Yup, a win. A win where the Raptors scored more than 100 points, while managing to shoot a good free-throw percentage, and getting a lot of aggressive stops with blocks and steals.
Yet, I’m still feeling largely unsatisfied with this win. It’s important to remember that this is the Philadelphia 76ers, a team the Raptors have already managed to beat twice this year. They were also just coming off a back-to-back night against the Bucks, and were already on a four game losing streak. That being said, they have been a troublesome lot as they have consistently given the Raptors rebounding fits over the past few match-ups. In fact, I’d like to point out that the 76ers kind of look like the Raptors did immediately post the Vince Carter trade. They have the ability to play extremely well and take you out of games if you’re not careful, but they have a lot of lapses.
Nevertheless, let’s take a look at the positives for this game. For one thing, Jason Kapono got more touches, and surprised, got to contribute a little more on the scoreboard. Delfino also managed to throw in a few points after shaving that New Years growth he had from the previous game. The Raptors also got some good production from Joey Graham, who finally managed to get to the rim and rock it pretty hard. Of course, not to be outdone, Jamario Moon managed to five emphatic blocked shots and scored a little as well. Finally, Calderon, Parker, and Bosh continued to anchor the Raptors starters and provide the consistency needed in the NBA.
So overall, it looked like a really solid effort, right? Well, a few things should trouble us faithful. The Raptors rebounding woes continue as they only managed to net 34 rebounds compared to the 76er’s 41. Even scarier is that the 76ers managed to grab 17 offensive boards compared to the Raptors’ 6. Not to mention the Raptors didn’t manage to get to the free throw line all that often, and had to shoot a blistering 55% against a bad defensive team in order to reach 109 points! The question, therefore, has to come up: “Are the Raptors turning a corner, or playing just as poorly against weak competition?” Unfortunately, this game indicates the latter rather than the former. At 55%, you expect your team to score in the hundreds automatically, which the Raptors managed to do, largely thanks to a high 3-point shooting outburst. Nevertheless, there’s no real easy solution for the Raptors. Their backup point guard of-the-day, Juan Dixon, has tried to do somewhat of serviceable job, but he just doesn’t seem to be able to get the ball to the right hands, nor can he hit his own shot consistently enough. So instead, you have Jose playing 40 minutes, which is definitely not going to be a long term solution. We, as fans, should also be prepared that TJ Ford’s return may not necessarily mean a return to status quo. For one thing, I don’t believe that we’ll see Ford be as much of a threat from inside the paint as we once saw before. The nature of the game is that he’s going to get bumped if he tries to go inside, in traffic to get an easy layup. If teams know he’s not going inside, one has to wonder how much of a threat he will be since his outside shot is not the greatest. It’s really not all that surprising then, that the rumour of the day has the Raptors buying out Roko Ukic’s contract next year, when it becomes less expensive for both the player and the Raptors. However, that’s just next year. At the end of the day, there’s no real easy solution for Bryan Colangelo here, but something has to be done soon, because giving even a second string point guard more time to get acclimated with his teammates is essential to insure success for this club, and there just isn’t all that much more time or games between now and the playoffs.
Next Game: Toronto @ New York