Five thoughts on game 12: Celtics 95, Raptors 94

Toronto Raptors at Boston Celtics Nov 12

The Toronto Raptors dropped a close one yesterday against the Celtics in Boston. I missed the game but I’ll offer a few observations based on the stats, highlights and post-game reports…

Norman Powell’s injury might be serious

Norm left the game with what they called a hip pointer, and didn’t return. He was on crutches after which isn’t a good sign. OG Anunoby started the second half in his place, which I think is the right call, based on his defence. The argument for CJ Miles there is strong but if Casey thinks he needs CJ’s offense with the second unit I can’t argue with that.

CJ Miles needs to play more

That said, CJ only played 21 minutes yesterday, and only averaged 16 over the previous three games. That’s pretty bizarre from a team trying to get better at spacing and shooting, to limit your best 3-point shooter’s minutes. I understand, again, Casey has a glut of wings to give minutes to, but, the Raptors need Miles’ shooting. He should be playing 23-24 mpg. I’m sure there are a few Fred VanVleet minutes that Miles can easily gobble up (and I would love to know why the heck FVV was on the floor for those final two possessions).

Pascal Siakam vs OG Anunoby is entertaining as heck

Speaking of the glut of wings, I’ve debated who of the Raptors young SFs deserve more minutes here, and although I’ve leaned towards Anunoby, Pascal Siakam continues to play extremely well. He played 19 minutes, had 8 points and went 2-3 from deep with 6 rebounds as well. With Norm out, both should see an uptick in minutes; they’ve both earned them!

It was the same old Raptors down the stretch

Lots of arguing about the final play selection. The Raptors had two chances, down 1 with the ball; on both, it was DeMar DeRozan iso-ball. In those situations, it’s hard to argue with the call; you want the ball in the hands of your best player. And on the second, DeMar generated a strong look, within 15 feet and just missed it. (If you want a counter argument, maybe it’s that one of those shots should have come from Lowry, who had what might have been his best shooting game of the year). What’s concerning is that it seems that’s what the Raptors were doing for the previous several minutes. We’ve seen it over the last two postseasons, that type of offense just doesn’t work. The Raptors need to keep the ball moving and work for better shots.

The Raptors are blowing great opportunities against important eastern conference foes

Last Sunday the Wizards were without John Wall and the Raps let that one get away. Today, the Celtics were without Kyrie Irving (and of course Gordon Hayward) and the Raps couldn’t put them away either. These games could come back to haunt the Raptors when it comes time for playoff seeding.

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The Raptors are in Texas tomorrow to take on the team with the league’s second-best record (behind Boston), the Houston Rockets. The Rockets have won six in a row—can the Raptors stop this streak?

A requiem for Garbo: Five thoughts on Jorge Garbojosa

Jorge Garbojosa, Toronto Raptors

If you were watching the first game of the NBA season, you saw Celtics small forward Gordon Hayward go down with a horrific ankle injury. (If you weren’t watching, do not seek out the replay. You don’t want to see it.) As a Toronto Raptors fan, I was immediately taken back to 2007, when then-Raptors forward Jorge Garbojosa suffered the same injury, against the Celtics. I have a few thoughts on it:

1. 2006-2007 was a magical Raptors season.

That team might just be my favorite Raptors team ever. New GM Bryan Colangelo came in at the end of the previous season and managed to trade Jalen Rose for Antonio Davis, which essentially meant cap space, and Colangelo spent that cap space on a couple international players—Euroleague MVP Anthony Parker and Spanish forward Jorge Garbojosa—as well as Fred Jones, who he soon traded for Juan Dixon. He also drafted Andrea Bargnani and PJ Tucker, traded Charlie Villanueva for TJ Ford, traded Rafael Araujo for Kris Humphries, and traded Matt Bonner for Rasho Nesterovic. Chris Bosh, Morris Peterson, Joey Graham and Jose Calderon were the only relevant holdovers. It seemed like a mishmash of parts on paper, and no one expected the team to go anywhere—and after a 2-8 start it looked like another lost Raptors season. But then the team jelled, went 45-27 the rest of the way winning the division for the first time and returning to the playoffs after a five-year absence.

2. Jorge Garbojosa was a big part of the reason it worked.

He didn’t have a great jump shot, wasn’t a great athlete or jumper, wasn’t much of a ball handler or rebounder… but he always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, especially on defense. He was just an incredibly smart, intuitive basketball player. You may not have wanted him taking the final shot in a close game, but you’d want him on the floor, because you could be confident that, no matter what happened, he’d make the right play. He averaged 8.5 points and 4.9 rebounds in 28 minutes a night, and was named rookie of the month for December and eventually named to the all-rookie team.

3. But Garbojosa’s season was cut short in March of 2007.

The Raptors were in Boston, and were losing to the Celtics, trailing by nine with about 4.5 minutes left. Al Jefferson got the ball ahead on a breakaway, and went up to slam it home. Garbo went for the block. He fouled Jefferson, and ended up on the floor; I’ve never been sure if he landed on Jefferson’s foot or just fell awkwardly or slipped or what (and I can’t watch the replay). But, the end result was much like Hayward’s injury—his left foot was trapped beneath him and his entire body weight came down right on top of it. Like Hayward’s, his foot ended up pointing the wrong way.

4. I’ll always remember the screaming.

When Garbo went down, Jefferson turned to help him up, saw his foot, and immediately turned away—he couldn’t look. Around that time the pain must’ve hit Garbojosa, and he started screaming. “AAHHHHHH! AAHHHHHH!” He was right under the hoop so the microphones under the rim picked it up clearly. “AAHHHHHH! AAHHHHHH!” It was horrifying. The injury was eventually diagnosed as a fractured fibula, dislocated left ankle, and torn ligaments. He was done for the year, obviously; he came back the following season for a few games but was never the same, and was eventually cut.

5. The dream season ended too soon.

The Raptors made the playoffs as a top-3 seed without him (and Bargnani, who had his appendix removed) but lost to Vince Carter and the New Jersey Nets in six games. You can’t help but wonder if the Raps would’ve won that series had Garbo been able to play. For one thing, the Raps came out nervous and anxious in game 1, and again in game 3 (first on the road); a veteran of the Euroleague and big-time international competition, Garbo wouldn’t have been bothered by any of that. The Raps got inconsistent play from Joey Graham at the SF spot through games 1-4 before going to Morris Peterson, but Garbo would’ve been the steady presence they needed there. He could’t physically keep up with Carter or Richard Jefferson, but I’m certain his basketball smarts and team defense would’ve made a big difference.

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Jorge Garbojosa’s time in Toronto ended acrimoniously; he wanted to play for Spain internationally, the Raptors wanted him to heal and rest. They bought out his contract so he could do what he wanted. He was named president of the Spanish basketball federation in 2016. But I’ll always wonder “what if” about that playoff series…!