That was kind of a fun game, wasn’t it?
No, they didn’t beat the ’83-’84 Celtics or ’95-‘96 Bulls or anything but it was a good, tough win forged with some energy and effort.
All in all, a good end to the year.
THREE THINGS I LEARNED
This ought to keep some people a bit quiet
If they’re going to go down, they want to go down with a fight.
As part of some new defensive tenets, little tweaks that seem to be working all right, the Raptors want to get up into ball-handlers in the halfcourt, apply a little pressure and see what happens.
As Jay explained, it’s not always going to be pretty in general and specifically against the Bobcats:
“Last time we played these guys, we showed the tape and we were five feet off guys and let them do whatever they wanted to do. Even though we knew we were going to get blown by tonight a couple of times – and we did – we thought more pressure on the ball would create turnovers, would create deflections and that’s how we’ve been playing for the last 13 games.
“We just decided to not be positional players; if we’re going to get beat, let’s get beat aggressively.”
That means the next time we get incessant complaints about guards getting killed by penetration (like the second Jose comes back), we can put it all on the coach and suggest it’s just all part of the strategy.
Something to build on?
It was one game against a vertically-challenged opponent but it had to be at least a little heartening to see Andrea Bargnani work a bit more in the post last night than he has, isn’t it?
It’s not like he’s become Wilt or anything but they ran a set where he flashed from the baseline to the middle of the lane, sealed his man by making himself “big” (large target, arms spread, legs apart, looking for the ball) and either went to the rim or took a little turnaround eight-footer.
No idea if he’ll keep it up but it did show that he’s got some moves down there.
An early sign
Okay, it was one basket early in a game that was close but there was one play about eight minutes into the game that kind of signaled what kind of night it was going to be.
Ball’s going out of bounds right in front of the Charlotte bench when Bosh dives on the floor after it to make the save and keep it alive.
He knocks it to Jarrett Jack who takes off on the break and hits Sonny Weems for about a 15-footer.
Weems misses but DeRozan’s at the rim for a put-back slam, the joint’s going crazy and everyone’s up off the bench.
It makes the score 18-13 and it’s hardly the turning point but it showed early that the locals had some oomph and energy to their game.
And was a very nice play to watch unfold.
Oh, yeah, there’s this, too
I know very few of you are wondering but we chatted with Reggie Evans before the game and got this update, which I will mention once now and probably about 1,000 times over the next four or five days.
He had an MRI on Monday, it came back clean and he’s hoping to start some serious on-court work soon.
Given his level of conditioning and the fact he hasn’t played a minute of basketball for two months, he’s probably a month away from putting on a uniform and contributing.
As for his work during this hiatus, he told us he can work on the elliptical trainer now to keep his cardio up, he’s getting in some light, shooting, can dunk, make cuts on his sore foot without any discomfort and is generally in pretty good shape.
He also said he’s been getting some cardio work in at the University of Toronto pool and made it sound like it’s pretty comical to see.
“All the students are laughing at me because I can’t swim. They’ve got all kinds of safety people around.”
I’m sitting there watching the fellas dance and hug and go through these elaborate rituals right before the game starts and all I can reall think of is this: If they paid as much attention to where they’re supposed to be on halfcourt sets and defensive possessions, maybe they’d really have a reason to hug and love each other.
Dang. Forgot to mention this yesterday but thought you’d still like to know.
When we’re finally let into practice, one of the first thing we do (after counting the players to make sure they’re all there) is check out what hangers-on are in the gym.
It’s usually a small number – there seems to be fewer family and friends sitting around this year – but there were an extraordinary number of strangers the other day.
Pops had his high school coach and a billion members of his staff in there and there was one guy who looked remotely familiar sitting on a stool watching.
Then I see him talking to Micah and while they’re not actually squishing bugs or trying to hit one back up the middle, it comes to me:
Big league hitter, local product and, I’m thinking, maybe one degree of separation for the de facto hitting coach of The Mighty Yankees.
My guy Rick sums up last night’s affair like this in the cyber pages of the Charlotte Observer.
Oh yeah. More mail. Send it here, please.
It’ll give me something to do Saturday afternoon in Boston instead of going to Fenway and screaming about the desecration of such an historic site.
Or it’ll keep me out of a bar.
Fun Stat That Means Nothing Except I Have Too Much Time On My Hands And Was Looking Crap Up:
Remember when Chris Bosh was leading the NBA in three-point shooting and how odd that was?
Well, he hasn’t taken, or made, one in a month.
Guess that fad’s gone, right?
New Year’s Eve, right?
(Or, as some of us know it, Amateur Hour)
Everyone got big plans?
Do me a favour, okay? Right now, make arrangements to get home with someone who isn’t imbibing.
I don’t want to say it’s regression to the mean but as I’m watching the Raptor point guards struggle at times with the ball pressure applied by the Bobcats and how it’s taking about 14 or 15 seconds for Toronto to get into its halfcourt offence at times, I couldn’t help but think:
Couldn’t they use their best ball-handling guard right about now?
You know that marathon took 2:35 to play, don’t you?
About 20 minutes longer than any basketball game should take, in part because of fouls and free throws, in part because of the incessant video reviews and I’ve got to say, as a deadline-stressed grunt, I’m not at all pleased.
Like you care.
Anyway, big day of practice, working on a feature, radio gig at the dinner hour and then a wee celebration before an early flight to Boston.
Have a great New Year's, folks.
See you in 2010.