Looking at a halftime scoreline of 66-54 in favor of the Raptors, two things pop into my mind. Scoring 66 points and shooting 70% is great but conceding 54 points to the Clippers at home doesn’t say much about the strength of the Raptors defense. Besides that instance of the glass being half-empty, the Raptors were operating at peak efficiency on the offensive end and came up with enough run-stopping offensive possessions and defensive rebounds to hold-off the Clippers. Couple this with Tyrone Lue burning the Nets in overtime and the Raptors have a three game lead in the Atlantic.
Life is good if you’re a Raptors supporter and all this positive talk is making me dizzy, Chuck Swirsky believes the combination of TJ Ford/Jose Calderon is the best PG duo in the league; Jack Armstrong agrees to the statement but suggests the domain be the Eastern Conference. I agree with the latter. There is literally no drop-off when Ford and Calderon substitute each other at any point in the game and both have shown that when playing within their games, they have the ability to quarterback the team to productive offensive sets. Although Sam Mitchell’s sets don’t fool anyone, they provide enough leeway for Ford and Calderon to create on their own. Not too sure if that’s a compliment or insult to Mitchell who is pleasantly and cautiously riding the high.
No matter how big the Raptors lead gets at times, I still can’t get comfortable with it, especially today when official Raptor killer Sam Cassell was doing his best in the second half to keep the Clippers in it. Cassell twice hit big threes to prevent the Raptors from blowing the game out but in the end it wasn’t enough as the Clippers only came as close as 8 points throughout the second half. The Raptors aren’t a difficult team to score on and the Clippers proved it today getting their points with relative ease throughout the game, if only they could play any defense, maybe they had a chance. If the Raptors sure up their perimeter defense and become a better defensive rebounding team (Brand/Kaman killed them), they’ll be a legitimate playoff contender.
Chris Bosh (27/7/4) further justified his All-Star game starting status with a professional effort which made Elton Brand play defense throughout the game, taking much away from Brand’s offensive arsenal. Mo Peterson and TJ Ford came off the bench to combine for 35 points and the trend of six Raptor players scoring in double figures continued. Andrea Bargnani chipped in with a very unforced eight points. Balanced scoring is a true measure of how well the the team plays as a unit and the Raptors’ multiple offensive threats are taking teams by surprise, especially Jose Calderon and Anthony Parker. Team’s haven’t figured out that Calderon loves to drive off the pick and continue to give him the space that makes him dangerous. Meanwhile, Anthony Parker continues to enjoy open threes as the Clippers keep pulling his man off him in the double-team rotations.
Jorge Garbajosa had his first good game in ages. Garbajosa’s jumper looked less of a chip-shot out of the bunker and more of a basketball shot; Garbo hit four straight threes and played uncompromising defense on the quicker Mobley and Maggette. He literally looked like he was wearing wooden shoes for the past few weeks when his jumper had no lift and no chance of going in. Hopefully for the Raps, this is a sign of him coming out of his funk. Shaun Livingston exposed TJ Ford early by posting him up but I was surprised that the Clippers never exploited that matchup later on in the game, especially during the fourth quarter.
Toronto was never challenged on the offensive end and that was the Clippers demise. Maybe it’s the early start time that bothers the West coast teams on Sundays but that can’t possibly account for the pathetic defensive performance of the Clippers. The one guy I thought who would have a huge game, Chris Kaman, went 1-10 and never looked like he was interested in throwing his weight around. An absolutely horrible game from Kaman.
Caught a bit of this game on the radio too and it really must be pointed out what a horrible, horrible job Paul Jones does as a play-by-play guy. If I have some time, I’ll tape the game and select some of the stuff this guy says. It sounds completely out of whack to the point of being inappropriate. I mean, he was a player, how many players do you see as play-by-play men on NBA teams? I count zero. One of the things I suggest to Paul is to stop trying to be like a highlight-reel guy and just call the game in a monotonous voice, at least that way he’ll be doing something original and not acting like a cheap imitation of Marv Albert. Also, what the hell does “dances with the dribble” mean? This subject will probably be addressed further in a future post.
Life is good, Raptors are three games up in the division.
Here are the highlights of the game courtesy of Chasin from RealGM:
TJ Ford/Jose Calderon