It was fun to watch Stephen Curry tonight. That was my reaction after Bosh missed the layup that would’ve completed a Raptors comeback which would have been as undeserved as a loss in Philly would’ve been. Bosh’s missed layup is the farthest thing from my mind because we should not be in a one point game at home against a Golden State team missing Monta Ellis and playing a 7-man rotation with three D-Leaguers. The main difference between the Raptors and Warriors is that the Warriors have an identity, however insane that identity is, it’s an identity and philosophy which they stick to. Why they’d take a jumper with 20 seconds on the clock when up 16 in the fourth is probably why Don Nelson has never won a title and never will, but that mentality is good enough on nights like these when the opposition is a Raptors team that struggles dealing with quickness at the wings.
Other than Bosh, our starting lineup shot 11/45 (24%) with Bargnani being the main culprit going 7-23. I usually don’t have a problem when he shoots poorly and has a decent rebounding game (9 rebs), but his shot-selection was so poor that he should’ve been playing for the Warriors. Actually, even they’d have an issue with a line-driver jumper from 7 feet. Believe it or not, Bargnani is our best post-option, when he sets his mind to it and the team makes an effort to establish him inside, he usually produces results (when he’s not fading towards the baseline in the face of a double-team) as seen earlier in the game. It also has a pleasant side-effect of him being in better offensive rebounding position (5 off. rebs), so why we didn’t continue to clear out for him in the post and run some sets around him after the second quarter is confusing.
We were making an attempt to establish Bosh and Bargnani early in the game and did an honest job of it by giving those two touches every chance we had; a bit of a departure from the team game but with the playoffs approaching, I can see why Triano would try to get these two in rhythm. However, I fear that that this wasn’t Triano’s plan at all but just more of the random stuff that happens during Raptor games. Nonetheless, Bosh was going at Maggette and had Turiaf guarding him on the switch, the latter’s no match for Bosh’s quickness and credit to Bosh, he didn’t settle for the jumper and went 20-23 from the line. Bosh getting to the FT line was the only sure thing tonight and he deserved a touch on basically every possession down the stretch. It should be noted that he took a terrible shot at 0:39 with the Raptors down 4, a right-handed hook-shot which was more of a push is not what you want to do with the game on the line. Other than that, it’s really unfortunate that he couldn’t ice his 42 point game with that layup.
When a guy has 29/12/8 as Stephen Curry did, it’s hard to say that anybody stopped him. What you can say is that jacking up a game-high 23 shots and playing 44 minutes might be a little exhausting which could leave him prone to defensive vulnerabilities which could be exploited. There are three major issues I have with how we played Curry tonight:
- Until Jarrett Jack in the fourth, we didn’t make him play any defense. Jose Calderon’s work on him gets him a straight F and Curry was coasting while playing one side of the ball for 37 of his 44 minutes.
- For the defensive genius Marc Iavaroni is supposed to be, I haven’t seen a single moment of brilliance from him all season long. It’s plenty obvious that Curry is Golden State’s little engine and that they struggle to create off the dribble (especially without Monta Ellis) without him. Perhaps extending the defense, trapping him and getting the ball out of his hands would’ve been effective, instead we let him pick us apart. After watching the Bobcats/Bulls game the night before, I swear that this can be an effective strategy. It’s like there were no lessons learned from the game in Golden State.
- How many jumpers does he have to nail before we start hedging him hard or going over the screen? That early fourth quarter sequence where he nailed three threes was an example of a defense that just isn’t thinking on its own but reacting to what the offense is doing, and doing so exactly the way the offense wants.
I have to give props to Jarrett Jack for being assertive against him in the second and fourth quarters, he finally said enough is enough and decided to put a hurt on the rookie who was playing with the confidence of a playground player who knows nobody can stop him. Jack has 16 fourth quarter points and this was the first time somebody on our team took an initiative against Curry. To me, there is no question who is the better defensive PG on the Raptors, who can lay a beating on the opposing PG and who can pick-up this team when it’s down.
In building their 13 point lead, scoring 37 points and shooting 58% at the end of the first, Golden State had exposed what our defense was going to be on this night – soft in transition and unable to adapt to their quick-fire offense. We were always a step slow on the perimeter against them and Wright, DeRozan and Weems were tortured off the dribble early in the shot-clock too often. Any pick ‘n roll sequence involving Bargnani was a disaster and Bosh was unable to cope with Maggette who was canceling out the former’s offense in the fist half and finished with a highly efficient 31 points on 10-14 shooting.
Amir Johnson’s inside play off the bench and our dominant rebounding (+15) brought us back in the second quarter. He also got absolutely robbed of a steal when Joey Crawford called him for a foul on what should’ve been a jumpball. We had 14 second-chance points in the first half to their 0 (20-5 for the game) and it’s clearly what kept this one close at halftime. The introduction of Jack also helped matters as Curry only had 2 points in the second.
Golden State was getting theirs by swinging the ball and knocking down jumpers as our wings struggled to cope with the constant ball-movement and paid the price brought on by their own over-helping. When it was all said and done they were 13-26 from three and the Raptors were 3-12. The shocking part about this stat is that Golden State is the worst team in the NBA when it comes to defending the three. My theory is that in trying to establish Bargnani and Bosh, we went away from team-ball and didn’t have the spacing and East-West movement in our offense which generates those threes. The -16 assists bear that out.
There are nights where your shot just isn’t falling and tonight was one of them, we shot 39.1% FG, Weems missed everything, Bargnani was firing blanks and what not, I can live with that, what I can’t live with is Golden State coming in and shooting 58% after the first and 50% after three quarters. We were not prepared to play defense against a Golden State team which only knows one way to play. I can excuse the Knicks for getting blown out at home a couple nights ago against them because they got nothing to play for, but we have Chicago breathing down our necks. How much motivation do you need?
Down 16 in the fourth quarter after Curry’s barrage of threes, the game was far from over because Don Nelson has no sense of clock management. They turned the ball over, missed bad shots and the Raptors took advantage through Bosh and Jack. Suddenly it was a three point game late on and instead of letting the Raptors hoist up an attempt to tie, Nelson played the foul-game. It almost backfired as Curry missed two FTs and Weems stole the ball to setup Bosh with a behind-the-back pass, but Bosh couldn’t decide whether to lay it directly in or use the glass. Whenever that happens you’re in trouble and Bosh was. Chicago now stands a game back.
Hedo Turkoglu didn’t play between 6:52 and :10 of the fourth quarter. Perhaps he was pulled for hugging GSW players during the fourth quarter or maybe he was pulled because he flat-out sucks. I’m not sure, I’m also not sure what level of the doghouse he’s in but you have to play him for two reasons – Weems is having a crappy game and it’s not like he’ll make our defense any worse. It makes no sense to not have him involved in the clutch offense at this point in the season, if we make the playoffs we’re going to need his experience and shot-making ability. As nice as Weems has been for us, he’s not going to be the guy that’ll win us a playoff round, Turkoglu could actually help with that and it’s time we make our lineups with that in mind.
Let’s review the final stretch for the Raptors and Bulls. The Bulls are 1 game behind us with both teams having played the same amount of games, 76. We hold the tie-breaker.
v Boston (B2B)
@ Detroit (B2B)
@ New Jersey (B2B)
@ Charlotte (B2B)
Obviously the game against the Bulls is huge, but what’s scary about this schedule is that Milwaukee are now without Andrew Bogut and Charlotte might have little left to play for. Charlotte is 2 games ahead of us and 2 games behind Milwaukee so if things stay that way, they’ll have nothing to play for as the Bulls game is Game 82 for them. Plus, the Bulls just beat the Hornets a couple days ago and will be confident heading into that one. As for the Raptors, the only sure thing is the Knicks game at home since Detroit is a road game on a back-to-back. I’d say Milwaukee on Tuesday night is a must-win game for Chicago and I got a feeling this will come down to the tie-breaker.
I had this game penciled in as a W so I’m a little nervous.