- Take it away, Luba: It's just the storm, before the calm. (Hey, Adnan Virk of The Score not the only one who can make 1980s pop-culture references apropos of nothing.)
At times it felt like Sam Mitchell got together over the summer with Jays manager John Gibbons to trade notes, presumably over a couple mimosas, on how to make it is hard as possible for a team to win. Smitch looked like he has no idea how to have the players ready to start a quarter, or how to make adjustments at the halftime and quarter breaks.
It was 17-4 (no Raptors baskets) after six minutes. Orlando had a 10-2 run to start the second quarter, a 9-4 spurt to start the third and ran off the first 11 points of the fourth. Part of that was the matchup problem created by Dwight Howard going against a less-than-full-strength Chris Bosh and the Raptors having a poor shooting night, but don't the best coaches usually figure out how to get their teams some stops and some easy baskets early in a quarter ?
Seriously, that's about 14 minutes of basketball that the game turned on. Play it even in those stages, and it's a decisive win. It was odd that they didn't slug the ball inside in the final 5:12 when Howard was playing with five fouls, but it's November. Orlando's Stan Van Gundy outcoached the hell out of Smitch, but a a coach who looks like Ron Jeremy's long-lost twin brother should be a crafty bastard.
(UPDATE: At least they're addressing it -- Rasho Nesterovič is going to start at centre with Andrea Bargnani as the sixth man.)
- It's way too early to start calling for Smitch's head. The true sports city that Toronto might be one day (Step One: Stop playing Leafs and Raptors fans against each other) doesn't do that.
- Why Juan Dixon is Juan Dixon: He made a couple baskets during that game-tying 13-2 run in the fourth while Howard was on the bench. About 30 seconds after Howard returned, he tried to drive and missed. That was about the last time the Raptors went inside, and it came from their least physically imposing player. The ball has to go to Bosh in that situation. (Read that closely: It's not a diss on Dixon. Shooting guards in point guard bodies don't come with self-awareness.)
- Other than that, it feels like a calm has descended. On the plus side, Andrea Bargnani (16 points on 7-of-18, eight rebounds) played with some confettura, which he didn't do on nights as a rookie when his shot wasn't falling. He was right there in the third quarter with seven points on a 9-2 Raptors run, getting two rebounds on D and pressuring Hedo Turkoglu into a miss. He and Bosh played with some fire; now they just need some finish. It will come.
- Raptor Land, who is more of a baller than I am, pointed out Jorge Garbajosa was also a big part of a third-quarter push. He isn't getting the minutes he needs to make his team-oriented game work. They might have to go back to him playing major minutes or starting.
That's all for now. Send your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org.