Week 8 for the Raptors was a week of frustration for the fans and a week of tough losses for the team. After 3 losses at home during which the fans have begun the boo-birds have made their presence felt, the team has continued to seem lost as a group. I won’t turn this review into whine fest as that is for other forums and blogs. So, here is a review of the past week for the Raptors, as I saw it.
After ending last week on a high winning two games against the Pacers and the Nets, they ended last week 10 – 12 with a 3 game home stand to start the week in anticipation of the start of a 6 game swing through the western conference.
Sunday, December 14th, Raptors vs. Hornets @ Toronto
Hornets 99 Raptors 91
The Raptors entered this game looking to keep the points in the paint under control by keeping Chris Paul from driving through the key. The game plan was to allow the Hornets shooters to win or lose the game as the Raptors interior defense continued to mature and close the lane off with a combination defense of a soft zone and match up zone defense to keep the drivers moving toward the automatic help that is provided on the rotations. What that allowed, unfortunately, was the outside shooters hit 12 3 point shots, which was enough to keep them out of reach down the stretch as the Raptors could not find a way to stop them. David West scored 29 points and grabbed 9 rebounds, but the real hero of the game was James Posey who hit 5 of 5 3 points off the bench in the 1st half ending with 20 points and 10 rebounds. Rasual Butler was 4/9 from 3 point range ending the game with 16 points. Chris Paul and Jose Calderon had similar games with Chris Paul scoring 12 points and handing out 12 assists while Jose Calderon scored 22 points but only 7 assists. Both controlled the game with solid distribution of the ball and seemed to find the correct pass most of the night. Jose went 8/8 from the field and 5/5 from the line and had 1 turnover. Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal had 25 and 19 points and 15 rebounds between them on an afternoon when the Raptors played a solid game on defense overall, but just couldn’t seem to close out the perimeter shooters well enough.
Monday, December 15th, Raptors vs. Nets @ Toronto
Nets 94 Raptors 87
Vince Carter had 20 points and 10 rebounds while Devin Harris scored 20 points, 16 in the 4th quarter including 10 – 11 from the free throw line as the Nets returned the favor and beat the Raptors in front of a cranky crowd. Ryan Anderson scored 21 points for the Nets while 6 Raptors scored in double digits, but missed their first 14 shots in the 4th quarter after leading 70 – 63 after 3 quarters. The key to the game was second chance points as the Raptors again were dominated on the glass, especially the Offensive end giving up 54 rebounds while grabbing 38. That alone is enough to lose most games in the NBA, but the Nets grabbed 11 more offensive boards which was translated into 28 points in the paint and 26 second chance points. The Raptors were only able to score 18 points in the paint and a pathetic 2 second chance points on 7 offensive rebounds. Still, Chris Bosh and Jason Kapono scored 17 each, Jose Calderon scored 15, Jermaine O’Neal scored 14 while Jamario Moon and Andrea Bargnani scored 10 each. By the numbers alone, the game seemed to be the Raptors to lose as they shot better as a team from the field – 40% to 38.1% for the Nets, better percentage from 3 point range – 42.9% to 38.1%, but the Raptors gave up 84 shots while taking only 70 which allowed them to keep the Raptors from coming back as they just couldn’t grab a rebound it seemed in the last 2 minutes. This game was a tough lose as they worked hard to build up a lead in the 3rd and just could not find a way to get the ball into the hands of the hot players in the 4th as the Nets forced us into a jump shooting game and just out played us on the glass.
Wednesday, December 17th, Raptors vs. Mavericks @ Toronto
Mavericks 96 Raptors 86
On a night when the Raptors outscored an opponent 30 – 14 in the paint, the Raptors were again exploited from the outside as the Mavericks ended the game 50% from the field as a team. Dirk Nowitzki scored 27, Jason Terry scored 27 and Josh Howard scored 20 as they went 29/51 or 56% as a trio while grabbing 18 rebounds as a trio. As a team, the Mavericks scored 9 3 point shots on the night while the Raptors hit only 4. Jermaine O’Neal scored 19 and grabbed only 7 rebounds on a night when the Raptors were outrebounded again 47 – 37. Chris Bosh struggled all night against Josh Howard ending up with only 12 points but grabbed 9 rebounds including 3 offensive rebounds. Jose Calderon had another double double with 11 points and 10 rebounds as well as 5 rebounds. Jamario Moon scored 13 points and ended up with 9 rebounds. There are not many teams this Raptors team will beat allowing them to shot 50% from the floor.
Friday, December 19th, Raptors vs. Thunder @ Oklahoma City
Thunder 91 Raptors 83
"It felt like we won a championship," forward Desmond Mason said.
The Thunder came into the game with a 2 – 24 record and were allowed to out play the Raptors in just about every aspect of the game and there isn’t much more to add to that. The Raptors shot 2 – 11 from 3 point range or 11% and were out rebounded again. Kevin Durant scored 24 points, Russell Westbrook scored 19, Jeff Green scored 13 and Nick Collison scored 10 while the Raptors had Chris Bosh scoring 22 with 16 rebounds, Jermaine O’Neal left the game with a sore shoulder and was limited to 5 points while Andrea Bargnani scored 16. After losing JO, the Raptors were outscored in the paint 40 – 32 and shot 44.4% from the field.
Saturday, December 20th, Raptors vs. Spurs @ San Antonio
Spurs 107 Raptors 97
The Raptors came into the game looking to at least show they could compete with this Spurs team that seems to be struggling having lost 2 in a row to the Magic and the Hornets. At this point in the season, the Raptors were looking to turn around a 4 game slide and came out sharp leading the game 25 – 20 after the first. The 2nd quarter saw the Spurs outscore the Raptors as the shooters seemed to not only be open, but couldn’t miss outscoring the Raptors 36 – 23 in the quarter. The Spurs relied upon a franchise record 16 3 point shots including Matt Bonner who went 4/7 and Roger Jr. Mason who went 4/6 scoring 14 and 16 points against their former team. Tony Parker scored 24 points, handed out 10 assists and grabbed 8 rebounds and was in total control of the game hitting open guys all night as the Spurs constant ball movement kept the Raptors off balance all night and kept them running to guard open shooters all night long. Tim Duncan scored 19 points on a quiet night for him while Jermaine O’Neal scored 24 and Chris Bosh scored 17. Perhaps a good sign for the Raptors is both men had 10 rebounds in the game with Jermaine O’Neal grabbed 4 offensive boards. However, the Raptors still were outrebounded and out shot, but they did play with a lot more resolve and were in this game until the final 2 minutes. A couple of stats the Raptors would probably find very interesting are the fact that Jake Voskuhl, signed earlier this week, played his first 6 minutes for the Raptors and outscored Jamario Moon and Andrea Bargnani scoring on two nice turn around jumpers in the low post over Tim Duncan. At this point, any sign of growth is huge for this team. For the Spurs, Michael Finley scored 14, and Manu Ginobili scored 13 while Kurt Thomas grabbed 12 rebounds. Jose Calderon scored 16 but could only manage 4 assists while Jason Kapono scored 12.
Overall, it was a much better game by the Raptors with many good signs this team could be close to turning the corner as a team. Joey Graham and Roko Ukic continue to improve, Will Solomon contributed some solid minutes against the Spurs as Jose struggled with an upset stomach, so there are some good things happening. We shall find out as this team continues it’s trip through the west with games against the Clippers, the Kings, the Trail Blazers and the Warriors before they return home New Year’s eve to host the Nuggets, then play the Rockets and the Magic in the first week of the new year.