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!