Archive for March, 2008

Raps vs Sonics Post Game

Just for today, the planets are aligned. The Raptors took care of business, the weather’s good, I’m sitting here drinking Peardrax…this is easy living. But it certainly wasn’t easy living for the Raptors going into the half. Tell me they didn’t look like a team with a few issues going into the half down by 4. In a strange course of events, the Raptors managed to come out and dominate in the third quarter, the quarter that has given them more problems that any specific team this year. Enemy number one for the Raptors? Rebounding. Number two? The third quarter. They usually need to avoid the third quarter like a horny dude needs to avoid a massage parlour in Markham right now.

Since he has been a lightning rod for criticism lately, let’s start with TJ Ford. The way TJ played today is exactly the kind of game the Raptors need from him. He was in control, was looking to make his teammates better players and wasn’t trying to force the issue. He brought a nice change of pace into the third quarter and was an important part of turning a 5 point game into a 12 point game for a period of time. One of his turnovers also came from him looking to pass after wanting to shoot, which may be an instance of him wondering in mid-flight whether there was another player open (there was, Kapono…one of his favourite targets). Bad play, yes. But I’ll take progress with TJ where I can get it right now. Not that impressive of a line score for him, 4 turnovers, 4 assists and 6 points, but he was controlling the game better and as usual, he played some pretty tough D. If there is one thing you can’t pin on TJ, it’s that while he has been sulking and getting greedy on offense, he hasn’t been carrying that onto his defense, as he is still right up on guys, daring them to try to beat him on the dribble.

Andrea had a rough night shooting, but here’s what I like about what I am seeing from him lately. He hasn’t been afraid to take it to hard to the rim. I thought that after getting cracked on the head a few games ago, he might be a little intimidated in the lane, but if anything, it kind of seems like he wants to prove that he is tough enough to go back there. He’s like a guy who had his first experience with a dominatrix: terrified at first, but then after all the slapping an initial shock, realized he liked it and can’t wait to go back for more. The result today? 4-4 from the line. Keep that going and he could start getting an additional 8 points per game just dropping foul shots all day. That could (and should) be an important part of his game.

We often undervalue Rasho on this team. We gloss over a lot of the good things he does, setting picks, pushing guys away from the basket (without picking up the foul), knowing where he should be on the court…those are all important things that he does on a regular basis. What you also have to appreciate about Rasho is that when there are games where the Raptors should come in and step on the other team’s throat, Rasho delivers. Today was a perfect example. Rasho played tough inside, even throwing down a dunk. A DUNK! It is almost painful to watch him try to get up and down the court, he looks like he is running with ski boots on, but the Raps don’t need him to be the guy on the break. They just need him to establish his position on both ends and use his size to his advantage. Sam Mitchell on Rasho? “Rasho is a pro…He never complains and is always ready to play. That’s something our young players need to learn from.” Um Sam…is there a certain PG you could be referring to here? Wow, that could be one of the most thinly veiled jabs at a player I’ve heard in a while. Can’t argue with it though.

Okay, nice to see the Raptors on the other end of a hard foul, but you never like to see a guy get hurt. But now that I have that cliche out of the way, I loved seeing Delfino knock a guy around for once. Personally, I’m getting sick of seeing the Raptors play so soft and get slapped around with no retribution. Anyway, it will disappear, but today, the planets were aligned.

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Raps vs. Sonics Preview

Coming down the stretch, there are some games the Raptors are just going to have to take care of, whether they have their star player or not. This is one of those games. With or without Chris Bosh, the Raptors should be able to handle the Sonics. Hell, after watching Georgetown beat Louisville today, I think the Hoyas might be able to take the Sonics (how good did Hibbert look again?). While nobody in sports says that they look ahead on their schedules, everybody does, that’s precisely why they say it. The Raptors right now should be saying, “This is a game we need to get. We have the Lakers, Golden State, Denver, Sacramento and Utah coming up and only one of those teams is relatively soft (um…that would be the Kings). Who knows when Bosh is going to be back (was that the strangest injury you’ve ever seen? Sure, he said it happened a while back and that he had been playing through it, but it was like somebody was working a voodoo doll…note to self, check Hornets’ staff).

The good thing for the Raptors is that Roger Mason Jr. does not play for the Sonics, because they apparently have no defense to stop the Raptor Killer. But the Sonics do have Kevin Durant, who has been making a lot of impressive plays this season and is a clear lock for ROY. What I’m most worried about with no Bosh around isn’t the toll it will take on the Raptors scoring, because I think they have enough other options and a point guard (Jose) who is good at finding those options, it is on the boards. The Raptors are bad on the boards, that’s no secret. Without Chris Bosh, they’re just plain awful. If you need anything to justify that statement, just flash back to that train-wreck that was the Charlotte game, where the Bobcats had 32 second chance points to the Raptors 0. If that is happening against the 24th best rebounding team in the league, what happens when they come up against the best rebounding team in the league…yep, the Sonics.

So that’s where we kick it back to what I was saying about the Raptors upcoming schedule. They face the best rebounding team in the league on Sunday, the Lakers are 4th, Denver is 2nd…thank God Sacramento and Utah are down in the Raptors territory. The thing with Utah is that they just score 105 points per game and shoot almost 50% on average, so it looks like they don’t have to worry about rebounding all that much right now.

But back to the Sonics game…with Bosh’s knee apparently making no real progress, the Raptors are going to have to figure out ways to play more complete team basketball. Often, when you run into games you should win and you have your whole roster, you can just let the bigs get the lead and then coast it out with the reserves. The Raptors should still be able to get ahead with some perimeter ball movement and good shot selection, but wait…that has been some of the problem lately. Shot selection. If the Raptors are going to take care of the Sonics, they will have to move the ball and find those good looks, because any rushed shots surely aren’t going to be coming back into the Raptors’ hands. That ball will be going the other way.

Anyway people, good to be back, enjoy the game!

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I’m Back…

Hey guys. Sorry for the disappearing act, but you all know how it goes sometimes. Anyway, some of you were probably more than happy for the break from me complaining about…whatever, but deep down in my heart, I know many of you were up at night, unable to sleep wondering about my general well-being. Just humour me here, I really need it.

So I’ve just spent the last half hour or so scanning some of the posts on the message board…what happened to the love at RF? Where’s the love? So much hate! To quote Denzel in He Got Game, “You gotta get some of that hate out of your heart.” Hating on each other, on TJ…(well, some of that may be justified), let’s all sit back and have a Courvoisier.

1. The anger towards TJ lately actually has just cause. Yeah, I said it. Anyone who has been on RF for any amount of time knows that I will always go to bat for a guy, trying to defend him because we really don’t know the whole story at any point, but TJ’s play lately has been embarrassing. Not only embarrassing regarding the kinds of selfish plays he is making, but embarrassing on the level that he is starting to make people REALLY question his character. Before, it was all speculation and to tell the truth, so is a good chunk of it now, but when you come out and take shot after shot after shot without even looking at any of your teammates (when you’re the point guard), then it’s time for you to sit. I’m all for the old TJ, where he relied on his speed to get defensive players off balance, where he brought an injection of speed into the game and used it to benefit the team, but right now, it’s all schoolyard…and bad schoolyard at that. Time for Sam to step up, have a serious conversation with him about his game, his life, the Raptors and how it is possible for his role to diminish even more if he doesn’t deal with things like a man. As poorly as TJ has been acting/playing, this is where strong coaching comes in. TJ CAN still be an effective part of this team. I’m not one of the people saying to send him out of town, let’s not be too harsh. Let’s try to get it sorted first, try to find a way to get him to accept the reality of the situation and then find a way to work into it.

2. There was some talk about the Raptors not having any toughness and Sam Mitchell being the toughest player on the team. Quite accurate. Props to Dutch for pointing that out (but I’m still watching Martine over you…well, for the first few minutes, then it’s over to The Score). But really, is this anything anybody who watches this team doesn’t know? Andrea nearly gets his head taken off and the Raptors act like it didn’t even happen. I’m not saying you have to go out and Brashear a guy (back in my Montreal days, I actually met that guy at Moe’s Deli & Bar…hands like meat hooks…the things are massive), but somebody has to get up in someone’s face at some point. It just tells the other team that you aren’t going to be pushed around.

3. Jamario Moon says that he doesn’t read scouting reports? WHA? I’m going to say that either, a) He is completely misguided; b) he hasn’t seen guys blowing past him lately with the same move or c) he can’t read.

4. In Boston, how long before Rajon Rondo starts feeling the pressure of a cagey vet like Sam I Am sitting behind him with the playoffs around the corner?

5. I don’t think I can remember a time when I have seen the Raptors have so many shots taken at inopportune moments. Let’s not pin all of that on TJ. Every Raptor player has been forcing a few too many lately.

6. AP on a turnaround fadeaway at the end of the game in overtime? That’s the play Sam drew up coming out of a timeout?

Anyway, happy to be back.

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