Hot off two impressive road victories this past week, the Toronto Raptors were humbled on their own homecourt by a well-oiled Boston Celtics squad. It doesn’t matter who the Celts trot out on the court, they just always seem to have the Raps number. Last time, they had Rajon Rondo, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett out. This time Rondo and Pierce were back in uniform, and they didn’t let the Raptors forget it, especially the crafty point guard, who carved up the Raps on this Sunday afternoon. If the Raps thought they had figured out some of what it takes to win on the road, the Celtics showed them the rest of the formula.
They raced out to a 10 – 0 lead to start the game and take the hometown crowd right out of it. They kept the Raptors guessing with a balanced offensive attack, no starter had less than 16 points. And they continued to hustle all game. Glen Davis and Kendrick Perkins in particular, were all over the place, cleaning up the glass and diving for loose balls all game.
Rajon Rondo posted his 3rd career triple-double, starting off his outstanding night with 4 assists on that inital 10 – 0 run. It’s not that Jarret Jack is a sieve defensively, but there’s only so much you can do at the point of attack in today’s game. It’s how the team reacts and reorganizes itself that is a true measure of its defensive ability or lack thereof. It wasn’t a horrible defensive effort, it just wasn’t enough. Instead of Marcus Banks coming in to step up the defensive pressure, Jose Calderon came in to open the floodgates a little more. Rondo cleanly beat Caldy off the dribble late in the 3rd quarter, and then the next time he did that, Amir Johnson ran over to help his poor teammate, leaving Big Baby open. Then again he easily stepped around Calderon and then easily around Bargs for a layup. We’re already starting to see a regression of that new-found defensive success that the team had been experiencing during this last dozen or so games. It’s too early to tell, and it’s also too early to blame Calderon for it, but it’s disconcerting nonetheless. What bothered me the most about Rondo going off is why teams don’t completely sag off of him and turn him into a jumpshooter. You would think that’s the obvious answer, but it seems that he’s just that fast or stubborn that he gets into the heart of the defense and cause chaos anyway. Maybe a bit of both.
Jay Triano’s recent philosophy of limiting threes has paid some dividends, but on this day Rasheed Wallace got way too many looks from downtown, and he knocked them in, usually at the most crucial of junctures. As constant observers of Andrea Bargnani, we should know that big dudes need less space to get off their shot. Unfortunately, Bargnani himself wasn’t as aware of this fact and got a little taste of his own medicine. In the end, Rasheed’s 5-7 night from downtown was the difference in the game.
Down the stretch, Calderon was replaced by Jack, and JJ was aggressive, bringing the Raps back into the game. If there is one good thing to extract from this day, it is that Jay Triano has been influenced by the masses and has realized the debacle that is a Calderon-Jack backcourt. Yes, they didn’t win the game in the end, but Belinelli made some good plays in crunch time, in place of the usual Calderon
Belinelli showed signs of life throughout the game. He has so much to offer than his jumpshot, me thinks. That’s why it’s hard to stomach why his confidence apparently yo-yo’s with the consistency of his jumper. The man has good instincts on both sides of the ball. He shows good court vision, can take it to the whole as effectively as any of our other guards, and yeah, he can shoot it. I just don’t like the crazy fadeaways he is still prone to take. No wonder he is streaky as a shooter, he’s constantly adjusting to whatever angle his body is shooting at. Keep it simple.
Hedo Turkoglu seems to be struggling once again, and he seems to know the reason why. This is what he had to say after the game:
If you ever followed me before [and watched how i played in Orlando] I always had the ball in my hands like a point guard/point forward, [so its not easy for me because] now I’m trying to go out there and be a spot up guy.
Well now, you did have 9 assists Hedo, which is a fine night for any point guard. What everyone would like to see is Hedo showing some finish on those drives, instead of deferring all the time, especially in crunch-time situations. The problem is, he’s not finishing so great right now, and all his shots seem to be those off-balance, off one-foot types that lower his shooting percentage. He’s a decent spot up shooter, he needs to embrace that role a little more, and maybe bring in that defender just tight enough to be able to waltz around for a nice layup. Should he get more touches? Well with Jack, he was getting more touches, but with Calderon in he seems to get fewer. Calderon is probably our best shooter, but he’s not schooled in getting to the right places in such situations. For such a good shooter he should be, and that’s on Triano.
Then there’s Calderon and Jack together with Turk. Ugh.
So the Celts gave us a bit of a reality check. That’s ok, we’ll take it with the two team-defining victories at Orlando and Philly. Truth be known, the Raptors struggle against teams with good guards. The Boston Celtics have 3 of them, and this is why it’s always a tough matchup for BC’s boys.