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I’m here to tell you that the emotional tides you felt last week are perfectly normal. We were all supposed to be absolutely pissed off about the way we played against Washington and Atlanta, and we’re supposed to be happy by the way we won in Washington and Chicago. On Thursday morning there were calls for Triano’s head, but by Sunday morning things became more reasonable as it became evidently clear that our beloved Raptors have a serious issue putting out a consistent effort.

On the podcast this week are AltRaps, RapsFan and phdsteve. There’s a bunch of things being discussed with consensus reached on Triano. Click on the play button below or listen directly in iTunes, you can also download the file. The song is via this guy.

Before we get too excited let’s remind ourselves of the scalps we earned: two 7-11 teams. It’s not like we beat the Magic or Celtics or Hawks. We beat two very mediocre teams, however, it wasn’t the result that was so satisfying for me, it was the way we played. I would’ve been completely content with the team’s performance if Arenas had finished off a three-point play against Amir Johnson to send us to defeat. The great part about the second Washington game was that for the first time all year, the Raptors were focused on doing things with a degree of professionalism. The effort was consistent, although we blew a big early lead, it was because of turnovers and cold-spells, not because of laziness and disinterest. I can accept that.

Usually there’s a positives and negatives section to this post but we’ll do away with that since mostly everything was a negative in the first two games and a positive in the latter two.

DeMar DeRozan getting more involved in the offense was long overdue so it was good to see the man go 15/29 over the last three games. We’re running some plays for him and not just asking him to figure things out on his own. He doesn’t look as lost out there anymore and runs the channels with some real purpose. Once he figures out how to apply a finish to his sweeping moves, he’ll be a regular threat. The lack of options at SG means that we have to move the rookie along quickly and the increased involvement in the offense will pay dividends. Starting DeRozan is the smartest thing Triano has done, although not sure how much of it came from above. I hated the way he danced for the camera in the fourth quarter against the Bulls, good on Turkoglu for quieting him down. Only pieces of rotten s**t like the C**tics do that.

The night in Washington could’ve ended badly if we had lost the game in OT, the talk after the game would’ve been about Turkoglu’s shot-attempt to win the game in regulation. The “play” that Triano ran was nothing more than Tukoglu receiving the ball, wasting time and launching a shot the defense would practically give him any day – a deep contested three. Nobody’s talking about it since we won but it was nothing short of shocking to see that happen again after Phoenix. Triano’s yet to impress anyone with his playbook on either end of the floor, sooner or later this will catch up to us.

Chris Bosh got a lot of flak for “giving up” on this team during the Atlanta loss. Bullshit. He had a bad game, the guy got 22/14, 31/16 and 25/12 in the other three games of the week and was easily our best player. Again. Does he blow defensive assignments? Yes. Does he deserve to get burned at the stake for it? Umm…no. Considering his offensive and rebounding production, I think it’s only too fair to cut him some slack if he’s not playing DPOY defense all the time. Good players have bad stretches and bad games, Haywood outmuscled him a few times in the first Washington game and Horford got the better of him physically. But that’s all it was, claiming that he quit on the team is just stupid.

The team aired out it’s dirty laundry last week and it was quite obvious that more than a few people had issues with Andrea Bargnani’s defense, as well they should. To his credit, Bargnani responded with a 9 and an 8 rebound game. He put more effort on the boards, he boxed out better and he played with an edge. The result was his offense suffering, he went 10-30 FG (3-11 3FG) in the last two games and kept it on the perimeter. When will put the scoring and defense into one package and deliver? Not sure, but Triano hinting at 0-3 changes in the starting lineup to me meant that only Turkoglu and Bosh are safe. At some point in his career I’d like to see him not get subbed out for defensive reasons during close games, that doesn’t sit right with me.

Two anomalies in our two wins, we held the Wizards to 36.8% and the Bulls to 39% shooting, well below their season averages. We know that our defense looked better than what it is in these two games, but there were some common themes. We gave up only 18 PINP to the Wizards and only 34 to the Bulls, we kept them on the outside and they missed their perimeter looks. Many of the jumpers were contested which helped drop the percentages. Our transition defense was excellent, we only gave up 10 fastbreak points to the Bulls. The 22 we gave up to the Wizards were mostly due to unforced turnovers in the first half, both stats are encouraging signs that the defensive effort is better.

So, did a meeting solve everything? Of course, not. In fact, it’s entirely f****d up how a team meeting fixed our effort level. Triano obviously knew that the team wasn’t putting forth an honest day’s work and failed to correct the course on his own. His boss had to fly over to Washington and speak to the team and basically do his job for him. I think phdsteve, despite his craziness, is right on one point, Triano doesn’t scare the players and that’s not a good thing.

Looking Ahead

Tue v MIN: 3-17 is bad but consider this: They beat Denver in Denver last week on the backs of Ryan Gomes and his 12-18 FG performance. Nathan Jawai actually played meaningful minutes and hauled down 7 rebounds in 13 minutes. Of major note is that they’ve just got Kevin Love back from injury and with him they’re 1-1, including an impressive win against the Jazz; the loss came at the hands of New Orleans in a tight affair. Love posted an 11/11 and 18/10 in those two games, the Raptors will need to rebound and can’t look past this one. This will not be a blowout.

Wed @ MIL: It’s a back-to-back for both teams as they’re playing the C**tics in Boston the night before. Jennings is shooting 33% in his last eight games and has shot more than 50% only once since his 55 point game. He’s also a good 5.8 field goal attempts ahead of anyone on the team with 18.9 (7th in the NBA). The 9-10 Bucks started off hot but have dropped 7 of 8 and Redd remains out of the lineup with a sore left knee. They’re 6th in defensive rating under Scott Skiles who is preaching defense every chance he gets. This is what a scout had to say about stopping Brandon Jennings:

“The biggest thing is that you have to have great transition defense and also try to keep him out of the paint. The problem is that you can’t just go under every screen and dare him to shoot because he has such great range on his 3 ball. He also does a great job of keeping the ball alive, dribbling around like Nash, probing for openings.

“It’s hard to be physical with him because of his speed. Defensively you can try to make him run through a lot of screens and try to wear him down in pick-and-rolls, but they have pretty good length around him to help. He’s very similar to me to a young, passionate Allen Iverson. He’s a lot tougher than people gave him credit for, including me.

“The thing that’s really impressed me is that he hasn’t been a high-volume shooter. I know he’s struggled lately, but he’s been pretty efficient in a lot of games. The bigger question to me is what’s going to happen when Michael Redd is back as a consistent player, because he’s getting a lot of Michael Redd’s shots.”

If I had to pick at #9 again, I’d still pick DeRozan.

Fri v ATL: They plundered our virginity last Wednesday and we have to repay the favor. Well, I’ll just settle for a win. We can’t let Horford, Pachulia back us down so easily and we can’t let Josh Smith climb over our backs for offensive boards. Our transition defense (especially after misses and turnovers) will be paramount in restricting the Hawks’ scoring. Last time around we barely tried, let’s see what difference increased effort makes. I think the Raptors will show up for this one. In a big way. Since beating us they’ve lost at home to the Knicks and beaten the Mavericks in Dallas. Go figure.

Sun v HOU: They recently went 3-1 on a roadtrip which included a back-to-back sweep of the Clippers and Golden State before they lost in the dying seconds to Brandon Roy in Portland. The Rockets remain without McGrady and Yao and have managed to assemble a respectable record of 11-9, however, they’re lost a lot of statement games (Portland, Dallas, Phoenix, Atlanta, Dallas, San Antonio) which further congeals their position in the second tier in the West. They did beat the Lakers, though. Last time we faced them was in pre-season when Shane Battier hit 8 threes.

I’m going with 3-1 with the loss coming against Houston. AltRaps goes a very optimistic 4-0, RapsFan plays it safe with 2-2 and phdsteve’s prediction is a gloomy 1-3.

Very interesting question raised in the forums, sure got me thinking. Buy a t-shirt! Christmas gift, or something.