Andrea Bargnani’s night didn’t make headlines like Bosh’s, but it was a headline-worthy night just the same.
The fourth-year Raptor has had headline-worthy nights before but this one was different.
This time, it wasn’t just his offensive numbers that jumped off the post-game scoresheet, although those weren’t inconsequential either — 15 points on a night when scoring was hard to come by.
The number that jumped off the page Sunday night was the five blocks Bargnani had.
Combine that with the fact that much of the night he was defending perennial all-star Tim Duncan and you have to wonder if Bargnani has reached a turning point in his career.
The five blocks mark only the fourth time in his career he has reached those heights, but that wasn’t the only reason for optimism.
Raptors head coach Jay Triano appears to have decided it is time to put a little more on Bargnani’s plate as well, another sign that the big Italian is progressing.
Triano, while insisting no firm decision had been made, alluded to easing Calderon back into the speed of the game during an interview last week.
"If we have to limit his minutes, we'd have to decide whether that's at the start or during the game," the coach said. "I don't know what way we'd go."
Calderon, who was averaging 11.7 points and 6.2 assists per game before injuring himself during a Dec. 5 game in Chicago, hasn't had as much as one serious practice with the Raptors since being hurt.
Toronto did not practise on Monday – the regular routine following back-to-back games – and is scheduled to work out Tuesday in Orlando, Fla.
The Raptors are a game under .500, but are certainly trending in the proper direction, and Triano seems to have the support and blessing of Chris Bosh, the team's star player, who became the all-time leading Toronto scorer against the Spurs.
"Hopefully, we have turned a corner," Triano said Monday as he and his 15-year-old son Dustin were flying to Orlando where the Raptors meet the Magic on Wednesday. Dustin was flying home to Vancouver later Monday.
"I don't know if the top four (in the Eastern Conference) is attainable, but we're going for the top five."
In the East, only the division leaders — Boston, Orlando, Cleveland — and the Atlanta Hawks and Miami Heat have better records than Toronto.
"But carrying the Olympic torch blew me away" he said. "It will go down as one of the coolest things I've ever done."
One of the most head scratching teams so far this season has to be the Toronto Raptors. The Turkoglu signings has not made the immediate impact the team had hoped, but he still has the rest of the season and maybe the playoffs to show his addition paid dividends.
Inconsistency has been this teams Achilles heal all year. Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani have been two of the few bright spots for this team. Bosh has showed time in & out that he a premiere big men in this league that lacks solid bigs. Bargnani is also playing pretty good being a solid complementary player for Bosh.
I'm not sure anyone is surprised that Ukic failed to make an impact, but his departure–and Carlos Delfino's current disappearance into Scott Skiles' doghouse–reiterates the general lack of enthusiasm most had for the trade that brought the pair to Milwaukee in exchange for Amir Johnson and Sonny Weems. No one involved is having a monster season, but as of now the Raptors are clearly getting more value for their money. I especially wouldn't mind having a bigger, more physical PF like Johnson in the Bucks' frontcourt rotation, and I haven't even mentioned the possibility that the Bucks could have cut Weems and possibly brought back Ramon Sessions for additional backcourt depth this summer. With Brandon Jennings around I'm not losing much sleep about Sessions' departure anymore, but assets are assets, right?
Couldn’t help but think when Chris Bosh eclipsed Vince Carter at the Raptors’ No. 1 scorer that it was a nice parting gift from Bosh to Toronto.
Of all the top players who could be free agents in 2010, Bosh is the only one who’s expressed displeasure with his team. Everyone else has toed the business line. Dwyane Wade is even in recruitment mode down in Miami.
One chapter stood out to me, in particular in regards to our beloved Toronto Raptors; the book's initial entry entitled "The Secret." In the chapter, Simmons discusses making amends to a certain extent with Isiah Thomas, the longtime butt of many of Simmons' "bad GM" jokes. Thomas and Simmons end up "smoking the peace pipe" to a degree at a topless pool in Las Vegas (of course!), enough that the former Pistons' great lets Simmons in on what he calls "the secret."
Yes, the secret of winning in the NBA.
What is this secret?
Well put simply, "the secret of basketball is that it's not about basketball."
And in the 13 games since Calderon last started for the Raptors, the team has managed an 8-5 record. Hence the speculation about who should start at point guard and, from some corners, speculation about who should be the primary backup.
To put the Raptors record in some context, the Raptors were 6-1 against teams with under .500 records with the lone loss on the road. And the Raptors were 2-4 against teams with records over .500 with the two wins at home.
Toronto swingman DeMar DeRozan has had a solid rookie campaign so far. Hang Time wonders if there is something more there, something that might come out during All-Star Weekend (if DeRozan was to make the dunk contest or rookie challenge).
DeMar DeRozan's rookie season is progressing just fine.
He's playing just over 20 minutes a game, having started 35 of the 35 games he's played and averaging a respectable 7.6 points and a could-be-better 2.9 rebounds.
But if you're like us here at Hang Time, weren't you expecting more?
The best part was seeing three very exciting plays amidst all those missed shots. The alley-oop finished off the glass by Demar, the Bargnani reverse off the blow by on Duncan, and Weems imitating Magic and teeing up Amir all proved to be worthy of vocal chord workouts. They did get to run, off of their defense. And just seeing the blocks and general resistance on defense was fun enough. I would have killed to have seen a game like that a year ago. I think I might get to see a few more this season yet.
It’s a new year and the Raps sit fifth in the East at 17-18. Not all bad heading into the halfway point of the season. And with Chris Bosh, leapfrogging “he who shall not be named” for as franchises best scorer, the Raptors fanbase can take another step closer to forgetting about the old number 15… yeah right!
But with the new year (not to mention the new decade) upon us, what will happen in 2010 and beyond? Here’s my lean.
Based upon what’s transpired so far this season, these are projected outcomes for those games and what the Final Standings might be expected to look like:
We just touched down in Orlando less than 2 hours ago … and we’re already vloggin!
Sorry we’re a little bleached-out (trying to fiddle with the camera settings to bring you the ’balcony shot’)
Luckily for the Raptors their starting point guard was able to check his ego so that the team could pick up a pivotal win.
“I think that Jarrett (Jack) was a little bit upset at one point that he was getting school here and nobody was there helping him,” Triano told Hoops Addict. “But that was our game plan. We wanted to make Parker beat us, hopefully frustrate some of their other guys and not run guys off the three-point line. They only hit four three-pointers and I credit my staff for being right that if we held them to less than five we would win the game.”
While credit goes to the assistant coach, it should also go out to Jack for humbling himself for the sake of the team. There aren’t a lot of players in the NBA that can check their ego just so their team can pick up a win.
After the game while talking with Jack in front of his locker it was clear by his scowl that his ego was a little bruised by what transpired.
The victory moves the Raptors just one game below .500 with a chance to move to 18-18 if they can grab a win in Orlando, a feat that will most certainly not be easy. On a positive note, Jose Calderon traveled with the team and he might play tomorrow night. And, as of last night, coach Jay Triano had not thought about who would start between Calderon and Jarrett Jack when Calderon does return.
- Postgame, the mood in the Raptors locker room was light. Reggie Evans had on the most ridiculous fur coat I've EVER seen, prompting a media scrum around him just to discuss his wardrobe. He took some ribbing from his teammates, but Sonny Weems came to his defense telling us to leave him alone because he's just keeping warm.
So, let me get this straight. The coaching staff just figured out that limiting an opponent's three-point makes to four or under is a good way to win a basketball game. And Doug makes it sound like they discovered kryptonite.
I quickly ran some numbers to figure this thing out. How many games were lost and won when a team is able to make four or less three-point shots? Here's the full table:
It says almost all you need to know about the Toronto Raptors that "O" appears four times in their name while "D" doesn't make a single appearance. For the first five weeks of the season, the Raps embodied that theme to a historic extent. I wrote about their impotent defense in mid-November, and it worsened in the following days.
Yet teams can and will change trajectories during the course of the season, and the Raptors' shifting defensive fortunes have enabled them to make a charge in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Yes, I'm using the Eastern Conference playoff hopeful definition of "charge" here, as in "briefly compiling more wins than losses and thus gaining several games on the competition." Regardless, the Raps have looked much better lately.
The big story with the Raptors' recent success (aside from Bosh's franchise scoring record — while I'll get to at the end of this post) is their vastly improved defence. Granted, they pretty much had to improve since they couldn't have gotten any worse than how they performed in the first 20 games, but John Hollinger wrote today that in the 15 games after they gave up 146 points to Atlanta, the Raptors have only given up 102.9 points per 100 possessions — which would rank 13th in the NBA over a full season. It's safe to say that, with this personnel, having a middle-of-the-pack defence is the best we can hope for and should be more than enough to have a winning record with all this offensive talent.
In an effort to clear up any mis-understanding which Eric Smith – or other visitors to his blog – might have …
Here is a more “in-depth” analysis of the rosters for the Raptors and the Bobcats, with a few adjustments to the initial ratings that more accurately reflect the current state of affairs with these two teams, from the perspective of this coner:
What I respect about Chris Bosh is in 7 years he has built himself into a superstar. You can see the work and effort that has gone in on his part over the years. He has grown as a player and a person over these 7 years. Who he replaced on top of that scoring list is of course Vince Carter. They are such a contrast in so many ways. Vince is a guy that just had the natural ability to be great. I think if Carter worked as hard as Bosh has you would be having Carter in the conversation with Kobe and Lebron as one of the greatest players in the game today and in it's history. In terms of Bosh he has worked his way into being an all star and he never has been voted into the game. He has been selected every time by the other coaches he competes against year in and year out.
This is what coaches do
They sit around and watch tape and read stats and reports and try to figure out tendencies and weaknesses and ways to play specific games.
It’s not an exact science and it takes some thought and sometimes some luck but last night, it worked pretty well.
I’m told by an impeccable source that while they were figuring out what to do with the Spurs, assistant coach Micah Nori was parsing the boxscores and saw that San Antonio seldom wins when it makes more fewer than – I think it was – five three-pointers.
He points this out, the coaches discuss it and a game plan is born.
They decide it’s best to “lean” on three-point shooters a wee bit more than usual, to give up contested twos if they must but to not let the Spurs go nuts from beyond the arc.
Spurs go 4-13 from three-point range and Toronto wins.
It wasn’t the only reason, of course. But it’s a glimpse at how they come up with specific plans and then try to implement them.
Even with the Spurs shooting like a grade school team, this one came right down to the wire.
Fittingly, it was Chris Bosh who had just become the franchises all-time leading scorer a quarter earlier who put this one to bed with a rebound on a Duncan miss at one end followed by a lay-up at the other end over the same Duncan.
Tony Parker led all scorers with 23, one more than Bosh, and that played right into the Raptors hands.
“We weren’t going to run two or three guys at Tony Parker and hopefully stop him,” Triano said. “If he made mid-range jumpers we were going to accept that. That was our game plan, to make him beat us.”
As much as he tried to play down the moment — “I was kind of thinking it would be really nice to set the record and everything, but I wanted the get the win as well," he said. "That was my main focus.” — Bosh knows it is something he will never do again in his career.
And for that reason, he had no problem admitting he was keeping his game jersey and shoes as souvenirs of the accomplishment, even if he didn’t wear his draft suit as locker-room neighbour Pops Mensah-Bonsu suggested would have been appropriate for the occasion.
Bosh was already the franchise leader in rebounds, minutes played and blocks. He joins an elite class of 10 other players — a list that includes the likes of Michael Jordan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Patrick Ewing — to hold both the franchise mark in scoring and rebounds.
It was rare because it came against an opponent with win-loss record over .500 – the Raptors have just five wins in 17 games against such quality foes this season. It was rare because it came on the second leg of back-to-back games, in the wake of Saturday's disappointing loss to a depleted Celtics squad in Boston. The Raptors improved to 2-6 this season in such situations.
And it was rare because Bosh struggled and the home team still prevailed. He missed 14 of his 24 field-goal attempts and didn't get to the free-throw line until the game's final minutes. But he pulled down 15 rebounds, and he ventured into the paint with the game in the balance, making a key running hook shot with 56 seconds left that put the Raptors up 85-80.
Chris Bosh has done more than set a Toronto Raptors career scoring standard. So far, at least, he's shown professional athletes how to conduct themselves in a contract year. The Toronto Raptors still seem to be a fatally-flawed unit, but through it all Bosh's pending free-agency eligibility seldom surfaces as a storyline – a blessing in a city that has already lived through the protracted departure of Blue Jays ace Roy Halladay. It's true that is in part because the NBA's regulations make a sign-and-trade scenario a way to even more riches for a potential free-agent, but still, Bosh has avoided the cutesy answers and actions that send out mixed messages.