This is from Basketbawful reader Colin. "Pretty sure you are going to put them there, but after what I saw tonight I just wanted to make sure. The Toronto Raptors. (I'm a Raptors fan, hurts to say this.) Not only were they the FIRST team to be eliminated from the playoffs this season, but the ATLANTA HAWKS have done better than them in their series against a BETTER TEAM than the Raptors lost to. Thats not right."
Well, it's hard to fault the Raptors too much, because they clearly lost to a suprior team. However, I can't help but wonder why
the Magic were superior. On paper, Toronto should have been a pretty equal match for Orlando, both in terms of regular season wins and in a playoff showdown. The glaring problems I can see are bad coaching, the point guard two-stepping, the highly inconsistent play of Mr. Former Number One Draft Pick, the lack of production from free agent acquisition Jason Kapono...you know what? Never mind. It's suddenly very obvious that the dinos have problems 'o plenty. It'll be interesting to see what Bryan Colangelo does this offseason.Special note!!
For those of you who misunderstood the previous paragraph, I was talking about the Raptors season as a whole
. Not just the five-game playoff sample. So yes, Bargs sucked the entire series, but was inconsistent for most of the season
. Kapono mysteriously showed up for the playoffs after not producing for most of the season
. Is that clear enough?Andrea Bargnani:
After watching Bargs commit his second foul in the first half minute of the game, my very first thought was, "Oh boy, I'm going to be hearing about this from Shrugz." Sure enough, a few minutes later I had the following e-mail waiting in my inbox: "Bargnani 2 fouls in the first 20 seconds. HAHAHAHHAHA! Too funny." Bargnani ended up playing only 15 minutes and finished with 4 points, 1 rebound, 2 assists, 3 fouls and one badly missed three-pointer that missed the rim entirely. Amazingly, his replacement was even worse...Rasho Nesterovic:
Note that Rasho had been on fire for a month and a half until Toronto's soon-to-be ex-coach Sam Mitchell benched him for Bargnani. And that pretty much killed Rasho's mojo. He was used in relief last night and responded with zero points, 2 rebounds, 1 turnover and 3 fouls in just under 9 minutes of lack-tion.T.J. Ford:
Will T.J. still be the starter next season? Will he even be on the team? If the Raptors want to improve, the answer to those questions really should be "no" and "no." Ford shot poorly (6-for-14) and 4 of the team's 6 turnovers. He looks for his own shot too often, and he tends to force the action -- his
action -- when the Toronto offense stalls. In retrospect, Jose Calderon's self-benching might have been the worst thing to happen to this team going into the playoffs.Marcin Gortat:
The Warlock didn't quite play four minutes (3:55), nor did he achieve a three trillion because he grabbed a single rebound. He even failed at failing. (Okay. I'll admit. I only included Marcin because I like typing his last name.)The Atlanta Hawks Bandwagon:
This is from Basketbawful reader Craig. "Mike Bibby the Hypocrite. Sure he can talk a big game about the supposed fair-weather Boston fans, but I would ask him this question: Atlanta was notorious for having very low attendance during the regular season the past couple of years. Now all of a sudden because they made the playoffs, the place is sold out and the fans are actually giving them a homecourt advantage. Where were all those closet fans during the rebuilding years and even this season? Next time you want to talk about another team's fans how about you look at your own first." The only correction I'd made to Craig's rant is changing "the past couple of years" to "the past couple of decades." Seriously. Half of the arena was empty even during the latter half of the Dominique Wilkins era.The Boston Bench:
This is from Basketbawful reader friesenth: "I've totaled the Celtics bench stats from nba.com
, minus James Posey who actually contributed in a positive way. Cassell, Big Baby, House and Powe combined for an incredible 3 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 fouls, and 1 turnovers in nearly 40 minutes of total playing time. That's the spark you want off the bench. Maybe all those concerns about their depth are finally starting to come true." [Checks the box score] Ummm, uhhhh, ummm...The Atlanta Bench:
They provided a total of 4 points on 2-for-9 shooting, although they did contribute 12 rebounds and 2 assists. Although 9 of those rebounds and both of those assists were from Josh Childress. So were the 4 points. Take Josh out of the equation and the Hawk reserve corps had zero points, 3 rebounds, a blocked shot, and four fouls.Shaky officiating:
Look, I generally hate it when fans cry "foul" after their team loses. But the Celtics got hosed by the officials last night. Boston started out on fire, taking a 16-3 lead, and looked firmly in control of the game. Things started to fall apart when Josh Smith pulled off two amazing blocked shots on Rajon Rondo. So amazing, in fact, that they weren't technically legal
. Smith fell on top of Rondo after the first block, and on the second block Smith got all ball and
all body...and last time I checked, the body still isn't part of the ball.
Look, I get it. David Stern was on hand for the game, and the Commish likes to see competitive series. In fact, he was interviewed during the game and you could tell -- despite his rictus-like grin -- that he's disappointed the Suns-Spurs and Nuggets-Lakers series are ending early (unless Phoenix pulls off a miracle tonight). And there's no question that, from the referees perspectives, it's better to "let them play," especially when a home team does something spectacular that gets the crowd on its feet.
But those two blocks not only killed the Celtics' momentum, it set a physical tone that clearly favored the Hawks, who got a little more benefit of the doubt from the refs (which resulted in a 33-18 freethrow advantage, although the final four FTs came from desperation fouls by the C's). I'm not saying Atlanta didn't play with heart and fire, and I'm not saying Boston didn't have a fair share of missed shots. But I can't quite shake the feeling that the zebras cast a shadow over this game.Paul Pierce:
He totally boned a layup in the final minute that would have pulled the Celtics to within two and given them a much better shot at stealing the game. Truth got free and just lost the ball on the way up...and his expression as it happened was totally comical, in that tragic "I just lost my team the game" kind of way.Kevin Garnett:
KG, angry and frustrated, hit Zaza Pachulia with an elbow and then tried to play it off as if he was merely trying to explain to a nearby official that he had been elbowed. C'mon, Kevin. We're not stupid. But that move was.Zaza Pachulia:
It's good that he didn't back down, but going face to face with Garnett? And even going so far as to butt heads with KG? That was almost as stupid as Garnett's elbow. Unless Zaza was trying to pull a Robert Horry. (And, in fact, it looked like Kendrick Perkins stepped on the court and might be suspended for Game 5.) It's telling that Garnett, while he didn't back down at all, also didn't escalate things. Maturity...or the fact that he knew he was in the wrong?David Stern:
His reaction to the Garnett-Pachulia showdown was priceless. I haven't seen an old guy in that much distress since watching my buddy's grandpa try to get out of a beanbag chair.Mario West:
He had 19 seconds in Game 4. [Cue the sad music
When an eighth seed that barely made the playoffs waits until a first-round elimination game to finally give their all, good things usually don't happen for them (the Suns' Game 4 win notwithstanding). In retrospect, maybe things would have been different if 'Melo had called out his team a little earlier.Carmelo's critics:
It sure seemed like everybody and their brother wanted to label 'Melo's "We quit" rant as a lack of maturity on his part, while Kobe's decimation of his teammates and Lakers management over he summer was just "shaken' trees." Oh, and of course Larry Bird's denunciation of his teammates as "sissies" and "a bunch of women" during the 1984 NBA Finals is the stuff of legend. It's yet another case of the winning double-standard. If you are winning or have won in the past, you get a free pass to blast teammates or roast your team. But if you don't win...if you can't even get out of the first round...well, then, you're an immature malcontent who needs to shut his mouth.
But Anthony was right to do what he did, and his team responded with their best gamae of the series, even if they still lost anyway. It's too bad for them that 'Melo didn't speak up, say, 25 or 30 games ago. Maybe Denver would have solved some of their problems a little sooner.George Karl, quote machine:
"My wish would be that we had four games like tonight and we all could have been happier. I’ve said all along, when they play the right way, they're fun guys to coach." And if wishes were fishes, the world would be an ocean. But as long as you're having fun, coach, we're all happy for you. (But not really.)Pau Gasol:
Dude, I know you're all happy-as-kittens about finally getting out of the first round of the playoffs, but speaking for NBA fans everywhere, we don't want to see your doughy belly. Not even that man-woman in the bottom right of the picture.Reggie Miller:
Ah, Reggie. His awesomeness knows no human boundaries. Matt from Hardwood Paroxysm
sent in this very enjoyable exchange between Reggie and Marv Albert from last night's Lakers-Nuggets game.
Reggie: "A lot of questions have been about the Denver Nuggets. This, so far, has been their best half of basketball."
Marv: "Although they have given up 62 points in this first half. And they were down by as man as 13. And are down 10..."
Matt (in absentia): "Definitely, Reg. Best half. Just try not to, you know, speak, Reg."NBA.com historians:
Basketbawful reader Dan from South Australia doesn't appreciate the fact that The League's official Web site is ignorent of its own history. "From this article
: 'Toronto made the playoffs in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2007. They were eliminated in the first round in three of their four postseason appearances. The only time they won a first-round series was in 2001, when they beat the New Jersey Nets in six games, and lost to the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference semifinals in five games.' History is fun, making up history is funner. The only first-round series win was
in 2001, but they beat New York 3-2 and then lost to Philly 4-3 (the notorious Carter-needs-to-graduate-before-game-7 series...maybe NBA.com
is trying to erase the VC years from memory too)."
Labels: Andrea Bargnani, Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Denver Nuggets, George Karl, Kevin Garnett, Pau Gasol, Paul Pierce, referees, Toronto Raptors