If this is any indication of how a first round playoff series might play out, count me in as part of the crowd wanting to play the lottery. There have been many degrading moments in my life as a Raptors fan but losing handily to a team that’s not even trying to win the game has to be a first.
You know when you’re playing with your kid in the backyard just passing some time till dinner’s served, you’re taking it easy, keeping the game close, laughing around, having a good time, but as soon as the game gets a little close your competitive nature kicks in and you try a little harder and ice the game. At the end of the day the kid feels good about keeping it close but really, it was all about you not wanting to break a sweat.
That’s what this game felt like, they even got my hopes up midway through the fourth when we had “cut” the lead to 7 and LeBron was still on the bench, but just as I had popped my champagne I saw Mike Brown signal to LeBron that he didn’t feel like losing to the Raptors at home. We’re easy pickings as it is, but without Chris Bosh we’re like a limp trying to climb a mountain. Bosh went down early in the first quarter when Antawn Jamison inadvertently elbowed him in the face, it looked like a fairly standard elbow but it was deemed to need a CAT Scan by the Cleveland doctor who sent Bosh to the clinic. Seriously, we’re listening to the CLEVELAND doctor? Of course he wants you to go the clinic, you’re our best player, if it was upto him he’d insist on giving any decent player we have a physical midway through the game.
Seriously though, tests revealed that Bosh has a “maxilla and nasal fracture to the right side of his face” and will not travel with the team but will be kept overnight for “observation”, which if I recall correctly from breaking my hand at Karma Club years back, is basically staring at the coughing and wheezing 90 year old beside you wondering if they’re going to die on your watch. Now I know what you’re thinking: WHY DIDN’T BOSH PLAY THROUGH THE PAIN?!? HE’S A PUSSY!! I’ve never had a broken face so I can’t comment; as nice as it would’ve been to see your franchise player defy all odds and come out with a face-mask made out of nothing but twisted coat hangers, it’s highly unrealistic to expect that given what the injury turned out to be (BROKEN FACE!) and Bosh’s history with injuries. I’m sure when you have a BROKEN FACE you feel some sort of discomfort which would probably not let you continue in physical activity such as an NBA game. In closing, yes, I love the Willis Reed stuff as much as the next guy, but let’s get serious, even Iverson wouldn’t play the day he BROKE HIS FACE!
With Bosh out, we stuck to the team concept and had some success here and there. Jose Calderon tried to step in for Bosh by shooting his way into the game but it didn’t work out and he went back to acting like a sieve for Mo Williams’ points. Jarrett Jack picked up where he had left off against Golden State, running the offense well, hitting a jumper whenever he was open, but keep in mind that this is all happening with the Cavs playing like the Harlem Globetrotters so any Raptor performance should be taken well below face value. Every time we “sliced” the lead down to around 7, the Cavs would make a couple sweet passes and take it back upto 11; that was the trend of this game from tipoff to final whistle.
Still, let’s put our serious faces on for a second and examine what option #2 and option #3 on this team did with option #1 out:
Bargnani: 35min, 5-14FG, 0-43FG, 5reb, 2ast, 2to, -23, 11pts
Turkoglu: 29min, 3-10FG, 2-63FG, 3reb, 5ast, 1to, -20, 10pts
Simply. @*&^%$#. Pathetic. I’m not one to read too much into the +/- stat but for what it’s worth, those are both game worst. When you get polio-ridden performances from the two highest paid players on the court (once Bosh was out), is it even fair to expect miracles from guys like Antoine Wright (lost to an ankle injury) and Sonny Weems? Those guys have limited games and can perform a task reasonably well as long as their limited to performing that task. Asking Wright to be a perimeter threat or Weems and Jack to carry you is not fair, that job belongs to Bargnani and Turkoglu and both are about as hit-and-miss as a Craigslist personal ad. Bargnani’s reaction to the events on the court is nothing short of apathetic. If he fails to provide help on a drive and Mo Williams lays the ball in, he’ll never raise his hand saying ‘my bad’ or be visibly upset about it, he just carries on to the next possession as if all went swell.
Turkoglu’s main weapon used to be his deadly mid-range game but that is non-existent, he’s shooting 32% from 16-23 feet and 36% from 10-15 feet, both these percentages were 6% higher last year. His drives to the rims aren’t punctuated by hard finishes but heaves that border on prayers which result in shots that are too hard for the backboard. What was considered craftiness and patience in Orlando is now revealed to be sluggishness and disinterest. You look at him and you wonder where that playmaking ability from last year went, until of course you realize that Orlando had Dwight Howard, Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson, and Turkoglu was perhaps the third or fourth option on the floor. As for this game, let’s just say he got torched by Anthony Parker who had 18pts, 8rebs and 6asts on him. Enough said.
The two guys that looked like they were ready to play were Amir Johnson and Jarrett Jack. Well, Johnson’s always ready to play and took upon the challenge of facing the active Hickson and Varejao nicely. Jack’s direction and assertiveness on offense were welcome but there weren’t enough players on the Raptors that were willing to sweat this one out. What’s that I hear…are those the “Start Jack” chants? Funny part about those chants is that they’re coming from the same people who that giving Jose the job back was a good idea. And these are the same people that thought starting Jack instead of Jose way back when was also a good idea. Here’s a fact: it hardly matters who starts, we are a fundamentally flawed defensive team and until we fix that we could have 8 guys starting and it wouldn’t make a difference.
The defense, ah yes, the defense. Where do we begin with that? How about with the Cavs shooting 56%! Yes, they shot 56% without even trying. They had 15 assists on 15 field goals in the third quarter (38 on 47 overall which I could swear is some sort of NBA record), they had two 35 point quarters, and they had 62 points in the paint while only having 2 fastbreak points! Try to comprehend that, they scored 60 points on us just by cutting to the rim in a half-court set over and over and over again. Our defense is so impotent that we let the other team execute their plays better than they do it in practice; I’ve never seen a team get beat so consistently by back-screens and down-screens as consistently as the Raptors did last night. I’m not sure the concept of bumping somebody on a screen even exists in Triano’s basketball brain because I sure haven’t seen it all season long. In fact, any concept relating to defense is foreign to most Raptors players and even if you were a good defender on a team before this (Evans, Wright maybe), by playing in our system, you’ll actually lose what you had as bad defensive habits are highly, highly contagious.
Now, the silver-lining in this *&^%fest of a season is that we might be the best crappy team in the East. The Bulls managed to blow a 13 point lead in losing to the Bucks at home and remain a game back. Maybe it’s our “destiny” to make the playoffs?
We’ll close with a very delusional quote made by Sonny Weems before the game:
“Every game we’ve played them, it’s been real close. I don’t think they want that in the first round of the playoffs. We’re going to come to play.”
Is he joking? I think he’s joking because I sure didn’t see LeBron or any of the Cavs tremble at any point today. Usually when teams that are about to face each other in the playoffs meet in the late regular season, they tend to hide plays and tendencies from each other, I don’t think that even crossed Mike Brown’s mind at any point today. This was not a close game, just because we only lost by 12 does not make this a good performance, especially in the light of the opposing coach dubbing this a “high-level practice”? I’d rather see the Raptors players get their own house in order and not worry about what other teams think of them.
So where do we go from here? We gather whatever pride we have, miraculously motivate ourselves, and show up tonight without Bosh at home against the C**tics who we have lost 10 of 11 to.