Kyrie Irving
Raptors 92, Rockets 116 – Box

Part of me would rather put a bullet through my brain than write this recap but have you seen the price of bullets lately? Hopefully you turned this game off after halftime because it stopped being a family show after that. The Rockets were spanking us by 21 at halftime and the game was already over, but the Rockets had had a very miserable evening in Utah a couple nights before and they wanted to erase all memory of that, so we were forced to take it deeper than we’d prefer. Let’s touch on the salient points of this game and start with Bargnani: 14 first quarter points, 0 the rest of the way. 9 first quarter shots, 8 the rest of the way. The numbers force you to ask the question of why he scored the same amount of points as myself for the final three quarters. The answer is usually of the form of blame towards Triano and his teammates or towards Bargnani for simply missing whatever looks he had. My take is that it wouldn’t have mattered if he’d taken 65 shots in this game, we’d still have gotten murdered.

He had a few nice drives early, hit a couple tough threes and had the Raptors down only around 8 (that’s good, BTW). Problem is that the types of shots Bargnani takes makes it impossible for him to be a consistent force through four quarters. We often fall into the trap of extrapolating his performance in a quarter to the whole game which results in comments like, “Oh, we’re not looking for Andrea enough because if we had, he would’ve gone 6-9 in every quarter”. No, he wouldn’t. I’m not exonerating Triano or his teammates, just saying that it wouldn’t have mattered on this night because the reason we lost had nothing to do with Bargnani, and everything to do with Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin torching us until there was fire coming out of our a****les.

Rockets started of 10-10 and were up by double digits early, we managed to slice the lead to 6 or so midway through the first thanks to Bargnani’s shooting and Jarrett Jack trying to get back of what he gave on defense (which was a lot!). The tempo once again didn’t suit us and nor did our sloppy turnover filled play, Aaron Brooks made sure that we were on our heels for the whole first half as he attacked Jack at will, ran around screens and forced the Raptors to switch until he had a lug like Hedo on him and then drained jumpers over him and just about everybody else. Martin was crafty against DeRozan and when Triano switched Wright on him in hopes of containment, he taught him a lesson in how to use pivot foots to blow by a man. Their backcourt abused our backcourt and that was the game. The starting backcourt scoring was 56-11! Pure domination. Our wings couldn’t guard their position and the effects of that were felt by everyone on the court as Houston went to any spot on the floor without even as much a bump from a Raptor.

Before we get to the surprising bright spot of the game, I’d like to touch on DeRozan. I’m a big DeMar fan but am I the only one still waiting for him to have a big game where he shows us a little something special? His signature move has become getting blocked at the rim from behind, seriously, he’s had that happen to him more than Roko Ukic this year. Whatever happened to finishing with authority instead of trying to sneak in a layup while underneath the rim? Sonny Weems should not be outplaying him so consistently and he’s got to assert himself in games where we have guys like Bosh and Calderon missing. Triano’s thoughts on him from a day or so describe him perfectly:

He has to get used to playing 82 games and concentrating … He can’t settle for shots all the time. It’s the same things over and over but it’s part of the growth a young player.

We need more from DeMar on a consistent basis because we don’t have the depth at the wing spot that the Raptors would have you believe. Weems has been a surprise, Wright has been decent in spots, Turkoglu has been awful and Belinelli is glued to the bench. We might have more bodies than last year but to confuse it with depth is a big mistake. None of these four wing players have been able to make the starting two-guard spot their own and the only reason DeRozan’s starting is because nobody’s been able to usurp him and that says a lot.

With Calderon out, Banks got the call off the bench and ran the offense nicely. Well, he knocked down a couple jumpers and made some pinpoint passes which led to scores. That’s something our PGs haven’t been doing of late, as much as we all like Jack, he’s playing too shot-first of late and isn’t benefiting any of his teammates. It’s hard to criticize that because he’s at least doing something by being assertive, sure, it’s at the risk of being selfish but I’ll take that over what Turkoglu’s doing. I’m at the end of my patience with him, 1-5 in 16 minutes and can’t make plays for his teammates, he tripped on something and limped off the court. He returned briefly and helped the game get out of hand before Triano pulled the plug on him. Not soon enough. I don’t want to comment any more on Hedo because whatever can be said about him has been said: untradeable, overpaid, underperforming and lazy. Let’s pray he wins us a couple games in the playoffs so we can forget about his nightmarish season; part of me wants to see him go on the injured list so Belinelli can start playing again, at least we’d get to see some sweet passes and mouthguards. BTW, poor Marco is the new human white flag and Jay threw him to the wolves midway third.

A little more on Turkoglu – if you haven’t thrown a rock at your TV and burned your PVR, try rewinding to the late first quarter and watch Turkoglu and Bargnani defer to Reggie Evans and opt to give him the ball in the post in a late shot-clock situation. What. The. &*^%. Do I really need to comment any more on this phenomenon? It’s absurd.

You’re going to think I’m crazy but I think this game was there to be had if we just showed up on defense. Just a little. The Rockets were sloppy in this game as well, both teams had 17 turnovers and even though their help defense was awesome, if we had just held the ship steady for the first half, I think we could’ve had a game on our hands. Instead we gave up 37 and 31 in the first two quarters and didn’t even give ourselves a chance. Unlike the first half of OKC, the effort wasn’t there tonight and Triano’s effectiveness has a motivator has to come into question as there have been far too many of these kinds of nights. How bad was our D? They shot 72% in the first, 64% in the half as Brooks and Martin led the way at the break with 22 and 18, respectively. If you can’t stop the other team’s wings you can’t win games, because unless you have unbelievable help defenders on your team, the defense will collapse.

Did you now the Rockets have managed to reincarnate Matt Bullard in another body? His name’s David Andersen and he went 6-9 for 16 points. Whenever a scrub goes off for three times his scoring average you know it’s a problem, but the reason players like these get off against us is simple – dribble penetration. Brooks’ penetration forced us to help inside and as we all know, we’re not the greatest at that. The Rockets had 33 assists on 41 field goals – that’s 80% and a sign of a team playing like a team. If you saw this one past the first quarter you saw some very sweet plays by the Rockets: baseline movement, Princeton cuts, hi-los, slip screens, you name it. I can’t give enough credit to the Rockets’ coaching staff for putting in a system where the ball moves so much and so effectively. Defensively, they were solid, Hayes, Battier and Brooks don’t need any help in guarding their man which means their defense isn’t always in help situations, something we found ourselves in on every possession. You simply can’t win playing like that.

The only advantage we had on the night was Jarrett Jack’s strength, the early Bargnani offense and bits and pieces of Sonny Weems picking off some passes and scoring effectively with his pristine jumper and smooth gliding skills. The man has shown me something, I expected nothing from him and he gave me something. He was probably our best player on the night considering he was the only guy who played both ends of the floor (I supposed you could say that about Banks as well).

At the end of the day, another game without Bosh ends in an L. Given that this was a back-to-back on the road it’s no surprise we lost, but the degree to which we got spanked was disturbing. The tough schedule was supposed to validate whether we were as good as we looked in early February and so far the results are negative with the caveat that we’re playing without Bosh. We’re off till Friday so we got a few days to lick our wounds. Oh, if you’re one of those fans that think another first-round exit would be considered a success, make sure you vote against phdsteve. If you don’t, show your support.

It’ll do you no good thinking whether we could’ve been more competitive if Bosh and Calderon played. Let’s just forget about this one.