It looked dicey for a while, but the Raptors managed to steady the ship and get things rolling. Once again, we saw a Raptors team that all of a sudden likes to run, getting out on the break and actually…could it be…hustling?
If you want to take a look at a guy who was hustling all night long, step back and applaud Mr. Bargnani. I’ve mentioned before that for a big man, he is surprisingly quick to get up and down the court and when he was running the floor today, he was able to fill the lane and score on uncontested dunks and layups simply because nobody covering him could keep up with him. Most of the time, when you have a team that is looking to run, whoever is playing the 5 is usually the trailer. For example, look at Shaq in Phoenix. When they run, you usually see Shaq bringing up the rear. With the Raptors, half of the time, Bargs is one of the first guys down the court with his hand in the air asking for the ball.
If the Raptors are able to make use of Bargnani’s willingness and ability to run the floor and are able to use Marion’s ability to be another option to push the ball up the floor, things are only going to open up for Bosh. By having Marion able to push the ball, it will also put less stress on Jose’s leg, as he won’t have to be full tilt every time down the court.
Jack Armstrong made a bold and very accurate comment tonight. On one Raptor possession in the third quarter, the ball came out to Marion on a break at the top of the arc. Marion took a look at the basket, but then passed it up, leading the the ball going around the horn and ending with an AP 3. Armstrong talked about how it was a smart deceision by Marion, passing the ball up to the better shooter and that Jamario Moon would have taken that shot. He was dead right. Those are the kinds of small things that translate into wins. By not taking that shot, Marion ended up helping the Raptors gain 3 points. If Moon had been around and taken that shot, it would have almost been a guaranteed miss and if you parallel the plays, that’s a 6 point swing. It may not have seemed like much, but making those kinds of decisions is going to not only have a positive effect on that play, but it will carry over to the team’s overall understanding of the game. JT can only talk about it so much, the rest comes from the players.
But let’s not get too carried away here. This is a win over the Wolves and it should be taken for what it’s worth. While the Raptors can’t be picky about who they are beating right now, it would be dangerous to get a false sense of confidence. Let’s see how things shake out against the Suns and then take it from there. The “Test out West” couldn’t have come at a better time for the Raptors. A little bit of confidence gained, but still a whole lot to prove.