Consistent inconsistency. How else do you explain the fact that for the first half while Chris Bosh, Jamario Moon, and Jason Kapono are on, Bargnani, Calderon, Parker, and Dixon are not. In what has been a maddening series of events, the Raptors inconsistency on the offensive end has once again reared its ugly head. I did not think that we would be talking about troubles on offense this early in the year, while saying that for the most part, the Raptors have managed to keep things close. Committing only seven turnovers for the entire night, the Raptors kept the game in control even without the benefit of TJ Ford revving things up. TJ, missing a game after receiving a stinger similar to the one he took in Game 5 of the playoffs last year, left the team in the hands of Calderon, who was a calming presence. And even though the Raptors might not have scored as effectively as they could have, they played a relatively mistake-free game.
Luckily, everyone also played defense. It was in a game like this that Bargnani truly showed his worth by bothering the slightly slower Pau Gasol for the entire duration of the game. Jamario Moon kept up with the equally athletic Stromile Swift for most of the game, and managed to recover from a vicious foul early in the game to come up with some big defensive and offensive plays. Delfino looked to take charges throughout the game while Calderon attempted to keep his man in front. When the Grizzles tried to go to the basket and made a few buckets inside, the Raptors didn’t deviate from their plan and often kept up to their outside shooters. As a result, many of Memphis’ threats such as Miller and Navarro couldn’t get the open shots they wanted. The Raptors managed to take a lead into the half as a result of this hard work.
And then, Chris Bosh gets knocked out of the game. Then Bargnani. Yes, on this night, the Raptors bigs found themselves in foul trouble. Ironically, Jorge Garbajosa probably would have had his number called if he wasn’t injured, as Maceo Baston and Kris Humphries proved to be poor substitutions. Speculation is abound as to the condition of Garbajosa’s leg, but even though the MRI came up “fishy”, Garbajosa is still on the road with the team.
In the end, Bosh and Bargnani begun to find their rhythm as the entire team rallied around their general who left his heart out on the floor. Bosh looked like a man who was just waiting to savour the upcoming Thanksgiving dinner he would be receiving. However, there was business to be done, and Bosh proved in the end that he is the muscle of the team. In fact, he was only one rebound away from putting together a 20-20 game (22 pts, 19 rebs). Bargnani, once again, showed that even though he might have a slow quarter or two, he could always come back for a big shot if given the opportunity. The only question, once again, is how to get him to try and invite contact to get to the line when he isn’t shooting well. Unfortunately, unlike Bosh, we often see Bargnani trying to finesse his shot by avoiding the direct contact. This results in a lot of wasted opportunities for the young magician, and it’ll take some encouragement from Bosh to finally see Bargnani fix himself out of a slump the same way Bosh can. The 3 point shooting, in the end, saved the Raptors tonight.
I’m also going to have to get up on my soapbox and take some aggression out on the refs for this game. Usually, we can see that the refs might not be making certain calls, but it usually goes both ways. Tonight, we saw them giving the Grizzlies all the small touch fouls, while allowing Bosh and others to be consistently manhandled under the basket. They refused to allow the Raptors to take any charges (Bosh was especially clear taking a charge late in the game) and had the Raptors lost, I would have been calling for their heads.
In any case, they didn’t and the Raptors can go into their mini break for Thanksgiving and Black Friday before heading on another back-to-back with the Cavs and Bulls this weekend.
Next Game: Toronto @ Cleveland