Week 7 in the Raptors season saw the team move far away from the Sam team and become the Jay Triano lead Raptors. With games against the Trail Blazers, the Cavaliers, the Pacers and the Nets, we knew it would be a rough week. 3 of those games were against teams above us in the standings and one against the team we made our huge trade with last season so emotionally, that Pacers game had a lot of mystique around it as team looked to recover from the brutal road trip against the Lakers, the Jazz, and the Nuggets.
Sunday, December 7th, Raptors vs. Trail Blazers @ ACC
Trail Blazers 98 – Raptors 97
Steve Blake scored on a 3 point shot that they borrowed from Vince Carter and the Nets to ruin Jay’s bid to win his home debut. Scoring 19 points on 5 – 8 3 point shots he kept the Trail Blazers close enough to win on the last shot. The Raptors played a much better defensive game allowing only 24 points in the paint which is half of what they had been averaging. Andrea Bargnani was a first over all pick, that, we are well aware of, but the Trail Blazers have the 2nd and the 6th picks in LeMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy. Bargnani has shown improvement but has not accomplished nearly as much as these two to this point in their careers. Andrea has not completely grown into the role he was projected to fill to this point, though this season he has improved in a lot of areas and I believe could be a solid player. Aldridge finished with 20, Roy with 15, Bargnani had 5 points. Player of the game for the Raptors was Jermaine O’Neal, for the Trail Blazers, Steve Blake. A game we should have won again exposed our weak wing defense and perimeter defense.
Tuesday, December 9th, Raptors vs. Cavaliers
Cavaliers 114 – Raptors 94
LeBron James – 31 points and didn’t play the 4th quarter. Chris Bosh, Jermaine O’Neal, Anthony Parker, Andrea Bargnani – 34 points. Jose Calderon had 14 as our starters looked awful as a group. Joey Graham had 17 and was Player of the Game for us and Roko Ukic had 10 points or this game was even more laughable than it was. Wally Szczerbiak had 16 points and looked like he was 24 again. Not a pretty game for the Raptors, but it did signal a change as Jay had to overhaul the starting lineup as Anthony hurt his ankle.
Wednesday, December 10th, Raptors vs. Pacers @ ACC
Raptors 101 – Pacers 88
With Anthony Parker hurting, Jason Kapono stepped into the lineup and scored 25 points to lead the Raptors to their first victory under Jay Triano. Chris Bosh, Jermaine O’Neal, Jose Calderon, Joey Graham and Jamario Moon all had 10 or more points as a balanced attack kept the Pacers off balance all night long. Danny Granger scored 22 but most of the time looked out of the game shooting 9 – 25. The Player of the Game for the Pacers was Troy Murphy who had a 20 – 20 game. Marquis Daniel added 21. This was a much better overall defensive game by the Raptors who would not let T.J. Ford loose to drive and his team could not shoot well enough to keep the game close.
Friday, December 12, Raptors vs. Nets
Raptors 101 – Nets 79
Vince Carter and Devin Harris as a tandem had come into the game averaging 47.7 points per game and Raptors fans were concerned that they would explode against Jason Kapono and Jose Calderon who are not the greatest man up defenders in the game. What we saw was a team defense that funneled two of the best guards in the East to a waiting wall of big men. Jermaine O’Neal and Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh would not allow the penetrating attack the Nets so love and they were reduced to shoot. With Josh Boone just coming back from an injury, they had no real inside game as Brook Lopez was held to 6 points. Vince and Devin were held to 3 points and 14 points as Vince was 0 – 13 from the floor. Yi Jianlian was the Nets most consistent big man scoring 14. For the second game in a row, the Raptors had 6 players in double digits while Jermaine had 8 points and 9 rebounds. The Nets ended the game shooting only 31.1%
Sunday, December 14th, Raptors vs. Hornets @ ACC
Hornets 99 – Raptors 91
Well, a tough loss to the Hornets Sunday on a day when the Raptors could just as easily pulled out the win. After a solid defensive effort in the 1st quarter, the Raptors began to lose track of shooters like James Posey and Rasual Butler as the team ranked #1 in 3 point shooting in the league put up shot after shot as the Raptors struggled as they have all year with perimeter defense. Over-all, this game was exciting and very well played by both teams, but the Raptors continue to struggle working the ball inside to Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal consistently. Yes, Chris Bosh scored 25 points and 8 rebounds as well as 6 assists, but in the 4th quarter, he began to settle for jump shots again which is out of the context of the offense and too often leads to shots from the top of the circle with no rebounding support late in the shot clock. Jose Calderon played a very good game with 22 points and 7 assists to Chris Paul’s 12 points and 12 assists. Very solid games from 2 of the premier PG’s in the league.
I think that even though we lost 3 of 5 games, this team has come a long way since December 3rd. They understand what is required of them at both ends of the floor and have shown they have the heart to compete at the highest level. As they continue to work on the schemes the coach is instilling in them this team will have the opportunity to win more games than they will lose. A good week for a struggling team with a new coach and a new attitude.