Toronto Raptors: 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 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, 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.]

Denver Nuggets: 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." 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 is trying to erase the VC years from memory too)."

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
something about kevin garnett during the game

this is not my own observation just a commenter from hardwoodparoxysm so credit him or something hehe

I dunno but it looks like garnett really is using some force to restrain the official

Anonymous posted:
Can Garnett get suspended for this? I thought you can't in any way touch NBA officials. I'm sure the league doesn't want to suspend him, and rightfully so, but I was under the impression this kinda stuff might be automatic.

Blogger Unknown said...
Did anyone else hear Reggie talking about how much attention Kobe "garnishes?" hahaha....

i'm pretty sure that's the second time he's said that. i'm surprised no one corrected him the first time.

I'm gonna go ahead and say that TNT will not be renewing Reggie's contract.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
another national blogger discrediting the hawks win... you blame the officials, the celtics fans blame doc, and the celtics blame themselves. Why isnt ray allen, leon powe, and posey on your list for getting raped (and crossed-over by JJ??) Why did you did not list the entire boston defense for their performance last night against JJ in the 4th? Did you even watch the game? Smith and JJ scored all the points for the hawks in the 4th and the celts couldnt figure out how to stop 2 guys. Ahhhhh the media's precious celts (and their so-called #1 defense in the league) are going down in flames to a sub .500 team. In the words of the fans of the Washington Wizards.. OVER-RATED

Blogger XForce23 said...
Regarding Josh Smith's first block; I was always under the impression that if you make body contact after the block, it is legal. I believe the rule was if the momentum of you blocking the shot causes you to make bodily contact it is not considered a foul. Granted, I do not know how much "bodily contact" encompasses, but then again how many times have you seen a guy get blocked then get body checked mid-air into the 2nd row with no call?

Blogger CoCo said...
Shaky Officiating??? Wow, where was that assertaion in game two when Joe and Al both went out in the first quarter with two fouls. Give me a break, the Celtics are supposed to be 29 games better than the Hawks so don't tell me two bad calls have ruined their chances.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
anonymous 1 -- Huh. Good point, but KG won't be suspended for that. There's a lot of player-on-ref contact during these altercations, and it's usually initiated by the officials themselves, as they try to sort things out.

carlo -- Crap, I must have blanked out during that part. But if he said it, it is the second time he misused "garnishes."

anonymous 2 -- Wow. A Hawks fans. Man, you guys haven't been heard from since the late 80s. Welcome back! And of course I watched the game. Yeesh. I like how any time somebody disagrees with my analysis they automatically assume I didn't watch the game.

All I can say about the Celtics D is that they haven't gotten the leeway in Atlanta that they get at home, while the Hawks have gotten way more than they'll get in Boston.

kevin -- You know, the final decision is always left to the referees' discretion, but according to the official rules, a player attempting any kind of shot, be it a jumper or a layup, is supposed to be able to complete the shot attempt and follow-through without being hit or fouled. Obviously, it's not always called that way.

Although interestingly, I remember Joe Johnson getting blocked later in the game and the whistle not blowing until Joe stared down the official and the C's were already heading back downcourt. It's all a judgement call...and that call tends to go the home teams way a lot of times.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Equating Melo's (I have 3 DUIs including one last week) "we quit" rant with Kobe's (I have 3 rings) offseason rant and Bird's (I won 3 straight MVPs) strategic media blast is like comparing a luke warm stale Milwaukee's Best to an ice cold Hefeweizen.

Melo is a first rate chump that doesn't know the first thing about the commitment and dedication it takes to win in the NBA. Kobe and Bird are two of the hardest working players in the history of the game, not to mention two of the toughest competitors. They've spent thousands of hours putting in the time and earning the respect of their teammates. Both have played through numerous injuries and sacrificed their bodies for winning sake. The only thing melo has spent thousands of hours doing is passing da joint around his crib.

Maybe if Melo wants respect from the media and his teammates he'd get is azz in top shape and lay off the drinking and driving until after his team is sent packing.

Common Basketbawful, you're better than that.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
With respect to Bargnani's play during the playoffs, you're waaaaay off-base in calling it 'inconsistent'. He was very consistent this entire series: consistently awful, consistently disappointing, consistently proving those calling him a bust correct, consistently ... ah, hell, you get the picture. When sizing up a consistently awful performance, I expect more from Basketbawful!

Blogger Joe said...
Reggie DID say garnishes again, but then corrected himself to 'garners' and continued to sound a little flustered afterwards..

go reggie!

Blogger Basketbawful said...
anonymous -- You miss my point. The fact is, the Nuggets weren't bringing it and somebody had to say something. 'Melo was the only player with the cajones to do so. And you know what? Denver played better...even if they lost anyway.

Also, don't you think that history would look a lot differently on Bird's "sissy" comments had the Celtics gone on to lose that series in five games (which is where they were headed)? And how about Kobe? Had the Lakers folded this season as everyone expected, he would have been skewered (some more) for ripping apart everyone in sight. But since the Lakers started winning, everybody's saying he did the "right thing" by tearing into Bynum and Kupchak.

And I guarantee that, had the Nuggets won last night, people would be saying the 'Melo was right, too.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
anonymous # whatever -- Regarding Bargnani: I meant inconsistent over the course of the regular season, not the playoffs (during which he was, as you pointed out, consistently bad). He had some surprisingly good games this season amidst the many bad...and at times people honestly thought he might be coming on.

But he sucked eggs throughout this series...and I don't think I've suggested anything different.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Zaza is never scared. KG doesn't know where he's from. You don't mess with anybody named Zaza.

Perkins is gone. Marvin Williams had a foot on the court at the time, that's a maybe. KG using force to break free from an official!? That remains to be seen, but I doubt it.

Losing Perkins is bigger than most think. You'll see when the Hawks start owning the boards in Game 5.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I'm pretty sure Matt Bonner's hard foul on KG during his raptors days was the best foul ever LOL
and he kept talking smack and raising his arms while getting cheered by the crowd AHHAHAHAH

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Regarding Melo's rant with Enver playing slightly better in game 4--me thinks u confuse causation and correlation.

And you miss my point. My point was not that Kobe and Bird's respective rants worked (they could have easily back fired as you point out), but that they are proven winners and have earned the right to speak up when necessary. Melo has only earned a suspended drivers license. If anyone on Enver's team has the right to call out other players and the coaching staff it is Iverson, not Melo.

Blogger Nathan Wright said...
Wait a minute... did you just complain that the Celtics lost to the Hawks because of the refs? Well, do you think maybe home court and some favorable calls might be enough to squeak by these guys in 7? I guess it's pretty much a toss-up.

Blogger Austen said...
I was at the Magic/Raptors game last night, and I have to say I was extremely disappointed by what I saw. Despite this being a playoff game, both teams were playing it like it were an exhibition game. No passion, no intensity, and no physical contact. Even Stan Van Gundy seemed strangely uninterested, choosing to spend 90% of the game in his chair. It was essentially a jumpshooting contest all night, with the Magic chucking up 3s like they were the Golden State Warriors. And no one was fouling anyone.

Man, you'd think even in the pansy Eastern Conference Playoffs you'd see SOME physical play.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Concerning Jose Calderon's self-benching, I'm getting the feeling that Calderon might be a Popovich-style evil genius. Think about it: Calderon sacrifices himself, TJ Ford gets the starting position and subsequently plays so poorly that he isn't even on the team the next season. Who is the starting point guard for the Raptors from that point on? Calderon.

Blogger The Third Heat said...
I think Craig Sager, TNT, the associated press and ESPN all deserve a mention today. Craig Sager, the gentleman that he is, interviewed Carmelo after the game and pointed out they were the first 50 win team to get swept out of the first round. Not only is that being an ass, he's totally wrong. The Nuggets aren't even the first 50 win team to get swept by the Lakers in the first round (they beat Portland in 2001). Okay, but that was a 5 game series so they must have meant first time since the first round expanded, right? Nope, even more recently, Pau Gasol's 50 win Grizzlies got swept by the Spurs in 2004. How do you miss two examples within the last 7 years when the Lakers and Gasol are involved in both of them? Despite its gross inaccuracy, I guess the AP and ESPN thought it sounded so juicy that they included this "fact" in their official recap and Daily Dime.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Is there white ooze coming out of Pao's nasty belly button? I just gavomited a little.

Maybe Kobe did that....

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Uh, dude, Kapono actually finally earned his money in this series. He played really well. If Mitchell would play him more and, uh, maybe get the point guards to set up open shots for him once in a blue moon, he'd fine.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I'm surprised not to see anything about Brendan Haywood and the rest of the Wizard's continual trash talk of a player that's destroying them. This team defines the term clueless. Haywood calling LeBron a whiner based on his comment that playing physical against him isn't working isn't whining, it's simply stating what should be a refutable fact at this point. Having marginal talents constantly dress down one of the best in the game is sad - do Haywood and Stevenson just not get it? Where's Jameson, Butler and Arenas to shut these idiots up? I've never seen a team talk so much trash that can't back any of it up.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
hi five for the Third Heat!


Blogger Melvin said...
they just didn't follow these steps:

Blogger Unknown said...
now i know it must be hard for a blogger to watch all the games during the playoffs and have insight and whatnot, but at least don't falsify information and admit that you didn't watch a single magic vs. raptors game this year. if you had, you might have noticed that aside from chris bosh, jason kapono was the only other raptor to show up in every game.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
dawidw -- Hm. Did you read my answer to the previous comments? In talking about the Raptors, I was talking about the ENTIRE SEASON, not this five-game playoff sample. Jeeesus.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I don't remember too much about the Kobe hoopla, but I believe most of the player/front-office bashing came from that phone-video. I don't really remember him making too many formal public statements ripping into anyone.

So it's a bit unfair to criticize Kobe for tearing down his teammates. What he said was during a private moment that was never intended for other people to hear.

But again, correct me if I'm wrong. The only thing I remember about Kobe "shaking up the trees" was wanting to be traded and feeling he didn't have a championship contender team.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
jack -- There was much more than that. I'll try to get you links later, but Kobe gave a radio interview where he said he was done with the Lakers, and he had a similar statement posted on his official Web site...basically demanding a trade.

Then he retracted his statements.

Then he made them again, including on his Web site.

The drama went on for weeks.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
jack -- There was much more than that. I'll try to get you links later, but Kobe gave a radio interview where he said he was done with the Lakers, and he had a similar statement posted on his official Web site...basically demanding a trade.

Then he retracted his statements.

Then he made them again, including on his Web site.

The drama went on for weeks.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
I noticed the Reggie Miller thing (he said garnishes again) but this time he corrected himself immediately.

I'm pretty sure either he, or someone who reads this blog must have told him about how bad people are burning him on his commentary.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Going into this postseason, if we all were told that only two series out of eight would be tied through four games, would any of us have predicted it would have been these two?

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Also, interesting that you think Sam Mitchell is going to be fired a year after being Coach of the Year. I'm sure it's not unprecedented(I know it's happened in baseball). I never thought Mitchell was a good coach personally but a year ago it sometimes felt like I was the only one.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
anonymous -- Rick Carlisle was fired by the Pistons (for Larry Brown) after the 2002-03 season. He won Coach of the Year in 2001-02. So, alas for Sam, it is precedented.

And no...nobody would have predicted this. I certainly didn't. I said in my Deadspin previews that these would be the two most academic series. I guess that's why they play the games...

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Kapono only sucked because he was misused by a crap coach with man-love for Ford, Delfino and Bargnani.

Why wasn't Nesterovic used on Howard in the playoffs? Hell, even Brezec and Humphries would have done better than "Bargs"!

Blogger anne said...
baddave, thanks for that nasty mental image. I wouldn't be surprised if Kobe did that after seeing all the man love photos from game 4 between the two of them. In one photo, Pau was gently caressing Kobe's arm. I was thinking, man, get a room. Here's the photo:

While looking for that man love photo, I got distracted by Samuel Dalembert's new hairdo. Dude, seriously? I guess it might be a good defensive tactic, as the Pistons will probably be too busy laughing at him to shoot the ball. Or Sheed gets mad and kicks his ass for looking a fool.

Blogger Wild Yams said...
Don't worry, Mr. Bawful, looks like you were pretty close with your prediction for the Lakers-Nuggets series.

I don't know how much Kobe publicly ripped his teammates on purpose (I do think the cell phone video was the only instance of that), but you're right that he did call the front office out publicly a number of times with all those radio interviews and whatnot. He still takes jabs here and there too, saying recently that Mitch Kupchak went from an F to an A+. Someone should point out to Kobe that in that "F" season last year Kupchak decided not to trade Andrew Bynum or Jordan Farmar, and the supposed "butter knives" he was then surrounded by are now making huge contributions (Vujacic & Turiaf, specifically).

You're right that Melo should have said something like this a long, long time ago, and that waiting till he was down 0-3 was way too late. If the Nuggets are ever going to succeed they need to start working towards that goal now, not a year from now when the 2009 playoffs start. They need to put winning and defense ahead of everything else and not worry about who has the most points scored.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
whew... lucky stackhouse was off limits in order to bring in kidd. mid 20s in fg% is definitely helping their cause

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Two things:

1) I don't know WTF austen is smoking saying that there were no calls at the Magic/Raptors game. It lasted until 10pm, when they usually end at 9:30 (at the latest)! It was one of the longest games I've ever been to. And it certainly seemed as if the Magic were playing their hearts out. Too bad the Raptors weren't.

2) I can't believe I forgot to mention this and that no one else did either! Last night during the Nuggets/Lakers game, the Nuggets were FINALLY getting their crowd back into it when the Nuggs got the ball, passed it down court in a fast break, then passed to Carmelo (I THINK, don't hold me to that), who attempted to slam it through the basket. Too bad for him that the ball instead ricocheted off the rim, causing that sucker to fly to the other end of the court. It was amazing.


Blogger Unknown said...
at the end of the 1st half in game 5 of the spurs/suns series, the announcer said parker had 41 pts, 12 rebs (when he meant to say assists)

Anonymous Anonymous said...
May I suggest for your next WOTN column: "Big gambles in Western Conference". Isn't ironic how the two teams which made the most absurd, gambling, expensive trades for old people (who were never fit for their system) get their tickets back home 4-1 the same night? Honestly, this seemed like a bad poker hand, when somebody go "all in" with a pair of Kings (Mitch Kupchak) and then other players at the same table talk themselves into going "all in" too, only with a pair of threes (Steve Kerr) and with a nine and a eight (Donn Nelson)? I hate when GMs awake to make big trades, and then those big trades end up very badly.

Blogger Unknown said...
my bad... just a bitter raps fan trying to get out frustration.

Blogger Basketbawful said...
davidw -- No worries, Dave. You may not be able to tell, but I'm a Raps fan, too. And I'm pretty disappointed by how they underachieved this year.