Archive for April, 2008

Raps vs. Magic - Game 5 Preview

To be honest, I’m not completely sure what happened in Game 4. The Raptors looked like they were starting to pull away, were up by about 7 and then all of a sudden, the wheels fell off. Much in the same way that big time players come through in the 4th quarter, big time teams come through in the 4th quarter and the Raptors showed that they just aren’t ready for that sort of responsibility right now. If you have that sort of collapse in the 4th quarter in the playoffs, then you don’t have the foundation necessary to win in the playoffs.

One of the things I notice (well, it isn’t like you have to look that hard) is just how afraid the Raptors are of attacking the lane with Dwight Howard there. The Raptors are taking off balance shots, are pulling up for jumpers when a lane to the basket is more than apparent and are rushing shots when they have them. Look, Howard is going to get his blocks. That’s going to happen. Who cares? When he starts getting into block mode, he is also going to foul more because he starts looking for the block every time the opposition comes down the court. When you have an athletic advantage over your opposition, you should be able to exploit their deficiencies, not play into their strengths.

On D, the Raptors are almost embarrasing in how they let Howard rule the boards and pickup easy putbacks. Sure, it is easier said than done, but you have to make some sort of effort against him. At this point, you might as well put Hump in there for some minutes against Howard. I’m dead serious. Are you telling me that Hump wouldn’t at least Humpslap Howard at least once? I guarantee you he would get his money’s worth in there. Hump may not be the best guy to have on the court for extended minutes, but when he has been asked to walk in and play a role for a short period of time, he has been effective. The Raptors are down 3-1, there really isn’t that much to lose.

So into Game 5. I still don’t think the Magic are that much better of a team than the Raptors, I really don’t. If the Raptors are able to not fall into another giant hole in Orlando, they still have a chance to bring this back to Toronto. If you bring it back to Toronto, the crowd is going to be seriously pumped. You pick up a win there and then anything can happen. Sure, it is a lot to ask, but it isn’t completely impossible.

If I see Hedo walk through the Raptors for another layup, I am going to lose it. They are making Hedo and Jameer look like they are the fastest guys in the league. Also, the Raptors PGs have to realize that if they are playing up to their regular standards, Jameer shouldn’t even come close to beating them off the dribble, so when he has the ball, they have to get up on him. You can’t sit as far back from him as they have been, because he has shown in this series that he can get hot with his shot. Hedo and Jameer are very similar in that fashion, they can both get hot in a hurry and then they just get on one of those streaks that is tough to stop.

So once again, just like many times during the season, the Raptors have a big game. Hell, they’re all big games from here on in. But just like during the regular season, the Raptors have to get tougher. They can’t get pushed around, especially in the 4th quarter. Somebody has to knock Howard down, I don’t care if you have to cheap shot him, it has to happen. I’m not talking about something like cutting his legs out from under him, you don’t want to see anybody get hurt, I just mean that somebody has to pull something like what Hedo did to Bosh. Make a statement. Another statement game for the Raps? There’s a surprise.

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Raps vs. Magic - Game 4 Preview

There are some things that need to be stopped in the world. Greenhouse gas emissions, murder, the Black Eyed Peas and athletes making “guaranteed victory” statements. Honestly, is there anything more lame than somebody coming out and guaranteeing a victory? It is done in almost every series in every league, but what makes it worse is that now any dude on the team can make the statement. It doesn’t matter if it is the damned waterboy, somebody always feels they are important enough to guarantee a victory. When Broadway Joe did it, it was a HUGE statement, because nobody had really done it before, well not on that level and not when they were huge underdogs. Even when Messier did it, it was a big statement, because he was the captain in a big city that hadn’t won the cup in about 50 years. So when Rashard Lewis starts doing it for Game 4 against the Raptors in the first round of the playoffs, honestly, who gives a shit? What has Lewis done to warrant any sort of credibility? If the Raptors win, what is Lewis going to do? Nothing. He’ll just show up for Game 5 and act like it never happened. If the Magic win, he’ll say I told you so. I am so tired of this crap, it really needs to stop.

So now that I have that off my chest, the Raptors have the best home court advantage in the league. The atmosphere at the ACC for Game 3 was insane. You have to give it up for a city that has continually been criticized in other sports for its quiet fans. In hockey, while we have very knowledgable fans, they’re not the loudest and the same goes for baseball and football. Toronto FC actually has the best crowd in the league (credit to the Red Patch Boys) and the Raptors are enjoying that same sort of soccer fanaticism going on in the stands. The sea of red was looking for blood in Game 3 and they got it, as the Magic were served up on a platter. Even Dwight Howard said that it was great, that it reminded him of high school when everybody was loud and they were booing him. He said it with a smile on his face, because even the other team’s best player knows when the crowd is into a game. Let’s hope that same enthusiasm carries over into Game 4 this afternoon and it troubles the Magic again.

Jamario Moon was a key factor in Game 3. His athleticism could not be matched as he was all over the court picking up rebounds and making guys adjust shots. The whole key for the Raptors was making sure they used their advantage in athleticism over the Magic, as the PGs were torching the Magic on a regular basis with TJ shooting first and Jose being the court general. It was the classic one-two punch from the position that we haven’t seen in a while. If the Raptors are able to mix in a bit more Bosh in this game, it should be another victory for them. Jameer Nelson had some problems with back spasms after the game, which I think may have been from him having to look over his shoulder every other play, thus creating tension between the neck and back. 85% having to turn his head around so often, 15% shame. “Oh, woes me, my back hurts so much I have collapsed in the hallway! Security, shut down the hallway! I’m in danger! Oh wait, Game 4 is Saturday? Oh, I’m okay, I’m ready to play…but if I suck on Saturday, just remember that my back hurts okay?” Jameer, I thought you were saying how you are as good as Jose and TJ? Ask TJ about pain or danger with the back. Sissy of the Week (SOW)? JAMEER NELSON.

Anyway, enjoy the game.

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Raps vs. Magic - Game 3 Post Game

Well, it wasn’t rocket science. The key for the Raptors in Game 3 was to come out and compete right from the opening tip. They couldn’t afford to come out flat and while they did seem a little slow at the start, they turned on the jets and never looked back. The Raptors were able to use their speed to create open looks, which allowed them to go away from Bosh a bit more. Bosh didn’t even get going until there were a few minutes left in the half. When you drop 61 in the first half and haven’t had Bosh as part of that output, you’re doing something right.

I wonder what all the people who were bashing TJ will be saying tomorrow. Lucky night? It was all because of Calderon? There’s always an excuse for people not to give TJ credit, but let’s let the light shine on him tonight. He dropped 21 points, had 5 rebounds and 3 assists, but what I liked the most on his night is that he went 6-6 from the line. Six points with the clock stopped and forcing Jameer Nelson to put himself into foul trouble with a lot of time left on the clock. We’ve said it a few times here, but Orlando cannot match Toronto’s speed. If Ford is able to realize that his dribble penetration can be lethal in this series, the Raptors will still be able to pull this off. The key is for him not to force shots after he has penetrated and is approaching the key. I would still like to see him get more assists, but when you have the other stats to support your night, at least you can show that you are hustling. When you are able to put 11 points on the board in a span of just over 3 minutes, you’re on.

Calderon was well…Calderon. Another highly efficient night for Jose, finding his teammates and getting them the ball quickly so there was a lot of time left for them to check some different options. I’m not completely sure if I’m a fan of him taking 8 3-point shots over the game, but I can live with that if he is distributing the ball and creating openings. 13 assists in 24 minutes is an impressive stat, but I would still like to see him attack the basket a bit more, especially against Orlando.

Everybody knows how the Raptors don’t rebound, but tonight they actually brought a little toughness to their game. Jamario Moon provided the rebounding the Raptors have been looking, the key is to just keep him under control, but still attacking the rim.

You have to give it up for the fans down at the ACC. That game was loud. The fans were into it…somebody should go and steal Manu’s trophy, because the Raps’ fans are the 6-man of the year. That kind of thing can really help motivate a team and the Toronto fans were amazing. Let’s hope that Saturday sees the Raptor fans even louder than they were tonight.

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Top 10 Things Sam Mitchell Possibly Said in the Huddle Before the Final “Play” in Game 2

10. “Okay, who took my marker? Ah hell, it doesn’t matter.”

9. “TJ…warm up. Nah, just kidding. That buzzer beater layup was a one time thing…I ain’t crazy.”

8. “Well, they just made shots, we didn’t. Guys on the floor have to make pl…hold on, this isn’t the media scrum?”

7. “Primo, gimme your uni, I’m going in. This place is about to get Smitchified.”

6. “Okay, Andrea, seriously, why is your mouth never closed? It’s starting to freak me out. Distracting me from drawing up a play…yeah, that’s it.”

5. “What? X’s and O’s? Nah. See this here? This is a roach…see his little legs? Yeah, a roach. See the lightbulb I drew up here? Who wants to guess? Anybody? Anybody? Yes, let’s run the ‘Roaches When The Lights Come On’ play. That one always confuses everybody.”

4. “Dude, where’s my Ford Edge?”

3. “All right, I’m taking orders for tonight…we are in Whorelando if you know what I’m sayin’. Smitch better have his money! What? That doesn’t make sense? Okay, your curfew is 11:00.”

2. “Throw the next pitch off the mascot. What? Basketball? Oh.”

1. “Okay guys, from what I have read, I am supposed to draw something up to get the ball in the hands of our best player for a final shot. Doesn’t say anything about where the player is supposed to shoot from…er…I got it, Bosh, you inbound the ball. What? Oh, then you take the inbounds pass…and um…anybody have Toni Braxton’s number? No? Anybody know when she’s coming back to Casino Rama?”

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Raps vs. Magic - Game 3 Preview

All things considered, the Raptors really haven’t played that bad basketball over their first two playoff games this year. They have had two absolutely terrible quarters, which happen to be the first quarters of both games, but outside of those first two quarters, they have outscored the Magic 162-140. Until Hedo hit his miracle shot to put the Magic up in Game 2, he hadn’t done anything in the second half and the Raptors had done a pretty good job controlling the Magic offense. They had a horrible last play and some defensive lapses were clearly evident, but I don’t think the situation is as bad as everybody seems to think it is. If the Raptors are able to win on home court and even it up, I think they’ll take the series. I know, I’m the only person saying that and I know that the numbers are heavily against them, but when it comes to the playoffs, momentum has everything to do with everything. If you start getting your opponent to question themselves, you’re already halfway there. While the Raptors didn’t win Game 2, if they had, you would probably hear people talking about the great job the Raptors did in splitting away from home. So 2 points one way or the other defines how well or how poorly a team played? Let’s keep it in perspective.

Let’s not kid ourselves though, the Raptors have some serious work to do in order to come out strong in the first quarter. Right now, nothing is working for them in the first quarter. They can’t stop anybody, they can’t get anything started, they’re a mess. Sam has said that he is going to shake up the lineup, which will most likely mean that Jose will start, Rasho will sit and Kapono will be in. They really do need to get a better first 8 minutes from the PG position, as TJ has not been attacking the way he usually does, which is strange. If anything, you would expect TJ to be trying to do too much. Instead, we are watching TJ pull up for jumpers. Speaking of pulling up for jumpers, Kapono will most likely be in, because when a guy has so much confidence in his shot that he will put on the breaks and spot up for a jumper on a 3 on 1, you have to find a way to get him as many minutes as possible. They key for Bargnani will be to stay active. Too many times on offense and defence, we see Bargs standing around. He has to learn to bring the game to himself, to try to work the flow of the game into his part of the court.

At this point in the series, I think it would be a good idea to go with TJ and Jose on the court at the same time for extended periods of time. We have seen that when the Raptors are attacking, the Magic cannot handle their speed. It’s not even close. We saw Hedo and Nelson get into foul trouble because they had magnetic feet and I don’t think it would be that hard to get them into that situation again. Jameer Nelson also thinks he is the cow’s teat right now, which has led to him trying to hot dog, which has then led to him turning the ball over. Belief in yourself is a dangerous thing. A little too much placed in the wrong spot and all of a sudden, you can go from the hero to the goat in (say it with me) a millisecond. Jameer Nelson just can’t handle speed. He thinks he can, but he can’t. If the Raptors go small with Jose and TJ on the floor at the same time, the Magic could be exposed. This might mean that AP would see a little less time on the floor, but you can’t have a guy who is supposed to be taking shots out there not taking shots. That’s just wasting your space on the floor. Either shoot it or sit. AP’s defensive game is decent, but it’s not good enough that he is going to win playing time on it.

I also think it would be a good idea to get Jamario some more PT, but only if he is going to attack the rim. He can fly with the best of them, but his problem all season has been getting him to realize that he is not a SG. I would love to see him challenge D12, just go up and try to dunk on him. If it doesn’t work, hey, you’re a rookie who tried, but if it works, you’ll get the Starks over Jordan treatment…and then maybe Leo and Chuck will start talking about how much they love your body…er…awkward.

Anyway, I don’t think the situation is as dire as everyone seems to have made it out to be (I mean, really, trade Bosh talk? Come on.). True, the Magic won more games on the road than at home this season, but that was the regular season. Totally different situation. For example, the Raptors typically serve themselves up to their opponent in the 3rd quarter…but in the playoffs, they have been doing it in the first. See? Totall different.

Enjoy the game!

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Raps vs. Magic - Game 2 Post Game

It’s amazing how one man can do one thing very well and another not so well in the same game. No people, I’m not talking about TJ (relax, I’ll get to that in a second), I’m talking about Sam. Sam Mitchell at times this season has not done the greatest job managing Jose and TJ’s court time, at times taking guys off when they were in a groove or inserting guys when they were dead cold. We’ve seen some moves that have been perplexing at best. Tonight, Sam had it right. He didn’t like what he was seeing from TJ, didn’t like the fact that he was not being aggressive (which almost sounds impossible), so he got him out of there and turned it over to Jose. When Jose started to tire (and after talking with TJ), he got TJ back in the game and while his shot just wasn’t there, he was attacking and dishing, creating room for his teammates. You have to give Sam credit for managing the PG position tonight, he got everything right there. But as we have seen so many times over the past few seasons, if you need a play drawn up at the end of the game, it just isn’t going to happen. It almost hurts to see that at the end of the game, after a timeout, the play that the Raptors ran was one where Jose reacted like something had broken down and Bosh decided it was best to jack up a jumper instead of attacking the basket. You have to think that maybe Bosh was having some flashbacks of the non-call his last time with the ball, where Howard was awarded a block (I’m still 50/50 on that call, could have gone either way, but I think because Bosh was travelling sideways, it’s tougher to give the call in his favour).

Sam said after the game that you can only do so much as far as drawing up plays, that players are the ones who are out on the floor and they make the decisions. NO. NO. NO. You are the coach, you outline what is supposed to happen and if they don’t follow what you say, you give them hell. Do you think the Utah Jazz are going to come out of a timeout and have somebody decide that they’re just going to go against what coach Sloan has drawn up? You only get that kind of pass when your name is LeBron or Kobe or Michael. When you have shown time after time that you can create your own good look and then follow through on it, then okay, take that option if it presents itself. The Raptors do not have anybody who fits that tab. You need to have a set play and if something breaks down, then you have to attack. You cannot settle for a jump shot taken by a guy whose strongest game is inside, it just doesn’t play into your favour. If you are going to settle for a jump shot for the win, then you might want to take a look at a guy named Kapono, who has just been lighting it up all night and needs a millisecond to release the ball. I don’t understand how you just forget a guy like that down the stretch.

Note to Raptors commentators: ENOUGH WITH THE SUPERMAN COMMENTS. Okay, I get it, Dwight Howard is good, he has a big body, he’s likeable, he did a memorable “dunk” in the dunk competition, okay, got it. Do we really have to hear him referred to as Superman all night? I don’t know if this annoys anybody else, but really, it is driving me nuts. What if he had come out in a Batman costume for the dunk competition, used a utility belt to hook himself to the rafters and then swung down for a dunk? Would we be calling him Batman all season? Okay, this is the worst hypothetical ever, but really, enough with the Superman stuff, it’s stupid.

The technical that was called on Superman was horrible. Howard was just having a little fun, there’s nothing wrong with that. He wasn’t shouting, he wasn’t making any obscene gestures, it’s the playoffs, let that stuff go. What I loved about the play was that by stepping up and not letting him have an easy dunk, Delfino showed that the Raptors do have some guts. Believe me, that is serious business going in for a block on Howard, so it was good to see that Delfino just said, “To hell with this, you’re not getting an easy dunk here.” I’ve said it before, the most exciting play in basketball isn’t the dunk, it’s the blocked dunk. Could you imagine how you would have jumped out of your seat if Delfino had blocked Howard? Did you see how the next time down the court, he somehow just didn’t have a grip on the ball when he went in for an easy putback dunk and missed? I’m not saying by any means that he was thinking about Delfino, but you have to wonder if even for a half second, he was just telling himself to make sure he used his body to go up strong. Taking that extra millisecond (yes, second time I have used “millisecond” in this post) to think about it could have had its effect.

Man, we talk a lot about how when the Raptors complain about playing a lot of games in a few nights, they need better condititioning, but after seeing Bosh in a couple of games here, I really think he does need to work on his conditioning a bit in the off-season. True, he is battling against Howard and Lewis all night, so that is going to take its toll more than playing against other NBA players, but the dude was sucking flies at the end of the game. This is why it is even more perplexing that he would let a long range jumper go for the win. If you’re that tired, your legs are not going to be under you, so that shot is probably going to fall short. Run some laps in the summer and do a lot of swimming. Big time players come up big and make big time plays in the 4th quarter. If you’re too tired to do it, then you know what you have to work on.

Anyway, good to see the Raptors come back again and in better fashion this time, but spotting a team a 15 point lead every game just isn’t going to help you win games. The Raptors need to come out and get off to a good start, because we have seen in the past two games that they can definitely play against the Magic. The Raptors have been able to win quarters 2-4, but if you’re that far behind after the first, it just isn’t going to happen.

Well, Game 3 back in Toronto and if you’re going, make sure you help make the ACC the noisiest arena in the league.

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Raps vs. Magic - Game 2 Preview

Well, going into Game 2 against the Magic, the Raptors can start with taking a positive out of Game 1. I know, you’re thinking, “A POSITIVE? WHAAA?”, but yes, there were a few positives to be taken out of that game that can be carried over to Game 2. Let’s start with the fact that the Raptors could have laid down and let the game completely get out of hand, but they managed to cut into the lead before half and at one point where really within striking distance at a 5 point deficit. While their defense was nothing to write home about, they did manage to start closing out on some of the open looks that the Magic used to get that lead in the first quarter, so they have to concentrate on carrying that aggressive behaviour over to Game 2.

While Dwight Howard put up some great looking numbers, I honestly cannot say that I thought he dominated any part of the game. The Raptors did a decent job of keeping him away from the basket considering that they really don’t have anybody who can match his size and the fact that they had Bargnani on him for stretches at a time. They were making efforts to cut off the lead-in pass to Howard, to the point where the Magic just forgot about him a few times down the floor, which is exactly what you want them to do. When Howard started complaining that he wasn’t getting the ball, the Magic then gave it to him far from the basket, which plays into the Raptors favour. Let’s be honest, this season, the Raptors have done a decent job against Howard. I’m okay with him getting 30 points a game, because I don’t think he’s the guy who is going to beat the Raps, it’s the rest of the shooters.

So working into what the Raptors need to do to generate some success in Game 2, it is imperative that they close gaps on shooters. I don’t see anyone on the Magic who really has the speed to beat the Raptors D off the dribble (although SOMEHOW, Nelson managed to do it to TJ and Jose all night). While Hedo has some good parts to his game, like we’ve said earlier, he’s just one of those guys who when he gets in the flow, look the hell out. But while he had some clear lanes the the basket in Game 1, I wouldn’t be that worried about him driving either. Bosh is going to have to do a better job against Lewis off the dribble, because he is the one guy who can just use his athleticism to put the ball on the floor and then attack. If the Raptors are able to close gaps quickly and then get help by having teammates slide up if a Magic player puts the ball on the floor or dishes, things could be a lot more balanced in Game 2.

The Raptors have to be able to play 4 quarters of solid basketball. One of the consistent problems for the Raptors all season was their inability to play 4 quality quarters of basketball. Typically, it was the third quarter that gave them trouble throughout the season, in Game 1 it was the first, but either way, the Raptors will have to find a way to be consistent over 4 quarters. If you take a quarter off in the playoffs, you’ll be giving the series away before you know it. This is where Sam will have to ensure that the guys are ready to go from the opening tip and that when they come out in the second half, they keep the energy up. I think the Raptors will come out more awake in Game 2, but I’m a little worried about the third quarter. If they’re not awake coming out of the break, they are going to be in some serious trouble.

Enjoy the game.

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Raps vs. Magic - Game 1 - Postgame

The way the Raptors came out to start their first playoff game of 2008, you would almost think they were playing a preseason game. This looked like an All-Star game (minus the All-Stars) with no defense being played and nobody wanting to lay a hand on anybody. Sam Mitchell acted like he was in an All-Star game, just standing and looking on, randomly subbing guys in and out and tinkering with the lineup for no apparent reason. Too bad the Raptors weren’t able to put any sort of All-Star performance together.

So let’s start with the tinkering of the lineup. There was a lot of talk about the international on international matchup of Bargs on Hedo, but really, sometimes you just have to manufacture a story when the boss is looking for ink. The real story would be why in the first game of the playoffs, a coach would start a player who has been inconsistent at best throughout the season, has had many defensive miscues over that same season and has never really been known for his defensive ability. One has to wonder why you start a guy who has struggled in his sophomore season when you know he will be facing one of the most improved if not THE most improved player in the league. This isn’t to say that Andrea was the reason the Raptors lost, because he wasn’t. Sure, Hedo had far too many untouched lanes to the basket, taking Andrea off the dribble, but he also made some nice fadeaways too. Overall, Hedo didn’t tear the Raptors apart and I have to give credit to Bargs that he was also one of the few people who was willing to actually slap Dwight Howard on his way up to the rim. The guy looked like he had just run a marathon, but switching between Hedo and D12 is no easy task for any player.

So essentially, what was the point of starting Andrea? I’m not really sure. If you believe the post game interview of TJ Ford, the players didn’t even know until game time that Andrea was starting, which seems somewhat strange. I guess some guys need to know in advance so they can get themselves prepared, while other guys might just get even more tense if they know they are going to start. Either way, it was strange. There was some suggestion that it was done in order to match up more on size, but we all know that while that looks good on paper, it doesn’t always translate well onto the court. Mitchell said that he was looking to avoid post-ups by having Bosh and Andrea on the floor at the same time, but really, at any point this season, have we seen teams not be able to post up against the Raptors because they have had Bosh and Bargs on the floor? At any point, has “Bosh and Bargs” brought any fear into Raptor opponents? No.

Also strange were some of the defensive strategies the Raptors employed this afternoon, if you can call them strategies at all. Why on Earth the Raptors were double-teaming Dwight Howard 16 feet from the basket is beyond me. You could be trying to capitalize on the fact that he is not comfortable being out there and will look to get rid of the ball as soon as he can, possibly creating a turnover, but I’m more of the thinking that I’m happy with him that far from the basket. Also, if I am going to double-team, I don’t think I am going to use TJ Ford as my second man in there. True, TJ does have some quick hands and is pretty good at stripping the ball, but Howard is most likely going to keep that thing up high, which would just lead to a reach-in foul. Interesting how the Raptors were quick on getting two guys out on D12 when he was away from the basket, but when all of their shooters were setting up, there were no Raptors to be found, providing more open looks than a night at the Brass Rail.

A while earlier, I was saying that the Raptors should watch what they wish for. They were celebrating when they got the news that they were going to be facing the Magic in the first round and now that has come around to slap them in the face. The Magic put a stamp on things, dropping 43 points in the first quarter, which is almost too big of a number to even believe. At some point, you have to start seeing that the other team is getting far too many good looks from the perimeter and you have to adjust. The post season is all about making quick adjustments and the Raptors and their coaching staff just weren’t about it today.

You have to give it up to Jason Kapono. Not too long ago, I criticized him for his lack of effort in creating open looks for himself. Tonight we saw Kapono working off screens, hustling into open spaces and generally finding spots on the floor where he was going to be able to use his patented quick release. He made it easier for himself to get minutes and kept the Raptors in the game, when they easily could have been light years out of it.

You also have to appreciate how stead Rasho is. Can it mean anything that the two guys who had the most solid games are both guys who have some playoff victories under their belts, some championship success? Those guys looked like a couple of guys who had done this before.

Can anybody explain to me why Bosh was on the bench for so long, especially when the Raptors had closed the gap to 5? There is always an interesting debate over whether to keep going with the squad on the floor that has closed the gap or insert the star player, but when you are the Raptors and you have seen on repeated occasions what happens to the team when the star is not in the lineup, you would think that you should get the star back on the floor before things fall apart. Well, you would think that, but Sam Mitchell wouldn’t. When you have 8 minutes left in the game and you have managed to get the score down to 5 from being 24 at one point, you have to make a move to get your star back in the lineup and slow the game down so you can maximize what he has to offer. By the time Bosh was back in the game, it was much too late. That’s a risk I’m willing to take. Put Bosh back in with 8 minutes to go and 2 fouls available. If he fouls out with a couple of minutes to go, you’re probably going to be relying on your outside shooting anyway by that point. Just another strange decision by Sam.

Well, let’s not read too much into how game one turned out. Let’s not start jumping ship like I have read a lot of guys here are doing. These series are long. There is more than enough time to get the ship back on course. Here’s hoping the Raptors have figured something out before Tuesday rolls around.

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Laugh now, but thank us later

In my last post, I said that I would offer some pointers on how to create a happy pro-basketball household throughout the playoffs. Sure, you roll your eyes now, but wait until you’re sitting on the edge of your seat in game three, cold MGD in hand and the girlfriend/wife walks by and gives you one of those sighs/looks that suggests trouble is about to get brewing. You don’t even want to get near that situation, because even a miraculous attempt to smooth things over could result in a significant amount of QGTL (Quality Game Time Lost).

In order to calculate the amount of QGTL, you have to factor in the following variables: Game Number; Series Score; Game Score; Time Situation in Game (clock, timeout, commercial) Eye Contact Required with Significant Other (this variable has a sub-equation that can be arrived at by using factors such as Level of Voice, Posture, Facial Expression, What You May Have Done Recently, etc.); Actual Active Listening Required; Speaking Required on Your Part…needless to say, it is a complex equation that I don’t have enough time to explain, but you get the idea.

So to avoid dealing with QGTL, here are some things that you can do before the weekend arrives and the Raptors playoff season starts.

1. Say it with me - Spa Day. Sure, this will only work for one game, but if you do it right off the start, on the weekend, it will probably give you about a week’s grace for playoff basketball watching. Pretend you’re listening to anything she says about the day and then throw in a “So next time, would you want to go there again or try somewhere else?” This will a) make her think you give a damn; b) make her think you are actually going to do this again.

2. Chores. Get her to write a list of things she wants you to do on the weekend and get them all done by Saturday. If you have to take some of Friday off to complete the tasks at hand, do so. It’s the playoffs. It goes a long way.

3. Suggest a girls night out with her friends. House is empty, which means you can actually hear the tv and don’t have to answer a million questions if she decides to watch with you.

4. Buy her something. Anything. If there’s one thing women love more than talking about themselves, it is having shit bought for them. You can be the most progressive woman in the world, but you have to admit, a guy buys you something and it gets him a few bonus points.

I could go on, but you get the point. For the guys with girlfriends, this may not be as important to you, because you always have that option of stating the obvious - “Listen, if it comes down to watching this game or listening to you complain about shit, guess who’s winning?” Follow that up with a “You don’t have to go home, but you have to get the hell outta here” and you’re set. Bring on the playoffs. If you are one of those guys who says, “Oh, my girl likes to watch the games with me,” well then, good for you. But watch your back, because if you screw up on ANYTHING, she will use the companionship during ball as a weapon against you. You’re better off alone.

Alright, enjoy the playoffs.

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Finishing Up and Getting Ready

As the Raptors come to the end of the regular season, yes, we can assume that Sam is a genius. The Raptors managed to work themselves into a first round matchup with the Magic, which is the best they could hope for considering the other company at the top of the conference. While the Raptors should be happy that they are facing the Magic in the first round and not the Pistons or Cavs, by no means should they be taking the Magic lightly. The Magic did after all take 2 of 3 from the Raptors this season. I’m not a big fan of hearing that the Raptors were cheering once the 76ers lost, solidifying the playoff bracket. Either way, you have to be a professional and get ready to play.

Speaking of being a professional, Sam should be completely unprofessional and rest his bigs as much as possible in tonight’s game. He has said that he is going to mix everyone in to get some action, but let’s hope for God’s sake that he does more mixing of Hump and Primo into the lineup than anybody else. With the Raptors’ luck, we will put Bosh in for 10 minutes and he will end up blowing his knee out. I don’t care about that whole “integrity of the game” business when people talk about playing hard in the final game of the season when everything is set. Save the playing hard for the playoffs. Hell, put D-Mart back in a uni and let him run the show. Close the season with a banquet at Big Boy and he’s a happy man.

So what went right and what went wrong for the Raptors in the regular season? Well, where to start. Bosh’s injury problems started in the preseason and effectively continued throughout the regular season. Different injuries, nothing extremely serious, but just nagging injuries that wouldn’t go away. Last season, the Raptors showed that they could find ways to win without Bosh in the lineup, but this year, they were not able to find the same results without him in the lineup. The Raptors looked lost, not being able to find a real flow and exposing themselves as a team that works off that high-low first and then looks for other options. Hopefully the Raptors have had him back in the lineup long enough to try to diversify their game a little bit. The Magic will not play the Raptors exactly how they did in the regular season, so they will need to find other options than Bosh.

Andrea Bargnani had about as difficult of a sophomore season as you could expect. He started great, looking like he had added some new wrinkles into his game, but as the season progressed, we saw Andrea lose confidence and put pressure on himself. He eventually got himself out of that horrible rut he was in around the middle of the season, but he was never close to the Andrea we saw last season. That could be a combination of him not being able to sneak up on any teams anymore, but it is also a mental issue that he will need to work on in the summer. Before that, Andrea will need to work off his strengths in the playoffs. There will be room for him to shoot and if the Raptors can get him a few good looks early in games, he could turn things on just in time.

TJ’s injury was bad and good for the Raptors. On the bad side, it was a serious injury that almost ended TJ’s career. It also put TJ in a situation where he had to watch another PG come in and play extremely well, creating a pressure situation in the game’s most important position. When TJ came back, it was obvious that he was pressing, a guy who was always used his ego as a way to complement his game finding that his ego had been hurt, which was in turn, affecting his game. The good part of his injury (it sounds bad, but you know what I mean) is that we saw the emergence of Jose Calderon. Jose showed that he can run the team in an efficient manner and displayed good leadership that the Raptors needed. By going back to the bench so TJ could start, Jose showed some class, but also showed that he is a bit soft. It looks like the complete team player move, but I would have liked to see Jose try to stay in the position for a while longer. Either way, if the Raptors can keep the 1-2 punch firing going into the playoffs, it could create defensive problems for the Magic.

Sam Mitchell was exposed this season. The smoke and mirrors that were last season were removed this year as we saw Sam continually outcoached, with the Raptors unable to hold leads, run dead ball plays and defend in the crunch. We have to give credit that the Raptors did have some good defence this year, but there were far too many defensive lapses at key moments in games that led to losses. Heading into the playoffs, the Raptors can ill afford those same lapses, as one mistake could cost you a game…and that could have you one step closer to the golf season.

If the Raptors are able to keep Dwight Howard away from the basket, success will be a lot easier. Problem is, that is easier said than done. Dwight Howard is a MAN. It will take a lot of strength from guys like Rasho to keep pushing Howard away from the basket, because we have seen his game, it is essentially dunk, dunk, dunk. His game is progressing, but not to the point that you have to start worrying about him making Divac-like passes to slashers from 8 feet out. He has worked on that mini-hook, but if the Raptors only have to worry about Howard taking mini-hooks, I bet they’ll take that in a second.

So if you have any chores to do tonight, get them done, skip the game. Make sure that you have your weekend open, take the wife or girlfriend out before the playoffs start so that there’s no complaining (or even talking) during the playoffs. If you don’t go out, you’d better not come home empty handed. Check in tomorrow night and you might just see some tips on things to do/things to buy in order to keep your household a happy playoff household.

Go Raps!!!

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