I was very excited about the game yesterday, so much so that when an opportunity to get some tickets came by, I threw my newborn at her mother and said, “I’m outta here”. At that moment I also remembered this video made by an Arsenal fan before a big game this year. It’s an amateur video which shows what going to a big Arsenal game might be like. Foolish me, I revved by Canon DSLR Rebel T1i, deleted my newborn’s pics from it so I could make use of the full 16GB and headed out the door trying to make my own version of what a classic Raptors home game might be like. Stupid. Me.
I should’ve realized that this team has the backbone of a snail and the fighting spirit of a fat gimpy panda. Needless to say, my enthusiasm for movie-making quickly came to an end when we were down 15 in the second quarter and down 21 by the third. Fact is that I was more “ready” for this game than the Raptors. Watching the post-game interviews you saw Triano lie to himself and Andrea Bargnani reveal that he was hardly surprised that they lost. Talk about a confident attitude, eh? It was a disappointing night all around, the game-management by Triano was poor, Belinelli’s cameo was disappointing (had he hit a couple of those threes, who knows, could’ve got him going) and generally speaking, the Raptors weren’t ready to play save Hedo Turkoglu, who despite a stellar rebounding game struggled mightily on offense. I was calling for Banks to guard Rose in the first quarter, it only made sense but Triano’s narrow-minded approach to the game never even entertained that thought.
The crowd was solid last night, they were there to support the team and were looking to cheer anything and everything early. But as is the case with most Raptor games, the home team did little to spur them on and it ended up being a frustrating evening with the Bulls scoring too easily and the Raptors taking low-percentage shots. Whenever a Sonny Weems 18-footer is considered a decent look, you’re in trouble. As nice as he’s been this year for us, he’s being asked to perform above and beyond his pay-grade as our two main guns have been deathly silent. There was a spattering of boos in the second quarter which I didn’t partake in because it was way too early. When the Bulls stepped on our throats in the third quarter, the boos got louder and the ACC started to empty. I didn’t boo but I sure felt like it, problem was that I didn’t want to boo all 12 players, I wanted to boo maybe 5 or 6 players plus the coaching staff and couldn’t figure out a way to do it. And just when things appeared they couldn’t get any worse, the ACC decided to have contests where we guessed Rasho’s favorite celebrity and everybody got crazy over free t-shirts being shot out of a cannon. It served as a good reminder of why I despise going to games – your team’s getting smoked in the biggest game of the year and we’re jumping around like fools over t-shirts. *% off.
We have the tie-breaker over the Bulls which means that with two more games to go, we need to win one more game than them. It’s not a lost cause just yet, if you don’t believe me, believe Hollinger. Tonight we’re in Detroit where the Pistons have won 3 of 4 after dropping 11 straight. Rodney Stuckey missed the game against Charlotte on Saturday where they gave the Bobcats a pretty good run; he’s questionable for tonight with bruised ribs and I don’t see the Pistons risking him but you never know.
The Bulls are at home to Boston tomorrow and depending on whether Atlanta beats Milwaukee tonight, that game could be completely meaningless for the C**tics. See, Atlanta holds the tie-breaker over Boston (4-0) and if they win tonight, the best the C**tics can do is tie which does them no good. So if you’re scoreboard watching at home, we want the Bucks to win so that Boston has motivation to climb into the third spot. And there is plenty of motivation to go around. The injury-riddled Bucks are very likely to finish as the sixth seed even though they’re tied with Miami for fifth right now, their remaining games are against Atlanta and Boston, while Miami plays Philadelphia and NJ. Think about it, if you’re Atlanta or Boston, who do you want to play? A Bogut-less inexperienced Bucks team or Dwayne Wade and the refs?
So in summary, cheer for the Bucks and Heat to win tonight so Boston can beat Milwaukee on Wednesday night and hope Atlanta loses in Cleveland; this would seal a first-round matchup between Boston and Milwaukee. Got that? Good.
Back to the Raptors. You get the impression that these guys expect to lose every time they step on the floor, the swagger that is needed to compete in a playoff battle is definitely missing. The only Raptors that I think are playing with a winning attitude are Jarrett Jack, Sonny Weems and Amir Johnson (contract year). The rest of the bunch are playing Game 80 with the same sense of urgency they played Game 6 with. Just look at the tip-off, look at how excited and ready to go Noah is, do you see that sense of urgency from any of the Raptors? Give the Bulls credit, they were focused and ready to compete which speaks off their terrible head-coach, Vinny Del Negro, who actually managed to out-motivate the Raptors and Jay Triano.
Defensively, we’re a disaster everywhere. Our team defense doesn’t hide our individual flaws and our individual flaws put too much pressure on our team defense, it’s a vicious cycle that can only lead to being the worst team in the league and that’s what we are. You can blame the players and you should, but I find it hard to believe that a team with Weems, Wright, Jack and Bosh came to be so bad. No doubt the players need to be held accountable, but ask yourself if the coaching has done anything, and I mean anything, to mitigate our defensive problems. Answer is a resounding, booming no. Other than some obvious switches like hiding Calderon once in a while, there’s nothing Marc Iavaroni or Jay Triano have brought to this team.
I want the Raptors to make the playoffs, but if we can’t even compete against the Bulls at home what are we going to do against a rested Cleveland side? I don’t know, but I want to find out. It’s like twisting the knife in a wound, it hurts like hell but you want to know what your pain threshold is.