Archive for April, 2007

No Plan, No Heart, No Bosh, No Win

Where do you start after a game like that? I mean, really, where do you start? I’m sorry, but when you come out of the gate with Carter and Kidd giving you a front row seat at their screening of “Reverse Aly-oop 1 and 2″, you know it’s going to be a long night. When you are in the opposition’s house and they come out and drop 32 on you in the first quarter, it’s pretty much over. Just to emphasize what the Raptors had problems with all year, Sam must have sung them another lullaby at halftime, because you would think they would come out fired up, but they came out and had a 30 point SLAP put on their faces. To be totally honest, the Raptors were lucky this ended up only a 21 point loss, because it could have easily been about 35.

I am watching the Golden State-Dallas game right now and if you want to see a team playing with heart, if you want to see a team who has its leader busting his ass, you should be watching Baron Davis and the Warriors. They are playing like they want it. Contesting shots, filling the lane and I think I’ve seen Disco Dirk on the floor about 5 times now. Every layup is being contested and so are the dunks. They are moving the ball and attacking the lane. They are playing how the Raptors should be.

The guys tonight were talking about how Bosh is frustrated, well as he should be. But the difference between the rest of the guys on the team and Bosh is that when he gets frustrated, he is supposed to demand the ball and lead the team. This is where he needs to get tough inside and create some contact instead of getting the ball, facing the basket and then wasting 5 seconds while the defence sets up. I’m not going to bring the Raptors terrible basketball down on one guy, but you always have to start with your stars and if they aren’t leading by example, they’re losing by example.

For everybody who was jumping onto the Sam bandwagon near the end of the season, can Lang and I just go back to some of the things we were saying all season about Sam? While he has improved immensely, he still has problems figuring out how to draw up an offensive plan and coming out of breaks (timeouts, halftimes, etc.) he is lost. Sam has not been able to implement anything that has even remotely challenged NJ. In all actuality, this series should already be over if it weren’t for a hectic few last minutes at the ACC.

I hope the Raptors are watching the Warriors tonight, because even if Golden State loses, they’ll at least go down fighting. The Raptors should be embarrassed. They are being outplayed in every aspect of the game. Every single aspect.

You could see that coming…

Well, the bad start was almost as predictable as Jay Leno and almost as far away from funny. The Raptors came out in that first quarter and looked like deer in headlights, having guys run circles around them and being dominated in just about every aspect of the game.

First, can we just start by saying that the attention paid to Jason Kidd and his injured knee was completely ridiculous? Anybody who for a single second thought that he wasn’t going to play is crazy and I can guarantee you there was absolutely nothing even remotely close to a significant injury there. Chuck and Leo were talking about the guy like he was playing after being shot five times. The guy bumped his knee and had a bruise. That’s it. He’s a baller, having a minor bump on his knee isn’t going to make a difference.

So yeah, the Raptors looked completely out of their league in the first quarter and it became very clear that while Jason Kidd has problems guarding TJ Ford, TJ Ford has serious problems defending Jason Kidd. I don’t know how many times we saw Kidd post up on TJ, because if it keeps working, you have to keep going to it. But here’s the problem: If everybody in the world could see what was happening, why was there no help? You don’t have to double down in that situation, because you know Kidd will just expose you with a brilliant pass, but you have to slide over, give some quick pressure and then slide back off into your regular defensive position to cover the passing lane. You can’t let Kidd keep posting up on TJ without providing any different looks. Kidd is too good for that. You can’t expect different results against something when you keep throwing the same D at it.

While we can’t discount Kidd’s night (it was as complete a game as you’ll see), let’s also take into account that a good portion of those assists didn’t come from great passes or great moves leading to open passing lanes, they came from Kidd dishing and Raptor players not being even close to getting out on shooters. Far too many good looks while Raptor players didn’t even put a hand up on D. Even AP fell victim to this a few times on Vince, forcing Sam to lose it.

Speaking of Vince, we were all witness tonight to the kind of player we hoped he would have been when he was in Toronto. When Vince attacks the basket, it opens all kinds of doors for him and when he sees that he is not going to be seriously challenged, he can simply take over a game. This is why with the Raptors trying to make a push in the 4th, MoPete slapped RJ on his way to the rack (that was a hard foul, I don’t think there was enough for a flagrant there…come on, this is playoff basketball and there was NO attempt at the head whatsoever). Mo was sending a message on that play and while the timing can be questioned, you certainly can’t question what he was doing. How many easy trips to the basket did we see? Do you really think Carter would have had such a big night if early in that first quarter, somebody had stepped up and “Bonnered” him? How many times have we seen Vince shy away from contact or completely disappear after being bumped? If there was a quarter when a Hump Slap was needed, it was Game 3, Quarter 1.

Well, it didn’t take long for us to see Sam going to the TJ/Jose combo. I mentioned earlier that I thought it would be interesting and maybe something to think about and there you go, Sam showed he was out of ideas…and then quickly abandoned the strategy when Vince exposed TJ. As far as our PG situation tonight, quite an interesting night. Jose came off the bench to get things going, providing an injection of energy and crisp shooting, but then had some problems with turnovers, wiping out the momentum (note to Jose: STOP leaving your feet if you’re not going to shoot. You are getting caught in the air far too often). Then in the 3rd quarter, TJ comes back in and turns it on, showing how the Nets can’t defend his speed. But then he gets yanked after the combo experiment and that pretty much killed the flow. Both guards played well (again) tonight, but with Bosh looking like he wanted to stay outside for the night, Bargnani shooting line drives, Joey looking like the Gatorade Graham of old…it just wasn’t going to happen tonight.

By the way…over 2,800 empty seats at the Continental Airlines Arena tonight…so any Raptor fans who want to make the trip for Sunday’s game, plenty of seats available.

Block Party

Once again, I managed to not see this game live, but did see it later (I’ve gotta get this sorted…I mean, really), but other than knowing the Raps already won from listening on the radio, getting to see RJ get blocked by Bosh brought a serious smile to my face. After RJ’s smug few minutes at the mic after game 1, it was nice to see him get the ball stuffed back down his throat, maybe that will shut him up a bit. Dude, when you are getting people in Toronto to hate you more than Vince, you’re really doing something wrong.

An interesting game, nice fortitude shown by the Raptors in pulling it out at the end. TJ and Jose had decent games, but I’m not sure exactly when Jose fell in love with his jump shot and decided to chuck it up every time down the court. Sam eventually went back to TJ to get the penetration and opportunities to go to the line, which is what we were talking about during the season when people wondered why Sam kept bringing TJ back in. When it gets to playoff games, you see how important it is to get to the line and get penetration down the stretch.

This isn’t to say that Jose had a bad game, because he didn’t. The 1-2 punch is showing to be effective and you have to give credit to Jason Kidd, because he is putting in 40 minute games out there against younger and quicker guys and isn’t missing a beat. Give him credit for being in great shape and having good focus, because it is no easy feat to keep up with TJ and then have him followed by Jose.

So much has been made about AP’s shooting and rightfully so, he has been great, but let’s give it up for his D. Vince is getting a lot of touches and isn’t able to do much after that. AP has been playing him well (better than I thought he would), but then again, these are big games, so you know Carter isn’t going to be at his best. AP has shut down any thought of Vince driving, which typically isn’t that tough to do, but he has also been getting up on him every time he lets a shot go. Nice work against a guy with great athleticism.

I’m not sure about you guys, but Nachbar makes me nervous. He got a lot of good looks last night and the Raptors can’t count on him to miss down the stretch like that again. He’s a fiery player and the last thing you want is for him to get in a groove. Need to keep him under wraps or he could be the X-Factor.

What’s up with Juan? I didn’t see him get injured, but he only logged 4 minutes last night. His D has been fairly good this season and we all know how good he was offensively. Seems like maybe he could be the next X-Factor…stay tuned.

Congrats Sam…

Well, Sam did it. He won Coach of the Year. Congratulations to him, especially for being civil regarding his treatment in the media, by fans and some bloggers (ahem). While everybody should agree that he still has lots of work to do, his turnaround of the Raptors and the team concept he has instilled has been inspirational.

I was hoping Sam would win, but as we mentioned earlier, I had a bad feeling there was going to be a Jerry Sloan movement, but Sam easily outdistanced him. I would think that Colangelo would be working on a contract renewal as we speak, but let’s just not break the bank on him, you know what I’m sayin’?

Anyway, congrats to Sam, you did it your way.

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Welcome to the playoffs, Raptors.

After coming to the realization that I wasn’t going to be able to see this game (AAAAAHHHHH!!!!), I actually managed to hear almost the whole first half on the radio. Didn’t get to see any of the game or listen to the second half, so let me put that out there right off the start.

Just from listening to the first half, there are some things that sounded like they could have been glaring on television (and how I knew about 10 guys who went to today’s game…I’ll never know…hook a brother up!). The first is that when you have Bosh go for a sit down in the first quarter with foul trouble, you know things are not going to go well that day. It’s an omen. I mean, you give an All-Star a foul on a block out against Mikki Moore? Hey, I actually really dig Moore’s game, but that just can’t happen in the playoffs.

We all knew that the Nets were going to throw the zone at Toronto, which meant that TJ was going to slash to get through the zone and that pretty much summed up the first quarter. So they go through that in not too bad shape considering Bosh sat a good chunk. But here’s the problem. When you have that zone working and Bosh sitting, leading to TJ cutting, it gets the rest of the guys a little out of their groove. I can’t go against a guy for picking up 14 points out of the gate, but only because he was actually getting some guys good looks. Problem was, when the guys were getting looks, they weren’t draining shots (hello Gatorade Graham…good Lord, saw the replays, you looked rough today man, rough). So if TJ cutting is working that means that you have to stay in the game mentally so that when he dishes to you, you’re ready to shoot.

So having Jose come in was good, get guys back into it with more touches, increase the ball movement. Have to like the 8 assists, going along with the 13 points. But this is precisely what I was talking about the other day when I suggested that maybe it would be an idea to run both TJ and Jose for a while against the Nets. TJ is going to kill the zone and Jose could assist with ball movement. Might have been an idea for a little 1-2. I’m not saying to run that for the majority of the game or for even half of the game, but every once in a while, just to confuse the Nets and get them out of their rhythm, it could be an idea.

Okay, I’m not going to go into a lot of detail since I didn’t see it live, but here’s one last thing. I’m not one to get on the refs for losses and certainly it doesn’ t seem like the refs cost the Raptors this one, but all I want to say is that no team can go almost a whole quarter without fouling somebody. It just doesn’t happen. In the NBA, in the playoffs, especially in the first round, somebody, SOMEBODY is going to get fouled. The fact that the Nets went through almost the whole first quarter without having a foul called against them was bogus.

Well, the Raps need to get the next one. They HAVE to split at home, because is you split at home and then split on the road, you have that home court advantage at the end. They had better come out with more energy next game.

A Vince Carter t-shirt for the playoffs

The marketing people must be salivating over this upcoming series against the New Jersey Nets. Here’s my little idea I threw together. You saw it here first.

Here’s a throwback to Mortal Kombat.

Video of Raptors Atlantic Division Champions banner

Congratulations, and thanks for a wonderful season.

Hey, I didn’t know there was a pickup game being played at the Palace tonight!

Wow. Okay, we all knew the Raptors weren’t going to be playing any of the bigs and that they are going to rest guys down the stretch, but if I was a Detroit Pistons fan who paid for seats to that game, even though my team delivered an ass-kicking, I would have been disappointed.

That’s the thing with this point of the season, you are going to see one of two things. A) A game of real interest with somebody trying to get into the playoffs, improve their position or deny a rival or B) an absolute shitfest with at least one team who doesn’t care and a bunch of guys who look like they are going to go hotbox after the game.

There’s nothing to even analyze from this game (other than Slokar…actually, he didn’t look too bad). I was just waiting for RayRay and Lil’P to walk onto the court and shout, “We’re in next basket, then the BALLIN’ starts.”

Luckily, I was able to watch Dice-K throw a gem (outside of one inning) and still lose to the Jays. Beautiful.

Anyway, that’s it, that’s all.

Home Sweet Home

Okay, so they wrapped up home court against the Knicks, but let’s not just toss that to the side, because the Knicks actually showed up tonight and made a game out of it. If you are a Knicks fan and wanted to see where your team is really at right now and where you need to improve, well, it was all on display tonight. The Knicks showed that they do have some good young talent, but also showed that they lack discipline (um…could this be an extension of their coach?) and have no idea how to control the flow of a game (read: no PG). Curry showed the kind of player he can be when he has his head in the game, but that’s the biggest problem with him (well, assuming his heart is okay).

It was nice to see Jose get some substantial minutes in tonight’s game, especially with the playoffs just around the corner. The Raptors are a team in every essence of the word and they will need everybody ready to go when the post season gets going. Not that Jose ever looks like he isn’t ready to play, but sometimes I think his shot suffers a bit when he doesn’t get the extended minutes, which is completely reasonable. Nice job by him tonight, but let’s point out one thing. After the Raps came out of the timeout near the end of the game and they ran a play with Jose dribbling out most of the clock, then driving down the lane and throwing up a layup against 3 Knick defenders, which didn’t drop. Did that play look familiar? Yep. Why did they run it? Because he had been beating the Knicks off the dribble all night. It was heads up D by the Knicks, sliding into the middle to create a wall. Now, if TJ had done that, tell me honestly if you guys wouldn’t have been all up in arms, saying that the Raps had won DESPITE TJ. Come on, you know it’s true. That play we saw is what Sam wants done when the time comes. He knows that TJ can break down most defences off the dribble and when he sees Jose exposing a team with the same ease, you can guarantee that is what he wants down the stretch. Thank you Jose for proving what I have been saying about that play. Not always a fan of it, but that’s what’s coming out of the break from the coach. In tonight’s case, I think it was the right play, let’s just give some credit to the Knicks for finally realizing that Jose had been exposing them all night with the same drive off a high screen.

I don’t know, should we take the “Gatorade” part off of Joey’s name? He has been playing some fairly consistent ball (although he has been disappearing on the boards…as in tonight’s game). He has been correcting the worst part of his game, his inconsistency, but does that connect with the fact that he is getting regular playing time or is he getting the regular playing time because he has been consistent? Chicken or egg? I think I’m going to keep the Gatorade there for now. I don’t think it will take much to upset the applecart on that front, one cold game and it could all be over. One serious bump from somebody in the playoffs and he could be off his game.

Okay, so the other night, MoPete gets ejected for his flagrant on Hinrich and tonight AP gets absolutely mugged by Steve Francis and he stays in with his flagrant. Why, just because he made sure AP didn’t crack his head on the floor after he was mugged? Pretty much it boils down to this. Type I or Type II flagrant fouls. To give a quick compare/contrast, in Type I, the ref has to judge that the foul was unnecessary and if there are two committed by the same player in the same game, he is ejected. In Type II, if the ref deems that the foul was unnecessary AND excessive, then he is automatically ejected. So it comes down to a judgement call. So going by the NBA rulebook, MoPete’s flagrant last week where he went for a block, almost got ball and then got a bit of Hinrich’s face was unnecessary AND excessive. Steve Francis putting his arm around AP’s neck while he was in the air, pulling it back and putting him in a situation that could have resulted in serious injury: just unnecessary. Nice work to the refs tonight. At least the NBA had enough sense to downgrade MoPete’s foul from a Type II to a Type I, essentially saying that the refs were stupid to have ejected him for it, but saying it in a PC way. No respect.

And once again, if you’re ever having a bad day, just remember, we got Hump for Hoffa.

Don’t Get Too Excited…

First, sorry RF readers, I’ve been a bit awol, just lots of stuff to take care of. Anyway, on to last night’s game.

There were some definite positives to take away from last night’s win over the Pistons and any win against a team of that calibre should not be taken lightly. That being said, there was no Chauncey Billups last night and he is an extremely important part of that team. Between Billups and Rip, I’m not sure who is more important to the success of the Pistons, but they are both vital.

What everybody had to love was Hump’s game last night. Here’s what Lang and I were saying as we were watching him pull down rebound after rebound: Since Hump has accepted that his role is to get rebounds and that’s pretty much it, he has started to excel. He hasn’t been dribbling the ball or taking a lot of wayward shots and it looks like he is starting to take some pride in the fact that he is there to do a specific thing that the rest of the team (outisde of Bosh) seems to have some problems with. He is appreciating the fact that when it comes to one of the most difficult things to do in the game, he is one of the best on one of the best teams in the league. That’s where pride can be a wonderfully effective thing. Not only is Hump getting his rebounds by getting in position and by using his frame, he is also doing a good job of knowing when to go right back up with the ball or when to kick it back out. That is a skill that can’t really be taught. You just have to feel it. So with 19 rebounds and 8 points (half of those on free throws), game ball to Hump.

Where are my TJ haters at? When it looked like the game was going to slip away, I turned to Lang and said, “Dude, it’s time TJ starts taking this over, pushing it a bit.” and voila. If you needed a better example of where TJ’s speed can break down defences, you saw it last night. His speed was also key in getting that steal at the end, but let’s not just sum it up to his quickness. Here’s a point for TJ realizing that Detroit was taking a cavalier attitude to the inbounds pass and pouncing on it. That’s using your head. Nice distribution of the ball and I like the fact that when the Raps were down, you could see how upset TJ was. I’m sorry, I like a bit of emotion…as long as it is kept in check.

Bosh is so good that we tend to gloss over a lot of the stuff he does. We just expect it of him. Bosh had a relatively pedestrian game for him offensively, but those 16 boards were earned the hard way. Bosh was getting bumped all around and you could see that he was starting to make it his mission to come down with any loose ball. We tend to get on him about his grit, but last night it was there. Now, if there is one thing Bosh needs to work on (and Lang has pointed this out before…it actually is his pet peeve with Bosh) it’s that he needs to make quicker decisions with the ball. Too many times when the ball goes in to Bosh, he kills about 4-5 seconds either just holding it or dribbling. He needs to take a look at KG. When the ball goes into Garnett, he takes a quick look and if nothing is materializing, he’s attacking. Plain and simple. Stop me if you can. Bosh needs a bit more of that and we would probably see it affect the rest of the team as it would provide the other guys with a bit more time on the clock if nothing was there. He could kick it back out and get the rotation started.

When Gatorade Graham comes down the lane for a dunk, is there anybody who seriously wants to get in his way? That place clears out like an elevator after a fart. Now if he could just do that more often…

A final point: There just hasn’t been enough talk around the league about how great of a player Anthony Parker is. You get the same effort and almost the same results night in and night out. Great attitude and tons of athleticism. Could have one of the best looking shots in the league.

Home court on its way…

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