a heads-up to Calderon: They’re booing because you and your teammates, no matter how this thing ends up, are en route to yet another season of underachievement. They’re booing because they expected more from their GQ GM, their free-agent-to-be of an all-star and, to get specific, from you.
Still, they’ll also take what they can get in this town. And so we’ve arrived at Toronto’s version of the seasonal climax known as the final four — the quartet of regular-season games that stands between the Raptors and the opening of the NBA playoffs. There’s at least a little something at stake here. The eighth and final playoff spot, for which the Raptors are clawing, after all, brings with it a minimum of two home playoff dates against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. And even if that best-of-seven first-round series would almost certainly end in a Toronto defeat — we say “almost” because the math-geek-generated playoff predictor currently running at ESPN.com figures the Raptors would eliminate the Cavs four times out of 100 — it would at least save some face for, say, Bryan Colangelo, the president and general manager.
Who’s hot? Hawks centre Al Horford has recorded 11 double-doubles in his last 13 games.
Who’s not? The Hawks have actually lost three times in four games this month, and twice to Detroit. Perhaps that is because no bench player has aside from Jamal Crawford has scored in double digits in April.
Bargnani’s statistics in the 67 games he has played with Bosh in the lineup this year: 17.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game on 47.1% shooting. When Bosh plays, Bargnani averages 34.6 minutes of floor time per game.
Bargnani’s statistics in the nine games this season in which he has played and Bosh has not: 15.0 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.2 blocks per game on 41.6% shooting. When Bosh does not play, Bargnani averages 36.7 minutes of floor time per game.
The drop off is noticeable and discouraging. However, this might be just as discouraging: When Bosh plays, Bargnani takes 14 field-goal attempts per game compared to 14.6 attempts when Bosh is out of the lineup. If you break it down by minute, Bargnani is actually shooting slightly less frequently when Bosh is out of the lineup, at the precise time when they need more offence.
This is not about him becoming a different player while Bosh is out, picking up the load defensively and on the glass; it is about him doing the things he does well more frequently to ease the pain of missing Bosh.
There has been speculation in some places — mostly north of the border — that the Cleveland Cavaliers would rather play the Bulls than the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs.
Such talk figures to grow now that the Cavaliers chose to sit LeBron James for Thursday night’s game against the Bulls at the United Center — two days after James played 35Â½ minutes against the Raptors.
”He’s got some bumps and bruises, and we just decided to rest him,” Cavaliers coach Mike Brown said before the game.
The Cavaliers already have clinched the best record in the NBA, and James said a few days ago that he wanted to get some rest down the stretch.
Bulls coach Vinny Del Negro downplayed James’ absence.
”That’s a big factor, but Cleveland is still very talented,” Del Negro said. ”[Andrew] Bogut was out last game, and it didn’t do us much good.”
If the Toronto Raptors were a horse they would shoot it; to put it out of its Frickin misery. The Raptors are flailing around right now like a tuna that just got dumped on board a ship; gasping for its last breath. Toronto has lost their last three straight games, gone 4-6 in their last 10 and could be without two valuable players as they go into their last 4 games of the regular season. In their last two games they may have lost both Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu for the season.
Oh; and they are now in a tie with the suddenly surging Chicago Bulls for the eighth seed in the chase for the Eastern Conference Playoffs. The Bulls defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers Thursday 109-108. Chicago plays the hapless New Jersey Nets Friday while Toronto plays the Atlanta Hawks, possibly without two of their best players. New York Vinnie does not like the Raptors odds in that situation.
Hedo Turkoglu is now officially an albatross, and his current day-to-day status with his own nasal injury could be considered redundant, since he has appeared in name alone in half the games he’s played since the beginning of March.
Sunday’s game against Chicago is huge, but whatever transpires in the next week won’t deviate from the script this franchise wrote last summer.
A mediocre race to a red light.
The Raptors simply cannot handle Al Horford. Likewise, they won’t be able to do much with Josh Smith if he’s on his game. Both guys should get a lot of looks and a good tuneup, especially if Joe isn’t playing. Jamal Crawford and much of the bench should see some decent time as well.
On the other hand, Toronto has to be trying to hang onto their very tenuous playoff spot. Coming off a three game losing streak and having lost their best player to injury, the Raptors could be coming with some unexpected fire. How to avoid embarassment (or an unnecessarily close game)?
– Don’t let Andrea Bargnani get hot from deep or score inside with easy dunks and layups.
– Jose Calderon has been underwhelming this year. Let’s not change that.
– Don’t allow Demar DeRozan to make play after play. The rookie is quick and athletic.
– Jarrett Jack, who may not be at full strength, is a tough cookie. Allowing him to have a good game is trouble, as he will alternate efficiently between scoring (48% shooting this season) and involving his teammates ( 5 apg).
Should be an easy game for the Hawks, particularly at home. Win #50. Let’s go get it!
There is no such optimism where Bosh is concerned.
The very best-case scenario for him is a return in the playoffs and for all we know even that could be wildly over optimistic.
But remember it didn’t have to be this way.
You only have to go back to Sunday when a Golden State team with nine bodies and without its own leading scorer in Monta Ellis, waltzed into Toronto and left with a 113-112 win.
Golden State, at complete health, doesn’t possess the talent the Raptors do, but at about half strength and relying on handful of D-League callups, they showed more than a fully stocked Raptors team could on home court.
It is games like those, the ones the Raptors should have had, that haunt at this time of the year.
This column isn’t long enough to list all the let-down games, the gimmies that weren’t, but any Raptors fan will have no problem coming up with enough to easily ensure no one should be worrying about Chicago at this time of year.
Instead, we do worry, and with cause, because now the Raptors are not only missing their top scorer and rebounder, it is a team of walking wounded.
Of course I’ll watch these last four games. But up until today, I hadn’t really, honestly decided if I would actively root against the Raptors. We’re not wired to do that. But I’m ready to bypass my own emotions and cheer on the opposition. Missing the playoffs is the only remotely positive thing that could come out of this flummoxing season. Cut bait Toronto, cut bait.
The only thing I’m worried about now is that the Raptors will screw this up too. We need them to lay a few more stinkers like the ones that have dotted the season up to this point. And for the love of god, why can’t the Chicago Bulls make hay here? (mea culpa, I started writing this before the Bulls won Thursday night – kudos for beating the LeBron-less Cavaliers – the league should look into that – not that I care). This must be painful to watch for NBA fans outside of Chicago and Toronto. Nice playoff race.
But I come back to the one good omen which has emanated from this past week. The injury to Chris Bosh might just make the Raptor curtain call make sense in some weird way. Not only does it lower fan expectations and brace us for playoff exclusion, it also helps facilitate the tanking that I now really believe needs to happen.
An incredibly high 75% of Bargnani’s shots are assisted. That’s a whopping 25% more than Bosh and 11% more than a guy like Amir Johnson, who would not be someone who you think of creating his own shot. He’s actually on par with a player like Denver’s Nene, who is certainly not close to the 1st or 2nd option. In fact, I’d say he’s usually the last option in Denver’s offense. Same with Boston’s Kendrick Perkins. The difference between those guys and Bargnani is they actually are above average rebounders and defenders, so any offense you get from them is a bonus. The funny thing, though, is that Nene only scores 3 ppg less than Bargnani, but he shoots at a much higher percentage, but you also get defense and rebounding.