Raptors Look To Rebound In Game 2

by Mike Ulmer
April 21, 2008

(TORONTO) - Well, Bambi, someone just burnt down your forest.

Now what are you going to do?

Thats the Raptors situation as they enter Game 2 of their first round playoff series against the Orlando Magic, Tuesday in the land of the Magic Kingdom.

No one, not even many of the Raptors own mothers, would pick Toronto to beat Orlando four times in six tries. Not in the wake of Game 1, Dwight Howards 25 points and 22 rebounds and the Magics nine first-quarter threes in eleven tries.

Fair enough.

Many Raptors have pointed out that the Magic are unlikely to be that deadly again. Guess what? They werent likely to do it in the first place and they did anyway. Imagine someone cracks you across the head with an ax handle. Is your first reaction going to be, boy, he just hit me with an axe handle, hes probably unlikely to do that again. Why wouldnt he hit you again? It seemed to work. What you need my friend, is a bigger axe-handle.

They definitely sent a message, Raptors guard TJ Ford was saying at practice, Monday. Now its time for us to be first at being more aggressive.

And now we find, in a way we could not through the season, whether the Orlando Magics first round opponent is the flyweight we have frequently seen since the all-star break or the potential giant their coaches and managers think they are riding.

There is one fact you cannot argue. Whatever strategy the Raptors brought into the first quarter of Game 1, whether it involved bio-rhythms, strategic deployment of big men or the first word that popped up into Sam Mitchells mind, Sunday morning it didnt work.

The Raptors spoke about covering the perimeter and forcing Howard away from his own basket on offence. Didnt happen.

There were plans to limit the Magic penetrators such as Jameer Nelson. Instead, in the pivotal first quarter, the Raptors were tentative and the Magic penetrated then gleefully kicked out.

Likewise, the Raptors advantage of surprise, gained by inserting Andrea Bargnani instead of Jamario Moon into the lineup seemed somewhat muted in the wake of the Magics 24-point first half margin.

It was paralysis through analysis.

At the end of the day, we just have to play basketball, said Chris Bosh on Monday. We just have to play the basketball that got us here. I think the players got caught up in it (strategy), especially on defence. We started giving them lanes and tried to cut off their right or their left hands instead of just playing them straight up. I think thats how they got those wide-open looks.

That said, the game was still within reach, said Mitchell, before two offensive put backs by Dwight Howard.

Game 2 is about competitiveness and the ability to take the opponents best shot, spit out some chicklets and get madder, not whether Mitchell goes back to Bargnani for Game 2. You want to talk tough. Anthony Parker was excellent in Game 1. Rasho Nesterovic gave you about what he does every game, in this case 16 points and eight rebounds.

But Bargnani attempted one three-point play and had just three defensive rebounds. No one did much to free Bosh from Rashard Lewis version of the Sean Avery and when he did kick out, the outside shooters, with the exception of Parker and Jason Kapono, were ice cold.

The Raptors frontcourt, supposedly a strength, was outscored by Orlandos Jameer Nelson 24-15.

So, where does that leave us?

If you want to argue that the Magic wont come out just as tough, heck, tougher, I will not argue. But you also need to concede that TJ Ford, a .469 shooter this year will do a little better than one bucket in nine tries. Or that Bosh will manage more than four field goals throws or Calderon will hit more than three shots in 11 attempts.

You need to concede that the Raptors might actually run a bit against their much bigger opponent and that Ford, one of the best penetrating guards, is another game closer to returning to full form. Even with Howards 22 boards, the Raptors were outrebounded by only seven. On the offensive glass, they had one fewer board than the Magic.

Who knows if the Raptors can win the series but if they are going to, the first step will come when someone, metaphorically of course, stands square and takes a piece out of Goliath.