Raptors 100, Spurs 111 – Box

Ok, so the Raptors shoot 50%, DeMar DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani combine for 54 points on a combined 23-38 shooting. Sounds like all the right ingredients for a rare Raptor victory. Not really. And people think offense is still the issue. At least it was an entertaining game for the first 3 quarters. Then we saw DeJuan Blair score 16 points in the 4th quarter basically off one of three scenarios:

a) Duncan sets pick for Spurs guard, Raptors automatically switch, but Raptor guard not fully committed to marking Duncan, while Raptor guard procrastinates, Spurs guard, undisturbed, finds an open Duncan. Amir leaves his man Blair, chooses between the lesser of two evils and rushes to cover a future Hall of Famer in the low post. Duncan finds Blair for a gimme.

b) Same as a) but Blair sets the pick, gets the ball and easily scores over guard who has switched over because he doesn’t have to worry about help coming over, because that person would probably have to be Andrea Bargnani, who’s more concerned with boxing his man out than contesting the impending layup, so he just takes it in himself. But damn was it a great box out by Andrea, just the stuff of legend.

c) Blair grabs offensive rebound and scores easily

DeJuan Blair is the antithesis of Andrea Bargnani. He was drafted pretty low. He’s not exactly the prototypical center, he gives away pretty much 4, 5 inches every night to his opponent, but he plays the position exactly the way its supposed to be played. He anchors the defense (although having Tim Duncan definitely helps out in that regard) and he rebounds the snot out of the ball. The three offensive rebounds he had at the end of the game pretty much sealed the win for the Spurs. He got those in the span of one minute, Bargnani couldn’t manage 3 rebounds of any kind in 38 minutes of play. I don’t care that he scored 29 points. I really don’t with that kind of rebounding futility. It wont win you basketball games. Don’t tell me it’s because Bargnani plays on the outside, because Kevin Love takes just as many threes but has still found a way to average 15 rebounds a game. Offensively, I do give him credit for taking it to the bucket and finally stop chucking like he has been for the last dozen or so games. At least he showed effort on one end of the floor for this game.

I know it’s the Spurs, but some of the stuff we saw this game and pretty much all season on the defensive end, are avoidable. Kind of like unforced errors in tennis. But when your coach is a softie who can’t hold players accountable and has not gotten his team to play half as hard on the defensive end than the Sam Mitchell-coached teams did, then these will continue to pile up. Not fighting through screens, not hedging with purpose, not making simple rotations, not rebounding. Look, we can all admit that Smitch wasn’t a basketball genius, but even he knew how important these simple concepts were to winning games. I mean 58% shooting for the game, come on. Especially in our fair city who loves their blue-collar lunch pail athletes like no other. After watching another great clip of Jay Triano commanding his troops in the huddle, I don’t know, if I’m a player in that huddle and Jays barking instructions at me, Id have this irresistable urge to just blurt out: “I’m just not convinced, Jay.”

He doesn’t have it, Triano, that leadership quality that most NBA coaches have and he will probably stick around for a lot longer than he should be, because Colangelo desperately needs a yes-man at the position. Thats the only way he can control the on-court product in a way that would justify his decisions. I know the GM and coach should communicate, but when it’s this blatant, it smells like a major conflict of interest. There’s plenty of situations where a coach doesn’t think a new player has what it takes to help the team and the GM accepts it. The GM is obviously holds more of a bias towards his player, and the coach offers a more objective analysis of said player.

We could scream until we’re blue in the face about this shady stuff, but its been going on for a couple of years now, so lets just accept this franchise for what it has become and end with a couple positives.

Amir Johnson has clearly established himself as the best player on this team. He’s a warrior, a gamechanger defensively, and his offense is starting to bloom, no doubt due to countless reps on his long-range shot. There was one play where Duncan came out of a newfound respect for Amir’s jumper, and Johnson just drove the ball right at him and finished it off with a turnaround hook. Expect more of that in the very near future.

Leandro Barbosa was unstoppable off the bounce as he has been all season. He may fetch something decent if a contender decides to deal for him.

DeMar DeRozan is starting to nail that jumper, but the 4 assists are more noteworthy. If he can score and distribute, I think we would all be willing to wait on his 3-pointer.

Waiting and more waiting, us Raptor fans are getting pretty good at that, aren’t we? Like they say, practice makes perfect.

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