Not to get all too Maple Leafs, where any success suggests a parade route is in the works and any loss a moral victory, but the Raptors have to be encouraged by last night's game, even if they continued their winless ways against Nash's Suns.
Some Things 3.10:
1. Since the back-to-back debacles in San Antonio and Dallas when it appeared the Raptors given up even the idea of playing defence the Raptors have now played three straight games with long stretches of defensive success. Last night might have been their best defensive effort of the season. The Suns had to work for the looks they did get and apart from their opening little flurry engineered by Nash they had to work for it the entire game.
2. I'm getting the sense that the Raptors are going to make a waiver claim on Pops Mensah-Bonsu who was released last week by the Houston Rockets. With Reggie Evans still struggling to have his foot heal, the talk around the arena yesterday was of the wistful variety: wouldn't it be nice to have an energizing; rebounding game-changer off the bench. The release of Quincy Douby opened up the roster spot; Pops deal isn't guaranteed. Don't be shocked if the Raptors pick him up.
3. Suns exec David Griffin had a great line about Jared Dudley, something along the lines of: "If you were just looking at the combine results; he'd be undraftable; if it was just on the Wonderlic; he'd be a lottery pick." He's been a great pick-up for the Suns and exactly what the Raptors really wish they had. He can guard some threes and most fours; he's very crafty; he'll launch his body into anybody or anything and he can pass and make shots. He's kind of a poor man's Shane Battier. One example: He's checking Bargnani and gets right into his chest challenging a little jumper in the lane and then boxes out hard as Bargnani tries to go up his back on the miss and gets hit with his fifth foul. Nothing too dramatic I know, but that kind of attention to detail gets forgotten by a lot of guys; doing it just right forced a miss; retained possession and added a foul on one of the opposing team's best players. That's winning basketball.
4. The word in Phoenix is that Stoudemire is not quite back to his athletic, freakazoid self; that the forced idleness following his series of eye surgeries for his detached retina - at one point Stoudemire checked into a hotel so he could be undisturbed as he lied face down and still for 10 days - has taken an edge off his game. As strange as it seems after he scores 30 points; you can see it. What used to be Sportcenter dunks are now just dunks; dunks are now layups and sometime he just doesn't have to the lift to make the play. Crazy given how good he remains, but it's more a comment on how much of a specimen he was. Hopefully he gets back to that level at some point.
5. It's not fair to compare Calderon to Nash; one guy is a very solid NBA point guard; the other guy is, I'm convinced, a Hall-of-Famer. But what the hell, watching them side by side you get a sense for the difference between them given their overall skill sets are sort of similar. Nash is so much more aggressive; he's always, always looking to force the action. Calderon kind of facilitates the action by making the right pass here or there. Nash keeps probing until he finds that pass. And one thing Calderon needs to do better is when he does attack the rim is to find a body to hit first. Calderon tends to extend to the rim in an effort to get there as quick as he can - as a result he needs a lot of room to take advantage of what considers a driving lane. The first thing Nash does is look for a body he can bang into and then starting thinking about how to make the shot. Sometimes he seems to be driving directly into people; pushing them along. As a result he can go to the basket in crowds.
6. If you poke around on 82Games.com you can find clutch stats where they break down NBA shooters according to how they do in the clutch: Games that are within five points with five minutes to play in the fourth quarter or overtime. Last year LeBron James was the best performer in that category, averaging 55.9 points (per 48 minutes) on 55.6 per cent shooting. On that basis you have to be happy with Turkoglu going 2-of-4 for five points in the last 90 seconds.
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