Courtside: Raptors-Bulls Report
The Raptors finally met their match in the preseason, losing 108-97 to the Chicago Bulls last night, finishing the exhibition schedule at 7-1. Losing to the Bulls is nothing new for Toronto as it’s been dominated by Chicago of late. And there’s no shame — this Bulls’ team has a chance to join the elite squads of the Eastern Conference this season.
The preseason is now over, and the real games start on Tuesday. For those in last-minute drafts this weekend, here are some random observations to help you navigate your way to success:
- T.J. Ford is still out. Jose Calderon continued to do a fine job with Ford out, scoring eight points (and actually having a strong shooting game at 3-for-5, draining his only trey), but more importantly dishing seven dimes and even adding five boards in 26 minutes. He also had a steal. Ford is expected to be in action for the opener, but I would have felt better had he had more of a chance to get used to running the show.
- Chris Bosh returned, but looked limited and rusty. Yet he wasn’t far away from a double-double.
- Joey Graham came in averaging 8.1 PPG in the preseason. I’d be damn happy if he maintained a number similar to that in the regular season. Last night, he scored six and had a couple of steals.
- Andres Nocioni — as always — seems like he’s everywhere. Slashing inside, rebounding, stepping into the lane for a steal, getting a block.
- Raps struggling with the O in the early going. They’ve got just 16 points with 2:39 to play in the opening quarter.
- The Bulls are a much-improved offensive team this year. Malik Allen adds a good mid-range presence, specializing in nailing that 15- to 16-foot jump shot.
- I finally got a chance to see the Bulls’ big rook, Tyrus Thomas, as a pro. He stepped on the court and about 60 seconds and two quick fouls later, he was back on the bench getting a lecture on how to play D. He’s got a lot to learn, so I don’t see him earning serious rotation minutes for a couple of months at least. He came in averaging 10.6 PPG in the preseason, but he didn’t show me anything offensively. Of course, it’s hard to do that when you only play five minutes.
- The Raptors’ usual first-quarter problems continue. They let the Bulls shoot 58 per cent and it translated into a 34-30 lead. Sensing a trend here?
- Chris Duhon looked pretty darned shifty with his moves and has been draining shots and playing D, but is apparently having some turnover issues.
- The Bulls have turned the ball over five times just over one minute into the second quarter. They’re trying to run with the Raptors, but it’s not their forte.
- Raptors picked up the D in the second quarter.
- Ben Wallace’s FT shooting looked ugly. The Bulls’ announcers kept kidding themselves into thinking that Wallace’s FT shooting will come around. Um, dudes…he’s under 42 per cent for his career, so a 1-for-7 night shouldn’t shock anybody. The announcer suggested he’d be happy if Wallace sunk 70 per cent for the year. Rigggghhht. His career best is 49 per cent. By the second half, after Wallace kept throwing up bricks, the announcer piped in again, saying ‘like I said, if he can get around 65 per cent, I’d be happy.’ Do I hear 60? I expect by the end of the first week of the season, he’ll amend that to about 50 per cent.
- Bulls have scored only 11 second-quarter points with under four to go.
- In typical Toronto fashion, PIP is killing the Raps. They’ve been outscored 22-8 in the paint with under three and a half minutes to go in the half.
- Ben Gordon is ready to take the next step in his career. He is on fire, nailing everything. Inside, outside, getting to the line and even playing D. Wow. Gordon hits 12-of-20 (including two out of three from downtown) and goes a perfect 12-for-12 from the line. He adds four assists to cap a 38-point night. Gordon got to the line 3.4 times per game last season. If he keeps attacking the basket like he did last night, expect eight to nine trips per game and watch his PPG get over the 20 mark.
- P.J. Brown turned 37 a couple of weeks ago, but he still hustles like a fiend. Getting his shot to drop (0-for-5) was another story, however.
- Anthony Parker’s shot is finally coming around. He nailed 5-for-10 from the field and looked smooth doing so.
- I switched over the World Series for a while just in time to see Justin Verlander throw it away. I know that AL pitchers don’t hit, but apparently they can’t field, either. Ugly.
- Fred Jones wasn’t getting his shot to drop (1-for-7), but he again was making a ton of trips to the line (9-for-9).
- The Bulls showed some great ball movement in the fourth and that helped them to pull away with the game (56-44 Chicago in the second half).
- Michael Sweetney has some talent — he’s a good low-post presence, can rebound and block shots — but my god, he looks like the Michelin Man. Can he possibly get up and down the court if he had to play even 10 minutes a game? With Wallace and Brown around, PT will be limited for Sweetney anyhow, but if he were to ever commit himself to physical conditioning and get a 25-minute per game gig, he’d really be something.