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.