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Old 01-24-2008, 11:19 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Safe No More - The Real Raps Emerge

Last night the Raptors went back to playing basketball. No more Jose walking it up at a snail's pace, looking for the play call, dribbling behind the arc while the play gets set up or not, and then putting all the pressure on Bosh or Parker to make something happen with a short shot-clock scenario. No more treading water as Bosh had seen the last couple of weeks. No more trying to hide the holes and weaknesses that have surfaced in the absence of TJ and Jorge, and as a result, not making the most of the strengths that remain. And those strengths are knowing how to play basketball without constant direction from the sideline, moving the ball, making shots, staying mentally tough if not physically so, and scrapping it out in crunchtime.

Jose has gotten loads of praise for playing it safe. Last night he looked a little more like TJ, even what is often referred to as bad TJ. But it was superior to all the safe stuff we've seen of late. He made everyone better, including himself, by pushing the tempo, driving the ball, forcing the odd pass, and making the defense work. Lo and behold we don't actually need two point guards to keep the other team wondering what they are going to see. We saw how TJ can be that much more effective when he changes things up, and plays more like Jose here and there. Now we have seen the same in reverse from Jose. Since late last year I've been saying that they are both becoming quite similar. If you look at how they are both developing within the system, I think that's true, and that they don't need each other to provide different looks. They can both do that on their own as the system dictates.

And Jose's great numbers looked really good last night, since he was not just playing it safe, but rather pushing the envelope and making things happen while living a little on the edge. He definitely looked like a guy that deserved to go to the All Star game, and not just a guy with some good numbers. I would rather have AS Jose leading an offense at a 60 percent clip, then a safe Jose putting up good numbers while the rest of the team lags at a less than 30 percent success rate. No? That's going to bring some ugliness with it, and some defensive deficiencies left out in the open - but leave it to Colangelo to patch those up.

When you have two teams really playing a game of basketball in the NBA, you are going to have all kinds of frustrating mistakes mixed in with making the most of the good stuff. Especially with a young team. The Raptors are not the Pistons or Spurs just yet. So they have to play in a style that gets their shooters good looks in rhythm, and that gets the opposing defense on their heels a bit. Making the most out of that kind of pressure, also forces the opposing team to play a little out of character on offense themselves. And while sticking to a slow half-court game reveals a few things that this team will be capable of milking in the future, it gives the opposing team too much of a chance to control the tempo themselves, and assert their own defense enough to put a game to rest far too early. No more of that in the near future please! The best band-aid for solving the absence of two vital cogs, is to play the same style that they made possible, and just look past the difficulties that come with the package within the game while looking to reduce those difficulties from game to game.

Last night I saw a Raptor team that knew what they were and how they should play, in spite of all the freebies and soft interior play that is just going to happen with TJ and Jorge missing. And I saw a Boston team that wasn't always so sure of itself, and wasn't quite ready to be challenged. So let's cut them all some slack, and erase all the comments about this guy making bad decisions and not having a good basketball IQ, because that all comes with any learning curve. Last night the curve had a nice bend in it in some respects, and flattened out in other areas. They gave themselves a chance with a guy like Jamario not doing all that he had to do, and a guy like Bosh being a little out of sync. To me that's a sign of a team that can do some damage regardless of what weaknesses might crop up and turn ugly.
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