True story: We were going to do our weekly podcast after the game but so many people fell asleep during this one that in the end I was the only one awake at 10:30pm, and that’s only because I have to write this post.
If anybody was looking for convincing thumping wins against the worst and second-worst teams in the league, they’d have to be disappointed. Squeaking one by the Wolves on the road isn’t the confidence inspiring performance that we were hoping ahead of facing the Jazz, Nuggets, Heat and Bobcats. On the bright side, a win is a win and we needed this one to keep pace with the Bulls who are limping 2 1/2 games behind us. This game was a continuation of the Nets game where a quick PG directly or indirectly kept them in the game but in the end it was their inexperience and lack of discipline that cost them the game.
The majority of this one was played with the Raptors holding a very comfortable but hardly insurmountable 5-10 point lead; Even when the Wolves cut the lead to 3 with under 2 minutes left, you just knew they were incapable of having three straight good possessions and would no doubt mess things up. For example, going to Darko in the post coming out of a timeout might be a sight that would make even a hardcore Darko fan cringe. Bosh, Bargnani and Turkoglu were having good individual offensive games and anytime the Raptors put some effort into moving the ball around after some there-to-be-had dribble penetration, we always got a good shot. Turkoglu played a nice quarterback tonight against Gomes, setting up perimeter shots for everybody and even taking it to the hole when the space was there. His six assists tonight were invaluable and a reminder why we paid him the big money – to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves. Hell yeah.
Turkoglu was quick to pick up three early fouls, on two of them he loudly yelled OH MY GOD! at the ref which was quite funny because he yelled it in a really lazy only-Hedo type of way. Kinda like Aaauuhhh maaa gaaaddd. The commentators assigned to chew your brain out this night were Jack Armstrong and Matt Devlin who agreed that the early fouls kill Turkoglu’s rhythm. Disagree, it’s Triano that kills Turkoglu’s rhythm by taking him out. Let the guy play, the worst that can happen is he’ll pick up his fourth foul. No biggie, he’s still got two more to go.
The Raptors started off a bit lethargic on the defensive end; Jefferson took Bosh to school on the first couple possessions and played him with active hands all night long. Bosh had another 6-turnover game including a travel late-on that would’ve come back to kill us if Minnesota had more than three NBA players. Being down by 7 to the Timberwolves at any point isn’t a big deal, let alone in the first quarter, but Triano immediately went to the bench duo of Wright and Weems (replacing Hedo because of fouls and DeRozan because of numerous bricks) and the two provided a good response. 10 points on 4-5 shooting, pushing the action on the break and inspiring the defense. The Raptors were much more aggressive in collapsing on Jefferson (aggressive doubling early) and Flynn as they got deep into the paint, and the inexperienced Timberwolves couldn’t handle the pressure and committed 8 early turnovers, many because of the Raptors defense, some because they were being too cute.
The only way I had the Wolves winning this game is if they’d out-rebound us to death (4th in league) and the man I came in fearing was a total dud. Kevin Love in 31 minutes had 5 rebounds and got more or less shutdown by Andrea Bargnani who had his jumper going on this night, possibly motivated by this. Bargnani’s length went a long ways in bugging both Love and Darko on their shots in the paint – Love had to force high-arching rainbows and I don’t even know what Darko’s doing shooting baseline hook shots. On the other end neither of them could keep up with this perimeter play but if there was one area of Bargnani’s game I liked today, it was how he picked up Love early on the defensive glass holding him to only 1 offensive rebound.
After trading kiddie punches for a full half this snorefest had the Raptors nursing a one-point lead at the half. A third quarter response was needed and it was supplied by Chris Bosh who scored 9 of the first 13 Raptors points as the Wolves committed three turnovers and Flynn continued making rookie decisions. After Turkoglu setup a Bargnani three it was a 14 point lead and if Chuck Swirsky were alive, he’d start munching on those deli sandwiches he was so fond off. Instead we got Jack Armstrong begging for the Raptors to “step on their throats” which they didn’t. In fact, on the next few possessions we played like how the Wolves had played to start the quarter – turnovers and bad shots. End result was a 9-0 Wolves run which made a game of it and it stayed more or less that way till late in the fourth.
I know it was against a poor opponent but it felt good to see the Raptors have four straight great fourth quarter possessions:
3:49 Hedo Turkoglu makes 23-foot three point jumper (Antoine Wright assists) 94-89
3:06 Antoine Wright makes 23-foot three point jumper (Hedo Turkoglu assists) 97-92
2:25 Andrea Bargnani makes 19-foot two point shot (Hedo Turkoglu assists) 99-92
1:54 Chris Bosh traveling 99-94
1:31 Hedo Turkoglu makes driving layup 101-96
Well, 4 out of 5.
Chris Bosh is averaging 3.6 turnovers in his last 5 games and they haven’t all been generic travel calls:
- Forcing the pass: When he’s got the ball on the low-block and is waiting, waiting, waiting for something to happen he should just initiate that something and get it over with. When he tries to force passes into cutters who aren’t that good at cutting to begin with, it usually results in a turnover. Throwing passes at people’s feet also doesn’t help.
- Stripped while making move: Hold the ball high or hold it strong. He has trouble keeping the ball high on spin moves and makes it too easy for the double-team man to have a go at the rock.
- Not protecting the ball in the post: Jefferson poked the ball out of his hands in the post and Flynn got 2 on the break. Just like #1, this stems from being indecisive about what to do. Waiting in the elbow area with the ball in your hands is never a good idea unless you’re Tim Duncan and the refs are instructed to protect you.
North Carolina rookie guard Wayne Ellington (17pts) gave our backcourt some trouble, but overall the PG defense was adequate. Yes, Flynn got past them but the damage was restricted/offset because of good interior defense and 18pts, 14asts from our duo. For those keeping score, the playing time for the odd couple went like this: Jose 1st/3rd, Jack 2nd/4th. Once again, Bargnani’s smooth offensive game and solid defensive man-defense on Love and Darko deserves credit and so does Bosh’s early third quarter spurt which helped us go +9 in the quarter and set us on our way. Sonny Weems and Antoine Wright’s first half energy off the bench was highly appreciated and as already mentioned, Turkoglu’s ball-distribution and shot-making down the stretch iced it.
New Jersey and Minnesota (2 of 9 wins coming against Nets) are D-League teams, credit to the Raptors for getting the job done even though they had to play 48 minutes in both games. Playtime’s over and we got four real games ahead starting Wednesday. I just hope these two wins don’t fill the team with any sort of over-confidence because come Wednesday, it’ll be an entirely different cup of tea.