Hopefully the decision to keep Bosh out of last nights game was a calculated one to buy him two more days of rest, instead of him being more seriously injured than we have been led to believe. Against the Nets and Wizards, we saw the Raptors come together, share the ball, create good shots for each and knock them down. Against the Blazers, we saw them do that in spurts in the 1st half, and not much in the 2nd.
Last night we got a glimpse into the future of this team if Bosh decides to walk in the summer, and we get no assets back for him in the summer. It’s easy to coach a team that has an elite level player on the floor, who can manufacture shots and seemingly get to the line; what you orchestrate without him is a different matter. While the win against the Nets and Wizards were solid, by no means are those two teams very good.
Heading into this game, the Raptors were 3-point favourites; not much of an edge, but they were the home team. Reading between the lines though, things became worrisome for me. The Blazers were on the second night of a back-to-back; they were missing Oden, Pryzbilla, Camby (and just traded Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw). Ok, so they are tired, and playing a bit short handed, but remember I talked about pace yesterday, and this Blazers team is used to having less possessions a game than everyone other team in the league. This slower tempo actually helps to balance out playing heavy minutes in back-to-back nights.
This slower tempo also made Juwan Howard a huge factor in relief of Camby, who continued his streak of being injured in Toronto. Howard played 31 big minutes of attention demanding play in the post; dropping 10pts 3rebs 2ast 1stl in the process. Rasho had absolutely no answer as he hit the wall on the third consecutive game playing extended minutes.
“It was important to run them off the 3-point line and take away their easy baskets,” Roy said. “We just wanted to make them score over top of a hand each possession and we did a good job of that.”
The Raptors got plenty of looks from beyond the arc, but none were clean, and almost every single one was contested. It was genius if you ask me; Portland was weak in the frontcourt so they tempted the Raptors with just enough space from behind the arc to think they could pop a few off. They did, but not nearly enough dropped.
“We didn’t do a good job of taking care of the ball early and it helped them establish the lead they had at halftime,” Jack said. “It’s tough to recover when you give the other team extra possession.”
You could almost forgive the Raptors for missing so many 3’s, but the sloppy plays that lead to turnovers that led to fast breaks were maddening. The Raptors committed 16 of the most lazy/sloppy/ridiculous turnovers I have ever witnessed that led to 17 Blazer points and most of their 20 fast break points. The joke is that the Blazers aren’t even a fast-breaking team. Another side-effect of the constant turnovers was the Raptors took 9 less shots (pace) than the Blazers. 14 point loss, 9 less shots…you do the math. It got so bad, that on one possession, Calderon literally threw the ball away on the wing when he thought Turkoglu was going to drop into the corner.
Speaking of Turkoglu, was I the only one who was disappointed in his play? I mean, he dropped a bloody efficient 24 points on 8-9 shooting from the field, but 3 assists? Without Bosh, Bargnani needs to be the focal point on offense, and it seemed like Hedo was just staying away from him. Bargnani wasn’t helping himself with anything, but it would have been nice to see Hedo work with the Italian and get him some good looks, or easy ones at least. At the very least, this was a positive display from him faced with some pretty tough defensive pressure.
As much as I like Reggie Evans, and as much as his toughness is necessary for this team, he is taking valuable minutes away from Amir Johnson. With the Raptors desperate for some offense in the third quarter, Reggie got about 4 minutes of serious burn and jacked up 3 terrible bricks. Given how well and under control Amir was playing last night, it might have made sense to go with the big who knew how to score (and was rebounding and blocking shots) as opposed to the big who wants to score, but can’t.
“I didn’t hear [the cheers] but I knew that Canada was playing Russia and I saw that it was at our game time so I was happy about that,” McMillan said, smiling. “I looked at the stands when we first came in and said they may have a lot of no-shows. I thought they scheduled it for the right time.”
There were actually about 11,000 people at the ACC, and 200 people watching on TV. Tomorrow night against the Cavs will be a ghost town; we will probably hear Triano furiously etching a play on his clipboard.
The Raptors are 2-1 with Bosh on the shelf, with the only loss coming to a better team. You have to like it, and I do. With Turkoglu picking it up, and Bosh probably back on Friday, things are looking fairly positive during this stretch drive.