Raptors 112, Knicks 104 – Box

Forgive the scattered nature of this post, but RFF was very satisfying and intoxicating. There’s not a Raptor lead that I am comfortable with. It doesn’t matter by how much we’re up by, when we’re up and who we’re playing. The feeling of walking on thin ice is ever-present, much like it was in the third quarter when the Raptors looked like they were going to throw away the fruits of their first-half shooting. The Raptors shot 63% in the first half (yeah, it was one of those stretches) to the Knicks’ 30%, and were up by as much as 28 before going into the half with a 24 point lead. When the Knicks made their run the Raps, unlike against the Pacers, kept a semblance of composure in their offense and withstood the storm. The Knicks huffed and puffed and got to within 8 but the Raptors offense came up with key buckets to pull away as the Knicks’ three-point barrage came up short. Raptors win. Rather easily.

The MSG announcer screwed up Andrea Bargnani’s country when announcing the starting lineups (said he was from Spain). How he missed that on “Italian Heritage Night” at the Garden is pretty insane. Anyway, Bargnani was lights out (26/12, 9-13 FG, 5-6 3FG). Four threes in the first quarter and he had knocked Gallinari out of the ring before the fight had even started. Gallinari had 26/4 on 8-17 FG and spread his points out more evenly, but his impact was relatively minimal, yes he hit those threes in the second half but the game was in control by then. Still, good showing, he reminds me of a taller Drazen Petrovic.

The Knicks have been playing out the season since opening night. With just 6 players under contract and only $27 million in salaries tied for next year, they’re waiting to make a splash in free-agency and whatever happens till then is all good. You can laugh at them now but if they make some right moves with the cash they have, you could see an about turn as drastic as the C**tics. Let’s just hope they screw up this summer and sign Tracy McGrady and Allen Iverson to 6-year deals.

The Knicks offense was like the Pacers’ first half offense – take the first available shot. The Raptors hot shooting made them pay for wasting possessions and the lead at the end of the first was 19. If we were an above-average defensive team, a lead this big would’ve meant the game was practically over, but since we’re as liable to go into a funk the Knicks were in, it meant we had to keep up the pressure. That pressure came in the form of Jose Calderon who is playing the best ball since Jan/Feb of 2008. 21 points and 6 assists in 26 minutes, he played four more minutes than Jack which should tell you that it really doesn’t matter who is starting. Many of Jose’s shots were created by being aggressive when using the high-screen, the mid-range game is spot-on and he looks to be a threat. When was the last time you could say that? Also, want proof that Triano reads RR? The three-guard lineup played 0 minutes.

Calderon took full advantage of the shorter Robinson by shooting over him and he had the Raptors up 24. The only thing going for the Knicks was the always steady, David Lee. He had 25/14/9 and was throwing Bosh curveballs all evening. He mixes up his face-up game so well with his drive and post-up game that he becomes practically unguardable unless you have on of those lanky Marcus Camby type of players. Wait, we do, his name’s Amir Johnson and we tried him on Lee but other than a block in the second half, no success. The guy did have 6 rebounds but 5 of them came in the second quarter when the Knicks were missing everything. Bosh was shaking in his feet every time Lee had him on the elbow-iso, as he should be. With Bargnani, Calderon and DeRozan on their games, we didn’t need Bosh but if this had somehow ended up in a L, rest assured that Chris Bosh would’ve been burned at the stake for his defensive performance and offensive indecision against Lee – his read of double-teams was very poor. Why the Knicks aren’t signing this guy to a long-term deal is beyond me, who are they going to throw that money at? Boozer? Bosh? He’s just as good.

They need to add a few columns to the box-score:

RR (real rebounds): Bargnani had 12 rebounds, about 9 of them would fall into this category. You know those rebounds when there’s a few guys jostling for the ball and it’s a question of who’s going to get up there and snatch it using nothing but sheer effort. He got those tonight, that’s 29 in 2 games and there’s no reason he shouldn’t be having games like this. It’s all about the desire to get them. Some drunk dude at SCC offered this theory:

It’s a cultural thing, said the drunk. He’s been playing in Europe and everybody goes ooh and aah every time he hits a three. In the NBA he’s just starting to realize that if he gets 7 or 8 boards people start talking about it and he’s like, “Well, I can do that, you want rebounds, sure, I’ll give you rebounds. I just didn’t know you guys cared so much about them. I though you wanted me to shoot threes because that’s what Maurizio told me. Everybody in Benetton loved them.”.

WTFS (WTF shots – shots taken when nobody’s expecting you to shoot): These shots often result in cardiac arrests for fans. Hedo Turkoglu, Marco Belinelli and Antoine Wright have shown us a plethora of these types of shots and the Raptors made a fair share of them today while the Knicks didn’t. It’s not to say the Raptors fluked their way to victory, the willingness to stick to the half-court game and grind points out won us this game more than anything.

PLO (Points scored because you were left open): In other words, you scored the points because your man went off to help and you were smart enough to take advantage. DeMar DeRozan is the best at that on the team, I wrote about that two days ago and today he did me proud. A couple baseline cuts for layups/dunks and constant slashing every time he was given any room. Try out 11-14 FT for size, the man has an uncanny ability to get to the line. His poor three-point shooting is a blessing in disguise because it’s made him more aggressive going to the rim.

Our man Hedo Turkoglu, when he’s not ripping cameras from kids at clubs he’s going 4-10 for 13 points, 9 rebounds and 5 assists. For most of the night he was relatively hedoish (notice the lowercase, it’s now a word in the Websters Dictionary meaning “sluggish, reluctant to exert effort”) but did score 5 big points in the fourth quarter with Calderon assisting on both shots. After the Knicks had cut it to 8, him and Calderon went on a quick 7-0 run which essentially ended the game. I suppose we learned something from Indiana because the smarter offense of using the clock, swinging the ball around and not turning it over won us this game. It’s fairly basic stuff, no idea how we blew it in Indiana, two games over .500 would’ve been nice heading into the Dallas, Cleveland and Milwaukee games.

Turkoglu’s 5 assists? 3 to Bargnani who was automatic, one to Weems on a great swing-sequence in the fourth and one to Jose. He had a good fourth quarter but it doesn’t make up for the disastrous one against Indiana.

Finally, what makes Antoine Wright think he can fake a three, drive to his left, make a spin move and then finish with his left hand? It’s like he’s got all this false confidence in his game and I can’t explain where he gets it from. He’s the type of guy that could miss 7 bad shots in a row and when he finally does make one (also a bad shot), he’ll take it as validating his play and think it’s okay to chuck it 7 more times. Meh, I suppose with Belinelli ill he had to see the court.

That’s it from me. I need sleep. Enjoy your weekend.

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