When last we left these two teams, Calderon was lying on the ground, screaming in pain as he lost complete feeling in the lower half of his body. In my nightmares, I can still hear Calderon screaming, getting carted off as Nesterovic and Garbajosa looked on with great concern. Of course, the Raptors had built an incredible lead that begun to evaporate as Calderon’s teammates were distracted and Golden State began to hit three after three. This year, on Italia Day, the Raptors play a vastly different Warriors team from the one they faced a year ago. Infused with a bunch of Indiana Pacers “troublemakers”, the Golden State Warriors have become a consistent threat from downtown. Taking shot after shot, the Warriors were not shy about pulling the trigger, and then looked to slash to the inside when Monta Ellis checked into the game.
In fact, I’d have to wonder what would have happened if the game wasn’t played at a 1 pm start.
Opening half could be summed up as a foul fest. The Raptors just fouled, and fouled and fouled, with Bargnani doing his best Hoffa imitation. Luckily, Sam gave him some more burn and Bargnani managed to get somewhat of an offensive rhythm. While some individual Raptors played some good defense (Delfino with two charges taken and a steal in the first half alone), the Warriors still managed to shoot close to 50% in the first half. Yet our hometown boys kept the game within seven points for most of the half despite of being out of sync. They then managed to close the gap by forcing turnovers and getting the Warriors to just naturally cool off and even gained the lead by three as halftime rolled around.
However, the second half saw the Raptors take the lead with some aggressive moves to the basket. Taking over of the lead for most of the third quarter, the Raptors looked like they were on the verge of making it through with the win. TJ Ford kept the Raptors in the game, and Moon added energy and gave the Raptors the presence they need from him on both ends of the court. If the Raptors could continue their strategy, they would have the game in hand. However, things are seldom that simple. The Raptors never managed to take control of the pace of the game and put the Warriors away. Defensive assignments were often soft, and the offense kept fluctuating between good and ok before finally falling apart in the fourth quarter. Sure, Jamario Moon’s dunks, steals, and blocks will make all the highlight reels, but he settled for his jump shot in the end. Same with Delfino. And Bosh. And Parker. To make matters worse, no one could stop Biedrins who remained a consistent physical presence on the inside. It was enough for me to really miss Rasho for the next week to two weeks. We could have used you a lot today, big guy.
In the end, though, I have to blame Sam Mitchell for this loss. With the fourth quarter new, he sent in Juan Dixon while Stephen Jackson was on the floor. In spite being faster, Juan was about a half a foot shorter, definitely not as prolific of a scorer and had great difficulties with Jackson’s strength. In addition, he wasn’t producing offensively, which begs me to ask the question, “Where was Jorge Garbajosa?” Forget the fact that the Raptors managed to get quality minutes out of Garbo last game. You have a bunch of tall shooters who are fairly strong, and not terribly fast. If you don’t use Jorge in these situations, when else should you? Finally, in the final minutes, Sam decided to reinsert TJ Ford. Now, Ford single-handedly kept us in the game, but he once again, didn’t recognize that he had since cooled off. Nevertheless, I can’t really fault Ford, since he had no weapons to work with. The Raptors ended up shooting absolutely horribly in the final quarter, making only 12 points in the entire final frame.
Ah well, Jessica Alba was courtside too. If only she was a Raptors fan, instead of a Warriors girl…
Next Game: Toronto @ Dallas
Note: A an additional recap article has been written for our friends at Golden State of Mind. Please check it out.