Ed’s Note: RR welcomes back A-Dub for another season.
Everyone knew this was going to be a tough road trip for our hometown heroes, but, at least for one quarter in the past two games including last night, they provided a glimmer of hope. Not just a good quarter, but a 12 minute stretch of frenetic defense that created turnovers and turned into an uptempo dynamic attack that probably gave Bryan Colangelo that tingly feeling usually reserved for tall European dudes who can shoot 3′s (I kid I kid.)
That was the third quarter last night, and as the whistle signalled the beginning of the final quarter, the Raptors found themselves in a situation that seemed very familiar. Overcoming a horrible start but clawing back into contention with a spirited 3rd quarter. Kind of like the Sacramento Kings against our very own Raps on Monday night. That’s where the similarities end, however, as the Raptors imploded in the final 12 minutes to lose handily by 17 points. Not that the Kings are experienced championship contenders by any means, but they have talent like Tyreke Evans to turn to in crunch time. Is our Tyreke hiding under our very noses, just waiting to sprout at the most opportune moment, or will we have to wait until the ping pong balls Patrick Ewing their way to our next franchise player?
Only time will tell, because this game definitely did not.
The first quarter began with the now familiar pattern of getting Bargnani his touches, namely in the high post, to get him going. This practise makes sense in theory, but Bargnani as a first option is starting to present himself as a streaky type scorer who’s better off playing within the flow of the game. Why not get the whole team acclimated instead of twiddling their thumbs on offense the first few minutes of the game? In any case, Paul Millsap did get warmed up in quite a hurry, and in what would be a theme throughout the game, attacked the rim constantly for a quick 8 points and a 10 – 2 Jazz lead. Demar DeRozan had a rough start to the game as he forced the issue, possibly trying to replicate his career-high tying night Monday. Toronto’s inability to react to Utah’s conventional backdoor cuts and Jarret Jack’s trouble in preventing straight line drives from Deron Williams forced Jay Triano to sub Jose in at only the 6 minute mark, with the Raps already down by double digits.
There was a time that when Jose stepped on the floor, at least you knew the ball would be taken care of, but perhaps all the criticism of being too predictable have taken their toll on Numero Ocho. Not that all the turnovers were his fault, but the score quickly ballooned to 27 – 11 after another Utah steal and solo fastbreak. Utah’s a tough place to play for Toronto, but this was bad even by those lame standards. Deron Williams continued his ownage of the first quarter as he faced little resistance on drives. When it wasn’t him, it was Al Jefferson and Millsap abusing their cover on 1-on-1 situations. Double teams should have been considered at some point here, but were shunned. Even Bargnani, known to be a strong post defender had trouble handling their crafty post moves. When the dust had cleared, the score was 41-22 after one quarter. Deron Williams already had a line of 14/5/4 and could be spotted snickering on the bench. Are players always like this, or is it just that fun to be playing against our team? I hope its the former.
The one silver lining from the horrific 1st quarter was that it prompted Jay to insert Joey Dorsey into the lineup. I’m a big Joey Dorsey fan, big enough of a fan to say that he should be part of the rotation. He may be a better rebounder than the great Reggie Evans (!), and it would be absolute entertainment if the both got to play at the same time. In all seriousness, Dorsey may be undersized but he’s got the bulk and there are so many guys in the league now who have tasted success despite their physical shortcomings. Dorsey could be one of them, but chances are he may never get a proper chance in this situation. For what it’s worth, the team did make some ground while he was on the floor, including one Dwight-like slam by Joey himself, the score was cut to 44-32.
Two guys that need to cut down on taking shots: Leandro Barbosa and Sonny Weems. Leandro because he’s unbelievably quick and isn’t the greatest shooter with a healthy wrist, and Sonny because his midrange shot is good, but not at the level where we’d be calling him “Money” Weems, if you catch my drift.
But as soon as the starters made their way back, Utah’s frontcourt started causing major problems. Bargs looked particularly lost during this sequence, making a stop in the Land of No Man. On this night it was hard to point the finger at him, as Deron Williams was able to roam free all over the court with little pressure from either of our PG’s. It was back to an 18 point lead at the half. Didn’t like how little DeRozan played in the seond quarter. He is showing the potential to become a good, possibly very good scorer and his defense has also improved. Give him the kind of rope Andrea has been given all these years, or is that the difference between 1 and 9? He did end up playing 28 minutes, but I don’t see why anyone else who should be preventing him from playing 35 min in a rebuilding situation that we have here.
Utah’s shooting 61% here.
The third quarter was the reward for all the hardcore fans who suffered through the first half. Perhaps head coach PJ Carles…err Jay Triano lit a fire up some arses, because it was like a different team out there. After 6 minutes, the score was 74 – 67. Bargnani’s into it as well, actually snatching a rebound over Paul Millsap’s outstretched hands, playing energetic defense, and scoring from all over the court, including deep in the paint. DeMar DeRozan providing secondary offense with acrobatic moves. (Don’t him and Sonny Weems just play better when they’re on the court together? Wish we could see more of that.) It was the kind of stuff you didn’t see even when a certain franchise power forward was part of this team. And to give credit where credit’s due it was one of Bargnani’s greatest stretches of play as a Raptor. It was kind of like what a “best case” scenario version of the Raptors should be, from a team that is already branding itself as a very inconsistent team, not just from game to game, but quarter to quarter. It’s a glimmer of hope in what looks to be a trying season. All this scoring meant that Utah mustered zero fastbreak points in the third, down from 20 from the first half.
Riding some major momentum despite a little 3 point hiccup at the end of the 3rd, the Raps started the 4th with a lineup of Calderon, Barbosa, Weems, Evans and Andersen. The game quickly got out of hand. One of Bargnani, DeRozan or even Jack should be on the floor at any time. Deron Williams finished what he started, and after a very questionable call against him, decided to laugh it off, with a 109 – 93 advantage in hand and time winding down. The Raptors were back to being fun to play against.
Going back to that 3rd quarter, some of it was Utah’s own doing, but sometimes you make you own luck, and the Raps just made things harder for them. It was quite evident. That’s how they beat the Cavs and that’s how they’ll have to play if they want to win their share of games. Maybe when it’s all said and done, Colangelo might even start liking this outlandish concept of defending the basketball.