“We haven’t seen Chris like that in a while,” head coach Jay Triano said. “That alone is huge for us especially when I don’t think Turk or Andrea played particularly well. He got it going tonight and that’s when we roll. We haven’t seen him play like this since he came back from his injury.”
Triano wasn’t alone in this assessment. Antoine Wright, one of the guys Bosh referenced as getting him amped up for the what turned out to be a 36-point night, saw a different Bosh too.
“I think he might have been questioning some of his shot selection just because he was a little rusty coming back,” Wright said of Bosh’s play the past couple of weeks. “So then he tends not to play his game. His game is to shoot that elbow jump shot, face guys up, get to the basket and when he’s playing like that we’re a much better team.”
Bosh had 13 points in the first half and but was not particularly on top of his game against the Nets. He was settling for much of the half, hitting jumpers over Brook Lopez but not facing him up and driving to the hoop.
Even at the beginning of the third quarter he was scoring, but not imposing himself on the Nets. That ended at the 5:47 mark of the period when he drove baseline past Lopez and jammed home a reverse dunk while absorbing contact for the foul.
Bosh celebrated that particular bucket like no other the entire night. It gave the Raps a two-point lead that would grow to 10 by the end of the quarter. The Raps never trailed again.
Who’s hot? Darko Milicic is coming off his first double-double of the season on Friday against the Lakers. Darko lives!
Who’s not? Corey Brewer has made just eight of his last 25 field-goal attempts (32%).
This, of course, brings up a core issue in Raptorland: Colangelo, the Raptors’ president and general manager who selected Bargnani with the No. 1 pick in the 2006 draft and who gifted the kid a generous contract extension about a year ago, has much invested in seeing Bargnani succeed. The investment can’t simply be measured in cap space – it’s more like a mountain of pride and ego and Colangelo’s very human desire to prove his costly faith in Bargnani is well-founded. And Triano is clearly beholden to Colangelo for his very existence as an NBA head coach.
But Triano, if he wants a career as an NBA head coach beyond this, has to make his own decisions here. No one is saying they’re easy decisions. He can’t bench the whole team. The options in reserve aren’t particularly appealing. Every win is important.
But if you won’t sit a guy against the Nets, when are you going to sit him? And if you don’t recognize that defence will be the story of this season, understand that the Raptors, with Saturday’s 100-90 win, have now won 27 consecutive games in which they’ve held teams to under 100 points, the longest current streak in the NBA. As offensively potent as the Raptors are, all they need to do is play a tiny bit of defence. It’s not a Herculean requirement. Half the teams in the league are holding opponents under 100 this season. Triano, at some point, has to make it known that he won’t stand for all the standing around while the other team scores and rebounds at will.
Toronto (currently in eighth place, 34-34):
The Celtics are 3-0 so far this season against the Raptors, and there’s a simple reason why: The team just can’t defend anyone. Jay Triano really doesn’t seem to have figured it out — it doesn’t matter how much talent you have or how many different ways you can find to put the ball in the hole. If you can’t get stops, you’re not winning a thing in the playoffs. Plain and simple. The Raptors will go into the playoffs with a loaded frontcourt of Andrea Bargnani, Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu. Shut down just one of those three, and the Raptors won’t have enough weapons to keep up.
WHAT NUMBER AM I AGAIN?: On ESPN.com, Chris Sheridan blogged from the Nets’ loss to Toronto on Saturday night. One interesting note: Marcus Banks, traded to the Raptors last month, was called for a technical foul for excessive yelling on the bench. According to Sheridan: "When referee Bob Delaney asks him his uniform number, Banks had to unzip his warmup to look." Banks has only seen time in two games since the trade.
Antoine Wright was back in the line-up after missing the past two games with an ankle injury and he played well off the bench. Wright will be a key for Toronto coming down the stretch run and in the playoffs. Why? Because he’s a guy who has somewhat of a defensive reputation around the NBA and might be able to get a few of those marginal calls against some of the NBA’s bigger-name scorers when he guards them on the perimetre. Let’s face it, he’ll have more of a chance of getting close calls than say DeMar DeRozan or Sonny Weems.
Jarrett Jack also had solid performance off the bench after struggling — he was a combined 3-of-14 in his two previous games after being moved into the second unit. So let the scoreboard watching continue as the Raptors sit in the eighth spot, only a half game behind Miami in seventh and a game behind Charlotte in sixth. But the key: all three squads are even in the loss column.
Tonight should provide an opportunity for players other than CB4 to get their respective games off. Bargnani has a clear match-up advantage against Milicic, Hedo should have success against Ryan Gomes and DeRozan can more than handle Corey Brewer. Out of all of these players the one I will be watching the most closely is Bargnani. Lately Andrea has struggled and tonight provides his a great chance to get his confidence back. After a difficult night in New Jersey it will be interesting to see how he responds. He needs a big game and must find his confidence. If the Raps have any hope of making a late season run getting consistent solid play from Il Mago is required.
Securing the W tonight should not be that difficult of a task but as the season winds down and the seating in the Eastern Conference playoffs remains up for grabs it is an important game. When you look at the top four teams in the East, Cleveland has clearly established itself as the cream of the crop and would be a nightmare of a first round match-up. That’s not to say Orlando or Boston would be "favorable" per se but seeing the Raps against either of them would be preferrable and allow for a glimmer of hope.