It had all the makings for a disappointing game, but the Raptor killer known as Nazr Mohammed was injured so there was hope. I’ll be honest with you, I’ve come to expect that when a team has been dogging it for 20 games (the Raptors were 6-14 heading into last nights game) that you can’t just flip the switch on a whim and compete. Last night against the Bobcats, it was more like a leaky faucet that slowly got turned on. Like the Atlanta game, the Raptors kept it close, took advantage of every opportunity that reared its head, and pulled out a gritty win in spite of some very poor officiating at that.
Before getting into it, with 9 games left before the playoffs, me thinks Triano has stumbled on a rotation of:
PG – Calderon
SG – Weems
SF – Wright
PF – Bosh
C – Bargnani
BN – Turkoglu
BN – DeRozan
BN – Jack
BN – Johnson
This lineup serves a few things: better balance on the starting 5 (Weems and Wright don’t need the ball in their hands to be effective); better defense at the wing to start the game; a much stronger second unit (Turkoglu should be beating up on opposing benches); and it just seems to flow better.
It’s go time now, so Bosh and Bargnani should be playing 38-41 minutes a night from here on out, giving Amir between 14-20 minutes of burn; a nice tight rotation. As you can see, there shouldn’t be any more than 2-3 minutes a night for Evans (all of which should come at the end of the 1st and 2nd quarters to give the front line some rest)
So back to the game, it started with Calderon attacking the rim early. He was able to blow by Felton and get to the rim for a layup (he missed it, but he got there) and assisting on the first three buckets by Bosh and Bargnani. Penetrate, draw the defender, find the open man. Calderon is really a triple threat (shoot, drive, pass), and needs to attack the defense every chance he gets. The court will open up and give him more options on offense, but when he just throws the ball around the perimeter, or plays the high pick-n-roll, he is doing himself a disservice. Raymond Felton still abused him on offense, but that’s expected, probably not even worth mentioning.
Like Scott said, Bosh played harder in the first 4 minutes than he has since the All-Star break. When the franchise is motivated, his production isn’t hollow and it actually leads to results. Up until last night, he would be around his season average, but he did it invisibly. I know you’re frustrated dude, and I realize you like to lead by example, but not many folks are as naturally gifted as you, so when you dog your way to big numbers, others will follow suit without the same result. Something to think about for the rest of the year fam.
The second quarter saw more of the same from both squads. The Bobcats would penetrate, kick the ball and swing it till they got an open three, and the Raptors were led by an energized DeRozan who attacked the basket every chance he got. I really don’t want to gloss over the 3rd quarter, but it was more of the same: the Bobcats got open three after open three, but the Raptors kept it close with Calderon and Bosh attacking from the outside-in.
Calderon especially had a good quarter, going 3-3 from the field while dropping 2 dimes. I’m singling this out because Triano came out in the fourth with Jack instead of Jose, who was having a terrible game up until that point.
At first I thought it was just to give Calderon a rest so he can finish the game strong, but Jack really picked it up, scoring all 12 of his points in the frame, including 7 of the last 8 Raptor points (all at the line). Then I started to get nervous that as the game was coming down to the wire, Triano would snap and play Jack and Jose together, but he didn’t, and Jay rode the hot hand down the stretch.
Have to hand it to Triano who made some great decisions (sitting Hedo to start the game and gambling on Jack in the 4th). You know I don’t think highly of his coaching abilities, but he threw down the gauntlet and always had the right group on the court.
How about that Hedo? Think Triano got through to him? I know I do. Even though he wasn’t happy to start the game on the bench, Turkoglu was stone cold last night, and made some big plays. I know he was brought on as the #2 option, but if he can be the 6th man and hit daggers like that, including the eventual game winner, this team could be a handful in the playoffs (I won’t be holding my breath though).
With a few seconds left in the game, Felton blew by Jack, but turned it over. Part of it had to do with some decent defensive rotations and folks talking, and part of it had to do with Felton just throwing a bad pass. Either way, the Raptors played hard the whole game, and gave themselves an opportunity to win the game, and they took advantage.
The Raptors stayed in the game by protecting the ball, and crashing the offensive glass. They had 10 more shot attempts than the Bobcats, who were able to keep the game close by going 12-24 from beyond the arc (most were open looks) and solid shooting from the free throw line. The difference was Jack though, who went 7-8 from the line, all at the end of the 4th, validating Triano’s decision to play him over Calderon.
Had Carmelo not hit that game winner, and the Raptors held on just a bit longer against the Heat, the Raptors would be 7th in the East (ahead of the Bobcats because they now own the tiebreaker). So as bad as they have been recently, what is keeping this team back is as simple as one possession, or a couple minutes of unfocused play from being a better team. Had Triano laid down the law
a bit alot earlier in the season, things may have been different for this team, just something to think about.