steph
Raptors 102, Ewww 122 – Box

Luke Harangody. No, he’s not the guy you used to steal lunch money from back in high-school, he’s the guy who dropped a cool 17 points on 8-11 shooting on your Raptors last night. This shoudln’t come as much of a surprise because if the Raptors are great at one thing, it’s letting unheralded no-names have career games against them. Harangody simply saw the opportunity and took advantage of it, he didn’t care that his previous career-high was 4, or that he was a 52nd overall pick (Alabi was 50th), he just told himself, “Gosh darn it Luke, if it’s going to happen for ya, it’s going to happen tonight”. And then he laid the smackdown.

Patience is what I’ve been preaching all year long because this team right now requires that of its supporters, what’s helping me foster that patience within myself is that the overall effort has been fairly decent. Certainly a lot better than the last few years when the likes of Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Kapono took a collective crap on this franchise. Last night in Boston things went in reverse, I’d say this was right up there (or down there?) with the worst effort the Raptors have put forth all season. It’s surprising to see the apparently “road weary” Raptors give up so early against Boston, the East leaders who we have a bit of a rivalry with them, with a chance to get an unlikely split of the season series. I was expecting a lot more from the likes of Amir Johnson who had done some trash-talking in the win against them. When you needed him to neutralize Baby Davis with his energy he was nowhere to be found, his help defense is essential to the team and is the sole reason he is the startling lineup. When he doesn’t deliver on those two fronts, he becomes quite useless. Gotta pick it up, man. Him and Bargnani were a big reason why the rebounding numbers were -12.

Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan’s defense is a consistent problem which when coupled with bad offensive games become too much to overcome, kind of like swimming upstream in a gushing river of shit. First, let’s tackle Bargnani. He was not into it. At all. He should have been the hub of creation for the Raptors given his matchups with Davis and Shaq, instead of he was passive and unproductive. Defensively, he lost Harangody on pretty much every possession in the first half during the stretch when Boston extended their lead to 15 early in the second quarter. The only good defensive play he had was when he denied Shaq post-position to force a three-second all. If you expected him to make up for it on offense, that didn’t happen either – 17 pts on 7-15 shooting, most if it when the game was out of reach. With our two big guns producing next to nothing when it counts, it doesn’t matter how good a game Jose Calderon had or how Linas Kleiza was scoring against Paul Pierce. When 60% of the starting lineup is giving you nothing and you already have a shorthanded bench, you’re not going to beat Boston in Boston. Plain and simple.

Harangody was a key part of a 16-5 run to end the first quarter and, helped by Nate Robinson’s threes, continued the Boston reserves’ strong play into the second to put this out early. Triano got out the zone which was effective for about two possessions before Robinson and Pierce broke it open with threes and slashing drives. A strategy would have been to insert Julian Wright to defend Pierce, but I’m guessing Triano felt that the offense Kleiza was providing was too valuable. However, at halftime Triano spoke of how important it was to step the defense up and that he wasn’t concerned about the offense, if that was the case why play Kleiza 36 minutes and Julian Wright only 13? Doesn’t compute.

Six minutes is how long this game was contested, that’s it. DeRozan had a 7-point burst in the first quarter and Kleiza had his game going, that’s about it. The thing that bugs me in these DeRozan/Allen matchups is that Allen plays DeRozan really tight on the perimeter and DeMar cannot seem to use his first step to get past him. Literally, Allen has got his forearm on DeRozan’s mid-section and there’s nothing the latter can do. On the other end, Allen is a tough cover for anyone but DeRozan seems to be getting stuck a little too long on every screen set against him. Maybe it’s poor overall communication on defense or maybe it’s specific to him, whatever the case it needs fixing if the Raptors want to improve on their defensive ranking. Allowing any team to shoot 57.5% is a disgrace no matter who they are and where they play, such a high FG% speaks to problems that are deep. The Raptors are now giving up a 49.2% FG shooting (worst in the NBA), that number should not come as a surprise given what the defensive qualities of most of our starting lineup.

Jose Calderon (11pts, 9ast, 1reb) again needs to be pointed out for praise, not only did he keep up with Rondo (9pts, 7ast, 4reb), he managed to exploit a hole in Rondo’s game stemming from his tendency to crash the offensive glass. Rondo is notorious for his work on the offensive boards and Calderon did well to make that work against him by transitioning quickly, he also stuck with him on his drives and played the percentages with his jumper. The only complaint I can muster up is that he should’ve closed out Robinson quicker on those second quarter threes, but overall, he was alright. He did have a couple un-Jose like turnovers but I actually welcome those. Kleiza had 17 including a couple nice moves against Pierce, but I wouldn’t say he ever put the defense under pressure (as reflected by his 0 assists) or made Doc Rivers think about anything.

So, at halftime the score was 67-45 with the only Raptors highlight being this Ed Davis dunk. In the second half, Boston went in cruise-control and the Raptors started the third quarter going 8-10. Normally, that would translate to a big slash in the lead but since the defense was so porous, Boston still held on to an 18 point advantage. The obligatory fourth quarter run came which cut the lead to 98-86 courtesy a couple Bargnani scores. Then this happened:

9:11	Leandro Barbosa bad pass
8:41	Leandro Barbosa bad pass
8:04	Andrea Bargnani misses 14-foot two point shot
7:35	Andrea Bargnani misses 17-foot two point shot
7:07	Andrea Bargnani misses 7-foot hook shot
6:41	Leandro Barbosa misses 23-foot three point jumper

And the lead was back up to 23. Boston is a tough team to score against and I was surprised at halftime when Triano said that he didn’t forecast any scoring issues for the Raptors and that his chief concern was defense. To some extent he was right, the Raptors did shoot 50.6%, but that number doesn’t tell the whole story. It’s stretches like the ones above where an offense’s quality should be measured, throwing the ball into a struggling Bargnani only too eager to fade away isn’t the highest percentage shot. Then again, this Raptors team doesn’t have a true go-to player, the closest thing to a double-team threat is Bargnani and last night he wasn’t a big enough threat for Doc Rivers to send another man over, hence the struggles in this key stretch. Barbosa is a hit and miss and he was a miss. That’s his game, it’s not going to change, he is what he is.

Raptors start a three-game home-stand on Sunday against Sacramento and follow it up with games against Atlanta and Detroit. Let’s aim for 2-1. Do witness Marquis Daniels travelling three times on one play and the ref doing nothing about it. Gotta love it. Or you can ponder whether Matt Devlin understands what “stays with him” really means.