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.