Have you ever done something really embarrassing? Something that halfway through you thought to yourself, “Man, this is downright embarrassing.” For example, I have a little sleepwalking problem. Once when I was in England with some friends, I ended up in the hotel lobby in my boxers, asking for a room key to the room I just left (or at least this is what was explained to me later). I snapped out of it later, found myself in an elevator full of Italian schoolgirls. Embarrassing (well, also maybe a possibility, seeing that I wasn’t much older than the Italian girls, but then who knows the laws on jail bait overseas, so I just found my way back to my room). Anyway, that being said (God that was a long intro), at some point in the third quarter, when Kevin Durant and Wally Szczerbiak were going off, the Raptors had to have thought, “Man, this is downright embarrassing. We have a kid who lives with his mom and a dude who never met a shot he didn’t like lighting us up right now. This is downright embarrassing.”
I said in the preview that I wasn’t sure why the Sonics had that bad of a record and then summed it up to their D. Well, they didn’t disappoint there, giving up another 115 points, but what I failed to mention was that THE RAPTORS WERE GOING TO HAVE TO BRING SOME KIND OF D ON THE NIGHT TO SECURE A WIN. I mean, damn, these are the kinds of games that get me upset and I’m not even on the Raptor payroll. So many glaring errors in this game, so let’s just get on with it.
The effort just wasn’t there defensively. How in the world 6’2″ Luke Ridnour is shooting over Bargnani, I will never understand. If Bargnani wants to understand why he isn’t getting a lot of minutes, it doesn’t just have to do with his lack of production offensively, he has to wake up on D. Instead of pointing to where the holes are in the lane and waiting for somebody to get there, fill the hole yourself and then hope you get some help. I don’t know how many times in the past few games I have seen Bargnani point to where a man should be, as if telling the opposing team that’s where they should be running a play, only to see them walk down the lane untouched, dropping in another easy layup.
Sorry, this is going to be scattered as things roll into my head (no notes tonight). Bosh needs to grow some balls. There were about 4 or 5 opportunities for him to dunk on somebody tonight, where instead he resigned himself to an attempted layup or finger roll, with none of them dropping. True, he went to the line on a couple of the misses, but those could have been three point plays if he had enough guts to take it hard and posterize somebody. I know I keep talking about Hump and his desire to take it hard to the rack, but if there was a surgical procedure where we could take some of Hump’s guts out and give them to Bosh in exchange for a little of Bosh’s talent, I would do it in a heartbeat. Any opportunity Hump gets to try to dunk on somebody, he’s taking it. You have to admire a guy who just says, “To hell with it, here I come, if you can stop me, do it.” It’s the equivalent of a pitcher on a 3-2 count saying, “Here comes my heat, if you can hit my fastball, then good on you, but I’m coming with the hard stuff right now.” If Bosh could just get that attitude on the floor, it would propel him into being seen around the league as a top flight guy. That’s not to say that Bosh isn’t a great player, he is (another double-double tonight), but what I’m trying to get across is that guys aren’t going to fear him the way they fear Garnett until he starts to show that he can take it hard and dunk over you, shoot over you or pass around you. If they appreciate your talent, but aren’t afraid of you at all, it’s going to be that much tougher for you.
So how does Szczerbiak get so many wide open looks? The guy comes out right off the start of the game and just starts nailing stuff, so you have to think, “Okay, we’ve seen Wally do this before. This is what they call Wallyball, when he just gets in a zone and starts hitting from everywhere. Maybe we should get up on him and make him put the ball on the floor.” I mean, that’s what any team with a tactical coach would say. That’s what they would be thinking when a guy comes out with the golden touch. But no, we had the pleasure of being engaged in the battle of the mental midget coaches (more on PJ Carlesimo later), where Sam must not have made it a point to his players to get up on Wally, because I think I saw it happen once. The thing with Szczerbiak is that he’s a total mental case. We’ve seen him get the jitters before, where he just can’t hit anything (which is why he has moved around a bit), so it’s not like if you got up on him and started making life tough for him, he was just going to find some other way to score. Wally’s a one-trick pony and once that trick is exposed, he’s just, well…a pony (that didn’t end up like I thought it would, but you get the point). You have to shut down player’s strengths and the Raptors weren’t even close to doing that tonight.
Just to show you (again) how the Raptors did not exploit the interior on the Sonics, check this out. The Raptors took 9 shots in the paint in the game and missed 4 of them. They missed another 16 from outside the paint and made 20. Now, okay, I understand that they put up 115 points and that their inability to defend against one of the worst teams in the league lost them the game, but sometimes a good defense is a good offense. There is no inside presence on the Sonics that the Raptors needed to be concerned about. You can’t get into a shooting game with a team like that, especially when you know that they can’t defend inside. You have to dictate how the game is going to be played. You have to show them that you are the better team and that you are going to determine how they play. I used to have a coach who would say, “You get two gunslingers in a shootout, somebody’s gonna get shot. Better hope it’s not you.” Which essentially meant that if you walk into a game and play the way the other team needs you to in order to win, then you’re probably going to lose.
Okay, so now onto PJ Carlesimo. I just can’t stand this guy. Never have liked him, even going back to the “Sprewell incident”. He just looks like somebody who should be teaching high school math rather than coaching a basketball team. Anyway, if you want to see how bad of a coach this guy is, just take a look at how he managed his team down the stretch. These guys were up by 18 at one point and here they are hoisting up 3s like they are the Raptors. Each time down the court, they take 5 seconds off the clock and jack one up. As Chuck and Coach mentioned, they were playing right into the Raptors hands and for once, the Raptors actually pounced on the opportunity. Sure enough though, down the stretch, when the Raptors needed an inbounds play, they couldn’t execute, so PJ didn’t have to worry about the game falling apart. Add this PJ to the PJ on Raptors TV as two PJ’s I hope to never have to see again (although I know I will).
Not to say that this had anything to do with tonight’s outcome, but what was going on with the refs tonight? Yikes! Usually Violet Palmer is pretty solid, but tonight, teamed with Spooner and Olesiak, it was a three ring circus. Phantom calls, inadvertent whistles, calls from the backcourt when two guys there didn’t call anything. A mess.
I have no idea what Jack Armstrong is talking about saying that the court needs to be wider. No, it doesn’t need to be wider, the players just need to watch what the hell they are doing, because the refs are trying to actually call the game by the rules now that they have been embarrassed over the summer. It’s the same thing with the refs calling carries, which was almost a non-existent call a few years ago.
D-Mart was a scratch tonight, you could see that coming a mile away. Juan got some PT at PG and did a good job of providing some rest for Jose Calderon, who was 3 rebounds away from a triple-double. I’m serious. We all know how good he is and that when it comes to the assist to turnover ratio, there’s nobody better in the league, but I don’t think any of us see him as a triple-double guy. Another brilliant effort from Jose tonight, did a great job of getting guys open looks and blew by defenders for easy layups (which really, everybody should have been doing since the Sonics can’t play D, but I’ve already said that). I would still like to see him stay on his feet a bit more when he is passing just outside the arc, it just makes me nervous and I don’t want to see other teams pick up on it and start to put additional pressure on him, resulting in some breakaway points.
Oh well, an embarrassing night. Hopefully they are read the riot act in time for tomorrow’s game in Phoenix. This road trip could get ugly. Should have been 3 up right now. Preview coming tomorrow afternoon.