All Good Till the Thunder Went on a 24-0 Run

That run just ended.

Raptors 75, Thunder 91 – Box

I’ll be honest. I had PVR’d this game and started watching about two hours in when I accidentally hit this button:

And what do I see right after?

Now, if this were game #6 of a promising season, I’d rewind, watch the whole game and report on it. As it stands, this was game #57 in a 66 game season, and the Raptors happen to the fourth worst team in the East, and 7th worst in the NBA, so forgive me if I just decided to watch bits and pieces of this one. BTW, those rankings are actually an improvement over last year’s 2nd and 3rd worst, respectively.

It was expected to be a blowout and a blowout it was, how that blowout happened is hardly of research interest. The spectacular stat in this one has to be the 24-0 run the Thunder went on between the third and fourth quarters. Yes, 24-0. Despite the Raptors never leading in the game, this was a close one throughout thanks to a great performance by Jose Calderon (who always seems to do well against the elite PGs), before the run put the contest to bed fast!

Sure, the Thunder did their thing on offense, but what didn’t help is the Raptors staying completely on the perimeter during this stretch. They took eight jumpers and turned the ball over seven times in 8:21. A three point deficit had turned into a 17-point hole and with that the battle was lost.

To the positives then, here’s Jose Calderon’s shot-chart (8-12 FG, 19 pts, 6 ast):

A great game by Jose which went to waste, much like his entire career. The scale isn’t the same, but he’s really like the Raptors’ Roy Halladay. A guy who deserves to be on a better team, has never complained about anything (the contract helps, yes), and does his professional duty to the best of his ability. Isn’t it time the Raptors gave him a chance to achieve something? I’ve said this before and here goes again: I cannot understand what he’s doing on the Raptors roster, and nobody has been able to explain to me either. Instead of cashing in on him for a pick or another younger player, we’ve seemingly decided to let his $10.5M come off the books next year. I’d actually be excited about that if only there was someone we could give that money to.

The bad news tonight was regarding Andrea Bargnani who tweaked his calf again, and left right before halftime, taking the Raptors’ chancing of winning this one along with him. He was having one of those games which his critics might appreciate, one where his offensive game wasn’t sparkling, but where he was still grinding his way through. He was rebounding, getting to the line, and making the Thunder and Perkins have a think about him.

I don’t want to read too much into individual games anymore, especially Bargnani’s, because if you drew a scatter plot of his performances, they’d end up looking like a Jackson Pollock piece:

His evaluation will occur at the end of the season, and the time he missed due to injury will be factored into the overall grade. Whether someone can stay healthy is a massive part of whether they can contribute to the team. He missed 16 games last year and could miss 30+ this year, so yeah…something to think about. Still, it’s worth pointing out that he’s been better this year and here’s exactly how:

Season PER TS% eFG% ORB% DRB% TRB% AST% BLK% USG% ORtg DRtg WS/48
2010-11 16.4 .533 .480 3.6 13.9 8.6 8.8 1.5 28.1 105 115 .053
2011-12 17.7 .537 .468 2.7 16.6 9.7 11.5 1.1 28.8 103 106 .097
Career 14.6 .539 .493 3.7 15.4 9.6 7.1 2.3 24.1 104 111 .063
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 4/8/2012.

There’s improvement practically everywhere, but these are not “breakthrough” numbers that the Raptors commentators might have you believe, these are merely improvements. Another argument, and often heard in the local media, is that he would’ve had a breakthrough year if he hadn’t been injured. Problem with that thought is the use of the word if. Whenever that word is used, the conservative alternative usually makes sense, and so it does here again.

Kudos to the Raptors for their effort which has been the saving grace of the season. What used to be listless blowouts under Triano have turned into either respectable defeats, or outings where they’ve hung around long enough for the miserable, suffering fan to say, “Hmm, I guess that’s better, or an improvement at least…let’s see what else is on TV”. There’s been an element of twist lately with James Johnson being in the doghouse, being release from it only to violate doghouse parole, hauled back into it with a misdemeanor charge of dogging it, and then subsequently given 28 minutes where he clocked a 2-11.

The problem here is twofold: 1) James Johnson can’t shoot, 2) James Johnson shoots.

The guy has never been more than a scrub getting playing time on a bad team. If you ever felt that he’d turn into a “core” piece, I’m sorry, but that’s just sheer delusion caused by watching too much Raptors basketball. He can play defense when he wants to, much like Jamario Moon used to, which hardly makes him anything special. And where Moon had that shit-faced grin, Johnson has something equally annoying: the incredulous “I’m somebody you’ve heard of” look.

The Raptors also had someone Juston Dentmon on the bench again, a point guard signed to a 10-day contract on Friday. Late in every season the Raptors usually hold a scrub convention where they bring in the dregs from the country, and where keynote speakers have included but hardly limited to Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Linton Johnston, Primoz Brezec, and Quincy Douby. There’s always one of these guys that will have a good game and fans will actually contemplate making them part of that “core” which never quite seems to form. It’s madness, really. This year we’ve had three intakes: Ben Uzoh, Juston Dentmon, and Alan Anderson, and so far nobody has been anointed as someone who could be “part of the future”. Not even Alan Anderson after he scored seven points against the Magic. Wait for it, though, I’m sure one of these guys will score 15 points and Colangelo will talk of him as someone with promising potential, waiting to be mined but for youth.

If you live in Tank City or not, last night would was sweet for about two and a half quarters.

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