There are few teams that I absolutely hate watching the Raptors play against. On any given night, I usually believe the Raptors could beat their adversary, but out of all the teams in the league, I absolutely hate watching the Raptors play the Jazz. For whatever reason, the Raptors always seem to match up poorly against them and it’s not just in one area. The Raptors always seem to get pulled into the Jazz’s pace. While I’m sure that today the entire Raptors nation is blaming TJ Ford for his poor decision-making coming down the stretch, it was not a stellar night for any of our boys in red.
To start, if Bosh (42%, but far worse for most of the game) and Bargnani (9% shooting) have off nights, there’s probably going to be a lot of problems on offense. Throw TJ Ford into the mix (29%), and it’s a recipe for ugliness. One has to wonder where Bosh’s outside shot has gone, as well as his presence on the foul line. Bargnani seems to have regressed into a 7-foot Darrick Martin and has lost his flair for the touch pass or decisive decision making. Granted, the Raptors kept themselves in the game for most of the night, but there are some major concerns especially about Ford’s ego. We once again saw Ford revert to his “lesser” personality which sees him locked into a one-on-one battle with an opposing team’s point guard every once in a while. Last year, it was Ford vs Tony Parker, and this year, we have this “gem” between Ford and Deron Williams. Taking a page from the best of Calderon and Ford, Williams abused our point guards with his change-of-pace drives, his outside shots, his beautiful assists, and just his overall physical attributes. With a greater size advantage over Ford, and a better speed advantage over Calderon, Deron Williams managed to pick apart our beloved point guards. Of course, you could say it was about time for a letdown in our PG play, but in all honesty, the better point guard showed why he should be a top pick in Basketball pools everywhere.
However, there is little doubt that Jerry Sloan picked the perfect plan to combat Sam Mitchell. He managed to take the rhythm away from a Raptors team that managed to get hot on the road with a couple wins against Chicago and Philly. By defending the screen and roll successfully for most of the game, the Jazz managed to shut down the Raptors’ flow and not allow the Raptors to establish any kind of flow or energy. Much of the credit has to go to Sloan for mixing up his man defense along with zone, which ended up confusing Bosh in some possessions. In fact, Bosh got trapped in the middle of the zone in one instance, and ended up messing up the play because he became trapped between three defenders in the zone.
Nevertheless, there are positives to be taken out of this game. In yet another home game, the Raptors managed to play stifling defense for just about four quarters. It was like watching two boxers clutch and grab for about three quarters before things started opening up in the final round. The thing was, this Jazz team is just as good as the Raptors at running and making shots. The fact that the Raptors managed to hold a team that averages more than 110 pts a night to just 92 is quite amazing. I’m just not sure though, that this added defense at the expense of offense is going to work. While most people don’t like to hear it, the more risks this Raptors team seems to take on defense, the better they seemed to play. It’s deflections and turnovers that usually tell the story if the Raptors are really in their groove or not, and for the time being, there have only be a few games where the Raptors have really shown what they could do.
Next Game: Indiana @ Toronto