Sunday , Apr , 20 , 2008 C.Y. Ellis

Orlando Magic Use Ridiculously Hot Start to Take Game One


Orlando Magic Use Ridiculously Hot Start to Take Game One

Orlando Magic Use Ridiculously Hot Start to Take Game One against Toronto Raptors

The game started off with a very interesting starting line-up, as Sam Mitchell started all three of his big men in Chris Bosh, Rasho Nesterovic, and Andrea Bargnani.  Bosh guarded Rashard Lewis, Nesterovic guarded Dwight Howard, and Bargnani guarded Hedo Turkoglu.

It really didn’t matter early who guarded who though, as the Magic shot 80% from the field for the first 16 minutes of the game, pulling out to a 23-point lead with 7:59 left in the first half.  But the Magic eventually cooled off, allowing the Raptors to get back in the game, but the Raptors could never cut the lead down below 7 points, with Dwight Howard and the Magic using a 10-0 run after Toronto cut the lead down to seven points early in the fourth quarter.  The Raptors would never cut the lead below double digits the rest of the way, falling 114-100.

The thing that disappointed me the most was the really horrid play of Toronto’s point guards, as T.J. Ford and Jose Calderon combined to shoot 20% for the game, making only 4 of their 20 shots during the game, scoring only 14 points while dishing out 14 assists.  Ford in particular was absolutely terrible, scoring only 5 points while shooting 1-of-9 from the field.  What was even worse, was the fact that Ford was dominated defensively by Jameer Nelson, as Ford did a terrible job fighting through the pick-and-rolls, allowing Nelson to score 24 points.

If I were Sam Mitchell I would seriously consider starting the bigger Jose Calderon in Game 2, and if not put Ford on a very short leash, as even though Calderon played better than Ford, he only played three minutes more than Ford.  Calderon did a much better job defensively on Nelson, which is really what is needed.  This was really the main thing I saw that concerned me over this game, was the supposedly superior PG play of the Raptors struggling.

The other thing was Chris Bosh, who scored a very quiet 21 points, but got into severe foul trouble in the third quarter.  He picked up all four of his fouls in the quarter, with Bosh having to sit out a fourth of the second half with foul trouble.  Bosh also struggled shooting from the field, hitting only 4 of his 11 shots.  He really wasn’t even the focus of the offense for much of the game, with Anthony Parker (24 points) and Rasho Nesterovic (16 points) stepping up big with Bosh struggling.

Also, beyond the great performances by Parker and Nesterovic, Jason Kapono also stepped up big, keying two Toronto runs while scoring 18 points and providing the kind of sharp-shooting he was signed for this off-season.

Defensively, the Raptors did a much better job of playing one-on-one defense in the second half.  In the first half, they would collapse anytime a Magic player penetrated in the lane, leaving their shooters wide open around the three-point line, which helped the Magic to shoot 80% on mostly wide-open shots.

But in the second half, the Raptors didn’t collapse as much, forcing Orlando players to make tough shots in the lane.  The Raptors also need to do a better job at switches, mainly making sure Rasho Nesterovic or even Chris Bosh are on Dwight Howard down low, as anytime there was a switch and Andrea Bargnani guarded Howard down low he was just abused.  Bargnani actually did a decent job defensively on Turkoglu, but if he’s going to get as many minutes as he is this series he has to produce more than 5 points on 2-of-8 shooting.

Overall, beyond the first 16 minutes the game was pretty even, and honestly, you can’t expect a team to shoot 80% from the field for 16 minutes.  It was really a game where everything went right for one team and everything went wrong for the other team.  I mean, beyond the whole shooting 80% from the field thing, Bosh, Ford, and Calderon struggled mightily, something I don’t really expect to happen the rest of the series, especially Ford and Calderon struggling as much as they did.  If the Raptors can get anywhere close to their normal production from these three, to go along with the kind of impressive play they’ve gotten from Parker, Nesterovic, and Kapono they will be right back in the series.

Game 2 will be very interesting, as I don’t think you really saw what will play out in this series with Orlando’s white-hot start to the game putting Toronto behind the 8-ball.  The Raptors cannot afford to dig themselves a big hole like they did today, and they need to focus on getting Bosh the ball more in the paint, along with making sure their point guard play is up to snuff, be it Calderon or Ford.

To read a little bit more about Game 1 and how the game itself broke down, you can check out the Raptors Den over at MVN at www.mvn.com/nba-raptors/.

[image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/phillustration/]