It was really interesting to hear Bryan Colangelo today on Prime Time Sports. He talked a lot about the need for a guy like TJ, who currently is working out with John Lucas and getting back into the game mentally. He also talked about his disappointment with Bargnani, but also reiterated that Bargnani remains a key piece of the team, and that Dirk Nowitzki also encountered similar problems in his rookie year when he adjusted towards a new playing style. The important thing is that Bryan has this understanding about balancing a need for the future, while still making sure there’s hope for the present. A guy like TJ Ford would probably have guaranteed that the Raptors would have won at least a few more games in December, and he recognizes that while the Raptors need a big, hard-nosed body in the middle, he’s not willing to take a huge contract, nor is he willing to take someone who can’t shoot free throws.
In any case, looking at players we do have, it was nice to see Bargnani come out and give some effort on both ends of the floor. Even though the crowd got restless throughout the game, he didn’t let them bother him and managed to keep going to the boards and try and create something throughout the day. Though it didn’t show up in his scoring, Bargnani did try to attack the interior of the Kings, something that he has to be more consistent in. Heck, I’d love it if the coaching staff could get him a tape of Kevin Martin’s performance and get him to copy it almost exactly the same as far as drawing fouls is concerned.
In what can be categorized as the first full effort in a long time, and the first convincing complete win of the new year, the Raptors completely put the Kings away on the defensive end, while consistently shooting a high percentage from all over the floor. Oh yeah, the Raptors also managed to out rebound the Kings by 13, in no small part thanks to players like Jamario Moon crashing the glass.
So, at the end of the day, we can all say that the Raptors kept a good team down. Guys like Carlos Delfino and Jason Kapono contributed mightily to the effort as Carlos had a career night and Kapono gave a good effort on both ends of the floor. Calderon also played exceptionally well and Bosh managed to soften up the Kings from the inside and outside, leading to his incredible shooting efficiency. Of course, the Raptors were also slightly lucky that the Kings were not a stronger rebounding team, or the entire game would have held a different story. With Mike Bibby returning and shooting unconsciously from all over the floor, and Kevin Martin doing his best Reggie Miller impersonation, the Raptors wings had trouble covering the most effective Kings on the court. But you can’t win every battle all, and the Raptors hit the Kings where it counted the most.
Looking ahead, the Raptors will have a nice revenge game against the Hawks on Friday. It’s a no-brainer, but the Hawks are a team the Raptors should be able to take advantage of and there should definitely be an air of retribution for their fallen player, TJ Ford. It definitely was a mistake on Al Horford’s part, but anything the Raptors can use to fire themselves up for the game and insure that they attack the Hawks from the inside is good in my book.
Next Game: Atlanta @ Toronto