Archive for January, 2007

In the end, Dirty Dirk poured me a drink

Re: the drinking game from the Raps/Mavs game, here’s a quote from Disco Dirk Hasselhoff (taken from Feschuk’s article in the Star today…http://www.thestar.com/columnists/article/171149).

“I like him,” said Nowitzki. “What is he, 19 or 20? (He’s 21). He’s a better player now than I was when I was 19 or 20. So I think he’s going to be a heckuva player. … I think he’s a little more athletic than I even was back then. He can drive it a little better than I (could) back then.”

After having to knock down a few drinks from comments Leo and Chuck were making, I wasn’t counting on Devious Dirk putting me over the top.

Thanks boss.

Switch on, switch off

Okay, here’s a quick story. Back in my college baseball days, I was on the mound against St. Joe’s University. Coach comes out of the dugout and tells me to throw inside fastballs to the next batter. I don’t think it’s a good idea, but do as I’m told and 145 mph later am thanking God I still have all my teeth in my mouth as that dude tattooed the ball right back at me. Didn’t factor into the game, I was just following instructions and almost died, that’s all.

So here’s the deal. Raps/Mavs game. In the timeout, Sam tells the team not to switch on a pick, to fight through and stay with your man. Seems simple enough. But of course, when you see Dirty Dirk get open on a screen, natural instinct says to get out there ASAP. So MoPete takes off, a pass is made, 2 blocks are missed and the game is over.

To his credit, MoPete took the blame, saying that he had been told not to switch and he did and it resulted in the game winning basket. He was following instinct, which sometimes you have to do, but you also have to follow your coach. Hurts to say it, but you have to follow what the coach says or else you’re the one renegade and you don’t have any followers. If you’re going to have somebody beat you, let it be their star. If he makes the shot at the buzzer, then he’s already dropped 38 on you, 2 more to win the game is what he’s supposed to do.

But let’s look at this a bit closer. Why not switch? You essentially know that with that little time left on the clock, there is going to be some sort of high screen involving Dirk. They are most likely going to try to get him free for a shot with a low post option in case there’s a double team. So if you switch, you are risking that he drops a pass over the top and catches you flat footed or that he puts the ball on the ground and pulls up for a jumper. Not a lot of time on the clock, so if he gets the ball, he is probably going to shoot right away or look down low.

So forget a double team. Go man up with a switch, nobody on the inbound and then drop an extra player into zone. Could that work? Possibly. Personally, that would be the route I would go, forcing Dirk to beat me, but it’s a tough decision. Can’t put that one on Sam. He gave clear instructions and players have to listen to their coach or nothing will work.

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.

Raps vs. Mavs Drinking Game

Just so I can say that I’m not drinking alone, here’s my plan for tomorrow.

1. Every time I hear a comparison of Bargnani’s game and Nowitzki’s game, I will chug a beer.

2. Every time I hear how Bargnani’s game right now is ahead of where Nowitzki’s game was at this stage in his career, I’ll chug and then chase with some Stoli.

3. Every time I hear how Bargnani’s game will be where Nowitzki’s game is now within 2 years, I’ll root through my basement to see if there are any old cans of Rolling Rock from back in university, then see if I can shotgun the can…withstanding the metallic taste that isn’t from the can or its ancient nature, just that good ol’ Rolling Rock metallic taste.

4. Bonus - If I hear that Bargnani will be looking to make a statement tomorrow (against Nowitzki), I am going to see if I can find somebody to have a “boat race” with. It’s been a while.

Hopefully you guys feel the same about all of these ridiculous comparisons so early in Bargnani’s career. That being said, check out the latest rookie rankings: http://www.nba.com/rookies/rankings.html

Leo, Chuck and Rush/Fraher/Robinson

There was a point in Friday’s game where Leo was talking about MoPete and how he hadn’t shown up in the game, going 0 from the field in just over 10 minutes. Leo was saying that when you are challenging for playing time, when you want to be a starter, that you have to make the most of those opportunities. As much as I hate to say it, Leo had a valid point. MoPete took a few ill-advised and poorly executed shots (as much as I hate to say that too) and clearly wasn’t making the most of the opportunity. Can’t be too hard on MoPete based on that one game, because there were a lot of weaknesses and he has been playing well lately, but you can’t take leaning jumpers of a bad screen and expect to get more playing time.

So after Leo makes his point, Chuck started saying that the coach should go to the player before the game and have a talk with him, telling him that he needs him to step up and make a statement. Then Leo cuts off Chuck, telling him that that’s a different approach. WELL DUH! That’s the whole point of having somebody else on the broadcast, to have another opinion, to provide another point of view.

Now, on to another item. The commish has made it clear that a lot of things are going to be called this year. There is a crackdown on carrying/traveling and other minor infractions, but even moreso, referees are throwing around T’s like there’s no tomorrow. Now this is all good as far as keeping a lot of the garbage out of the game, but it has been very simple for refs to go overboard lately. We’ve seen it with Steve Javie a million times (wow, that guy has a huge inferiority complex), so there’s no point of even commenting on that (especially if he is reffing a game with AI in it…lookout). But the combination of Rush, Fraher and Robinson blew it on Friday. I’m not sure which ref made the call, but the T on Bosh after his monster dunk was completely bogus. First of all, Bosh was just staring over at his bench, second, even if he was staring down somebody after a dunk like that, SO WHAT? It’s not like he threw up a sign, said something offensive or slapped somebody. Let’s not get too crazy here. If Bosh had received a legit technical later, it would have been all over for him and on a night like that, it may have been over for the Raps. I’m all for keeping it clean in the NBA, but let’s not go overboard.

Ugly.

So the Raptors managed to turn what should have been an easy win over a depleted team into an ugly win that almost turned into a disaster. This turned into a game where Chris Bosh had to play over 41 minutes (and AP played almost 44…yeah, 44!).

In the post game interview, when asked about how the Raptors didn’t look that good throughout the game, Sam essentially said, “Yeah, but we got the win.” Well, I would certainly hope you would get the win against what was hardly more than a college team on the floor. You see, it’s not just about winning games. If you’re a top tier team and you’re winning all the time and you have the occasional ugly win, then you can say something like, “Yeah, but we got the win” because you know that your next game, most likely things will be back to normal. When you’re a young team that is learning with each game, you can’t be so cavalier about things when they look like that. You have to say, “Well, we got the win, but there were a variety of lessons to be learned from tonight’s game. We have to learn how to exploit weaknesses when they are presented; we have to learn how to close out leads early in the game so we can provide some of our starters with some more rest, we essentially have to learn how to be a more opportunistic team if we are going to continue to get better.” THAT’S how you’re supposed to answer an ugly win. THAT’s how you’re supposed to learn from an ugly win.

One of the sequences in the game that could have been a learning point was when Jose hit his three to break things open for the Raptors. You know, the shot where after he hit it, he ran down the court with 3’s on both hands (lame). Even though he nailed it and had a semi-open look, it’s probably not the shot the Raps want to look for in that situation. Not only should they have been going inside, but that shot also got Jose thinking about how he could be hot from 3 (he never is) and sure enough, his next three clanked all over the arena and threated to break the rim.

I don’t want to pick on Jose, because there were tons of errors in the game. The point is, you can play like that against a lineup like that and win, but you had better learn from it, because the next team won’t be so generous.

Vote Baby Vote!

I’m sure you guys have all voted for your Raptors to get to the All-Star game (if not, get on it), but almost as important (if not a million times more fun), you HAVE to vote for your favourite NBA Dance Team members. Here’s the link www.nba.com/allstar2007/dance/index.html?nav=dance_espn
Enjoy.

Preview - Raptors vs. Celtics

We were just talking the other day about games that the Raptors have to win and this is another one. The Celtics are reportedly going to be missing Paul Pierce, Delonte West, Wally Szczerbiak , Theo Ratliff and Tony Allen. That’s pretty serious.

This is one of those games where the Raptors should be able to have a 10-15 point lead at the half and then try to get the younger guys some work in the second half. Realistically, the young guys are already getting playing time for the Raptors (well, the ones who haven’t been sent down to the D-League), but the extra minutes never hurt.

The Celtics got thumped by the Jermain O’Neal show the other night and lost to Dwight Howard (to quote Swirsk, Dwight Howard is A MAN) and the Magic a few nights earlier, so they should be a little hungry, but if the Raptors can put up some numbers early, look for the Celtics to lay down and like Apollo Creed, stay down.

Put some beer on ice…I’ll be enjoying this tonight…praying they don’t let me down.

Raps vs. Bucks…

Games like last night’s are the kind you have to win. When a team like the Bucks has Michael Redd, Maurice Williams and Charlie V out of the lineup, those are the kinds of games where you should only have to play your starters in order to get a lead and then put in your subs to get some minutes. Those are also the kinds of games that are entirely too easy to lose.

The Raptors showed just how easy it would have been to lose that game last night in the first quarter, falling behind and looking sluggish on the ball, like a team that just played the night before sometimes looks. But since they mailed it in against the Nets, they couldn’t use that “back to back” excuse. You know things are off to a rocky start when Rasho fouls only 11 seconds into the game and picks up his second just over a minute in. Nice work. Yogi would be proud.

But let’s look at how this game started offensively for the Raps. Jump shot, layup, jump shot, jump shot, jump shot, jump shot and…(you guessed it) jump shot. ONE, yes ONE of those went in (Garbo’s jumper). Not how you want to start a game against a team missing key players. Here’s a strategy: when a team is missing key players, especially guys who can score and rebound, it may be worth taking it hard to the rack, so you can generate some foul opportunities and get your opponent into some serious bench rotation problems. Get this: the Bucks didn’t make their first substitution until there were 25 seconds left in the first quarter. WHA? Yeah, 25 seconds. That’s hardcore. That says how much a team is hurting, how much they are ready to be taken. This is not a team you want to start shooting jump shots against. It wasn’t surprising that when the Raptors started attacking more in the 2nd quarter and started going to the line, they started to pull away.

The good thing is that once the Raptors got going last night, they kept their foot on the gas or as a coach I had used to say, they stepped on their necks when they were lying on the ground. At least it wasn’t the Raps lying down last night, they got their sleep the night before.

NYR Follow-Up

As a follow up to the New Year’s Resolutions, since PJ has been sent to the D-League (and yet Humphries is still here…), add another resolution for PJ to get back to the NBA. THEN write down what you learned in the D-League and give it to Sam…THEN suggest he go down for a stint.

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