T’Wolves hardly challenge as Raptors aim for a 8-4 month

Minnsesota Timberwolves 85, Toronto Raptors 107

A nice evening for the Raptors, not too much effort expended in an easy win over the Timberwolves which takes us to 8 games over .500. February’s almost over, a home win against Indiana will put us at 33-24 and we’ll end up going 8-4 for the month instead of the earlier anticipated 9-3. The Orlando win offset the Clippers loss but it’s the breakdown in NY that’s going to stop this month from being an ideal one. Even so, we’ve put enough space between us and the .500 mark that even if we struggle in the tough month of March, we’ll have a chance to secure home-court advantage in the first round. And with Orlando’s easy schedule and Cleveland bulking up, it’s all you can hope for.

Before we get to the game (and there’s hardly much to talk about), there’s news that the Celtics have signed PJ Brown for the remainder of the year. It’s a nice pickup for the Celtics and a signing that will pay dividends come playoff time, this is the third key pickup for Boston aside from the Big 3. The key signings of James Posey and Eddie House went almost undetected when they happened but they’ve been a big part of Boston’s success. PJ Brown will add a gritty inside presence and a reliable mid-range jumper, it’s something that’ll fit in Boston. Primoz Brezec looks to be an entertaining pickup that also happens to hit the boards and I’m glad to have him, but if we’re playing rent-a-rebounder, a proven veteran like Brown would’ve also been sweet.

A possible second round matchup took place tonight between Boston and Cleveland (I’ll get to our game soon, don’t worry) and the Celtics controlled the proceedings and maintained a comfortable margin throughout the game. Cleveland looks to have failed their first real test and immediately one tries to look at it from a Raptors perspective and ask the question, can we beat Cleveland in a 7-game series? The logical consensus is a ‘no’, we’re 5-10 against Cleveland in the LBJ/Bosh era but have always managed to play them tight. If you go along with the “let Lebron go off and contain everybody else” philosophy, you notice that there’s not anybody else who can really threaten you offensively. Wally Szczerbiak and Joe Smith will be battling to be #2 on that team, that’s not exactly great. Their advantage against us lies in their rebounding line of Ilgauskas, Wallace and Varejao and if we’re able to play even on the boards through a strategy as simple as pulling their big men out of the paint, we might have a fighting chance. It depends entirely on how well we shoot the ball and box-out on the defensive boards. It’s quite a tall-order and the odds are stacked against us but we’re capable of the task if we get scoring from Bargnani and strong defensive efforts from Brezec/Rasho/Hump. Am I thinking like a homer? Probably.

Back to the game at hand. For the second straight game we managed to outrebound our opponent on both the offensive and defensive glass. Bosh met with little resistance en route to his 28/7 (why he played a game-high 41 minutes in a blowout is mind-blogging) and TJ Ford was stellar again with 16 points. Bargnani had some nice drives to the rim and Kapono found the stroke (from 2-pt range) to ice this one in the third. The T’Wolves started well enough but the effort they exerted in building their early 10 point lead was far too great to sustain and they fizzled gradually starting from midway through the first quarter all the way to the end. Towards the end you felt sorry for the hard-working Al Jefferson and the situation he’s in, a poor salary situation and a GM who often mistakes mediocrity for talent. Minnesota’s not exactly a hot spot for NBA players and Garnett was the reason anybody signed there as a free agent, they’re well on their way to being as obscure as they were before KG came to town.

You’re probably heard about TJ ‘s comments that Jose should start the rest of the season; here they are in case you haven’t:

“I think Jose is doing a good job as a starter, he should continue to start probably for the rest of the year. I don’t think starting is a big deal to me, I just want to get out and help the team win, and at the end of the day it’s all about wins and losses.”

The reason I bring this up is that there’s a general perception that TJ Ford is a selfish player who looks for his shot first before anything else. That he is easily upset when things aren’t going right for him and tends to jack it up and singlehandedly carry the team. Calderon is obviously a very nice guy (I mean, the guy used to end hsi blogs by saying ‘hugs and kisses’) and people view him as being the ultimate team player which he very well might be. However, that does not mean that TJ isn’t. Sometimes his high shot count is interpreted as being selfish and to the detriment of the team. The problem with that line of thinking is that if TJ doesn’t do that, he’s not going to be nearly as effective. Part of his shtick is to score on opposing PGs via a short jumper so that they’re forced to come out and defend him, that way he can use the real advantage of quickness to create for his teammates. A TJ who’s not making his mid-range jumper is a TJ that’s ineffective. That’s why I’m of the belief that he needs to get his shot going, before his injury he was nailing everything in the 14-17ft range and over the last couple games it’s clear that he’s on his way to regaining that form. Ultimately, Ford like Calderon, will be happy if the team is winning. They’re both fierce competitors that take a lot of pride in their game but want to be measured by wins and losses.

Once the off-season arrives, one of them may very well end up being traded to tend to some other need. If it’s agreeable and financially feasible, there’s no harm in having both PGs stay put, in the Eastern conference, the PG spot still remains the position where this club will have an advantage every single night. Bryan Colangelo in a Fan 590 interview gave all the reasons why this team is still pretty good and firmly believes in Bargnani’s game and attributes his struggles to injury et al. If you want to hear the interview with Chuck and BC sounding like chipmunks, go ahead:

His assessment of the Cavalier trade isn’t that great.

The T’Wolves coming off a back-to-back didn’t give us anything interesting to talk about. If you missed the game, check out Eric Smiths’ blog, he’s got a nice little recap of the game. This game was so boring that even Raptors Talk is at a loss for words. Top Rap? Hmmm….let’s give it to Jamario Moon who ran the floor well enough and only took two bad jumpers, making one of them. Indiana on Friday should be similar and then things get very interesting in March where we have a stretch of 8 out of 10 games on the road. That’ll tell us just exactly how good this team is and what we can expect in the playoffs.

On the subway coming home from work I saw this young couple getting so excited to watch the Raptors. I hoped it’d be an exciting game so they’d get their moneys worth. Poor bastards.

Till tomorrow.


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