative of the buterface syndrome, you can look past the laziness and defensive indifference but you really got to give me something on offense and 2-6 is just not cutting it. Sure, Wallace got the better of him in the post a couple times, but KG got a lob-dunk on Bosh, those things happen. Difference is that Bosh produced something on offense (20/13, 9-13 FG) and at least looked to be into this game which is saying something considering he’s facing Garnett and Wallace, two guys who have struck fear into him since birth. Bargnani did nothing except nail two jumpers in the first half, other than that a zero-impact game which featured a couple instances of the hated drive-four-feet-and-pull-up-from-22-feet brick, which for anyone except a very talented guard, is a terrible shot. Still, the bench picked us up and Turkoglu got it going to keep us in it at the half, up 1. Boston was shooting 68%, while the Raptors were at 67%. The thinking at the time was that if the defense could sort itself out a little and our offensive efficiency continued, we might have a shot.

Maybe Triano should just have the boys treat halftime like a timeout so they don’t do whatever the hell they do at halftime because it sure as hell isn’t working. After going -12, -13 and -14 against Charlotte, Indiana and Miami, we went -16 against Boston. How sweet it is! I don’t usually blame timeouts or lack of them for much, but when a team is as mentally fragile and scared as the Raptors, you need to give them all the help they need, even if it means going against your coaching principles of imitating Phil Jackson. So Turkoglu puts the Raptors up 4 with 10:38 left in the third quarter and the Raptors offense goes in the ditch. Turkoglu had two turnovers in this stretch and seven for the night, although one of them here should be partially attributed to Bosh for not holding onto the pass and letting Rondo rip it for a fast-break. The Boston defense stepped up a notch and challenged the Raptors to score, we couldn’t. To make matters worse, Triano took out Turkoglu (easily our best wing scorer who was 7/8 at the time) in favor of Wright at 8:00 of the quarter – Wright brought nothing.

This mess resulted in a 13-0 Boston run (scoreless in 6:53) which Triano had a chance to cool off when it was just 4-0 at 61-61 with 8:22 left. Everybody in the building including the players knew that two consecutive C**tics fast-break scores off their defense had completely changed the momentum of the game. Triano let them play on and we bled, we bled till we were down 5 after which is when he finally called it. Hedo Turkoglu didn’t enter the game until the fourth quarter when we were down 17. So we take our best scorer off when we’re struggling to score and the game is tied, and bring him back in when we’re down 17? Yup, makes sense. I just don’t understand why he didn’t go with the second quarter lineup that had brought us so much success, was that not even a thought at the time? What are those assistant coaches doing there? Aren’t they supposed to be following trends and write stuff down and tell him what his options are…for the life of me, somebody tell me what they dooooo!

Ah, avid impatient reader and good friend, nay, greaaat friend. Do you think I shall not address the disgrace that embodied our squadron? Do thee believe that I will ignore such an occurrence? For surely a kick in the groin followed by a dunk in the face followed by humiliating taunt must be discussed with careful and articulate care. Patience, dear, your concern and fears will be addressed in due time.

Boston went into drive-mode in the late stages of the third quarter with Pierce and Perkins going inside on every opportunity. The Raptors bigs were overmatched in size and the only one showing a pulse was Rasho Nesterovic who was hustling and bustling out there like he was playing Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals for the Spurs. He even unleashed a downward-trajectory hook which went in. Good on you. Bargnani was benched midway through the third only to be brought back later for one final look before he got relegated to the bench in favor of Rasho. He went 1-5 in the two stints combined and couldn’t do much against Garnett, Perkins or Shelden Williams (yup, still in the L).

The fourth began with us down 16 and you knew two things for sure 1) Boston could turn their defense on and off and shut us down any time they wanted and 2) Our offense had gone into the tank. They weren’t even letting us get into our sets, they picked us up soon after we crossed the mid-court line and instead of fighting through and forcing our offense on them, we started running our high-screen sets 5 feet behind the three-point line! We’ve all talked about the defensive intensity that’s lacking, tonight we even lacked the offensive kind.

The other thing that annoyed me was Triano playing Jose and Jack at the end of the third and start of the fourth again. This meant that the taller Marquis Daniels was matched up against Jarrett Jack and Jose Calderon was guarding Ray Allen. I’ll let you digest that one for a bit. There, done? OK. This stretch resulted in Daniels getting all four of his FGs in the game as Allen and Boston exploited the mismatch by setting up Daniels 12 feet and in. That’s 8 points in a crucial stretch, what the hell is Triano thinking? Why are we inviting punishment? I’d much rather have Belinelli in there who can matchup better in those situations and can provide an adequate offensive threat, granted, this was another night off.

Let’s talk about that bloody play now. Pierce drove the lane against Rasho after a suspect switch, used his forearm, put his left knee in Bosh’s groin, dunked on him and then taunted him. Is it an utterly c**tish thing to do? No doubt. Would I complain if a player on the Raptors team did that to someone? Hell. No. What followed was expected, if any of you were surprised by not even a single Raptor uttering anything to anyone (other than Hedo smiling and joking about), you obviously have misplaced faith in the character of this team. Jay Triano, Marc Iavaroni and Alex English, our old-ass coaching staff, were the three men who stepped in to Pierce. Not a single Raptor (including Bosh) found it a bit odd that the franchise player was on the floor after being taken out, dunked on and talked trash to by Pierce. Jack said nothing. Wright said nothing. Those two, if you remember, were part of the toughness we imported.

Arsenalist Sr. always told me to judge people by the small things they do in life. This was one play in one game of an 82 game schedule but it spoke volumes about the make-up, character, mental toughness, and pride of this team. Hell, when somebody sticks out an elbow to you in pick-up ball, even you take offense and you got nothing on the line. So what’s up with this crew? Why didn’t anybody utter a bloody word or even gently nudge someone? Was it because we were down 17 and had already given up so how would it really matter? Were we scared that the C**tics might yell at us? Did we feel they had done nothing wrong? I don’t know, but it seems almost eerie and downright weird that we simply had no reaction to the play, the emotion surrounding the aftermath or the ensuing basketball that was played. That folks, is your 2009-10 Raptors team. So far, so pussy.

Chris Bosh at the end of the bench laughing with Marcus Banks. Take 1: He’s thinking this team is going nowhere and is secretly laughing at them, waiting to be shipped out. Doesn’t care much for applying remedies to this unit. Take 2: Marcus Banks told him one cracker of a funny. Take 3: Just doesn’t take the loss to heart because if anybody, and I mean anybody got humiliated like that, they at least would hold off the laughter till they’re behind close doors. Very VC-ish.

Some quotes from this mess:

Antoine Wright on the Raptors’ inaction after the Pierce dunk:

“We’ve got guys standing over our best player, flexing, and it’s not something we can stand for. I was pretty frustrated sitting on the bench watching their whole team run out there on the floor and we only had our coaches up shouting and screaming at their players. I don’t like that. That’s something that’s been accepted around here, but I’m going to say something to the guys and something we can’t go for.”

I hear ya. Here’s him on the locker room:

There’s a lot of frustration in this locker room, and we have to say ‘enough is enough’. If we continue to go forward like this, it’s going to continue to happen to us. We can’t blame the refs; we can’t blame the game plan. It’s about making hard cuts and getting the ball where it’s supposed to be.

Funny that he’s talking about hard cuts because he’s the last guy you actually want the ball in his hands when we’re on offense, still though, right line of thinking. I’m just not sure what kind of an impact a role player of Wright’s caliber can have, these words and their implementation should be coming from Bargnani, Bosh, Calderon and Turkoglu.

Rasheed Wallace making fun of Turkoglu:

“They’ve got to know that he’s a [darn] flopper. That’s all Turkododo do. Flopping shouldn’t get you nowhere. He acts like I shot him. That’s not basketball, man. That’s not defense. That’s garbage, what it is. I’m glad I don’t have too much of it left…This game is watered down, watered down with all that flopping. They’re setting rules on us to the point where you’re taunting if you dunk on somebody. Paul dunked it and then he didn’t say nothing, but it’s a tech.”

Rasheed, you poor bastard. Paul dunked it and then stared at Bosh and then flexed. That’s taunting and it’s a technical. If you still can’t see that, then you’re just an idiot.

Chris Bosh on the team not being passionate:

“Yeah, I’d like to see the team more passionate. I look at their bench and they’re all up standing at half-court, and nobody from their team was down on the floor. I think we would react better to just be out there for one another and just stay together.”

Sure, but what about you? Maybe if you went up to Pierce and let it be known to him that it’s not OK for your Johnson to be kneed on, others might follow suit. I almost feel that every Raptor is looking at someone else to ignite the passion within them and give them a psychological boost. I got some news for them, passion doesn’t work that way. For example, RapsFan has a passion for ‘dancers’, he goes out and hunts them down. He doesn’t wait for his friends to call him up and convince him to go searching for his passion.

But then Bosh acknowledged that all of this is just talk and nothing is likely to change:

“I’m tired of talking about toughness. We talk about it too much. We talk about everything too much. We’ve got to stop talking about it and just do it.”

Here’s Bosh, Wright and Weems talking about how they shouldn’t be dicking around so much:

Wright said he told Bosh, “`Hey, you’ve got guys in here eating popcorn, joking around before the game. And we go out there and lose by 40. It’s a direct result of what’s going on before the game. Guys not coming in with the right mind frame.”

Those words appeared to resonate. Said Sonny Weems, the 23-year-old forward: “We do fool around a lot. And it tends to carry over into the game, and that’s something that needs to change.” Added Bosh: “I think as a team we could do a lot to get better focused … It’s something we’ll talk about.”

Liners:

  • Boston shot 62.3%, Raptors were at 55.7%. Difference in the game was 25 Raptors turnovers which seemed to come at crucial times.
  • Raptors -20 in Points in the Paint. Direct result of dribble penetration, inability to defend screen and roll and turnovers leading to break points.
  • The Raptors surprised everybody (including themselves) by playing a bit of zone in the second quarter.
  • DeRozan looked good, 4-8 FG, active, slashing with the ball. Maybe less off-the-ball and more on-the-ball for him. I love how he protects the ball when he’s coming across the lane.
  • This is 8 straight games of allowing 100+ points. Record in those games is 2-6.
  • Amir Johnson picked up 3 fouls in 8:18 in the first half. Discounting Patrick O’Bryant who’s statistics can be considered outliers, Johnson’s second in the league in PER 48 personal fouls. He can have an impact on the game, but can he stay in the game?
  • Why is the pick’ n roll defense so bad? All I can muster up is that we’re not agile or quick enough to recover after a hedge and/or our guards get picked off too easily.
  • The game was officially over at 2:08 of the fourth quarter when human victory flag Brian Scalabrine was substituted in.

You know what’s even more messed up than this game? Me coming from SCC to play with this thing for two hours straight. This too.

Support RR, at least we give it our all. Thanks to the people who could make it out to SCC, too bad about the result.

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