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Game Notes: Miami at Toronto

* The big news today was Andrea Bargnani being inserted into the starting five. When asked about the change before the game, Sam Mitchell told the media Bargnani was inserted into the starting give, “A little bit more of everything. He’s (just) playing better than the other two guys at that spot in Jamario (Moon) and Joey (Graham). We just need to find a way to get more out of that position and Andrea gives us a viable option for scoring and he’s really made improvements defensively and rebounding.”

* When asked about Bargnani’s improved ability to guard small forwards, Mitchell dropped some knowledge when he told the media, “We have faith in him. I think the hardest thing for most young players is not necessarily guarding their man, it’s recognizing when to help, when not to help and carrying out your defensive principles. We haven’t guarded the (small forward) position as well as we would have liked anyway. So, if you’re not going to be a lock down defender then you’ve got to be able to score the basketball. We think Andrea can do a good enough job defending his position (one-on-one). All young players struggle – and any coach will tell you this – guarding rotation and knowing when to help and when not to help because they get so locked in guarding their man.”

* I spent some time in Miami’s locker room before the game and Mark Blount joked with me about the cold weather here in Toronto. When I told him we had our first snowfall of the year last night he then proceeded to bust my chops about it never snowing in Miami.

* I briefly chatted with Joel Anthony before the game and I was happy to hear he plans to continue playing for the Canadian National team.

* I chatted with Udonis Haslem before the game about shooting a sizzling 62.5% from the field so far this season and he was very humble in telling me his strong start is due to, “Getting in the right spots and getting a lot of easy buckets. Playing the five I’m getting a lot of lay-ups and getting in the right spots for my jumper and I’m just knocking them down.”  His great shooting this season continued into the game tonight as Haslem went 5-8 from the field to score 10 points while snagging 10 rebounds.

* Before the game Erik Spoelstra was asked if he has any tricks to get his players ready for early games like today and he told the reporter, “No, I’m not going to go in there and scream at them or do anything crazy. We’ve had a lot of spirited practices in the morning at 10 am and it’s no different than that.”

* When Spoelstra was asked about what he needs to see from Michael Beasley he told reporters, “He’s still 19-years-old and he will grow. Our focus right now, and we’re not going to back off of it, is we need more defense from him. He’s got a lot on his plate out there and he’s making progress.”

* Something Miami had hoped to do was keep Bosh off the free throw line but that plan failed miserably as Bosh had four free throws within the first two minutes of the game. Bosh finished with as many free throws (15) as the entire Miami roster combined.

* Toronto had 17 assists on 19 first half field goals. Even more impressive than that stat is the fact that by the end of the game every player on Toronto registered at least one assist and Toronto finished the game with an impressive 31 assists on 36 made field goals.

* Someone who looks to benefit from Bargnani’s shift into the starting give is Kris Humphries. He had a great start to the game with four points, three boards and two dimes in his first four minutes of burn and finished the game with a near double-double of 14 points and nine rebounds in just 16 minutes of playing time.

* The game was over at the 7:15 mark of the fourth quarter when Jason Kapono nailed a three-pointer to push Toronto to a 13 point advantage. The three-pointer in itself wasn’t the big play, it was the nasty swat Jermaine O’Neal made which triggered the position which saw Kapono nail the shot. The fans were buzzing after the block by O’Neal and the entire arena was on it’s feet when Kapono’s shot found the bottom of the net.

* Despite getting bumped from the starting five Jamario Moon was in a jovial mood in the locker room following the game and was singing to himself while getting dressed. When asked what it was like coming off the bench Moon told the media, “My job is just to play basketball and bring energy, whether I’m starting or coming off the bench. Whatever role coach assigns to me then I need to live up to that role. This wasn’t the first time I’ve come off the bench (in my career). In (some) minor league teams I’ve played on I’ve come off the bench so this was nothing new.” Moon seemed to respond well to his new role as he was slashing through the lane on his way while stacking the boxscore with eight points, five rebounds and four assists.

* Jermaine O’Neal was asked about Toronto’s 52-35 advantage on the glass tonight and he told the media, “We play a lot of help defense and a lot of times when bigs go help the smalls the other bigs get in the post and (grab) rebounds. So I think you guys are looking at in a manner that we’re getting pounded on the boards and I think that outside of that first game where their bigs actually pounded our bigs on the boards, we haven’t really had that. A lot of it is we do help a lot. I know I leave my man to help a lot. So it’s a bit of a double-edged sword – you want to go and help but you kind of give up rebounding position when you go and help.”

* In an attempt to honour Canada’s veterans, Rear Admiral J.A.D. (Denis) Rouleau received recognition in a pregame ceremony, Second Lieutenant Cpl Scott Newlands sang the national anthem and more than 100 Canadian Forces personnel watched the game from the gondola. Fans were able to get involved by signing a card which was also signed by Raptors players, coaches and the teams front office.

* If you’re a HEAT fan I highly recommend you check out Peninsula Is Mightier for an unique and highly entertaining perspective of the team.

* Thanks for reading my second regular season Game Notes for the 2008-09! Make sure you check back for my next Game Notes on Friday following the game against New Jersey.

Ryan McNeill
Ryan McNeill has appeared on ESPN Radio, MTV Canada, SiriusXM, The Fan 590 and other radio programs and TV shows. He has covered the NBA with media credentials since the 2007-08 season.
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One Comment
  • Rashad Mobley

    That’s great news about Bargnani, I can now insert him into my fantasy basketball starting lineup.