So Close

Have you ever been at a bar and across the room you see a girl who is a complete knockout? She has everything together and you figure you shouldn’t even waste your time, but for some reason, you walk over there, say something stupid, she laughs and the next thing you know, everything’s working? Then, all of a sudden, when you try to close the deal, it all falls apart and she hops into her boyfriend’s sportscar and you’re left standing there wondering what the hell just happened? Cue the Toronto Raptors against the Mavs.

When I was watching the start of this game, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. MoPete with a huge block, Joey pulling reverse layups, the team sharing the ball and moving it quickly, high percentage shooting…it was out of this world. There were a lot of things that the Raptors were doing well, so let’s take a look at a few of them.

The first thing that didn’t get a lot of attention, but should have was AP’s hellacious D on Stackhouse. Stackhouse is a repeated Raptor Killer and AP (for the most part) shut him down. He played tight on him and still managed not to get beaten on the dribble. AP showed some surprisingly quick footwork and his overall energy proved to be a problem for Stackhouse. AP held him to 3-8 shooting, but even more impressive was forcing Stack to make 4 turnovers.

Bargnani playing both ends of the floor: If there’s one thing that has to get you excited as a Raptor fan, it’s seeing Bargnani playing hard on both ends of the court. At the end of the 3rd quarter, Bargnani had a nice dunk, but then to top it off, he sprinted back to his own basket to come up with a big time block. THAT’S the kind of stuff that will make him a star in the league.

As we mentioned earlier, Joey is finally starting to figure out that he’s a pretty strong dude. He’s now also showing that he doesn’t like being shown up, especially on his home court. That’s why it was great to see him put a hard foul on Disco Dirk in the fourth quarter. Should it have been a flagrant? Well, personally, I’m all about hard fouls (God, I’m starting to sound like Leo…look for the other three horsemen any time now), but I would have put a flagrant on him for that one, especially against a star. You have to protect the stars. That being said, you have to love that Joey wasn’t intimidated and although beaten on the play, was not going to let Hasselhoff have an easy layup. A little bit of pride…good to see.

A final good point - you have to loved seeing MoPete getting comfortable again from his corner office. MP3! I know, it’s lame, but it’s the best we have right now.

Okay, so now onto some bad stuff. Well, this is a good and a bad, but the good is from the Mavs. You have to love Avery Johnson. Two minutes into the second half, he didn’t like what he was seeing, so he called a timeout and read the riot act. He wasn’t going to sit back and watch his team hand the Raptors a win. He grabbed a clipboard out of somebody’s hand, and although all I think he did was draw an unhappy face on the thing, he let them know they had to start playing like a first place team. Surely enough, a few minutes later and they started cutting into the lead.

So the bad here comes when on the other side of the coaching teeter totter, Sam sat back and watched the Raps slowly lose their lead. I’m not blaming this loss on Sam, because the Mavs are a great team and showed why, but just because they’re great, doesn’t mean you can’t slow them down, put a few roadblocks in the way. Call a timeout, relax, set up and run at them again. Calling timeout also allows your team to cool off, so that they don’t start taking their frustrations out on the refs and get T’d up (um…Bosh).

Jose’s shot selection. Said it a million times. The thing that will always bring Jose’s game back to Earth is that he takes some really ill-advised 3s. With 6 on the shot clock in the fourth quarter and the Raps clinging to a lead, Jose jacks up a deep…and I mean DEEP 3, which of course banged around more than Britney on a Friday night and ended up coming right back the other way for a quick 2. As good as Jose is, if anybody wants to talk about why he shouldn’t be the starting point guard, there you go.

Anyway, a few other minor errors (I’ll get to MoPete’s switch mistake in the next post), but you have to give credit to the Mavs. That’s what great teams do, come clutch down the stretch.