Blair Miller > HIGH POSTS – Raptors-Wolves Live Adventure
Our leading (and only) basketball writer gives his, um, blunted, unconventional – and occasionally obsessively detailed – take on recent happenings in the hoops world.
No Introduction Needed For LeMar; Love Is Forlorn; Patterson Makes The Grade – And More
Sometimes we well up inside with sport fun. Friday night was too full in a good way, aka two fulls. To explain,
My brother’s Xmas present from me was Raptors tickets against the Wolves Friday night, 13th row, exactly midcourt. On our way to the game we each had a special cookie (gotta stay true to the title of this column, you know) and they did their thing just about as the game was tipping off. We can handle our shit; we know ball, and we know what we saw. Any interpretation below is based upon fairly obvious events, were one paying attention to the court at all times like a dreamy hardwood-obsessed ferret. Truth be told, the game was all the more engrossing as a result.
Mind you, it helps when you’re sitting so close to the game that you can read the players’ lips.
Hold my calls – I’m in the office.
The roundball wonderland didn’t stop. After a solid Raptors win we found ourselves at a nearby sports bar watching Warrior Steph Curry’s 37 points and 11 dimes get trumped by OKC’s Kevin Durant and his career-high 54 points – and a league high this season – on 19-of-28 (67.9%) from the field, on a ginormous block of flat screens.
One truism: Curry is ninja.
As Prince Paul might say, it was a Beautiful Night.
Granted, one notices more when one is at a live game compared to watching it on television. But much of what we witnessed was out of the ordinary and bears sharing. Here’s some of the crazy shit we saw, ranging from the innocuous-but-fun to considerations going forward.
DeMar: Introduction Shy?
When the PA announcer called the name of Raptors SG DeMar DeRozan, he had already walked out on the heels of teammate Kyle Lowry who was announced just before him, instead of waiting to be introduced. By the time the announcer called DeMar’s name he was already in the starters’ huddle doing his thing.
Despite the fact that I can’t recall a player doing this before, I’ve noticed DeRozan do this twice before and my brother says he does it all the time at home this season, either running out very late or very early when his name is called, eschewing the attention. Who knows why the NBA’s second-highest scoring shooting guard does this, but it’s unusual. Maybe he doesn’t require an introduction anymore.
Stereotypes Don’t Arise Out Of Thin Air…
The ball went out of bounds at one point, and while Minnesota was going back on defense during the dead ball time the rock flew back up court, away from the refs. Wolves PG Rick Rubio was backpedaling near half-court and nonchalantly jabbed his left foot out and kicked a perfect strike back to the baseline referee. Sometimes officials react negatively, or people get startled when players get fancy with the ball during possible delay of game situations, but when the Spaniard booted it out of mid air, no one so much as blinked and the game continued seamlessly.
Lost Love During Free Throws
Whenever his team took a free throw in the first half, Wolves PF Kevin Love retreated all the way back to his own free throw line, standing alone with a disinterested look on his face. I’ve never seen that before either, and can’t figure out why head coach Rick Adelman would have Love stand alone away from the action. If Minnesota had rebounded any missed free throws, they would have had just four players over half-court ready to run a play. If it’s a defensive alignment for a press or something, why not send someone else back, and have the league’s best rebounder lined up on the block?
It’s now more than rumor that Love is unhappy with the current situation in Minnesota. We wondered if Love’s behavior was an act of defiance – it might have been no coincidence that he sat out a lot of crucial minutes in the second half while not really being in foul trouble. Moreover, Love was really chippy throughout the game, arm-hooking several Raptors (once almost dislocating Amir Johnson’s shoulder at the same time as making a move through the key, which was pretty impressive despite the dirtiness) and shoving two others to the floor during the echo of the referees’ whistle.
Patterson Is Where It’s At
It’s getting more and more obvious that F Patrick Patterson is the best asset gained from the Rudy gay trade. His game was much more influential than the 11 points (on 5-for-9 shooting from the field), 5 boards and 0 +/- indicates. As my colleague Steve Gennaro mentioned in a Raptors Republic podcast, Patterson is finally starting to look more like the player many thought he could be when he was at University of Kentucky. His floor instincts at both ends of the court are above average, he rarely forces his own shot, and while he may not excel at one specific thing he doesn’t have any obvious weaknesses in his game right now. He’s an excellent sixth man right now for Toronto – provided that foul trouble in the backcourt doesn’t require a quicker player to come off of the bench first.
My favourite group that the Raps can put on the floor right now.
Better Raptors Depth, Still Too Shallow
If Patterson is where it’s at, Chuck Hayes isn’t. Hayes is simply a tweener in the bad sense of the term. He’s too big at 250 pounds to be useful outside of the key and at 6’6” he’s too short to be influential in the post, offensively and defensively.
In Hayes’ defense, he ended up pulling down nine rebounds against arguably the best center-power forward combo in the NBA right now in spite of himself. But it’s a serious problem for Toronto in the playoffs if Hayes is the next guy in line when C Jonas Valanciunas or F Amir Johnson get in foul trouble.
And, no, a healthy Tyler Hansbrough isn’t the answer. You can’t solve a problem with a problem.
Love-Peković The Best 4-5 Combo In The NBA?
Sure, there is Marc Gasol-Zach Randolph in Memphis, Roy Hibbert-David West in Indy, Al Horford (injured)-Paul Millsap in Atlanta, or Kevin Garnett-Brook Lopez (injured) in Brooklyn-the-Planet, but at this point in time I think it’s pretty tough to get much done down low against Kevin Love and Nikola Peković. Love speaks for himself, although I’d like to see him play more tenacious defense instead of sagging down off of his man to troll for rebounds. Peković is a beast who is even more of a phenomenon to behold when you see him up close in person. He’s humongous and he looks the part, reminding me of Zangief from Street Fighter II.
Read My Mind, Bitch! That’s right.
We felt sorry for one of the kids working on Minnesota’s bench, who got torn a new one by Wolves F Corey Brewer. When Brewer was subbed off during a timeout, he walked over near the kid, who offered him a cup of Gatorade. Brewer just stood there scowling at the poor guy for at least a long, awkward ten seconds before shouting at him. Whatever the loquacious defender said got his message across, because the kid sheepishly turned around and fetched Brewer his warmups. Brewer took them, and gave the kid a long, “yeah, that’s fucking right” stare. I’ll never understand why athletes are such jerks to these kids.
That was just one of the many zany things we saw in our zany state, as though it was a full moon. Here are two more:
Drake 416 Zone = Electric Circus?
There are things that go on during live games that you just don’t get to experience on TV during commercial breaks. One of these things in the Air Canada Centre is the Drake 416 Zone, named after the massively overrated “hip-hop” artist (I prefer to call his watered-down pop style hip slop) and Toronto’s 416 area code.
For those of you who don’t know, the Drake 416 Zone is marked by a crazy-ass rave-like platform at the top of the lower bowl, where a live DJ performs during some of the breaks in play.
It’s pretty startling – and amusing – to see a sporting event try to turn itself into Electric Circus on a Coliseum-like scale. (For those of you in the dark, EC was a live dance show on MuchMusic in downtown Toronto, when “lucky” people would be chosen from a lineup on the sidewalk to come in and dance it up in front of cameras as though it was the Gong Show gone wrong.) Here’s a closer look, via the ACC scoreboard:
Just When You Though It Was Safe To Go Back On The Court…
Another thing you don’t get to see on TV: Some guy gets to strap on a Jonas Valanciunas big head and cavort around the court with the Raptors Dance Pak to strange music.
When you’re staying true to the spirit of High Posts, this is absolutely fantastic to see – as is a game from the thirteenth row, in just the right spot. Hopefully I’ll get to do this again before the season ends, so I can give you all some more firsthand accounts of the nuances of live Raptors ball.
Peace out, ballers – and stay tuned for more High Posts throughout the NBA season!