Gameday: Raptors vs Hawks – Mar 17/10

So we addressed our defense by taking out the stronger defensive player out of the lineup and replacing him with a turnstile? The math doesn’t add up and this sounds like a change made for the sake of making a change, not because it’s the right one.

So we’re about to address our defense by taking out the stronger defensive player out of the lineup and replacing him with a turnstile? The math doesn’t add up and this sounds like a change that could be made for the sake of making one, not because it’s the right one. Jay Triano and Bryan Colangelo (and I do emphasize Colangelo because this is to a large extent his decision too) seem to have some trouble making hard decisions; for example, once Calderon came back from injury they didn’t insert him back as a starter. Why? Because Jack was playing well and the team was winning so why bother altering what’s working, right? It makes total sense but the correct administrative decision at the time was giving Calderon his job back, but since Jose is a nice enough guy who doesn’t care about anything including starting, they did the easy thing and let Jack ride on. After all, benching him at that point would’ve been hard to explain considering team success.

But now, after getting kicked around on the West coast (something which happens every year) the remedy to the situation is thought to be benching Jack because he had a couple average games and Jose shined for a quarter or two? Does not compute. You could make a case that the PnR with Bosh runs smoother with Calderon and that he’s a more traditional PG than Jack, but offense is far from the problem on this team, it never has been. It’s almost like we’re seeing our 4th place offensive league ranking as the problem and not our 30th place defensive ranking. If you really have to make a change, why not address the broken defense instead of a functional offense?

More specifically, if they braintrust decided that a “shake up” is necessary, the change needs to be Amir Johnson getting the start ahead of Andrea Bargnani who averaged 5reb/36min on the roadtrip including a 2 rebound stinker in Portland when we were getting crushed on the offensive glass. Now that would be a real change but there are hurt feelings, sensitivities and media perception to think about; in other words, it would be a decision that would require some cahones and we have none of that. After all Triano, as per Bosh, is a “teaching coach” and not a guy who’s going to put his foot down when it needs to be.

I’m not even advocating a change in the starting lineup, I’m just saying that if you really want to make one, make the right one. When Jack was asked about the possible move, he seemed a bit pissed and said:

I think that’s coach going with the flow. I’ve heard him say before that he’s going to go with whoever he thinks is playing best and that’s just the way it’s been going. Whenever my number is called I’ll be ready to go out there and play whether I’m getting 30 minutes, 20 minutes or 5 minutes. Just go out there and try to make a positive contribution to the team.

He must be wondering we’re wondering: what did I do wrong to even deserve this, especially when there are others on the team (Bargnani, DeRozan) who you can argue are doing far less than him as starters.

So after getting torched in transition on the roadtrip, the coach was asked why the team gets torched in transition and he gave a sound technical answer which indicted Andrea Bargnani:

We’re a little bit unorthodox with our positioning because we’ve got bigs that sometimes stay away from the basket and guards that use their athleticism to try to get us extra possessions offensive. And that puts a 2 or a 3 underneath, therefore we have cross-matches when we’re in transition. That’s one. The second one is pure athleticism. We’re not as athletic as a lot of teams that we play. Therefore, the competition starts and it’s 94 feet, and sometimes we lose that battle by two feed. And that’s the difference.

I’m not going to blame our overall defense on one player, but if I had to pick the top culprit it has to be him. He plays 73% of the game and provides very little in terms of team defense so if you have to start pointing fingers, you’d have to start with him. I’d put Jose/Jack’s inability to contain their man off the dribble right up there along with the disappointing displays of DeRozan and even Wright, both have been terrible.

Tonight it’s Atlanta who we are 0-2 against with the losses coming by 31 and 22 points, in the first game we were -22 on the glass and in the second we gave up 22 second chance points. The good news is that it’s a back-to-back for them, they crushed the Nets last night for their 7th win in 9 games without Joe Johnson (sore Achilles). Mike Bibby was nursing a sore back and played only 26 minutes as the Hawks were able to rest their starters since the game got out of hand. Johnson is traveling with the team but is unlikely to play against the Raptors. This should give DeRozan and Wright a breather, but not our bigs who have to contend with the uber-efficient Al Horford, the lanky Josh Smith and the gritty combo of Joe Smith and Zaza Pachulia.

We’ll have our eyes on the first quarter point total, hopefully we can keep it under 30 and give ourselves some defensive momentum to start the game. Bosh’s defense against Al Horford also needs watching, Horford is 10-12 and 4-5 in the two games so far and it’s all come at the expense of backing down Bosh and Bargnani into the post. Our bigs need to contain him and Josh Smith through single-coverage, if we have to provide help on those two, it’ll be a long night of chasing shadows on those perimeter rotations and getting beat off the dribble after a half-ass close-out. We are an already weak defensive team and if we’re forced to help on one or two players consistently throughout the game, it’ll wear us down and we’ll become a sieve on defense through the course of the night.

I don’t have the appetite for breaking this game down any further with keys and such because those keys don’t mean anything if the underlying effort is missing, so until we get that item checked off the list we’ll just stick with one key:

Play like you care.

There’s been talk of whether the losing is reflecting badly on Chris Bosh and when he was asked that he spouted about that he was doing all he could do. Problem is that he’s not. This point came up on the podcast as well, but it’s not enough for him to get his 20/10, he needs to inspire and lead as well, especially late in games when we start to hang our heads after a couple bad possessions. Maybe he’s a great leader and we just don’t know it, but a visual display of that leadership is in order because by listening to the post-game interviews, it sounds like after each loss the only people the players talk to are the reporters.

In other good news, the Bulls lost again.

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