April 23, 2008

I'm Off Disney World, Huge

I'm beginning to hate Orlando. And I've never even been there. The city has not been kind to my Toronto Raptors or Toronto Blue Jays in recent days. I thought Disney World was where dreams come true?

I don't know about you, but I'm still having nightmares from the first quarter of game one between the Raptors and Orlando Magic. You know, when Orlando scored 43 points on 80 percent - 80 freaking percent - shooting from the floor, including nine of 11 from deep. I'm still waking up in a cold sweat after seeing Maurice Evans, Rashard Lewis and Jameer Nelson drain three-ball after three-ball after three-ball in my sleep. What a frightening 12 minutes of basketball.

You could take that first quarter and label it "How Not To Play Defense". Make it an instructional video, or something.

Toronto, unbelievably, got off to another porous start on Tuesday night, allowing 35 first quarter points. It's an improvement on 43, but unacceptable nonetheless. While many are quick to blame Sam Mitchell for the team's apparent lack of preparation, I can't do that. He's not on the floor.

Thankfully, the Raps did wake up in the second quarter and dropped 39 on the Magic. It was a see-saw battle the rest of the way but, most unfortunately, the dream of splitting the first two games on the road in Disney World ended when Chris Bosh's jump shot with 1.9 seconds left on the clock hit rim. 104-103 final, Orlando.

I'll give the dinosaurs some credit. They did make a game of it. But this is the playoffs, and moral victories count for nothing in the second season.

What did you think of the final play? Would you have drawn it up the same? It was another Jose Calderon/CB4 special and, just like last year in game six of the playoffs against the Nets with the season on the line, it didn't work. No disrespect towards Bosh. Dude was unconscious on Tuesday. But he's the obvious play. Why not look for Jason Kapono, who was dynamite off the bench in each of the first two games? If the Raptors were going to give it to Bosh, and they did, I'd much rather him drive and try to draw a foul instead of settle for the jump shot. Alas, you live and learn.

Speaking of learning, SMitch has made it clear that there will be changes in the starting lineup tonight for game three. And by changes I'm sure he means Calderon will start at point guard and T.J. Ford will come off the bench. At least that's what I'm assuming. I am, of course, usually wrong, but in my humble opinion Calderon can no longer be allowed to play Mr. Nice Guy. He's the better point guard, he's playing better than Ford right now, and the Raps are a better team when he's on the floor running the offense. So he should start, n'est-ce pas?

Here's the line on Ford after two games: he's two (2!) of 17 from the floor for a whopping 11.8 field goal percentage, seven of seven from the stripe, and he's totalled seven rebounds, 12 assists and 4 turnovers. I'm not saying that Ford is the reason we're down two-nothing in this series, because Jose was just as bad in game one, but Ford and Moon were abysmal in game two. Ford was one for eight from the floor on Tuesday and his turnovers in the first quarter (three of them, I think) and his lazy coverage of Jameer Nelson really hurt the Raptors. Until he finds his game and his confidence, Jose's got to carry the load.

As for Moon, well, he should just be banned from shooting the jump shot. He was one for seven Tuesday night and Orlando has simply stopped guarding him. They're letting him have the long jumper because, well, they know he can't make it. And they're right. Jamario simply has to be more aggressive and take the ball to the rim. He's too athletic and has too much hops to be chucking. I know it's important for him to have confidence in his jumper, but we need him to be rebounding and drawing fouls, not chilling on the perimeter and tossing up bricks.

I'm not going to say much about the heartbreak kid Andrea Bargnani. I thought he was pretty brutal in game one and so-so in game two. One thing, though. He played a touch over 18 minutes on Tuesday night and picked up one rebound. One rebound.

Huge shoutouts to Kapono and Carlos Delfino. Kapono, the forgotten man, came back with a vengeance in Orlando, shooting 67% from the floor, and 67% from beyond the arc. The sweet-shooting JKap has playoff experience and boy did it ever show. The Raptors are going to need him to come up just as big if they want to get back in this damn thing. Same goes for Delfino. He played almost thirty minutes Tuesday night and picked up 16 points, six boards and three dimes. Most importantly, he was aggressive. He didn't settle for the jump shot (I'm looking at you, Jamario).

And, umm, that Dwight Howard guy, umm, yeah, he's good. Twenty-twenty two games in a row? Ridiculous. He's a freak. Superman is a most fitting nickname.

Oh yeah, if you're looking for anything and everything Raptors-related, check out my man Chris Black at T.Jose Caldeford. Dude's been featured on Michael Grange's blog, From Deep, at The Globe and Mail and he is, needless to say, on point.

The Raptors cannot under any, ANY, circumstances come out flat tonight in the first quarter at the The Hangar. The fans are going to be rocking the red, Washington Capitals style, and a big opening 12 minutes is vital if the Raptors want to get back in this series. Come on Raptors. Orlando took care of business on their home court, we must do the same.

As for the Blue Jays and their series with Tampa Bay at Disney World (literally), Toronto lost on Tuesday and again last night. Give the series victory to Tampa Bay. The Jays are clearly struggling. When they lose a series to Tampa Bay, that pretty much goes without saying.

If there's one team I can't handle the Jays losing to, it's the Rays. They are the definition of pathetic. And, well, last place. Since their birth in 1998 the Rays have finished last in the American League East every year except for 2004, when they finished fourth with 70 wins (yes, the Jays finished last that year with 67 wins...*shudder*).

Everyone knows what ails the Jays. They can't hit with runners in scoring position. They were zero for eight tonight and are eight for their last 69. Yikes. Until that changes, the losses will continue to pile up. It is still early but the Red Sox, those fucking Boston Red Sox, are already beginning to heat up. The Jays need not take a page out of the Raptors book and dig themselves a hole too deep to get out of.

I listened to last night's post-game show with Mike Wilner, and J.P. Ricciardi made his first appearance on the program. It was riveting stuff, as always. I love the fact that J.P. makes himself available and takes questions from the fans once a week.

J.P., like me, like you, and most Jays fans, is frustrated. He knows the team isn't hitting and, in a classy move, is holding himself accountable. He said the calls for John Gibbons' head aren't warranted because Gibbons isn't out there hacking at the plate. Ricciardi said if the Jays don't hit, it's his fault, because he put this team together. And he's right.

He also touched on the Frank Thomas situation. To me, the situation stinks because it seems like it's only about dollars. The Jays didn't want to pay Frank $10 million next year so they let him walk. Of course, it isn't as simple as that. Ricciardi touched on the fact that Thomas was not in the dugout and didn't come out to high-five his teammates on Saturday, the day he was benched. J.P. said Thomas' actions showed his state of mind and that the Jays, with a sulking Thomas, were a team of 24, rather than 25. It's a mighty good point. I wonder if T.J. Ford and Frank Thomas hang out?

Ricciardi also spoke about the big-headed one, Barry Bonds. While he said the Jays have thought about it, it isn't something that is likely to happen. And not because Ricciardi doesn't want it to happen. It sounded like he does. I hate Bonds, but I'm a hypocrite and would take him on my team right this very moment. Why? Because he'd make the Jays a better team, and that's all that matters to me. Ricciardi sees what all Jays fans do out there, that Bonds would help this team immensely. He's not stupid. He just can't make the move because Ted Rogers won't sign off on it. That's the bottom line. Don't blame J.P. Ricciardi for Bonds not becoming a Blue Jay. Blame Ted Rogers. He's not willing to make it happen. If he was, Bonds would be a Blue Jay tomorrow. Think about it, you know, every time you pay Ted Rogers that God damn system access fee.

Before I forget, there have been a number of baseball blog additions to the blogroll. I urge you to check them out: The Mockingbird, where Jon Hale satisfies all your pitch f/x needs; The Tao of Stieb, because more people need to know that Dave Stieb pitched a remarkable 103 career complete games; Miked Up, because Mike Wilner is a whole lot of awesome; Fire Joe Morgan, because they write some of the funniest stuff on the web; and Major League Bastian, because he actually gets paid to cover the Jays. And don't forget the always reliable, and thullied, Drunk Jays Fans, who have officially sold out and who will be taking over the world in the days to come. Oh yeah, and the grumpy dude, Jeff Blair.

You know, Tuesday night was pretty awful on a number of fronts, now that I think about it. Every team, and person, I was cheering for lost. My Raps dropped a heart breaker; The Capitals went down in game seven, in overtime no less, to those damn Philly Flyers; San Jose pummeled Calgary in their game seven (what the hell has happened to Miikka Kiprusoff? Pulled twice in the series? Oh my.); the Jays lost; and my main man Barack Obama lost the Pennsylvania primary. Brutal.

Ahh, I told myself I'd make this post short. I swore I would. Once again, I have failed. Miserably. If you've made it this far, cheers. Your dedication is nothing short of exemplary.

Anyway, I hate the Rays. And the Magic. Fuck Disney World.


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