Last week the Raptors would love to forget most of what happened to them. I know Raptors fans are very disgruntled right now with the inconsistent play from the team in general as they find ways to lose games in which they have huge leads. So far, after 13 games, the team is 6 – 7, which is exactly where it was last year after 13 games and at this point, there seems little hope for team fortunes to improve as the next week brings the Bobcats, the Hawks and the Lakers on the schedule. With Jose Calderon still not even close to 100% healthy, it looks to be a long week again.
Here’s what I saw in the past week and what I am looking at for the next week.
The past week gave us 4 games against Eastern conference teams. Two were in the top 4 teams of the conference last season and the other two are hovering around .500 as we are. The Magic were first up in Orlando on our Florida swing with back to back games in Orlando and Miami for a re-match against the struggling Heat.
The Magic came into the game on a 3 game win streak and were 8 – 3 on the season at that point. We were able to open up a lead on the Magic as we were able to get the ball inside and keep Dwight Howard off the boards and off his game with only 4 points in the first half. He finished with 18 points and 9 rebounds, both off of his season averages. Chris Bosh had a huge game with 40 points, 18 rebounds hitting 14/19 shots while Jermaine O’Neal had 1t points and 10 rebounds. With Jamario Moon and Jason Kapono seemingly lost in their own heads, Sam Mitchell started Andrea Bargnani in the 3 spot and he struggled both on offense and on offense with only 5 points. Playing without Jose Calderon, this team turned the ball over 24 times and squandered the lead and the game away as Will Solomon attempted to run the offense with little success as the Magic just kept shooting the ball as Hedo Turkoglu, Jameer Nelson and Rashard Lewis all had 22 points and seemed to answer any run the Raptors threw at them causing turnovers or grabbing rebounds and running the floor scoring an easy 2 or 3 off the transition game.
Next up were the Heat who came into the game 5 – 5 and missing Centers Jamaal Magloire and Mark Blount up front leaving the Heat out manned against the front line of Chris Bosh, Jermaine O’Neal and Andrea Bargnani. Having beaten the Heat the previous Sunday, the rematch in Miami presented the Raptors with a good chance for a road win. Jose started the game but looked sore and careful on his injured leg. Though Dwyane Wade had 40 points and 11 assists and Shawn Marion had a 20 point, 14 rebound game, they were just not matched up well as Andrea Bargnani had a 25 point game and Jermaine had a 16 point 17 rebound effort. It was a very exciting game as Dwyane Wade took over and attacked the Raptors inside in the 4th to keep the game close. To me, the play of the game was JO’s rejection of Wade with a little over a minute left. It allowed the Raptors to get the ball back up court and pull ahead and out of range.
Next game was the Nets and Vince Carter. Although the Raptors opened up another 18 point lead, Vince scored 12 points in the last 22 seconds including the game tying 3 from 27 feet with Anthony Parkers had in his face. Then he scored on an ally-oop to win the game on the last shot. Dropping 39 points and grabbing 9 rebounds while Devin Harris, who left before half time with an upset stomach, scored 30. Together, they combined for half of the Nets points. Andrea had his best game as a pro scoring 29 points while Jose scored 26 and CB scored 42 as he and VC went back and forth all evening answering each other on both ends of the floor.
Sunday, the World Champions visited the ACC and from the beginning of the game, the Raptors appeared shell shocked, probably not recovered from the terrible loss Friday. The Celtics had 7 guys in double digits with Ray Allen leading the way with 21, Kevin Garnett, who harassed Chris all afternoon had 15, Kendrick Perkins had 12, Rajon Rondo scored 15 as did Tony Allen and Eddie House added 11. CB countered with 24 and AB added another 14 as this game was never close.
So, the past 4 games have given us a very deep look into this team, and it is very much in a state of flux. Our 4 main guys right now are Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon, who is hurting, Jermaine O’Neal, who is hurting as well, and Chris Bosh. Over the past week, their numbers look pretty good with Chris averaging over 30 points per game and 10.5 rebounds. He is shooting 54% from the floor with his first 3 point shot of the season, and 83% from the line. Andrea has stepped up his production as he continues to improve while adjusting to the SF position scoring 18.25 per game, 6 rebounds and 50% from outside the arc. Jermaine has become a very solid fixture on defense and hurt his knee during the Nets game. He has given us 11 points and 9 rebounds with the last two games being injured. It is obvious that he is becoming comfortable with Chris Bosh and his secondary role on this team which bodes well for the future as long as his knee keeps him on the floor, he will continue to add depth and strength up front. Jose Calderon missed one game this week but has continued to contribute 16 points and 10.3 assists per game and is still 100% from the free throw line to lead the league in that.
With all that great play from these 4 guys, all this team needs is someone – anyone at this point to step up and contribute some defense and a little on offense. Most nights, there is no one on the bench who seems willing to contribute other than Kris Humphries who offers good minutes when called on. Every game this week our second unit of Jason Kapono, Will Solomon or Roko Ukic and Jamario Moon has found ways to lose huge leads built by our first unit. Sam has little success adjusting as the guys just aren’t playing well as a group. Last season, our bench was a strong point, but this year, they are anticipated by every team we play as they endure or first line to get to the weak, ineffective second stringers. Until these guys can start adding to the team, we will struggle against every team in this league and will have little chance to make the playoffs as anything below .500% won’t make the playoffs in the east this year. This past week we allowed an average of 46.5 points in the paint per game. An unbelievable number with the guys we have up front! Where are they coming from? Wade and Carter – guards scored 40 and 39 with Harris, another guard adding 30, mostly off the dribble or at the line. Jameer Nelson and Dwight Howard with 22 and 18 with Nelson driving and dishing and shooting wide open looks over our guards. It becomes pretty obvious that this team can not stop any kind of wing game, as Paul Pierce showed in the first game. Night after night our guards and SF positions are exploited as teams out play our guys and Sam Mitchell seems lost as to how to stop it. With the Lakers and the Hawks coming up, this does not look promising as they are both bringing 2 of the best SG’s in the league with Kobe Bryant and Joe Johnson. I hope they can find a way to stop wing and guard penetration soon as we saw Sam unable to attack a zone defense. Should be a very long week for the Raptors and it’s fan base.