Raptors 87, Hawks 100 – Box

To be painfully honest with you folks, if you’re looking for change, a nice long double-digit losing has an interesting way of prompting reaction, even if that’s just from the fan faithful at the moment. On top of that, every loss takes us closer to another potential superstar in the draft. So let’s keep this sucker rolling. The only thing that’s important is that we realize what pieces we want to move forward and develop with. And perhaps as or even more important which pieces –not– to include in your future plan. Players that either don’t have the talent, or do have the talent but not that winning mentality you will absolutely require to even sniff a championship ring. While I’m not sure if Ed Davis, DeMar DeRozan and Amir Johnson, even Jerryd Bayless are the answer, guys like Andrea Bargnani and Sonny Weems are not.

We’re not going to rehash Andrea Bargnani’s shortcomings and deficiencies in tonight’s game, even though he looks increasingly disinvolved as the murmurs are now growing louder and louder as this stretch of remarkably bad play wears on. He has to be aware to some level of the criticism being heaped on him, the lashing visiting commentators and now our own Raptor analysts are giving him. There were stretches where Jack Armstrong was following his movement off the ball on offense. While I’ll say that it’s the sign of a quality analyst to do that, how often have ever seen that? The heat is definitely on. Here’s what he had to say:

I try to do my best. I did my stuff, I was taking open shots, I don’t know, just playing. It definitely wasn’t the greatest game, that was obvious.

Sounds like a guy who was just trying to do his “stuff”, which sounds a lot like “taking open shots”. Guess Jay didn’t send him the memo? Look, he will return to averaging 20+ points on decent shooting percentages, and I really hope people don’t forget that this should change very little in their perception of him, as very passive and unaware player off the ball. The 20 points on middling percentages you can replace somewhat, the lack of a defensive anchor not so much. That’s all the Bargnani talk for tonight, hope you enjoyed it, because it’s kind of sad that we as fans have all pretty much figured it out, but the guys that get paid big bucks to do something about it have apparently not. I guess he’s about to turn into a serviceable big man one of these nights, kicking ass taking names, and we’re all going to eat some humble pie. I would love for that to be true, but sometimes, it is what it is.

The other guy, Weems, has talent, plays too loose for my liking. People assume guys with good atheticism are good defenders, tell Amare Stoudemire that, but a lot of it is good decision making and Weems doesn’t make too many good ones. He does some good things offensively, is more polished that DeRozan at most things, but he’s pretty much living and dying with this shot. If he was a better playmaker I’d be able to live with the freewheeling style, Demar isn’t one yet either, but I’d rather have his steady diet of free throws that is the hallmark of elite scorers in the league. Well, at least Cory Maggette in his prime, is that so bad?

A little nugget Jay Triano laid on reporters after the game:

When he caught the ball in the low block he shot over top of us, when we tried to bring someone else or collapse a little bit, he picked us apart with guys spreading the floor and hitting threes

Well, Atlanta’s shooting well above 50% and with Joe Johnson dominating, you’ve got to give Julian Wright more than 12 minutes. It slows down Johnson, allows them to play Johnson straight up and DeRozan probably gets more touches because Weems isn’t there. It’s a win-win, but for some reason the coaching staff feels the need for offense from practically every possession. There’s only one ball, I think every decent team can afford to have a guy that’s a void on offense, like Reggie Evans was. But Wright isn’t, he actually a pretty good ballhandler that isn’t a ball-stopper. Guys like that actually keep your offense flowing smoothly. Behind every bucket is usually a good basketball play. Then you have the cliche that defense creates offense. Behind every good run is some good defence, and there’s very few small forwards in this league that Wright could not stay with for 20-25 minutes.

What Atlanta does so well against the Raptors is that is fully takes advantage of the Raptors strategy to switch at every opportunity. Why not just put Calderon on Horford to start off with, because even the most harmless pick will produce the same matchup anyway? A big, usually Barganani, gets caught on the perimeter far too often and then the token double comes in and then it’s just a matter of making the right pass or two for Atlanta to get an open three. Don’t these guys know how to fight through screens?

Have to give Amir Johnson some recognition tonight. Only real bright spot, it was good to see him get 40 minutes, scoring a chunk of points off offensive boards. Seems like every night he has one play where he hurts himself because he’s going 100%, hurling his slight, aching frame at the ball. If playing with this guy doesn’t inspire others to play with the same passion, I don’t know what will.

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