Considering the short bench the Raptors had today (more on that later), losing by four to the Suns isn’t that horrible of a thing. When you shoot 54% from the floor with 47% from 3 and hit your free throws, you would think it would result in a win. But there isn’t an “effort” column in league stats, so this just goes down as another loss in what is quickly becoming a short season.
At times, this game sort of resembled an All-Star game…just er…minus the All-Stars. What I mean is that there wasn’t a whole lot of defence being played out there today, although there were a few good defensive performances. You have to give it up for Bargs today, who had the unenviable position of being up against Shaq. I don’t care if Shaq has slowed down over the years, that size hasn’t gone anywhere and when he starts backing down on guys, he will always be a tough guy to guard. That’s why I was impressed with how Bargs actually played him pretty tough. He didn’t back down, kept an arm on his back and pressured him into trying to make a few shots from a little further out than he is used to. What I also liked about Bargs tonight was that when he realized he was in a situation where he was not going to be able to make a play on Shaq, he didn’t take a stupid “swat” foul. By realizing when he was beaten on a play, Bargs was able to stay out of foul trouble and Shaq only ended up playing 25 total minutes before fouling out.
You also have to like the consistent play from Joey Graham. Joey has shown steady progress since JT has taken over and he once again showed some fire tonight. Early in the game, when it looked like Shaq was going to go in for an uncontested dunk, we saw Joey get back and knock it out of Shaq’s hands. A lot of players would have been afraid to get in there in that situation, but Joey showed no fear and that’s the kind of mentality he has to have if he is going to succeed. It was also impressive to see Joey taking a good chunk of time at SG and effectively play the position. I don’t think “versatility” is a word that anybody typically would have applied to Joey, but there you go, he showed some versatility today.
So now onto the JO trade situation. From various accounts, this deal is apparently near completion (the Marion-JO deal). I don’t have any inside knowledge of any trades, so for me to speculate on anything is just that, speculation. That being said, when JO sits (supposedly because the Raptors don’t want him to play in a back-to-back right now) and Marion sits on the same day, things start to have a little smell to them. From Miami’s end, I don’t know why they would do this deal right now, seeing that JO has just come back from a knee injury, looked rusty in his first game back and hasn’t shown much durability in the past few years. They would also be adding some years onto their current salary situation. I know it comes down to need, but I think this one would probably lean a bit more in the Raptors favour.
So now it’s on to Atlanta to face the Hawks, followed by the Pistons and the Bulls. Well, good to see that the second half of the year has started out with no challenges…