I knew it was coming the whole time. I’m not claiming clairvoyance, and it’s not because I think the Raptors are terrible. It’s because I know that the Warriors are nothing close to as terrible as they were for the first 30 minutes. Even though the Raps were up double digits all game, the way the Warriors were randomly fouling, mailing in defence (even for them) and turning over the ball with such dedicated purpose made me nervous. It had hustle written all over it. I couldn’t get the image of Woody Harrelson awkwardly warming up on the side as Wesley Snipes pretends to be furious about getting stuck with him as a teammate in a money game. The classic hustle that the plotline of White Men Can’t Jump revolves around. The Warriors were hustling us, and the 3-point barrage comeback was always going to happen.
Now, while the Warriors get a ton of credit for pouring it on the way that they did, they got a lot of help getting back in this game. A LOT of help. At some point during the Warriors frenzied comeback, the Raptors went from running a team offence and pretending to play disciplined defence to quite simply emptying their collective metaphorical bowels all over the court and then throwing it.
As I see it, I have only two choices as to how to respond to a 27 3rd quarter lead turning into a 9-point loss in that fashion. I can do what one of the characters from White Men Can’t Jump did when he got hustled like that, and go get a gun out of my car, or I can respond with a series of increasingly snarky remarks. Being that I’m a Canadian and thus do not own a gun, I will go with door number 2, and hurl criticism and sarcasm from behind the sanctity of my ivory tower. What follows is a list of increasingly snarky observations breaking down last night’s collapse.
- The Raptors big men hedging on pick and roll defence is abhorrent. Often times last night it ended up being Hansbrough or Novak running up out of an acknowledgment to a team defensive rule to block the ball handler from going around the pick, but not far enough to actually slow the ball handler down. The wing player then simply follows the ball handler instead of fighting through the pick or hedging out to stop the ball handler from going against the pick. What results is so terrible it’s almost beautiful, as they double team the ball handlers heels while both he and the roll man move unimpeded to the basket or pull up from 8 feet. Pick and roll defence can get worse than this, but it involves literally lying down.
- So does this mean that the Pacific division is better than the Atlantic division then?
- This is Lawrence Frank’s fault. By the way, you know how you can tell that Jason Kidd is still stuck in a player’s mentality instead of a coach’s one? Because he blamed the coach for the Brooklyn Nets bafflingly bad start. The only problem is that he’s the head coach. I’ve heard of star players having personal ego-driven battles with the coaching staff before; it happens all the time. But this is the first time I can ever remember a head coach having an ego battle with the coaching staff. So the assistant coach Lawrence Frank takes the hit. Because it’s just like everyone always never says, this team’s struggles are totally the assistant coach’s fault.
- Why is Tyler Hansbrough starting? Did Casey see that Mark Jackson was starting a white frontcourt pair and feel obligated as a guest in someone else’s home to politely match as some rule of etiquette? Hansbrough works hard, I get it. As I said earlier this season, he’s Tyler ‘The Big Effort’ Hansbrough. But he’s a gift for the defensively anemic David Lee. Worse still, he doesn’t fit well as a starting five-role player because he isn’t a great screener and, more problematically, he wants to shoot and he thinks he can score. On a bench unit without a dynamic creator or offensive team system, it’s not such a big deal for someone to take a bad shot just because they want it. But taking those shots is how you end up on the bench unit (Rudy Gay notwithstanding). Wasted minutes.
- David Lee defensive stink has gotten all over Andrew Bogut. He got burned over and over again on individual defence. Jonas shot it over him and beat him off the dribble. Amir shot it over him and beat him in the post. Then, as the final insult, Jermaine O’Neal proved to be MUCH better than Andrew Bogut. (Please don’t tell Andrew Bogut I said that, he’s really big. Also, I just watched the Malice at the Palace clip for the thousandth time; please don’t tell Jermaine O’Neal that I said that either.)
- Is Landry Fields hurt or just benched? LANDRY FIELDS SIGHTING! Casey didn’t let him actually play at all, but he did get subbed in long enough for me to notice that he just got a fresh haircut and for Devlin and Rautins to mention on TV how he’s been benched lately. As soon as the announcing crew has a chance to bring this up, Casey immediately pulls Landry out of the game. I’m 100% convinced that Casey orchestrated this entire sequence just to get Landry called out on national TV for being benched. EPIC TROLL!
- This is the part of the post where multiple people get their motivation for commenting about how all anyone on the internet ever does is talk about how great Amir is. But him subbing in for Hansbrough is like the difference between a car running with and without oil. Amir isn’t the engine for the offensive vehicle, but it doesn’t run well without him. The difference on his screens alone is staggering. He knows where to space himself to help open up the lane and stay out of the way when wings are driving. Maybe it’s just that Hansbrough hasn’t played enough with the starters to know his role and spacing. I get that everyone loves Hansbrough. He’s Toronto loves nothing more than gritty big-effort wingers who throw around their bodies, have attitude, heart and work in the corners. It makes sense that the same would carry over to basketball and the Raptors. I respect the effort level, but there is a marked difference between hockey and basketball.
- Here are a few relics of optimism and positive feedback that I had written in my notes during the first half:“Remember that time when Jonas Valanciunas made Andrew Bogut his son? Jonas is abusing and embarrassing Andrew Bogut repeatedly.
I love DeMar DeRozan, 3-point shooter. Motion is smooth, his body is so much better set and he fires with confidence.
Amir Johnson has quickly matched his per game statistical output by halftime, despite not starting. It’s almost as if David Lee was just begging for someone to exploit him this whole time.
Raptors are generating ball movement on at least some regular possessions. This continues to open up good shots and seems like it might actually catch on.”
Haha, remember when we thought things like that? Before the dark times.
- Raps shot 60% from the floor in the first half. I don’t care how good you are; you need help from the other team to get there.
- Earlier last night I went and saw Thor 2: The Dark World, wherein the bad guys waited 5000 years to hatch their plan to use a mystical power called ‘the ether’ to turn the whole universe into a black nothingness. The Raptors got the job done in 12 minutes.
- Novak, DeRozan and Hansbrough getting BURNED in the 4th quarter comeback because of course those are the defenders you want on the floor guarding 3 all-star caliber offensive players with the game on the line.
- Steve Novak defence = Basketball shadenfruede.
- Klay Thompson missed two three pointers in the third quarter, so naturally, THERE IS NO NEED TO EVER COVER HIM AGAIN BECAUSE HE CAN’T HIT ANYTHING.
- Raptors made a habit of forcing awful nervous shots before they even lost the lead. Letting shot clocks evaporate like a bad football coach running three straight plays up the gut with 3 minutes left on the clock up 3.
- The following conversation took place between the 5 and 2 minute mark of the 4th quarter:
Toronto Raptors: Hey Andrew, remember when you said in the pre-season that the bottom of the league was too terrible and that we were too competitive to be able to tank?
Me: Yeah, I re—Toronto Raptors: DON’T EVER TELL US WHAT WE CAN’T DO!!!
- Leo Rautins interviewed David Lee instead of a Raptors player after the game, which is too bad, because the TV coverage missed the Raptors turning to the Golden State crowd, bowing, and proclaiming “The Aristocrats!”