Some good signs but Triano must adjust

Raps had some good moments in the first half and a couple in the second too, but don't you wish Derrick Rose played for the Raptors?

Bulls 110, Raptors 103 – Box

Matter of great importance. We as fans of this game need to remind Raptors TV NBA TV Canada the importance of the shot-clock when watching a game. So please click here and contact these guys and inform them of the critical nature of the 24 seconds which each team is allowed to consume before attempting a shot on every possession. Remember, the guys that run that show are probably a bunch of hockey pucks dressed in Leaf jerseys only doing this for a pay-cheque, so it’s understandable if they don’t deem the shot-clock important. While you’re at it, kindly let them know that it’s imperative that the score be updated within a second at the most of the basket or free-throw going in. If TNT can update the score before the ball even hits the ground after going through the net, I’m sure these guys can do it in under a second if they put their collective minds to things.

The game itself is not too worthy to talk about but if a guy assigned to do a recap had to focus on something, it would be the first half which is when this sort of looked like a professional basketball game. The second half was a turnover-filled sloppy affair which was harder to watch than an episode of Outsourced, but the first wasn’t too bad. The Raptors got off to a bad start score-wise, but there was a silver-lining to things. The Raptors plan was to use their size against the Noah-less Bulls and to get Bargnani involved early and that they did, he was looked for in the low-block, at the elbow, and on the baseline on consecutive possessions with something good coming from each of them. It wasn’t necessarily a score but the idea was right, he tried to take advantage where he had an advantage – size in the post, quickness in the face-up game, and a high-release on the short baseline. The offensive line is pretty good, 19 points on 7-14 shooting and most of the time he made the “right” decision whenever he had the ball, it could be a sign that he’s coming out of his funk.

The three rebounds he collected in 29 minutes? You don’t have to be a genius to figure out that that’s very poor, but I’ll save my criticism because believe it or not, my main problem isn’t with his rebounding, it’s his help defense. Last night I only counted one play where he was completely out-of-whack (had his back turned on a guard driving the lane). Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t good, it just wasn’t noticeably bad and let’s call that progression and move on. And we move on to Reggie Evans who was collecting rebounds like he was getting paid for them, 16 in all and the best part is that he hoisted only two shots. Him and Scalabrine were going “at it” in the second half as best as two scrubs can go “at it”. What did the almighty +/- stat reward Reggie with for his efforts? A game-worst -17. Bitch move.

That’s the good, the bad is that the home team were down by as many as 10 with the starters (Bargnani, Evans, Calderon, DeRozan and Kleiza) in there, forcing Triano to make some changes. The lineup introduced was the one I had earlier in the day proclaimed to be an effective one – Andersen, Johnson, Weems, Jack and Barbosa. Suddenly, the Raptors were forcing turnovers, getting stops in the half-court, rebounding the ball and getting on the break. In other words, they were generating offense from defense. This is a very balanced lineup in terms of offense and defense, one one hand you have two big hard-working bodies in Johnson and Andersen who don’t like conceding rebounds, a good mid-range shooter in Weems, speed on the wing with Barbosa (and Weems), and an point in Jack who is getting better at using the pick ‘n roll. They were part of a 15-2 run spanning about eight minutes in the first half which was the best Raptors stretch in the game. It should be noted that our second-unit played against their second-unit which helps (i.e., no Derrick Rose).

With Jack in command, the Raptors were executing the pick ‘n roll from all over the court and getting decent results. Johnson, Bargnani, Evans and Kleiza was all beneficiaries of the return pass and seemed more in-tune with what their point guard was trying to do. Not so much Jose Calderon whose shooting troubles continued with an 0-6 performance and was burned by Rose off the dribble 90% of the time, really, he was having fun out there. Speaking of defense, credit to Leandro Barbosa, he got beat on a back-cut on his first play but after that did a great job of supplying pressure when the Raptors were pressing and doing an overall commendable job against his cover. Really can’t complain much about his defense so far, and of course the offense is there – 22 points on 15 shots isn’t shabby. He’s also showing some turn-the-corner speed with the ball in his hands which really gives a different look to the Raptors offense which is usually manned by the slower Jack or Calderon. Triano can work with that.

The Raptors started the second half on a 6-0 run to open up the lead to 10, but that’s when the they hit the wall. It’s also when the Bulls went small-ball and Triano failed to adjust; Derrick Rose decided that he’d take things more seriously and started getting into the middle of the paint and picking out shooters. The Raptors defense didn’t have an answer to his aggression and crumbled keeping up with the speed of the Bulls. Triano was a little late in inserting the lineup that did the damage in the first half and by the time he did, the Bulls had found a turnover-fueled rhythm and Brian Scalabrine and James Johnson were nailing jumpers like they were layups. There was no way back and the Bulls pushed out to an 8-12 point lead for the rest of the game. The Raptors struggled to get good looks in the second half and conceded too many open ones to the Bulls who shot 50% for the game. Realistically speaking, that number needs to be no more than approximately 46% for the Raptors to win. The Raptors tried to pressure Rose but he’s too fast on the ball and can change directions extremely quickly, thus breaking any doubles and finding shooters as the defense tries to reset back into the halfcourt. A nightmare to deal with if you’re a coach.

Triano about the Bulls’ defense:

“They did a good job of taking away our threes. This team plays defense the way that we should. They get up on the three-point shooter. We ended up, what, 2-for-14?”

I could be wrong, but there was nothing that the Bulls did that seemed out of the ordinary. Yes, they played hard but Triano’s got to stop making it sound like they were up against a great defense. And if a team is “taking away” your threes, there’s a mighty good chance that they’re leaving a door open elsewhere. The Raptors should be prepared well enough that they can react midway through a game and take advantage of what the Bulls are conceding by making an adjustment (i.e., small ball with James Johnson and Brian Scalabrine). I mean, what really would have been the harm in introducing Marcus Banks in an attempt to slow down the ball? Isn’t he somebody who can be used in situations other than garbage time or when a point guard is injured? Use the resources at your disposal, man. Also, stop praising the other team after a loss, that too in preseason.

Offensively, things looked a bit better as the screen ‘n rolls were exected more purposefully, DeRozan had a good shooting game (6-9), and Bargnani looked more at ease with himself (offensively) than he has all preseason. Defensively, transition is a big problem. Conceding fastbreak baskets after made field goal has to be deflating to a team and the Raptors do a lot of that when coming up against fast points. The Bulls beat us in that category 27-15 which to me was the difference in the game. A better defensive performance early in the game and early in the fourth quarter could have been enough to beat the Noah-less Bulls but it wasn’t to be.

Oh, one final thing. The flagrant foul called on Linas Kleiza was complete BS and another sign that this league is going to the dumps.

One more game and we get to do this for real.