So I’m having dinner with my friends, and I look up out of the corner of my eye past my friend’s head to see the Raptors tied with Indiana at 34-34. Drifting back to conversation, we talk about our days, our meals, and I glance up a few minutes and Indiana is up 45-34.
As far as games go, the Raptors were looking like a fairly ugly team for about three quarters. Unable to find the basket, and not closing out on a great 3-point shooting team will end up creating a “situation”. If we look back on this Raptor season so far, I’d say that there’s only really one defensive liability for the teams as a whole, and that’s 3-pt shooting closeouts. Sometimes it has to do with match-ups and an inability to be a presence in the face of a shooter, sometimes it’s poor defensive rotations that lead to an open look and basket, and sometimes the Raptors just end up playing for the drive against a well respected shooter. It’s pretty risky business, and the Raptors have been burned previously. However, with their newly found defensive confidence, the Raptors managed to eventually close out on their shooters.
It’s kinda funny actually, but when you break it down, Indiana resembles an under-skilled version of our own team. They rely a lot on the pick and roll, although Tinsley and O’Neil are nowhere near the same as Bosh and Calderon, and Indiana also relies a lot on their three point shooting, but don’t have the same kind of accuracy that our own shooters, Kapono and Parker have. Finally, our own intangible players such as Humphries and Delfino continue to put themselves in positions where they are able to make plays and affect the outcome of the game as a whole. The ability for our random players to just “step it up” on any particular night, in addition to our solid standbys are what makes the Raptors difficult to defend against, and as we begin to see the Raptors string together a winning streak, it fills the Raptors hopeful with some pride and hope that we’ll finish well into the new year.
So once again, what can we take from a game that was filled with such a down, but ended up on such a high? The first thing is that although Humphries is playing well, it has to be more than a little worrisome to see Bargnani continue to struggle in this early going. Perhaps it’s ok for now for him to play a little under his potential, but in order to make sure Bosh gets enough rest, Bargnani has to be able to enter a game and continue where Bosh leaves off. Unfortunately, he’s been plagued by fouls and has continued to shoot off the dribble rather than draw fouls, finish strong at the basket, and bomb from 3 point land. I’m sure that the coaches are getting on him and there’s a lot to absorb, but this just can’t continue for much longer. I don’t believe anyone things that Kris Humphries is going to be able to keep things up.
The other thing we learned is that Jose Calderon just might be the most effective and efficient assist man in the entire league, posting yet another game with an insane assist-to-turnover ratio of 8.0. The question is how can he improve his game from here? Well, for most of the game, Jamaal Tinsley managed to abuse the Raptors from all over the floor, and a lot of that has to be the fault of Jose Calderon. The one problem that I’ve seen is that Jose has great difficulties playing consistent defense against the league’s top attacking point guards. As a back up, he hasn’t had to deal with it much, but this year, with TJ missing a lot of games, the Raptors have had to double-team Jose’s man in order to help him out. Unfortunately, this often leads to an open guy on the 3-point line, and we’ve covered the problems the Raptors have had making the proper rotations against strong 3-point shooters.
In any case, it was another quality win. On Sunday, the Raptors will look to face Boston for yet another time this year in what is shaping up to be a clash of the best of the Atlantic. Against the Celtics, the Raptors will have to beat them by using their consistent endurance. Unfortunately for the Raptors, they’ve had to play Boston four times before the halfway point this year, which means the Raptors will be playing a fresh Celtics squad for every game this entire year. Did Danny Ainge pay off the NBA schedulers?
Next Game: Boston @ Toronto