There was probably a sense of inevitability about Sunday’s game and really nobody should be disappointed in losing to one of the hottest teams in NBA history. But it’s the way they lost that really makes your head shake.
Despite letting Miami toy with 60% shooting for most of the game and shooting around 40% themselves, the Raptors were actually in this game at the start of the 4th quarter. Great offensive rebounding and a stellar 3rd quarter by Gay/DeRozan had them at evens early in the final quarter.
So what happens? Ray Allen happens, with no Lebron and no Chris Bosh on the floor. Ray Allen happens, early in the shot clock with hardly any ball movement from Miami. It was like, dribble, dribble, dribble, Raptors collapse, kick it out to Ray-Ray. Rinse and repeat.
It just doesn’t make a sense why a wing on the weak side near the three-point line needs to hop over and join the fun. Especially when Ray Allen is your mark. If you’re a wing, you aren’t going to defend anything. Maybe if you’re close to the rim already you can rotate and take a charge. But out there, just stay with Ray Allen would ya? Thanks. Maybe next year.
Another frustrating thing regarding X’s and O’s. The zone defense is a bend-don’t-break type of strategy. It was working against the Heat. This is basketball, teams score about 100 points every game, so just because they score a few times on the zone, doesn’t mean you should abandon it. It’s an effective defense against the Heat and it would be amazing to see a team play it all game against them. With a little extra attention paid to Ray Allen, of course.
By the time he hit three in a span of a couple of minutes, he was on auto-pilot and even the semi-contests did little to deter him. By the time Lebron checked back in, the game was already out of hand, but Lebron fed the fire one more time to really drive the final nail in the coffin.
The key to Miami’s streak has been a couple of things. Most importantly, it’s Dwyane Wade’s health. He’s playing like the old Wade and that makes him a top 5 player in this league. Second is Lebron James’ perimeter shooting, which was his one non-elite skill and what’s so scary is that he’s hitting three’s and the shot looks better than it ever has. It used to have a more line-drive quality to it, not so much now. Obviously the bench has been bolstered with the addition of Ray Allen and that helps win games in the regular season more than anything.
Onto some positives about our team.
Jonas Valuciunas had an eye-opening game. His buckets were mainly in post-up situations and they were clearly defined moves. The best one was where he decided he was going to go over Chris Bosh and executed it perfectly. That’s the encouraging part, where the defender knows exactly what you want to do and still can’t stop you. That’s NBA ability.
Terrence Ross has started to show a couple of nice things every game. Especially the drive and dish skills. One starts to wonder that his very timid personality has held back his game. He has a deceptively quick first step and gets to the rim in a hurry.
Rudy Gay’s talent can be summed up like this: He can make Lebron James look bad.
Problem is, he’s very good at making himself look bad, too. Just imagine this guy being coached by Popovich/Jackson type. He’d be a top 10 player in this league.
Right now though, Amir Johnson is the best player on this team. This will get repeated over and over until everyone understands, although the bandwagon is filling up recently. Elite defender, with some elite rebounding recently and starting to show flashes of an effective face-up offensive game. He’s actually still getting better as he continues to fill out his frame.
Lowry had a bad game, and it’s hard to understand why the media and coaches are so tough on the kid. He’s still an above-average point guard and he’s shown a willingness to become less selfish this year, which is commendable.
We all love his work ethic, but it would be interesting to see a lineup of Lowry, Ross, Gay, Johnson and Valunciunas play together for extended minutes. That’s a lot of athleticism and talent right there. Unrefined, but talent nonetheless.
Only way to find out if Colangelo’s gamble of talent turning to into effective basketball players will actually pay off this time.