Before we get to the game let’s talk about TSN2 airing 23 Raptors game this year. This stinks of a fat suit in MLSE and a fatter suit at TSN wondering how to make more money and their greed eventually leading them to each other. The cash of course comes at the expense of the middle-class fan who is forced to buy yet another specialty channel just to catch their home team’s games in a city where cable channels are running reruns of Seinfeld and Family Guy in primetime. Is the new VR still around? How about OMNI? Couldn’t MLSE have chosen to air these games on one of those local channels? After all they still produce the games, its just a question of who airs them. But asking MLSE to take a hit for the fans is something that’s never happened and expecting them to offload games to regular cable channels would be too much of a sacrifice. Remember, this is happening in a year where the average season ticket went up a whopping 17% making it top 3 in the league. Am I shocked by this? Actually, I kind of am. I thought having an entire channel dedicated to the team would be enough to air all the games the normal cable channels couldn’t handle but hey, MLSE, O’Neal and Bosh need to get paid.
To the game now and thanks to DG for hooking me up with some awesome, awesome seats. Section 107, Row 24, I usually find that watching the game on TV allows me to analyze and understand it better but having an unobstructed view from seats this close completely changed my view – if you want to watch an NBA game spend some money and get up-close. Check out some of the pics I took.
I don’t know if Sam Mitchell whipped out the bench for the majority of the second half because he new we weren’t up to the task of winning and just tried to save face by swallowing the loss in the name of the reserves or whether he really wanted the likes of Kapono, Solomon and Humphries to get some run in. Whatever the approach was it made for an eye-sore of a game if you’re a Raptors fan. What was irking me even more while I sat there in my great seats was that my man Roko Ukic was glued to the bench. He played the lowest minute total of any Raptor (8:21) while his bench backcourt mate Will
Solomon James played 24 minutes and once again hoisted the second most shots on the team. Take that for its worth.
This was a showcase game for Andrea Bargnani who looks very comfortable with his mid-range game which appears to be his finest weapon so far this preseason. He even faked the drive and stuck a jumper from 20 feet which I think happened twice all last season. The best part about watching him play so far is that he appears comfortable with himself, takes what the defense gives him and if there’s nothing given, he won’t force the issue. What the stats don’t show is that he made a couple very sweet passes which should’ve been converted for points and set solid screens in the high pick ‘n roll situations. I thought he should’ve gotten a lot more touches but Will James and Jason Kapono were guilty of looking him off or not re-posting him up after the initial catch. Bargnani is no doubt the anchor of the second unit and the sooner Jason Kapono and company learn how to play with him instead of around him the better.
Jermaine O’Neal who you can’t say has had a single solid game all preseason only played an error-filled 15 minutes. I thought we’d see more of him in the second half but Sam had decided that he’d had enough of him. With only three preseason games remaining there isn’t much time to get Jermaine O’Neal looking like the Jermaine O’Neal from four years ago and if this is the form he’ll bring into the season opener against Philadelphia, we’re in trouble. You would think he’d log up some serious minutes with Bosh to get that chemistry going but nothing of the sort happened today.
Maybe Sam played the bench because he was too disgusted by our first half defense which saw Minnesota leak out for scores about 5 times. The Raptors’ jump shooters were ball watching as they released their shots while their man ran up the court and caught a long pass for layups. On one occasion they actually pulled the stunt coming out of a dunk. This was not a good defensive performance and it came against one of the worst teams in the league. But hey, remember yesterday Mitchell said that they weren’t working on defense, they were focusing entirely on offense so let’s see what the offense did. 86 points and 19 turnovers against a T’Wolves defense that didn’t do a single unorthodox thing all game. All they did was use their athleticism and length to get into passing lanes and steal the ball from players like Jason Kapono when they were trying to dribble through three defenders. Save for some Bargnani pick ‘n rolls and some Joey Graham back-cuts and slashes there was nothing smooth about our offensive game. We didn’t get many easy baskets and were only 6-16 from long distance; the thing that kept us in this one was our +5/+8 rebounding differential mostly thanks to Kris Humphries who continues to impress on the glass and suck from 16 feet.
Joey Graham got the start at the three and looked very good (relative to his career thus far). He moved without the ball for a couple easy hoops, got a hoop by going strong on the baseline and even went straight down the middle of the paint to get fouled. The subtle thing to note about Graham’s game is that he’s entirely one-dimensional when he’s trying to do something. For example, take that play where he drew the foul in the paint, he drew at least four defenders and could’ve easily kicked the ball out for an open jumper but he just doesn’t have the presence of mind for those things. I think it’s the lack of floor time that stunts that kind of growth in a player and that’s why I’m of the belief that Joey Graham will have a serviceable NBA career, it just wont’ be with the Raptors because he’s too behind Jamario Moon in Sam Mitchell’s books. Joey even had a good defensive game, he wasn’t nearly as laterally slow as we’ve seen in the past and even took a charge by using quick feet. How often does that happen? Let’s throw in a quote form Joey who if he plays as well as he did today might, just might give Moon some competition:
“I was aggressive, coach told me he wanted me to come in and be rebounding, run the floor as well as I could, even though it was still a little sore. I tried to do that, come out there and stay aggressive, attack the basket and get to the free throw line.”
Let’s talk about my least favorite Raptor, Jamario Moon, and Anthony “what have you done for me lately” Parker. Together they managed to score 5 points in 45+ minutes on 2-9 FG. How many games can we honestly win if that’s the kind of production we’re getting from those two? Not many, and the concerning part is that these two will have to produce offense without getting too many touches. There’s only one ball and Bosh, O’Neal and Caldeorn will need their share of it, if Parker and Moon think that they’ll be able to get “warm up shots” during the game they’re highly mistaken. I think Parker will come around and his percentages will rise as his legs come back to him but what will Moon do? He’s not going to become a better shooter overnight so asking him to keep the defense honest is out of the question, the only other feasible offense he can produce for us is through offensive rebounding and by running the break or slashing. Good luck getting him to do that. While I’m ripping Moon let me also mention that he’s the king of getting the rebound anybody could’ve gotten. His rebounding numbers are severely inflated and as soon as the NBA starts keeping track of contested vs. uncontested rebounds you’ll see the truth.
We had a chance to tie this game with a minute to go but Jason Kapono got the ball on the left wing and tried to go 1 on 2 and ended up losing the ball. Minny got the ball back on the other end and got a quick score for a 4-point swing. After that the Raptors came out of a timeout to execute a play which resulted in Will Solomon forcing up a bad jumper which obviously missed and that was that. The underlying theme of any Raptors loss is late fourth quarter execution and this one was no different. This is where I keep telling myself that its only preseason. Its only preseason…its only preseason…its only preseason…its only preseason…
So the Raptors bench drop one at home to the Timberwolves who thoroughly deserved to win the game. Corey Brewer, Rodney Carney and Randy Foye ran the break, stuck their jumpers and played with an enthusiasm that was refreshing. On a side note, Kevin Love looked awful, nonathletic and out of place, this looks like a classic McHale move. But Minny deserved to win and they would’ve won bigger if it weren’t for Bargnani and Humphries’ second half play. If you ask Sam we’re not supposed to feel bad about this win because 1) it’s preseason and 2) our starters didn’t play much so if we really wanted to, we would’ve won this game. Or so he hopes.
Once again thanks to DG.