Lately, we’ve been doing a lot of talking about how the Raptors
have not been able to finish off teams, how they fade down the stretch and just don’t have that killer instinct. If you wanted a good example of why the Raptors
are not able to finish off teams, today’s game against the Blazers was a perfect example. Now, by no means are the Blazers chumps. They are a good team, the hottest in the NBA. This isn’t a team that you are going to put away very easily. But that being said, it doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be able to close out a game when you have a team down by 6 with a minute and a half to go. Here are three reasons why this game should have ended in regulation time (and then just some other commentary).
1. Shot selection. I don’t know if I tend to talk out loud during games, whether the game is just that simple or whether my wife is starting to pick up basketball just by poking her head into the room every once in a while, but when my wife can come into the room with a minute left and ask, “Jay, why are they taking 3 point shots at the end of the game? Aren’t they winning by 6?”…when she asks that (and she’s dead on), you have to think that a bunch of guys (and a coach) who have been in the game their whole lives would be asking the same question. What exactly is the strategy in trying to nail some 3s, especially when you are a team that can’t rebound to save its life? 1:20 left in the game, up by 6 and Delfino jacks up a 3. WHY? I don’t care how good the look is, when you’re up by six with 1:20 left, you get that ball inside to the guy who has carried the game, Chris Bosh. Of course, the Raptors
don’t rebound the ball, the Blazers come back the other way and throw down a dunk. It’s now a 4-point game. So next trip down the court, what do the Raptors
do? Jack another 3 with 44 seconds left. That is their game plan. Up by 4 with 44 seconds left and their plan to close out the game is for AP to launch a 3. Nice. Tell me if you’ve heard this part before: Raptors
don’t rebound the ball, Blazers come back down the court miss a 3, BUT REBOUND THE BALL and then throw down a dunk. It is now a 2-point game. Which then gets back to a 4-point game after a few free throws are made by Bosh. Which leads me to point 2.
2. Jamario’s Stupid Foul. I’m sorry, but Leo and Chuck were way out of line trying to defend Jamario on his foul of Outlaw on what ended up being a game tying 4-point play. Under no circumstances do you run out and try to block that shot with a 4 point lead. You learn that in high school. They were saying how you have to like the energy and enthusiasm, but no, you don’t. At that point, you have to be pretty damn disappointed. Everyone on the floor should know that a made 3 point shot there still leaves you with the lead and that all you will have to do is inbound and make some free throws. Get a hand up, sure. Get two hands straight up? Sure. But run out and jump at a guy? No. I don’t care that you barely even touched the guy. You touched him and he was smart enough to make sure the ref saw it. The game shouldn’t have even gotten to the point where Jamario had the chance to screw it up, they should have put the Blazers on ice, should have been up by about 8 by that point, but that’s what you get when you don’t know how to manage a game. You put yourself in situations where a guy might make a mistake…a mistake that could lose your team the game. Jamario is a shot blocker, hell, he’s a good shot blocker, but he has to realize that there’s a time and place for it. His coaches have to make sure he knows that.
inability to rebound. Down the stretch, in games you are winning, you HAVE to be able to come up with at least one big rebound. If your team is going to be stupid enough to start launching 3s down the stretch in a game they are winning, you have to be able to come up with a rebound so you can keep the clock going in your favour. If you are losing and you are launching 3s, you REALLY need a few guys who can rebound in order to get some second chance points. The Raptors
just can’t rebound, especially in tight situations where they need to fight. They just can’t do it. The only reason they were able to outrebound the Knicks the other night was because the Fat Boys were on the bench for most of the game. When you get to the playoffs, if you can’t rebound down the stretch, you are going to lose some close games and the problem is, in the playoffs, there might not be another game for you to make up for your mistakes.
The good thing about Jamario is that the guy didn’t dwell on his horrible mistake. He put it behind him and then went out and had two great overtime periods. He stayed aggressive, but was smart about it and stayed in control. The Raptors
also decided to get their heads screwed back on and just started feeding the ball to Bosh
inside. I liked the play at the end of the first overtime period, although my only complaint is that I would have gotten him the ball a little closer to the basket so that he wasn’t required to dribble in and then make his move. When Bosh
has to put the ball on the floor too many times before making a move, he tends to either turn it over or lose focus on the release. Let him establish himself down low, get him the ball and then have him attack on a quick spin move. But yes, that was a little better down the stretch.
When you look at the game the Brandon Roy had and then you look at the “game” Andrea Bargnani
had, you would never know these two were 1-2 in ROY voting. Seriously, you wouldn’t have a clue. Roy did everything he could to win that game, including a remarkable deep 3 at the end of the first OT that displayed hustle, smarts and talent (and maybe a little luck). Bargnani
came right out at the start of the game and Yogi’d himself into 2 quick fouls, which resulted in him assuming Yogi’s former seat, left end bench. On top of that, he forced some shots and threw up a line drive of a shot that I would have sworn was a pass if anyone had been near the basket. He had his feet rooted to the ground on D and just didn’t look comfortable. At first, I really thought he was going to be locked in for this game, showing the Toronto crowd that he is on the same level as Roy, that last year wasn’t a fluke. He came out and hit a jumper, but then he followed with a running dunk, showing differernt parts of his game and letting the Blazers know that he has the ability to mix it up and score. But after that, it was a disaster. Poor shot selection, bad defending, just not good. Does anybody know the number of a good sports psychologist? You’ve gotta wonder what is going on up in that kid’s head. I’m not even close to thinking that he is a bust or that last year was a fluke, but he just looks out of sorts right now.
is going to die on the court. It’s as simple as that. Another great game from him, but behind him, the Raptors
have nothing. D-Mart somehow blackmailed his way into another backup role and his “Carlton-esque” shot that had even Sam shouting and motioning at the next stop in play, “Darrick! Darrick! No!” was one for the ages. Remember when you were a kid and you got all excited playing some game, then you did something really stupid, like throwing a ball through a car window? Then, somebody asked you, “What the hell are you doing?” and as you paused, breathing really heavy and fast, eyes bulging out of your head, you couldn’t think of a single good reason why you just did what you did? Well, that was pretty much the situation with D-Mart tonight. It was a deadly mix of adrenaline and endorphins…it was the equivalent of D-Mart buying Sonny’s Burger joint in Brampton (40 years of THE BEST burgers in Ontario), locking the doors and then having the crew cook up a feast for one.
Anyway, great to see the Raptors
stick with this one and pull it out in the second overtime against a good team, but it shouldn’t have even been close to getting there. At some point, the Raptors
are going to have to learn how to close things out…like the Knicks over the Pistons tonight…WHAT?