It all went according to plan for the Raptors last night: spot an early lead, the second unit sparks the comeback, stay within a possession in the 3rd, then Bosh and Bargnani take over in the fourth to bring it home. Until 5 points in the last 37 seconds happens, the game goes to OT and the Raptors lose. As I sat there stunned, it dawned on me: Triano went out of his way to hand the game to the Grizzlies.
There seriously is no other explanation…
The Grizzlies played the night before against the Suns, and shook some of the cobwebs off before heading into Toronto. Since the Raptors were fresh off of a week of inactivity, you could excuse the lazy start to the game, and almost expected it. I don’t know about you, but I wasn’t up in arms when Memphis started the game on a 15-2 run (I was pissed, but I wasn’t up in arms).
No one had an answer for Zach Randolph as he accounted for 13 (8pts 2ast) of the first 15 Memphis points. Short of a Reggie Evans nut-sac-special that never came, Randolph chewed up-and spit out everything thrown at him. Memphis was getting great looks from all over the floor. That was some of the best ball-movement I have ever seen in my life; it seemed like everyone on the court touched the ball twice before Mayo or Gay got wide open and buried their shots.
DeRozan, fresh off the All-Star whirlwind, was looking to attack early, which was great since the rest of the Raptors were still on holidays. He got out on the break, ran the floor, attacked the rim…it didn’t last as he quickly faded after the 1st quarter, but had he not hustled early, things would have been much worse.
It has gotten to the point where I count down the minutes until Calderon and Johnson check into the game. True to form, they checked in with Sonny Weems, and changed the pace. Most of that could be attributed to Hedo going to the bench; Memphis is an athletic team, and Turkolgu is to athleticism what Frank Zicarelli is to sports journalism.
The trio did spark the Raptors to a 10-0 run over a 5 minute span between the end of the 1st and beginning of the 2nd quarter. More importantly, they opened up some space for Bosh to get going offensively. With the team standing around stagnant on offense in the 1st quarter, it gave the Grizzlies the opportunity to crowd Bosh and force him to either take a bad shot, or kick out to the perimeter where nothing happened. With Calderon orchestrating and Johnson/Weems attacking, Bosh now had room to make some plays.
The 3rd quarter started like the game did, lame. The Raptors got 2 quick buckets, but went cold for 4 minutes where Memphis went on a 10-0 run to take an 8 point lead. Calderon/Weems/Amir/Wright check in, and all of a sudden you have athletic wings on the Raptor side, and voila…13-6 run to close out the quarter.
The 4th was tight, but the franchise stepped up and dropped 16 in the frame. The big treat was that 8 of those came from the line which meant he was attacking the rim off the dribble instead of settling for the jumper. Bargnani was a pillar on defense, and controlled the defensive boards keeping Randolph and Gasol under control and out of the paint. Calderon was protecting the ball and things were going good until Triano caved.
Jack and Turkoglu were playing terribly from the tip. Jack got pulled after 18 minutes and never saw the floor in the 4th, but for some reason, Hedo did. Turkoglu gave new meaning to crap last night: 1pt 1reb 2ast 1st 3to 3pf -29 in 29 minutes of action. The guy can’t keep up with younger, more athletic guards, hasn’t hit a shot all night, and just generally sucks. On top of that, he’s been sitting since the 6:37 mark of the 3rd quarter (about 15 minutes), so he is ICE cold. Who’s in your ear Jay? Do you really think it’s a good idea to bring in an ice cold player late in a tight game? What were you expecting him to do?
What he did do was foul Mayo, putting him on the line for two that obviously dropped, then a couple possessions later, he forces a 26 foot three that makes a ridiculous thud off the back of the rim, at which point Conley runs the ball back down the court and finishes the layup. He does zero in OT except for missing another ill-advised shot with the Raptors down 1 and a couple minutes left in the game. No ball son, no ball.
The second catastrophic mistake came at the 5:05 mark of the 4th, when Zach Randolph picked up his 5th foul of the game. Only once, a Bargnani basket in the paint, did the Raptors go at Randolph for the rest of the game. They didn’t get the ball to the guy Randolph was covering on defense to try and manufacture a foul; not one time did a pick and roll with the guy Radolph was covering occur to try to get a switch where he could be attacked off the dribble by a guard/wing. The thought of getting Randolph to foul out didn’t seem to manifest itself into a single play. WTF?
At the end of it all, this game came down to making shots (I can’t believe I said that), and the Grizzlies did a better job of it. They knocked down their jumpers, they got to the line more and hit more free throws. In fact, the Grizzlies hit as many free throws as the Raptors attempted, 23.
The only thing I’m hoping is for the Basketball God’s to smile down on us today so Colangelo can move Turkoglu for anyone; at this point I don’t care who comes back. At least we can look forward to the Nets on Friday.