Playoffs 101 – Raptors Go Back to School

By Kinnon Yee

Today’s loss might mark the beginning of heartbreak for Toronto Raptors fans, but at the same time, I believe it should be time for optimism. During this year, we’ve known the Raptors always bounce back and gain focus before they win. It’s part of the education process, and these Raptors are some quick studies. It’s a part of their pattern. It’s why I’ve believed that they would lose this first game to the Nets, and why, more importantly, we should not lose track of this series.

As the great Bill Russell pointed out, you could almost throw away this first game. It’s a feeling-out process and the Raptors are the young team that people will expect to need some time to get into their groove. Today, though, I think it’s important to focus in on what Joey Graham brings to the table and why he will be a pivotal point for this club.

While Anthony Parker might be the guy that is our most consistent defender, we need another guy with strength and length to defend against this particular New Jersey team. Let’s go down the list. Juan Dixon, a fairly good rhythm shooter, has difficulties matching up with Carter or Jefferson, because he’s giving up about five inches to both. It’s a no-go as far as that is concerned, as both players can front him, beat him off the dribble, and shoot over him. Next up, Morris Peterson. I think long time fans have been waiting for Mo Pete to step his game up, and while he rebounds and defends well enough with most people, Sam can’t afford Peterson’s sketching 3 point percentage this year, and frankly, his tendency to jack a shot up whenever he pleases (especially with his percentages this year). Humphries and Bargnani can play out of position at times to defend both Jefferson and Carter, but they’re a bit slow. Actually, Bargnani would be perfect if he didn’t miss three weeks, and damaged his great conditioning.

The only option for Sam, therefore, is to rely on Graham.

For the most part, Graham played Carter well by playing the drive, and forcing Carter into a lot of jump shots. Then again, that could have been the crowd and others getting on his case. Whatever the reason, Graham’s defense on Carter was passable, and needed. He’s the only guy that can protect the drive yet close out on a shot attempt against Carter and Jefferson, two guys that are bigger than AP and Mo Pete. It’s just the other areas that he needs to clean up. Today, we saw Joey stand around while loose balls bounced around his vicinity, Joey chewing up the clock with some silly one-on-one action, and a total lack of fighting for positioning for rebounds.

By the end, Joey’s numbers looked like this:

  POS MIN FGM-A 3PM-A FTM-A OFF DEF TOT AST PF ST TO BS PTS
J. Graham F 35:17 2-5 0-0 0-0 0 4 4 1 4 0 2 0 4

Not pretty, especially on the rebounding end. So the question to me is, who do we play against what Net Players.

Jason Kidd TJ Ford. Calderon, though he’s my guy, I have to give it to TJ who has brought it out against the Nets 3 times this year, lifting the team and challenging Jason into some pretty awful turnovers.
Richard JeffersonJoey Graham. Today, we saw what Jefferson did to Anthony Parker. For some inexplicable reason, the Raptors kept playing him for the shot instead of the drive. I think Graham’s a better match up with him physically, since both are stronger players out of the SG/SF positions, and they should match up well. I honestly don’t think Mo Pete or Juan Dixon can handle him.
Wince Anthony Parker/Mo Pete. The best the Raptors can do defensively is through one guy who knows how to play against athletic players, and another guy that has played for the vast majority of his life. I think these two guys can keep him off the line, off the boards and more importantly, force him into jump shot
Bostjan Nachbar – Andrea Bagnani. It’s time for this rookie to prove it. No excuses. I’ll give him a pass on this game, cause he was still working into game shape, but with two days until the next game, he should be close to full, if not AT full. He’s the guy with the length, quickness and intelligence to take this guy out.

As a team though, the Raptors needs to stress a push to keep the Nets into a jump-shooting team. I personaly don’t think the Nets are better at shooting jumpers than the Raptors, and certainly don’t have the selflessness to overcome the Raptors. Finally, the Raptors need to establish Rasho Nesterovich. This is a guy that can get you 8 points EASILY, and will punsh the Nets in the lane, so that Chris Bosh can take it inside, you know, “tenderize” those Nets. Rasho’s a guy that’s been underused, and should be able to shred the front court of the Nets.

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6 thoughts on “Playoffs 101 – Raptors Go Back to School

  1. Kinnon – I understand what your trying to say but I don’t understand how Morris Peterson can go from our defensive guru last season to the end of the bench this season. Granted, BC gutted the roster and there are a lot of talented players in place but for the life of me I can’t figure out how Graham ranks higher than Peterson in Sam’s depth chart.

    Jose/TJ is a great matchup against Kidd, Parker is a great match for Carter (as shown by the horrible afternoon Wince endured) and I can’t help but think Bargs would give RJ fits and Peterson could lock him down as well. You mention that Mo plays Vince well and in my opinion RJ’s just a weaker version of Wince (at least Carter has shown the ability to hit a mid-range jumper on occaision). Jefferson’s jumper hasn’t been refined so if you take away his drives you should be able to contain him to under 10 points per game.

    Great point about Bargs locking down Snack Bar! That kid was torching us tonight (and ripped the hearts out of the Bulls on Wednesday). Besides stopping RJ the next thing on Sam’s “to do list” would be finding a way to contain Snack Bar as well.

    I guess the whole point of this rant is that watching Graham bumble his way around the court made me nauseas and ruined a great Saturday afternoon…

  2. lol.. I know. I wanted Sam to take Graham out too, but I didn’t want Dixon guarding him either. My initial reaction was “TAKE HIM OUT…” and I said it out loud too… But… I thought about it more, and then, thought about Dixon guarding Jefferson/Carter…. Well… That’s why I’m saying that it’s gotta be Joey.

    The thing about RJ is that he’s just STRONGER than Carter… His jump shot is definately worse than VC’s, which is why they should have played/defended the drive… But… Even with the ankle, he’s taller, stronger and willing to go to the basket, which is why I’m not sure Morris Peterson can take him. Granted, Mo hasn’t gotten any burn and seems burried on the end, but this year, he hasn’t been defending well. (Charges are almost non-existent, he’s been beat off the dribble badly a few times, and let’s not even go back to that Dallas game.) I’m also not sold on how Mo Pete’s played his game this year offensively, and that may be the ultimate reason why he’s buried.

    And I feel for you man, but like I said… We should have all seen this loss coming. I’m just happy that the Raptors kept fighting and kept it interesting for most of the game, because there were points when New Jersey looked to bust the game completely open. There’s stuff to build on for game 2, and I know this team will be just THAT much better.

  3. You know who would’ve made a difference this game, Luke Jackson.

    Okay I kid. Jorge Garbajosa. Boy will we miss him once we get past this first round hopefully.

    All the Raptors need to do is take 2 of the next 3 and than 2 of the next 3 after that. Let’s hope it works out.

  4. Yeah. Jorge would have done a good job on Vince, and would have been the right size and strength against Jefferson. But that’s not here, nor there… Gotta do with what we have.

  5. Luke would have been better than the human pylon that Graham was… man… it’s two days later and I still have gotten the bad taste out of my mouth! Graham was brutal on the defensive end as he continually allowed Jefferson to drive by him when all he had to do was front him and get a hand in Jefferson’s face whenever he shot.

    I don’t see Jorge having the lateral quickness to guard Vince – it would be like Adam Morrison trying to guard someone. Jorge is a smart player but I don’t see him being capable of dealing with Vince’s speed and athleticism.

    BRING ON MORRIS PETERSON! C’mon Sam, allow Morris to get out of your doghouse and ride him into the second round of the playoffs.

  6. Though, Ryan, Jorge did a great job on Vince in the regular season. He’s a guy that pays attention to the defensive scheme ordered by the coach, so that’s probably why I’d want him in. Honestly, I think Sam told them certain things, and they weren’t followed or understood or whatever. We’ve seen it happen before (years 1 & 2 of Sam’s career) and it seemed like Game 1 was that abberation.

    I know you love Mo Pete, but I guess I don’t see it in him this year. But who knows… We’ve seen crazier things… I mean that whole dual PG system with Alvin and Childs on the floor at the same time was born in the playoffs… So who knows?

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