TJ Ford’s having a big impact

Toronto Raptors 105, Minnesota Timberwolves 82

About a decade ago when Tim Hardaway and the Miami Heat were one of the best road teams in the NBA, he was asked the question where they’d rather play Game 7 of a series. Hardaway responded that it would be better if it were on the road, that way the entire team would be more focused and wouldn’t be distracted by all the elements of home games. Although Hardaway’s comments were most likely insincere, they do carry some weight and some of what he’s talking about can be seen in the Raptors play. The Raps have blown games at home and away but one thing that is unquestionable is that they’ve always played with better energy, focus and intelligence on the road. For whatever reason they’re a team that seems to have trouble getting motivated for home games and play with a higher level of energy when on the road. This is reflected in our 14-10 home and 13-12 away record which bucks the trend of teams being considerably more successful at home.

The opponent tonight wasn’t a barometer of any sort. A win in Minneapolis is a surety for any team but at least we can be thankful that we didn’t have another letdown. However, we’ve seen this movie before: after we lost to Philly, we beat Boston, after we lost to Phoenix, we beat the Spurs, after we lost to Boston, we beat Houston, after we….you get the point. We have a good record in bounce-back games this year but we’re struggling to find the consistency that might give us a chance of finishing the season as a favorite in a first-round playoff series. Either we have to hope that the current unit can simply play better and makeup for our defensive deficiencies or we have to be active in the trade market. Only time will tell what will transpire, my money’s on nothing happening.

It was nice to see Bosh actually pay attention to Sam’s post-game quotes from Friday by addressing the complacency issue and coming out playing with a purpose:

“We can’t just show up and expect to win. Sometimes you look at some teams’ records and you just think you are going to show up and get crowned the winner. It doesn’t work like that.”

Minnesota just doesn’t have any weapons that are threatening enough, all we did was send doubles at Al Jefferson who didn’t get any help from his team. At least two other guys on the T’wolves needed to have 18+ games for them to even have a shot in this one and the best somebody other than Big Al could muster was Marco Jaric with 11. Jaric – who has no reason to give a shit because he’s already won the championship of life – got his points in the first quarter and was rarely heard from again. We did a good job of crowding Jefferson and forcing Sebastian Telfair and Randy Foye to beat us via the jumpshot, neither of them are good shooters and shot a combined 6-20 contributing to Minnesota’s 41% performance. The offense didn’t need to be that great today bit it was anyway, Calderon was hot early and Bargnani headlined five players in double figures and two with eight. It was like taking candy from a dead cat.

Any praise that is given tonight should be scaled down by half just because we were playing the worst team in the league, with that being said it’s appropriate to give Jamario Moon some credit. I thought he had a bad game against the Clippers but bounced back nicely and passed up chances to test his broker jumper in favor of either a drive or a pass. All of the shots in his 4-4 FG performance were high percentage dunks or layups which is the only place he should be getting his offense from. Uncorking 20 footers isn’t his thing no matter how open he is, especially when you have a quick first step his. Yeah, he only had 1 rebound which is somewhat pathetic but let’s look past that seeing how the rebounding didn’t come to bite us.

TJ Ford seems to have a great on-court relationship with Rasho Nesterovic, TJ has always looks to get Rasho shots, whether it be through “drive and dumps” or zipping passes right down the key, TJ understands the value of Rasho’s finishing ability and always looks to get him involved. It’s not a coincidence that Rasho’s decline of late coincided with TJ’s absence. The same can be said about Kapono who lives of TJ’s creativity which happens to be far superior to Jose Calderon’s. The best part about TJ tonight was that he only took 6 shots and most of them came in garbage time, he took his first shot in the third quarter and was actively looking to get others involved. Maybe sitting on the bench has given him a chance to look at the team and realize that shooting must always be secondary to a point guard of his quickness and creativity. A great controlled performance by Ford who’s starting to look like he never missed a beat. 22 points, 23 assists from Forderon including 13 assists in 22 minutes by TJ. I’m liking TJ coming off the bench right now because of his ability to get Kapono/Rasho shots, don’t know when Sam will decide to pull the switch.

A meaningful test against the Spurs is next, let’s see if our record against the top-tier teams changes for the better. For now we have a win against a bad, bad team. Celebrate at your own discretion.


* Humphries’ parents were in the stands which deserved 8 minutes of playing time: 1-5 FG, 4 points, 2 rebounds. Not bad.

* Atta boy Bargs!!!!! 16 points, 6 rebounds. Aggressive drives, effective ball-fakes, confident decisions, sweet stroke: Keep it up!

* Instead of folding in the third quarter like we did against LA, we blew them out.

* Jason Kapono went 6-10 FG, life is good when you’re on the floor with a PG that demands so much attention from all the players on the court that it makes getting open so much easier.

* Rob Babcock had the wisdom to pass over Gerald Green twice. I honestly believe that he didn’t screw up the Vince Carter deal although emotion at the time made me think otherwise. He acquired expiring contracts and gave Colangelo operating room for the future. His biggest fuck-up wasn’t the Carter deal, it was drafting Hoffa.

* Getting very tired of Chucks’ homerism. I know this subject has been beaten to death but it continues to haunt Raptors broadcasts. Listening to the radio doesn’t work because of the sound delay.

* This was one boring ass game to watch.

* TJ Ford is The Top Rap.

Grab the feed if you use an RSS reader. Till tomorrow.

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