I hate to be the guy who rains on a parade, but as much as Chuck keeps saying, “What a ballgame!!!”, once again, the Raptors were lucky to come out winners (and once again Nachbar missed at the buzzer to win…um, did anybody else think Carter WALKED before that dish to Nachbar?).
Let’s give it up for Jose, he played a great game. 25 and 8, but even better than that, Jose chose the right time to play his best defensive game of the year. The one point I have knocked him on all season is that he is usually a step behind on D, but tonight he was all over Kidd, not giving him a chance to breathe and making sure that he was on him all the way down the court after the inbounds pass. Leo made a good point (????) about Jose having his hands up in Kidd’s face all night, making it tough to see the lanes. The one thing I hated about Jose tonight? He still does that falling all over the court thing and he needs to stop because a) he is going to hurt himself and b) some refs are going to think it is all show and when he needs a call, he won’t get it. But yeah, a great game by Jose…and expect him to be ready for Friday, that ankle injury isn’t that bad. Do some R.I.C.E. and he’ll be fine for Friday (but so will TJ…oh no, here come the arguments over who should start…I’m waiting for it).
Having just as good of a night? MoPete. This is what we were talking about when we were saying that down the stretch and into playoffs, you need guys like MoPete. Good on Sam for giving him the start tonight (although really, after the ass-whoopin’ in Jersey, you could have made an argument for any lineup change). Mo was hitting his shots and looked comfortable for the first time in a long time. But Mo’s D was what it always is, solid. His hands were busy, he had himself set, was in the right place at the right time, was right up on Carter (and RJ) and forced Carter into one of his infamous jump shot nights. Also, 45 minutes in the playoffs is no joke.
If there was one thing that was glaring tonight, it had to be Bargnani’s D. Yikes! That could be one of the worst defensive performances I have ever seen. I mean, ever. Guys were blowing by him on the dribble, he wasn’t picking up on switches, he was losing his man, he was soft on a lot of exchanges, wasn’t aggressive down low, it was just ugly. That is one of those tapes you watch not to see how you got your 18 points, but how you probably were responsible for about 30 the other way. I know, he’s a rookie in a new league in the playoffs, but I don’t think there is any excuse for being that lost.
So how does a 20 point lead turn into a 2 point win? Well, for starters, let’s look at some of the stuff we have talked about all season. The rebounds were even, the turnovers pretty close, but damn if the Raptors forgot to go inside down the stretch. What was with all of the jump shots? Jose was doing a great job of distributing, then he launches a 3 with a guy in front of him? Bosh knocks down a couple of jumpers and falls in love again. Nesterovic is just running laps up and down the court. No offence, just a bunch of guys running up and down the court.
Even worse than the lack of a plan down the stretch was how the Raptors still don’t remember to box out. Mikki Moore throws down a rebound as all of the perimeter guys forget to drop down and once again, the Raptors were a shot away from being done. You HAVE to box out, especially down the stretch. Moore is athletic and so are guys like RJ and Vince. If you don’t box them out, they will rebound and dunk all night. Much in the same manner, it is also important to make the lane the toughest place on the court, which the Raptors did for much of the first half. Somewhere along the line, they forgot about that.
The Nets missed a lot of good looks tonight. They never got in a rhythm because of it or else this would have been a much different game. But when the Nets started finding their rhythm, it was a little too late. This is why we continually say, free throws are so important. The Raptors needed every single one of them down the stretch and that’s why you have to hit them. When you have a chance to make points on your opponent, you have to take them. There’s no way out of missing free throws and if your team is missing them, it will eventually come back in the end. Good on the Raps for taking care of this tonight.
Well, now let’s see if the Raptors can play a COMPLETE game in Jersey.