That was a big Opening Night hit, wasn't it?
Hands up anyone who saw that coming?
Didn’t think there’d be many of you.
Anyway, the caution is that it’s one game and you can’t draw too many inferences from one regular season game.
But, still, there were moments, weren’t there?
THREE THINGS I LEARNED
Talk may not be cheap
I know there had to be a few eyes rolled with each quote from pre-season about the dedication to defence and defence wins games and defence is the key to playoff success and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
I know mine did because you hear that every year from every team and it’s mind-numbingly boring and trite, isn’t it?
Well, maybe they were, you know, telling the truth.
I know Cleveland’s offence was atrocious and they looked like five guys who’d never seen each other at times but if you hold any NBA team to 35 per cent shooting, you must have done something right.
They did shrink the court and take away the lane, they never doubled too aggressively in the post that would leave them vulnerable to outside shooting and I swear I heard more communication on defence in that one game than I have in one in quite some time.
Yes, there will be nights when they revert to form and are quite bad defensively but I think there’s a chance they might be pretty good, too.
Bosh had this to say:
“That is all we talk about. Defence, defence, defence. We are not going to work on it for no reason. You have to work on it if you want to win a lot of basketball games and that’s what we’re going to do. Nobody is expecting us to actually play defence so it’s good to come in the back door sometimes.”
Be ready, do something
Marcus Banks gets a lot of grief around here mostly for signing a contract that was offered to him.
But last night, he showed me a little something. And so did Jay.
Less than 30 seconds to go in the first quarter, dead ball, Jay wants to give his guards a break so he calls on Banks to play one possession. Bit of a gutsy move because who knows what kind of effort you’re going to get, right?
Well – and this tells me something about Marcus – Banks comes in, defends like crazy and forces a wild miss by Daniel (I refuse to call a grown man Boobie) Gibson to end the quarter.’
Banks then goes back to his seat on the bench, never to be seen again during the game.
Not a big play in the whole scheme of things and, yes, that’s what pro athletes are supposed to do, work hard when they’re called on. But sometimes they don’t and it was good to see Banks did.
I don’t have a video clip of it, and I don’t know that one exists, but there was a play, with about three minutes left in the second, that perfectly exemplifies what Toronto wants to do on defence.
Ball’s at the top on the right, can’t remember who drives right into the lane and Antoine Wright, in perfect position protecting the paint and the “house” slides over two steps and draws a charge.
It’s really very simply weakside help defence but last year, and even in this pre-season, the slide would have come late, the lane would have parted like the Red Sea and whoever was driving probably would have dunked.
Again, not a huge play but one we don’t see a lot around the Raptors, who have to be among the worst team for drawing charges by off-the-ball defenders.
Now, with apologies to Paul Harvey, here’s the rest of the story:
This, apparently, was pretty cool.
Jay’s old Simon Fraser coach, Stan Stewardson, made the trip along with a handful of others to check out the first game of the season.
Well, I’m told Jay’s going to meet them in this little bistro after the game and when he walks and wanders through the place looking for them, spontaneous applause breaks out and one, um, exuberant Raptor fan gives him a big old hug.
Not sure the same thing happens to Ron Wilson.
Of course, the last time something like that happened to a Raptors coach was back in ’04 when the gathered boozers in the same bistro gave a rousing round of applause to Kevin O’Neill after one game.
No one hugged KO lest they get smacked in the face.
Hmm, Memphis tonight.
Blues City Café or B.B. King’s barbecue joint?
Decisions, decisions, decisions.
In Cleveland, where I’m sure they’ll be calling for Mike Brown’s head any day after that display of KO-inspired offence (lots of KO shots today, no?), here’s what they woke up to read.
Nice commemorative ball they gave Jose right before the game to honour him for that 151-154 free-throw year last year, which set a single-season NBA record for free-throw accuracy.
Then he bricks two in a row and I’m sure I saw Bryan asking for the ball back.
Good line from AP before the game. We’re chatting with a bunch of people and it’s brought up that he and Jamario, who used to have these goofy singing contests when they were teammates here, might be doing the same thing in Cleveland.
“There’s really no competition. He’s background, he does a lot of background for me, he’s good.”
Fifty-seven fouls. Seventy-four free throws.
Where were The Replacements when you needed ‘em?
Oh yeah, told you that whole Drake intro music thing was a ruse, didn’t I?
Yep, that’s me, on the cutting edge of modern music information.
Best thing about going to Memphis?
You can’t fly there directly, you have to go through Chicago, and you have to leave in the middle of the afternoon so you don’t have to go to practice.
More time to build a set for tomorrow’s episode of GruntTV.