The Morning After The Night Before, XXVII
Sometimes you lose games right after halftime, sometimes you lose ‘em in the dying seconds and sometimes you lose ‘em in August when the schedule comes out. As I mentioned in the paper, this was a loss waiting to happen and maybe that’s why the mood wasn’t too dark after the game.
One thing is for sure: These guys can use a break and as they trundled off to various corners of the continent, they were done, mentally and physically. They've got two days to refresh, just like we do, before regrouping in San Antonion for a Boxing Day practice. Until then ...
Three Things I Learned
Guess it’s time
We’ve all seen Andrea Bargnani struggle as a backup so I guess moving him into the starting lineup makes sense. He looked hugely more confident last night than he has all month although he wasn’t actually a terror on the boards or anything.
There is no doubt, as we mentioned as early as training camp, that he and Bosh are the cornerstones of the front court for years to come so they better get used to playing alongside each other now.
One thing to look for, and we only saw it once last night, but Bosh at the elbow and Bargnani on the block is something they could exploit. The one time Bargs got the ball in the post in that situation, he made a nifty move and scored, bringing Sam off the bench to applaud the effort.
I have no idea now long it’ll take Bargnani to get back to the form he showed in the middle of last season but this seems his best chance to do it quickly.
A worn out man
You know who needs these days off more than anyone? Chris Bosh.
There’s about four minutes to go in the third quarter Saturday night, Bosh is absolutely bagged. The Hump’s at the table and when he gets called into the game, a weary Bosh walks from the lane towards the bench.
Ah, nope. Hump’s there to get Bargnani and Bosh has to stay in, despite being absolutely worn out. He didn’t complain, though, just turned around, went back to the game and busted his butt for about another five possessions before he finally got a blow.
I know things are going badly and all, but that kid is playing his head off every night.
One of a kind
Regular readers will know I’m not a big fan of the extraneous crap that’s passed off as “entertainment” at games but the Suns really know how to do it.
They ran this video Saturday night was a send-up of one of those old K-Tel ads (I know, I’m dating myself substantially here) with “a thousand greatest hits for eight bucks.” Had all kinds of Suns singing Christmas carols and until you’ve seen Sean Marks warble ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus’ or listened to Leandro Barbosa sing ‘Frosty The Snowman’ you haven’t lived.
Give ‘em credit for creativity, it had us bitter, tired, cynical, worn out beat people laughing out loud sitting in our seats. Best thing I've ever seen on a scoreboard.
Guess it’s easy to get guys to ham it up when the team’s going good.
Three Things You Wondered
Q: Hey Doug. I think everyone realizes the problem is defence. Ever since Jamario Moon was 'discovered' he's been guarding the best perimeter player. It used to be Anthony Parker. But for a few games now, the best player from the other team has gone off in the first half or so. And in the second half, we see AP guarding that player. I can think of T-Mac, Brandon Roy, Durant (Friday) night. My question is, why doesn't Sam just always start with AP guarding the best? He's not as long as Moon, but he plays tight and he's consistent.
Nicole T, Toronto
A: Even more than AP, you’re going to see, and have seen, Carlos Delfino on the other team’s best perimeter player late in games. And judging by the way Sam criticized Moon in the wake of Friday’s game (“Rasho takes the best inside guy and Jamario takes the best perimeter guy and the last couple of games we’re letting those two guys … get off to a good start and then it makes it tough,” Mitchell said) don’t be surprised if you see less and less of the rookie.
He got 11 minutes Friday and 14 on Saturday and that’s the level you might see him at for the next while.
They like Moon’s length and athleticism more than Parker’s size and basketball IQ but I think, soon, IQ wins out when it comes to the big assignment.
Q: The part of Bargnani’s "natural game" that Raps' schemes appear not to take advantage of is his passing. If we ever succeeded in creating more slashing 2's and 3's would not Bargnani be a great passer from the 'power point' positiom.
Charles N, Mexico via Toronto
A: That’s an excellent point that Sam alluded to right after the Phoenix game, the players have to get used to a five who can make passes off the dribble and the coaches are going to have to tweak the offence a bit to take advantage of that skill, too.
If Bargnani ever gets to the point where he takes those two or three dribbles and can hit the open shooter in the corner instead of dishing a little pass to Bosh under the basket, his contribution will go up exponentially.
Q: The only thing more pathetic than the 10 total assists for such an unselfish team is the 30 trips to the charity stripe - with Bosh (again) taking the lion's share. Wish someone else could take one (or two) for the team. At this rate, Bosh will be a bruised and broken man unless someone else can step up and be aggressive on the offensive end. Question: Other than Bosh (or Jamario who the coaches have singled out) who do the coaches feel should be making trips to the free throw line the most?
Marc M, Mississauga
A: Interesting thing about the assists. About midway through the fourth quarter a couple of us looked at the stat and were shocked, it seemed they had lots more than that and it might have been a hometown scoring thing. In fact, at least one Raptor, glancing at the boxscore after the game, was a tad perturbed at the number. I’ll chalk that up to scoring, rather than pathetic play.
On the free throws, you know Sam and his staff are climbing all over Moon to get to the rim, and the line, more often and I know they’d prefer Carlos Delfino attack with a bit more abandon. I think they’ll get more out of T.J. when he gets back and if Bargnani ever really gets going, he should shoot some.
But right now, everyone except Bosh seems allergic to the paint.
Okay, it's Christmas and all that (think the malls will be crowded when I head out to shop this afternoon?) but the mail always has to get delivered. So click here to send along a question 'cause we'll have the usual Friday mailbag later this week, we've got some dead days to fill between now and the Dec. 28 outing in San Antonio and you know how much I love to hear the rather unique insight provided by many of you.