Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Toronto Raptors Continue Stink-A-Thon

The Toronto Raptors dismal season slide has a boring repetitiveness to it, especially during the most recent six-game meltdown. Brainless plays and an inability to execute when it matters is happening with such consistency, that there is no suspense any more.

At least the Raptors aren't having to console any team mates for missing a game winning shot. The Raptors always blow it just before they need one and save themselves the trouble.

Against the Chicago Bulls, Chris Bosh put up a pathetic attempt against sophomore Joakim Noah and was promptly blocked. The Bulls won, Bosh sulked and shrugged his shoulders. Noah looked like a 15-year veteran with steady hands, not the second-year guy who sometimes barely makes it off the bench.

Whomever came up with the cliche about "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory", must have been a Toronto Raptors fan in a previous life.

Forward Jamario Moon is the Raptors worst offender. He should be banned from ever shooting a three-pointer again. Not because he mis-fires them at a horrid 33-percent clip, but because of the times he chooses to take them.

Just when Toronto needs a crucial basket, something clicks in Moon's mind that says "Now Jamario, now" and he launches away with free abandon. They always miss.

Raptors beat reporter Doug Smith from the Toronto Star makes mention of this in his latest article.

It's funny to keep hearing Toronto's broadcasters and commentators constantly referring to each loss as "heartbreaking". In basketball, it should only be referred to as a heartbreaking loss when a bad team is shorthanded and fights life and death over every possession and almost upsets a good team. Not when a mediocre team chokes time and time again.

There can't be much sympathy for a team that puts zero pressure on the defense and vacates their own lane when the other team attacks. If the Raptors only could learn from the their opponents how to close out possessions and games rather than just watch and get embarrassed.

While Monday's loss to the Atlanta Hawks had all these ingredients and more, it was Sunday's collective brain cramp which stands out more.

With the score tied at 102, Phoenix Suns coach Terry Porter called a time out. His choice of play on the reset was to dump the ball into Shaq in the low post and let him go to work against Andrea Bargnani. The result was one that any NBA fan of the last 15 years has seen about a million times. Shaq nudges his way a little closer to the hoop, raises up and drops in a baby hook shot.

A solid, high percentage play. Porter, in his first season as Suns coach after two with the Milwaukee Bucks had no interest in trying to do anything fancy. He just wanted to win the game and chose smart plays to help him do that.

He could have asked Steve Nash to break down his man, or dump the ball to Amare Stoudemire or even he could have designed a play for Jason Richardson, but he decided that his best option was Shaq. Smart move.

Shaq isn't the force he once was, but as we saw, he is still a handful for the best defenders in the league, let alone Bargnani.

For those last six minutes of the game, as the Suns eased their way out of Toronto's reach, Porter could have been San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich. Often regarded to be boring, Popovich's Spurs set the NBA standard in no-nonsense basketball.

It's what good teams do. And the Toronto Raptors are NOT a good team. They have no leadership and no "go-to" guy or even play. When the game is on the line, the Raptors put all their eggs in the "hope someone hits a miraculous game winner" basket.

Raptors General Manager Bryan Colangelo has his hands full. Once a mastermind who was building a mighty house from the ground up, he is starting to resemble a shonky tradesman who is trying to cover up his dodgy work.

is praying that Jermaine O'Neal's wonky knees hold up long enough for Miami Heat General Manager Pat Riley to take him and his monster contract on board. If Riley bites, it would mean he would in effect have traded Shaq and his $40-million for Jermaine and his $40-million and he'd be back to where he was a year ago.

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