Make no mistake, Jay Triano did all he can to help us lose this game. He subbed out an on-fire Jarrett Jack with 1:15 left in the third and brought him back with 5:52 left in the game, by this time the Raptors’ five point lead had vanished and to make matters worse, we saw the dreaded “three guard” lineup of Turkoglu, Jack and Calderon where those three only produced 4 points in the final half of the fourth. That lineup became too jumper-happy and relied too heavily on Bosh, however, some Laker misses and good Raptor rebounding later, we had a chance to tie the game late but Hedo Turkoglu committed his fourth turnover on the night. It looked like the game was over, but an Odom FT miss left the door open for a deep Bosh three (Jose leaving him out to dry) which he nailed (second on the night). Then Kobe happened and the Raptors didn’t have any timeouts left.
It really is an utter shame to waste the effort, energy and enthusiasm we played with only because our coach can’t figure out what lineups to put out, here’s a thought: go with what’s working. He basically iced Jack who had scored 13 points in the third quarter but only managed two FTs once he returned. Just like Triano had done against Portland, he shutdown Jack when nobody else could. I’m not saying we would’ve won the game, I’m saying we would’ve been in a better position to win the game. Even Jack Armstrong couldn’t believe his Irish eyes when he saws Jack glued to the bench; in fact, the “boys in the truck” were like WTF as hey kept focusing on Jack sitting on the bench all confused wondering what the hell he had done wrong.
Let’s recap a bit of the game. The first was all about the Lakers trying to come out aggressive and intimidate the Raptors, Artest’s aggressive foul on Turkoglu set their defensive tone early as they were extending their defense to try and pressure us. We did a good job of responding through DeRozan drives/cuts and great outside shooting, 7 of our 9 threes came in the first half and it kept us in the game. We had no answer for the Lakers establishing Bynum with deep post position on the break, feeding it to him and him turning for scores or great offensive rebound opportunities for them. Chris Bosh still looked a little rusty as the drive-game was out of sync early and he had obvious trouble coping with the length of the Laker bigs. Bargnani struggled early with poor shot-selection and went 1-5 in the first quarter but the Raptors were only down 5. A decent start considering how we were getting hammered in the paint; another good sign was our defense was showing signs of life, forcing some turnovers and picking up points on the break – an area we won 16-10 on the night. DeRozan did a solid job on Kobe early while at the same time getting his on the other end.
Bargnani exploded in the second quarter with 13 points, his teammates did a good job of looking for him in transition and he delivered some nice finishes going to the rim. Weems and Calderon outplayed their bench counterparts as the Lakers struggled to score without one of Gasol or Kobe in there. We also saw how comfortable Calderon and Johnson (9pts, 7rebs in 22min) are becoming with each other, he fed him for two assists and a few touches last night. Kobe at this time was still deferring to his teammates, I’d say the Lakers offense was more big-man oriented than Kobe-driven at this juncture. We dropped in a 2-3 zone which was broken a couple times by the three, but overall was a solid option as the Lakers bench couldn’t execute the triangle as fluently. Jack Armstrong made a great point about how the triangle is a read-and-react type of offense and once you see a shallow zone which isn’t moving, it’s hard to figure out what option to take. We were up 58-50 at the half and it was all thanks to our bench which got the better of the Lakers’ 29-22 overall.
Antoine Wright, Hedo Turkoglu and DeMar DeRozan picked up three first-half fouls, this meant Belinelli saw some playing time in the first half, he did well going a +11 with a three and a few rebounds while playing decent defense. I couldn’t understand why he wasn’t higher up in the rotation today, wasn’t he the guy that won us the Laker game at home? Turkoglu was typically trash, he had 6/5/4 with those ugly four turnovers where he looked like he was just learning to dribble the ball. The only good thing I can say about him is that he drew the Laker defense a couple times and found Bargnani and Bosh for open jumpers. Other than that he continues to be an eyesore.
So after Bargnani scores 13 points in the second, how many do you think he had in the whole second half? 6. Yup, that’s it. Whose fault is it? I don’t know, he only took 5 shots in the second half so he wasn’t exactly looking for his offense. My take is that his early shot-selection in the second half was so poor that after he missed a couple bad shots, he shied away from taking any more. Call it losing confidence. Bosh finally started getting to the line in the third quarter had notched 8 points in the frame, but this quarter was all about the Lakers running their offense through Kobe Bryant and not their bigs. They came out with better defensive energy and we were about to crumble if it weren’t for Jack taking the initiative and willing the Raptors into the lead until he got subbed off. Jose didn’t play all that bad when he came in (other than getting burned by a Shannon Brown three), but the offense definitely lacked the zip which we saw in the third.
Jack had singlehandedly withered the Lakers third-quarter assault but Triano didn’t give him the chance to succeed by absolutely killing his rhythm with the long benching. I’m trying to understand what compelled Triano to not retain Sonny Weems in the fourth quarter lineup instead of Calderon, by all accounts Weems was having a great game (3-5FG 6pts) and wasn’t conceding on defense. I have no idea why he didn’t stick with the Jack-led lineup of the third quarter which had done so well in the face of great Lakers pressure. No idea.
I have to give credit to Amir Johnson for playing very hard tonight, he was on the offensive glass, contested the Laker drives and worked well with his PGs. He was part of some crucial scores in the fourth quarter that kept us within striking distance. We were able to counter Lakers’ frontcourt length through him, the same can’t be said about Reggie Evans who basically kills any positive he brings by not being able to kick-out the odd offensive rebound he gathers. His man-defense today was also quite shite; I’m not sure why he’s complaining to the refs because he fouls multiple times on the same possession so when the ref finally blows his whistle, he should be thanking him for not doing it sooner instead of moaning about it.
Down 102-104 with 0:52 seconds left, Calderon missed a makeable three pointer, the tip was missed by Bosh but Jack managed to get the offensive rebound. I’m thinking if Turkgoglu isn’t on the floor, Jack takes matters into his own hands and gets something going to the rim, instead he’s almost forced to pass it to Turkoglu who is advertised as being Mr. Fourth Quarter. He does so and Turkoglu makes a bush-league turnover, something you’d see a freshman PG in high-school make the first time he’s on the floor. Fisher picked off his pass too easily, one of the easiest steals he’ll ever get.
Bosh had a poor shooting night going 7-18 but was better as the game went along, perhaps it was his legs coming back. His three tied the game but 9 seconds is an eternity for Kobe who drilled a fairly tough baseline jumper over Antoine Wright.
Tonight we’re in Sacramento and you have to wonder how much is left in the tank after that solid effort which deserved better.
I thought I had a lot more to say but it’s 4:30AM and my head isn’t working. Probably because of this which was mandatory after this one.