Tag:Chris Bosh
Posted on: January 5, 2009 2:18 pm
 

Raptors - Week 10 Review

Week 10 in the NBA for the Raptors provided an insight to this team long overdue. With games against the Warriors, the Nuggets, the Rockets and the Magic, we faced 3 teams with 20+ wins and a team that pushes the tempo any chance it gets. Starting week 10 with a 12 – 18 record after losses to the Clippers and the Trail Blazers and a victory over the Kings on the road, this team finished its 6 game road trip in Sacramento before heading home to face the Warriors. Here is how I saw the games last week

Monday December 29th, 2008 Raptors @ Warriors

Raptors 111
Warriors 117

With Corey Maggette and Monta Ellis out with nagging injuries, the Raptors looked to stem the tide of losses with a trip to the bay area. Stephen Jackson and Marco Belinelli had other ideas. With 55 points between them, this game was not settled until late into the 4th when C.J. Watson dropped a floater over Chris Bosh in the last minute. On a night when 6 Raptors had 10 or more points with Chris Bosh with 30 and Jose Calderon with 21, Kris Humprhies with 10, Jason Kapono and Joey Graham with 11, and Jamario Moon with 12, this was a very solid game offensively for the Raptors as Jose dished out 16 assists against the quicker Warriors. The difference in the game was points off of turnovers where the Raptors were -10 for the night. Though they lost a tough game, this team played tough grabbing 20 offensive boards on a night when Andris Biedrins scored 13 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and had 5 blocks after losing Jermaine O’Neal early in the game and we could find no answer for him. For being the last game of a brutal road trip, these guys played well enough to win in most aspects of the game, but allowed the Warriors to shot 50% from the floor and from outside the arc, and we won’t win many games when we allow those to both happen.

Wednesday December 31st, 2008 Raptors vs Nuggets

Raptors 107
Nuggets 114

The Nuggets came into the game after beating the Knicks but losing to the Hawks and looked to continue to be a force in the West and showed the balance that tends to happen when your coach has 899 wins heading into the game. Tonight, the Nuggets had 7 players with 10 or more points with Nene scoring 21, Carmelo Anhthony adding 20, Kenyon Martin, Chauncey Billups and J.R. Smith added 15, 18 and 16 respectively, but he damage was done by Carl Anderson with his double double off the bench and Linas Kleiza with 10 as well off the bench. Known for their love of transition ball, the Nuggets were held to 10 fast break points as the Raptors were able to control the tempo only giving up the ball 12 times on turnovers, but were quick to recover on defense to slow the Nuggets down. With Jermaine O’Neal out however, the Nuggets pushed the ball inside and attacked the rim at will and were +16 in the paint for the game. Anthony Parker had a very solid game as he started again for Jason Kapono with 12 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists in one of his best games in a couple of months. Chris Bosh had another solid game with 24 points and 11 boards while Jose Calderon struggled with 11 assists but 5 turnovers and 18 points. Andrea Bargnani started at center and scored 26 points and grabbed 6 rebounds and was huge defensively with 5 blocks. Will Solomon put in 11 off the bench while Jamario Moon contributed another solid game on the boards, with 7 rebounds and 10 points on the night. The Raptors had opportunities to get the game back to level, but struggled with their outside shooting in the second half. All in all, they played well, but again allowed this team to shoot 51% from the floor. After watching Jay Triano burn a time out as they refused to push the ball inside after getting the Nuggets in bonus early in the second and they didn’t get free throws until late in the half, he yelled at the guys and sat down to let them figure out why they keep settling for jump shots in transition. As I watched, I could sense the guys finally were ready to listen to the coach. Though they lost the game, this team played hard and I think attitudes were adjusted that night, finally.

Friday, January 2nd, 2009 Raptors vs. Rockets

Raptors 94
Rockets 73

Too many people will say that this was a game that the Raptors won only because the Rockets are playing bad basketball right now having lost to the Bucks on New Year’s Eve. They came into the night after finishing December with a 9 – 5 record, beating teams like the Jazz and the Nuggets and the Nets, but losing to the Cavaliers and the Hornets and the Wizards. Still, they are a playoff team in the West sitting in 7th spot behind the Mavericks and still ahead of the Trail Blazers. The Raptors were missing starter Jermaine O’Neal, but welcomed Jason Kapono back to the floor after missing a couple games with a leg injury. The new starters included Andrea Bargnani in his second straight start at Center and Anthony Parker returning to play the 2 spot and Jamario Moon looking to solidify his spot at the 3 after a few good games rebounding, he looked to become more consistant at the offensive end as well. Chris Bosh played well scoring 19 points and grabbing 5 rebounds, but Jose Calderon went down in the first and left in the second quarters requiring Will Solomon and Roko Ukic to step up and provide the court leadership we would need on the night. Will Solomon responded with 8 points and 7 assists while Roko Ukic added 3 assists and 2 points. Jake Voskuhl was huge off the bench again with 8 rebounds, 2 assists and 3 points in 18 minutes on the floor. Kris Humphries and Hassan Adams both added 4 points as the team responded with solid offense and tough defense. The Rockets were held to just 34% shooting on the night while committing 22 turnovers which the Raptors took full advantage of turning those into 27 points. Andrea Bargnani looked very solid in the Center spot and had a very good game with 19 points and has begun to look like he belongs on the floor night after night finally. A much needed win by the Raptors as they not only built up a huge lead, but were able to hold on and beat a team that they should not beat. Happy New Years all around.

Sunday, January 4th, 2009 Raptors vs. Magic

Raptors 108
Magic 102

Any time Dwight Howard comes to town, the Raptors seem hold their breath and Sunday was no different. With the first 9 points of the game for the Magic, he seemed on a mission to show Chris Bosh and the Raptors why this team has gone 26 – 5 since dropping the first two games of the season. 39 points were not enough to secure the victory as he was unable to make the free throws the Raptors were more than happy to surrender to him as he missed 7 from the line. The Raptors were 23 – 24 with Chris Bosh making 13 – 14 while collecting 23 points for the game. The Magic were 17 – 24 and lost by 6. There is not a lot of other reasons why this game was won or lost as the teams were pretty even though the Raptors were +6 in the paint despite 39 from Superman. Rashard Lewis scored 20 and Jameer Nelson added 15 while Hedo Turkoglu had only 9 on the afternoon. The Raptors were +8 rebounding and +2 in turnovers while Roko Ukic scored 12 and offered up 7 assists on the game, Will Solomon starting for the injured Jose Calderon had 11 points and 4 assists and was able to control the flow effectively. Anthony Parker had 26 points as he spent the afternoon scoring at will as he took the ball strong to the rim and shot 13 – 16 on the day and seems to have returned to the offensive form having had a good week at both ends of the floor. His return to form is critical for this team as the new year begins. Andrea Bargnani making his 3rd start at Center scored 18 points, grabbed 5 rebounds and added 3 assists to a balanced offense that again saw 5 guys with 10+ points.

Coming up this week are the Bucks, the Wizards and the Grizzlies, it will be interesting to see how much momentum we can carry from this week.

Posted on: January 1, 2009 1:24 pm
 

Raptors - Nuggets - A Game in Review

New Year’s brings with it a time to reflect on the year that was and unfettered hope for the year about to commence. Wednesday evening at the ACC in Toronto, the Raptors held their collective breath as they hosted the Denver Nuggets in the rematch of the 39 point loss suffered in Denver on December 2nd. To open and close a December in which this team went 4 – 12 after losing another very winnable game against the Nuggets seems to be appropriate.

Heading into the game without Jason Kapono and Jermaine O’Neal sitting with leg injuries, this already undermanned team began the game under extreme pressure up front and would need huge games from Andrea Bargnani and either Anthony Parker or Jamario Moon who would be given the task of trying to slow down Carmelo Anthony. At some point, someone on this team that plays the 2 or 3 position needs to decide that they are embarrassed to be schooled every night. At this point, it seems, this Raptors team play 3 on 5 at both ends of the floor night after night. With Jason out, Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon would draw the tough job of covering J.R. Smith and Carmelo Anthony who would combine with Linas Kleiza and Dahntay Jones to total 50 points and 14 rebounds while the Raptors would get decent games from Anthony Parker and Jamario Moon, Joey Graham was only able to add 6 points to Parker’s 12 and Moon’s 10 for a difference of -22 from the off-guard/wing position while collecting 13 rebounds as a group. At this point, there really isn’t much else to add as our inability again to defend the wing/perimeter game allowed this smaller quicker Nuggets team to open up the inside for Nene who scored 21 points mostly inside. The Raptors again were dominated in the paint giving up 50 points in the paint while holding this running team to only 10 points off the break while Chris Anderson had a double double off of the bench. That improvement was a small victory as this Raptor teams any positive signs they can find right now. As I watched this game, it became very clear to me that this group of guys has decided that losing is what they do best. I can understand Jay’s frustration after calling a time out and walking away from a time out in the third after getting into bonus 8 minutes left in the quarter and then not even taking the ball to the rim until Chris Bosh hit the line with about 2:30 left. These guys gave the game away in that stretch committing turnovers and jacking up stupid shot after stupid shot, it’s no wonder Jay was screaming at them. Not much a coach can do when the players won’t do the obvious small things you need to do as a team that will put you in a position to win. Again in the 4th after bringing the game back to within 1 possession, they again tried to be the Lakers or the Hornets or the Spurs and began to settle for 17 – 25 foot jump shots. I am not sure what the numbers for the 4th look like but I suspect they shot less that 40% for the quarter despite scoring 30 points. I am pretty sure that our bench must be held to account on this as well as Will Solomon, Kris Humphries, Jake Voskuhl, Joey Graham and Anthony Parker were again weak to start the second quarter offensively. Their defense was decent, but the lack of consistent offense in the 2nd and 4th quarters puts the fragile group of starters under the gun to outplay opponents. Last night, the Nuggets bench outscored the Raptors bench 36 – 17 and was ultimately the difference in the game. Turnovers cost this team the game again as the Nuggets were +7 in points off turnovers.

With Jermaine O’Neal down, Chris Bosh, Jose Calderon and Andrea Bargnani all stepped their games up combining for 68 points, 22 rebounds and 13 assists. They also combined for 8 of the teams 12 turnovers, most on weak entry passes from Jose. Overall, they found out last night how useless Jason Kapono has been as they were 10 – 24 from outside the arc and sure didn’t miss his lack of foot speed against this quick Nuggets team. These guys have not hit bottom yet as they are not desperate in their mode of play, they still look as if they don’t want to pay the price to be even a .500% team at this point. They give up way too much on the perimeter and they have no bench play that is worth talking about. With games against the Magic and the Rockets on the horizon, this team could easily be 10 games under .500 before games against the Bucks, Wizards and the Grizzlies next week. This team has no heart, no character and no desire to pay the price to improve and look to be awaiting a saviour in 2010. The way this team is structured, it will be a miracle if they can keep Chris Bosh and there is little chance of us landing either Dwyane Wade or LeBron James as there is no realistic opinion that they would move to this country for many economic reasons. The Raptors look resigned and the season of hope has quickly turned to disappointment. Happy New Year all!

Posted on: December 29, 2008 5:41 pm
 

Raptors - Week 10 in Preview

Tonight, the Raptors head to the Bay area for the conclusion of a dismal road trip that saw them lose to the Thunder, the Mavericks, the Spurs and the Trail Blazers while scoring victories against the Kings and the Clippers. Dirk Nowitzki, Josh Howard, Jason Terry, Tony Parker, Brandon Roy and LeMarcus Aldridge all played top notch games against this struggling Raptors team that saw great games by Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal and some solid play off the bench by Andrea Bargnani and some awful play by Jason Kapono and Joey Graham. Jamario Moon is coming off a good week on the glass and looks to contribute more in the up tempo games to come this week. Here are the games as I see them this week.

Monday, December 29, 2008 Raptors @ Golden State Warriors

The Warriors come into the game after a win against the Celtics on Boxing day followed Sunday with a thumping by the Lakers in Los Angeles. With losses against the Magic and the Heat, this team comes into the game with a 9 – 23 record and with the addition of Jamal Crawford, this team can score in transition and do as the Celtics found out. With Corey Maggette and Monta Ellis out, the Warriors have been lead by Stephen Jackson and Andris Biedrins and have 8 players that average more than 9 points per game. The Raptors will have to play fantastic transition defense to keep this team in check as they did to open the season. A win tonight would bring the road trip to a 3 – 3 close. Not the best, but 3 much needed wins to say the least.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008 Raptors vs. Nuggets

The Nuggets carry a 20 – 11 record into the week with a win against the Knicks last night and a game against the Hawks who have returned to early season form and are now sitting with a 19 – 10 record, in 4th place in the East. The Nuggets are lead by Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups with Nene and J.R. Smith and Kenyon Martin, this team is one of the top teams in the league and will be a difficult team to match up with as the earlier blow out indicates. Let’s hope we can keep this one close and our back court with Jose Calderon and Jason Kapono or Anthony Parker can provide a spark to this game.

Friday, January 2, 2009 Raptors vs. Rockets

With Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady, Rafer Alston, Ron Artest Luis Scola, this 20 – 11 team is tied with the Nuggets in the west and brings a lot of fire power to any game they play. The Raptors will have to get strong play from Jamario Moon and Joey Graham to contain Ron Artest and the rest of this band of scorers. Tracy McGrady is hurting and is questionable right now, but with games against the Wizards and the Bucks, he will probably be ready to play Friday.

This will be a character testing week for the Raptors who have shown little so far this season. Guys like Will Solomon and Joey Graham and Jason Kapono should be realizing that their jobs are hanging by a thread with this team and should begin to step it up. Jose Calderon needs to take his game back up to the level he was earlier this season, but with Jermaine and Chris demanding the ball everywhere on the floor, his job has required a lot more patience and better decision making which has failed him at times this past month. Should be a very interesting week for Raptors fans as we continue to sense change coming earlier than later.

Posted on: December 29, 2008 3:53 pm
 

Raptors - Week 9 In Review

The conclusion of Week 9 in the NBA finds the Raptors with a 12 – 18 record after recording 2 wins and 1 loss in games 3, 4 and 5 of the 6 week road trip that winds up tonight in the Bay area against the Warriors. With victories against the Clippers and the Kings and a game against the Trail Blazers in which both Brandon Roy and LeMarcus Aldridge played major roles in the second half blitz of the enigmatic Raptors, we end this trip with an opportunity to take a .500% record back to Toronto. As we stand today, we are 4th in the Atlantic behind the Nets and the 76ers and the Celtics.

Here is how I saw the games this past week.

Monday, December 22, 2008 Raptors @ L.A. Clippers

Raptors 97 – Clippers 75

On a night when the Raptors really needed a win, the Clippers were ready to provide the Raptors with fuel. Jake Voskuhl reminded those of us who watched the original Bad Boys Pistons team that Bill Laimbeer played the game and seems to still be lingering in the hall, just out of view. After a Chris Bosh lay-up, Zach Randolph banged knees with Jake and was forced out of the game. In 8 minutes, Jake grabbed 5 rebounds and added 2 points and was very active at both ends of the floor working in the paint and making room for Chris Bosh who scored 18 of his 31 points in the 4th quarter. Eric Gordon and Zach scored 19 for the Clippers and Baron Davis added 16 points and 9 assists in the loss. Jermaine O’Neal chipped in 23 points and added 9 rebounds while Anthony Parker had a solid game with 12 points off the bench. Jose Calderon was steady with 8 points and 9 assists. Some will say that this is a half-game win as it is only the Clippers, but as I see it, they are on the schedule so it counts. A win is a win and at this point, any positive energy is much appreciated to this fragile collective team ego.

Friday, December 26, 2008 Raptors @ Sacramento Kings

Raptors 107 – Kings 101

The night belonged to Jermaine O’Neal who scored a season high 36 points in just his first 30+ point game since he dropped 39 on the Bulls in March, 2007 while still with the Pacers. With Chris Bosh scoring just 13 points while struggling with foul trouble early in the first half, Jermaine was scoring at will in the low post reminding his former team mate Brad Miller what he surely remembered from all those practice sessions against O’Neal. With 9 rebounds including 4 offensive boards, Jermaine O’Neal was the focus of most of the offense and the centerpiece of the defense. John Salmons and Brad Miller both scored 20 points while Bobby Jackson added 17 while Jose Calderon scored 16 to go with Chris Bosh’s 13 and Jason Kapono who scored 10. Andrea Bargnani filled in the gap more than adequately for Bosh with his 14 points. Over all, this game was close probably because of the 16 turnovers which kept the Kings in the game early in the second half. Taking only 69 shots, the Raptors hit 55% and grabbed 12 offensive boards, while giving up 17 second chance points to the Kings. With some hard work on defense, the Raptors were able to close out the Kings and enjoy a two game winning streak on the road. We really can’t be upset with this at all.

Saturday, December 27, 2008 Raptors @ Portland Trail Blazers

Raptors 89 – Trail Blazers 102
After building up an 11 point lead, the Raptors were hit with a buzzer beater from the back court by Travis Outlaw which seemed to dig deep into the hearts of the Raptors who never recovered. The second half belonged to Brandon Roy who scored at will in the brutal second half in which the Raptors scored only 10 points in the 3rd quarter and 22 in the 4th. Roy scored 14 in the 4th and a game high 32 points on the night. LeMarcus Aldridge scored 21 and added 9 rebounds while Greg Oden scored 16 points and grabbed 10 rebounds while Jermaine O’Neal and Chris Bosh scored 29 and 17 points but could not find a way to consistently stop the solid front line the Trail Blazers put on the floor. Outlaw added 12 off the bench. Jose Calderon scored 11 and Andrea Bargnani scored 13 while Jamario Moon scored 8 points and grabbed 8 rebounds including 7 offensive boards. The Raptors went 12 – 34 in the second half and had the bulk of their 13 turnovers in the 10 point 3rd quarter. Jason Kapono and Joey Graham both were held scoreless which was a huge reason this game fell flat quickly in the 3rd as neither could find a rhythm from the floor and the middle was just not available after some nice adjustments by this young Trail Blazers team. Will Solomon added 5 points and Anthony Parker added 6 off the bench, but it was just no where near what they needed.

Week 9 showed me that this team has the talent needed to compete with even the best teams in this league, but seem unable or unwilling to pay the price yet. To continue to lose implies a willingness to not do the small things needed to win. It seems small, but things like clearing the boards, making guys take pressured shots, finding your man in transition defense, taking the ball to the hole on a break and not settling for jump shots when you have the numbers. The Raptors played some good ball this past week and when the ball movement was there, this team was tough to play against. What has happened, it seems, is that teams realize that the Raptors seem to have no will to compete and no heart to struggle through a shooting slump as a group. If one guy is missing, they tend to feed him rather than find the hot hand. Andrea Bargnani was hot in the first half against Portland, but sat until late in the third by which time the Raptors were down by 10 or more and had gone cold, then Jay sat him down. I understand that we need to move the ball into our two big men, but when they are getting out played and the Raptors allow guards to penetrate the zone and torch them for 32 pretty much uncontested shots, the heart to defend has been ripped out of this team.

With games against the Warriors, the Nuggets and the Rockets, the Raptors will face a tempo team, a solid back court and wing based team and a team with one of the toughest front courts in the league. Character will be revealed as we head home.

 

Posted on: December 28, 2008 12:25 pm
 

Raptors - Trail Blazers - A Game in Review

I guess there are many reasons why the Raptors lost against the Trail Blazers Saturday night in Portland, I will try to discuss a few of the biggest reasons I noticed while I watched. Firstly, the Raptors came into Portland with a small 2 game win streak with wins against the Clippers and the Kings. It doesn’t sound like much, but at this point in the season, small victories are vital to the health of this team. Most of the year, this team has struggled with ball control and finding opponents shooters in the context of the defensive schemes they have been using. With the team focused on interior defense and protecting the paint, they have allowed teams to beat them from the outside as the Hornets did, as the Nets did and as Brandon Roy and LeMarcus Aldridge did last night. With a combined 43 points, these two were able to find shot after shot over the defense and were pretty much wide open combine that with some timely rebounds and you get a sense of the frustration this team has faced as they seem unable to contain shooters or it seems every team has one guy turn in a spectacular game against them. As Jay continues to work, this team has gotten better at closing out shooters, but last night, it seemed they could not find the open guy, who was usually Brandon Roy.

Another area of concern was the ineffectiveness of our secondary scorers to contribute consistent points. Jason Kapono and Joey Graham are players that this team needs to get points from as that means that they are involved in the game and are able to take the focus off our big 3 guys. Jason was the only starter to not score a point last night and that is a huge reason why this game was lost in the second half. With only Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal the only two scoring the Trail Blazers were able to collapse both LeMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden making the inside a tough place to score. The fact that they scored 29 and 17 is a testimony to how hard they worked and earned every point. Had Jermaine been able to get a few of the calls the refs seemed to not notice, this game could have been different in the end. Alas, the fact is, your scorers are paid to score. Andrea Bargnani was hot in the first half and scored 13 for the game, but he was ineffective in the second half and was relegated to the bench in the 3rd as the Raptors fell behind.

The third quarter was full of turnovers as the Raptors gave the ball away 8 times after only 3 in the first half. A large part of that was Will Solomon not being able to consistently make the correct entry pass. Jose Calderon as well, one of the premier guards in assist/turnover ration in the league turned the ball over 4 times in the game. The Trail Blazers were able to use their quickness and their length to create very difficult passing lanes for the Raptors after a half time adjustment. Scoring 10 points in any quarter in an NBA game will make it tough to win a game and is a testament to the quality of the team you are facing. The Trail Blazers are the youngest team in the league, but are well coached and have some excellent young talent with guys like Travis Outlaw, Steve Blake, Rudy Fernandez, as well as Greg Oden, Roy and Aldridge. Sitting in 6th place in the west, this team will be a very tough team to take out in a 7 game series.

As nice as the win would have been, last night, the guys looked like they are near the end of a grueling road trip with one more game against the Warriors Monday night, then they return home to host the Nuggets and the Rockets later this week. This Raptors team has begun to look much better defensively and showed a lot of heart on the boards Saturday night grabbing 12 offensive boards with Jamario Moon scoring on a couple put backs. One thing they will need to remember is that every team in this league has at least one guy who can light it up every night and someone will step up and score against them until they close out on the edges more consistently. They have improved, but still have work to do there.

Posted on: December 27, 2008 10:58 am
 

Raptors - Kings - A Game in Review

After a win Monday over the Clippers on a night when Jake Voskuhl looks more and more like Bill Laimbeer knocking Zach Randolph to the ground then leave the game, the Raptors went into Sacramento to play the Kings Boxing Day looking to keep the little momentum of this victory alive. Monday night Chris Bosh was the key to the win scoring 18 of his 31 points in the 4th quarter after Randolph left with 19 points. Eric Gordon added 19 and Baron Davis 16 for the Clippers who had no response to Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal who scored 23 and added 9 rebounds. The Clippers were short benched with Marcus Camby and Chris Kaman both out leaving Al Thornton and Brian Skinner to carry the bulk of the work as they used an 8 man rotation. Jamario Moon continued his rebounding work grabbing 8 boards while Jose Calderon had 8 points, 9 assists and 5 rebounds to lead the offense. The strength of the front line was evident as the Raptors ended the game + 10 in total rebounds as well as + 8 in points in the paint.

Friday night in Sacramento where they had lost 10 straight and were 1 – 11 over all, the Raptors started the game with the ball going inside to a hungry Jermaine O’Neal and the ball stayed there all night. Led by Brad Miller and rookie Spencer Hawes as well as 3rd year rising star Francisco Garcia from one of my favorite cities, Santo Domingo, this Kings team was not able to contain the front line of Jermaine O’Neal, Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani, but with shooters such as Bobby Jackson and John Salmons who score 17 and 20 from the perimeter, the Raptors seemed very comfortable at both ends of the floor. Jay Triano has this team focused on protecting the paint and utilizing the interior defense that our 3 bigs as well as Kris Humphries have been bringing the past week. In 6 minutes of play in the 4th quarter, Humphries was able to score 2 points, but grabbed 5 rebounds and 1 put back dunk that seemed to charge the Raptors and end a small run the Kings were starting. With a 4 point lead at the end of 3, Jay left in Will Solomon, Joey Graham, Kris Humphries and Anthony Parker with Andrea Bargnani.

They were able to keep the Kings off the boards and had grown the lead to as much as 9 before the starters returned. With seven solid minutes from the guys off the bench, who seemed to work hard on the defensive end, and were able to score enough to keep the Raptors ahead. Andrea Bargnani played one of his best games in the past month as he looked determined to play some power ball inside then stepping outside to drain 3’s keeping the Kings off-balance and unable to keep him from scoring. He scored 14 points off the bench and he seemed to work well off the bench at either of the forward positions. With Chris Bosh in foul trouble early,

Jermaine O’Neal was the go to guy inside for most of the night. Chris Bosh ended the night with 7 rebounds and 13 points. The other starters responded to the energy that Jermaine seemed to have and pushed the tempo a bit more than normal. Jamario Moon was perhaps the only real mystery Friday as he had only 4 points and 4 rebounds, but seemed to be around the ball all night closing guys out and making the Kings take one more pass. Jason Kapono created havoc with the Kings defense as he was hitting shots off of screens and spread the floor with his movement effectively making the Kings pick him or Jermaine O’Neal all night. His 16 points 3 rebounds and 4 assists were very much an indication of how efficiently the Raptors ball movement was Friday night. Jose Calderon had 16 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists and there are not many nights that will happen, but the ball was moved very well by everyone as they all seemed to look for that one more pass to the better shot. The Raptors took only 69 shots from the floor, but when you shoot 55% as a team, the game becomes very simple. The main reason for that number was the star of the game Jermaine O’Neal who exploded for his best game as a Raptors player scoring 36 points and adding 9 rebounds and 2 assists to the mix. He was 15 – 19 from the floor and 6 – 8 from the free throw line as the Kings had no answer to this inside pounding. Brad Miller scored 20, but was relegated to hitting 15 – 20 footers and was not much help on defense as Jermaine and Chris just kept attacking the rim and found little resistance.

Overall, this game was played very well by the Raptors who used solid defense to fuel the offense. They seem quite happy watching teams try to beat them from the outside and the Kings got the bulk of their scoring from guards John Salmons and Bobby Jackson mainly from long range as they score 24 points from beyond the arc, but only 24 in the paint as the Raptors were +16 inside. Though the Raptors were -4 on the offensive glass, they were +5 in second chance points so they were efficient when they got the ball back. One of the main reasons that this game was even close to begin with was the 13 first half turnovers committed by the Raptors. In the second half, they had on 3 and were much better at protecting the ball and took control of the game in the 3rd quarter and maintained the lead down the stretch with good decisions on offense. Andrea Bargnani, Chris Bosh and Jermaine O’Neal combined for 64 of the 107 points. That has to be a good sign for this team to build on. Tonight we move to Portland to take on Steve Blake, Brandon Roy and LeMarcus Aldridge and Greg Oden and the Trail Blazers before Monday’s game against the Warriors. I hope to see a solid team effort again tonight and perhaps 2 more wins to end the road trip before the new year.

Posted on: December 22, 2008 11:20 am
 

Raptors - Week 9 In Preview - Christmas Week

The week that is ahead offers the Raptors some hope as we arrive in Los Angeles to play the Clippers tonight before having a few days off before Christmas to re-group, then they play the Kings and the Trail Blazers on Friday and Saturday before finishing this 6 game road trip against the Warriors on the 29th. With the Mavericks, the Spurs and the Hornets behind this trip, the return home will bring the Rockets, the Magic and the Nuggets to town. This week appears to be our best chance to record a much needed victory, especially one or two on the road, and maybe 3.

The Clippers come into the game tonight with an 8 – 19 record after a week in which they went 2 – 2 with victories against the Thunder and the Pacers and losses to the Bulls and the Bucks. The Clippers are lead by Zach Randolph who is averaging 22 points and 11 rebounds a game and Marcus Camby who is averaging 11 points and 12 rebounds per game. With Baron Davis and Al Thornton averaging 18 and 17 points per game and Eric Gordon averaging 9.1 points per game, even with Chris Kaman out, this team has a solid front court with a very active back court and will provide Jermaine O’Neal and Chris Bosh and Jamario Moon fits at both ends of the floor. Tonight I look for Jose Calderon and Jason Kapono to carry the game as our guard play will have to step up and provide some consistent scoring as our front court will be challenged all night by two very good defensive forwards. I look for the tempo to be calculated and to not be pushed as this team would love to get Baron Davis in a running game against our much slower back court. Turnovers will be critical and we will need to work hard to take advantage of every rebound we can acquire as they will be looking to control the game on the boards against one of the weakest rebounding teams in the league. I think the Raptors can pull this one off, but they will have to desire and attack every ball and every rebound and out hustle this Clippers team at both ends of the floor.

On Boxing Day, the Raptors head up the highway to Sacramento to take on the struggling Kings. Tonight they play the Spurs in San Antonio where Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan will be ready to play this Kings team who are 7 – 19 and last in their division. With a starting lineup missing two key players in Kevin Martin and Beno Udrih, the Kings will send Brad Miller, Spencer Hawes or Mikki Moore, John Salmons or Francisco Garcia and Bobby Jackson to the floor. This should be a game that Jermaine O’Neal and Chris Bosh could do a lot of damage in the front court with Andrea Bargnani adding some out side scoring from the 4 position, the Kings are just a bit too thin to compete with our active front including the new kid, Jake Voskuhl who looked good in the short time on the floor scoring 4 points over Tim Duncan. Jamario Moon and Jason Kapono I think will have a lot of opportunities to showcase their games should they chose to step up and play. Salmons will be a good match up for Jamario and Kapono will be a valued outside shot should the Raptors stay inside the flow of the offense. Jamario Moon and Jose Calderon should be able to push the ball, but I think Roko Ukic and Will Solomon with Joey Graham will push the tempo on this team that is a bit thin due to injuries.

Saturday finds the Raptors playing in Portland to play the Trail Blazers. Since they beat the Raptors on December 7th, the Trail Blazers are just 2 – 3 with wins against the Kings and the Suns and losses against the Magic, the Jazz and the Clippers. This week they are busy with a back to back starting in Denver tonight then facing the Nuggets in Portland tomorrow and then hosting the Mavericks on Christmas Day. At 17 – 10, they are tied with the Nuggets for 1st in the Northwest division with the Jazz behind with a 17 – 12 record. The Trail Blazers will be a very tough match up for the Raptors, and the memory of the 1 point loss looms large still. The lineup for the Trail Blazers has been solid all season with Greg Oden, Brandon Roy, LeMarcus Aldridge, Steve Blake and Nicolas Batum with Travis Outlaw and Rudy Fernandez both averaging 10+ points a game and have been starters at various points in the season, this team is balanced and deadly in the open floor. Being the 5th game of the 6 game road trip, I suspect the Raptors will be ready to get home as they will have been away for nearly 2 weeks, which is not a bad thing at this point in their up and down season. Against the Trail Blazers, our perimeter defense will need to be at top form to keep the ball out of the hands of their shooters. That has been a struggle all season but it can be done. We will need balance on offense with our shooters needing to turn in good games to pull this team out from the paint and force them to open some room up for our guys up front. It worked the first game had Blake not hit that Vince Carter like shot over Anthony Parker for the win.

With a few days of rest and some valuable practice time before Christmas, this week should allow the team to do some coming together under coach Jay Triano. Since December 3rd, the Raptors have had little time to practice and have shown a more willing attitude on the floor. That will have to continue to grow as the new year brings some tough games early in January. January 11th and 12th offer us a home and home with the Celtics, with 2 games against the Bulls and one against the Pistons, the Suns, the Nets and the Bucks twice. A couple of wins before the end of 2008 would be a great way to ring in the new year and perhaps offer a stimulus to turn this season around.

Posted on: December 21, 2008 12:59 pm
 

Raptors - Week 8 In Review - A season on the edge

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.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com