The Raptors survived their trip to New Jersey Wednesday night, 107-106, but they won’t survive long enough to see the playoffs with the way the played. Let’s go down the roster and identify the problems.
Bosh was totally passive to start the game and didn’t get his act together until midway through the second quarter. His favorite move was to isolate on either elbow (preferably the left), jab left once, and then rise for a remarkably accurate 18-foot jumper. He was 5-6 on that specific maneuver, usually when guarded by the stone-footed Brook Lopez.
When Bosh attempted to drive to the hoop, he registered a long-striding layup plus a foul (he hit the FT), drew another foul (hit both free throws), missed a layup, and was bumped at the rim resulting in a badly missed layup.
Three times, Bosh tried to create his own shot off the bounce, making only one of these. He attempted to post up only once, early in the third quarter against Bobby Simmons, resulting in a missed turnaround from the right box.
Twice Bosh was ripped by Bobby Simmons and Jarvis Hayes on his attempts to drive. Plus, he simply lost focus and bobbled a pass square in his hands with no defensive pressure out of bounds. A hoopward baseline cut established position under the basket, but when he caught the pass, it was knocked away by a Nets guard out of bounds. And numerous rebound attempts by Bosh were knocked away. This evidence implies that Bosh has either small hands or clumsy ones.
And on defense? Bosh was absent on a number of rotations (including not recognizing Jose Calderon being stuck defending Vince Carter in the post), had trouble closing out, and made no effort to show on screen/rolls.
Essentially, Bosh did nothing that any other semi-talented power forward in the league couldn’t do and isn’t the franchise player Raptors fans want Bosh to be.
His less-than-meets-the-eye play is the main reason why the Raptors have been mere fossils over the first half of the year.
If Bargnani isn’t the worst defender in the league, who is? He’s helpless defending screens, lost on rotations, left in the dust against guards, and roughhoused when defending big men.
Against the Nets, he pulled down one rebound in 22 minutes, a pathetic total.
Bargnani’s only saving grace is if he can put points on the board. Too bad, he was too slow to get to the rim, and he only shot 1-4 from downtown, with all three misses bad ones.
The question isn’t when will Bargnani develop, but why are Toronto’s overseas scouts still employed?
Not a particularly impressive on-ball defender, Moon shines when his athleticism allows him to send back penetrators at the rim. Of his three blocks, once came when a spectacular rotation allowed him to float higher than a Vince Carter floater, and another came when he met Brook Lopez head-on at the rim and sent the ball back in his face.
Offensively, Moon ran the court, and hit two of his three slow-release three-pointers.
He’s a nice player to have in a rotation, though he’s probably best suited to coming off the bench.
Parker saved the Raptors when Bosh failed to launch at the game’s onset, calmly sinking mid-range jump shots, whether catching and shooting, jabbing and firing, or taking a dribble, spinning, and fading away. If Parker can’t create his own looks beyond the arc, he can certainly catch and shoot—as he did to sink three of seven from downtown.
Defensively, he fought hard through screens, locked up Vince Carter when assigned to him, but for the most part was keeping Harris under wraps. Most of Harris’ points when defended by Parker came when he used a screen and the defending big man and baseline rotators failed to defend Harris properly.
And if Parker’s handles aren’t immaculate, he moved the ball, drove and dish, and even played some point guard in back of Jose Calderon. His primary numbers indicate just how well-rounded and useful his game is—7-12 FG, 3-7 3FG, 7 REB, 6 AST, 4 TO, 21 PTS.
A rusty opening period, indicated that Calderon is still getting used to being back in the lineup following a hamstring injury. After that, he lived in the paint, played acceptable defense, hit his jumpers, and made nothing but good decisions. Calderon isn’t creative enough to be an ace point guard, but he’s certainly in the league’s upper echelon of signal callers.
O’Neal surprisingly had an effective game. He was willing to bang in the post and drive to the rim offensively, and even made a few nifty assist passes. Defensively was a different story where he had trouble defending screens, closing out, and rebounding, but he did hang with Devin Harris on one possession forcing a missed three, and generally made good rotations down low.
However, given O’Neal’s brittleness, those kinds of solid games appear few and far between.
If Kapono’s defense was terrible, he moved the ball, hit his jumpers, hit a sweet floater, and chipped in on the glass—3-6 FG, 2-3 3FG, 3 REB, 5 AST, 1 TO, 10 PTS. He did everything asked of him and was a spark in Toronto’s stabilizing the game in the first half, and taking control in the third and early fourth quarters.
Ukic’ only play of note was a stumbling drive resulting in a travel. At first glass, he doesn’t appear to be anything more than a third point guard in a two point guard rotation.
Graham was Toronto’s difference maker, picking up the rebounds O’Neal, Bosh, and Bargnani wouldn’t corral, and bulling his way in the paint—4-4 FG, 7-9 FT.
Graham is the only bona fide tough guy on the team and can create his own points to boot. It’s imperative that he get minutes to offset his teammates overall softness.
Still, as long as Toronto’s signature players are an oversized stiff, a brittle has-been, and an overrated one-trick pony, the Raptors season will be extinct long before the NBA season reaches the playoff era.