Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan - teammates soon?
Cleveland Cavaliers 93, Toronto Raptors 90

Typical Raptors. Do everything right early and then slowly but surely screw everything by reverting to your true form of a team that’s lost on offense and plays shoddy defense. There shouldn’t be any surprise that we blew a 20 point lead at home because we’re a team that plays good in stretches but rarely put together a complete game and have trouble sustaining effort and quality. Today we played a good first quarter and from then on could only muster a couple stretches of play which came close to our first quarter form. Now Cleveland’s not much better and just about as inconsistent as us, if not more. The difference is that they have a superstar and we don’t. This is what a superstar does for your team, when everybody is struggling, he can bring you back into the game and elevate the play of others around him and that’s what happened.

Our rebounding is sore and lacking. Chris Bosh needs some help on the boards and he’s not getting it from Bargnani, Humphries, Delfino and Moon. When Anthony Parker is your leading rebounder with 8, you know you have a problem. If Lebron was killer #1, rebounding was #1a; it’s surprising that we haven’t addressed this problem this late into the season. Getting outmanned 52-33 on the boards at home reeks of complete domination but don’t take my word for it, look at the box score and you’ll find everybody on the Cavs hitting the boards while we simply watch Bosh attempt to rebound over Gooden and Varejao. Why is 7-footer Rasho playing only 14 minutes in a game where his rebounding and size are of the utmost importance? Why? How about Humpries and his 4 whopping minutes? What is the reasoning here? Given Bosh’s limited talent level and physical ability I’ll gladly take 23 points on 9-11 FG from him and remind everybody that he’s not a superstar and can’t be expected to carry this team on both ends. Him passing the ball to Jamario Moon with the game on the line speaks volumes.

When we were having success early two things were happening: 1) Cleveland was not playing any defense and 2) We were getting out on the break. Starting late in the second quarter both things changed and we regressed into our real offense which is just finding ways to run the pick ‘n roll against a defense that knows exactly what you’re doing. What follows is usually a late shot-clock situations with the ball in the wrong persons hands and then we have Jamario Moon and Anthony Parker trying to create mano-a-mano on the three point line. Tsk, tsk is all I say.

All you need to know about the Raptors offense is that we haven’t been able to pull two players who are very important to this team out of their funks: Kapono and Bargnani, both going an ineffective 1-5 and 2-9 respectively. The sad thing is that there is no end to their plight in sight because we continue to do the same thing over and over again on offense expecting success. There’s no effort being made on the part of Sam to get Kapono any looks and the man looks lost. As for Bargnani, he continues to launch low percentage jumpers hoping they go in. To quote Albert Einstein:

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. – Al

If we have anything else in our offensive arsenal besides two very obvious plays, somebody point them out to me. The scouting report bug has now bitten Kapono and teams are staying at home with him and the Raptors haven’t adjusted. Remind you of anyone? We played good enough man and perimeter defense to win this game and lost it because of offensive droughts and rebounding, two things that has plagued this squad since last year. I’m even getting sick and tired writing about them because it’s become redundant to the point of boring. Our offense is so stagnant that all you have to do is look at the movement when Bosh has the ball in the post. There’s none. There are no cutters, wide options, weakside screens, nothing. If Bosh manages to beat his man, fine, otherwise it’s a one and done. Nevermind that he seems utterly confused when he has the ball and the defense is showing the double but not doubling and waiting for him to put it on the floor before they do.

Damon Jones saving all his threes for us is simply classic and one of those “only the Raptors” things. Jones who had countless DNPCDs and trade demands coming into this game lights us up in the fourth after we surprisingly double Lebron off his man. Madness has no end. But it’s fitting that Cleveland won this game because let’s face it, they are the better team regardless of what Chuck Swirsky thinks of them. I believe Chuck was “unimpressed” by the Cavaliers and was “disappointed” with their effort and team structure. Sorry Chuck but you’re going to have to eat shit here.

If you want to stop the Raptors the forumula is simple, collapse on Bosh postups and switch on the pick ‘n roll. Since we don’t have anything to revert to (or if we do, it’s very poorly executed) after those two adjustments are made, our offense breaks down and we’re forced out of our comfort zone and so begins our offensive droughts, hence the need to get easy points. Jose Calderon ran the break early with success but later in the game the Raptors completely abandoned that source of points. As mentioned before on this blog Jose does not have the ability to break down the defense and create for his temmates, this is where we miss TJ the most. Juan Dixon is at best an average backup point guard and can’t be relied upon to do anything more than hold the fort down for about 5-10 minutes a game.

Bargnani once again showed that he can’t be relied upon to provide anything on either end of the floor. We were desperately looking for somebody to step up in the fourth quarter when Cleveland was doubling Bosh and nobody came to the forefront. Calderon’s deep three restored some hope late in the fourth but you knew we wouldn’t be able to get any points out of our half-court set and we simply died away while Cleveland and Lebron continued to drill us in the ass. It was sad.

Finally, I’d like to bring up the issue of rotations and how Sam’s are killing this team. Mitchell does not have a clue how to handle a rotation, it’s blatantly obvious that whatever his strategy for playing time distribution is, it’s not working. Rasho, Humphries, Graham and Baston are either being completely ignored or used in such an inconsistent way that they have no idea what their role is when they come in. Graham launched a jumper within two seconds of him being inserted and was promptly benched after he turned the ball over. Total PT for him: 2 minutes. Why even bother? Because his Dad’s in the stands? Rasho has also become the victim of strange DNPCDs and sporadic playing time, I still can’t believe he got a DNPCD against Detroit which boasts 4 huge PF/Cs. We need to either use Baston or trade him. As for Darrick Martin, I can’t understand why we haven’t freed up a roster spot by releasing him or making him an assistant coach.

One-Liners:

* There wasn’t a doubt in my mind that we were going to blow the 20 point lead.

* I muted Chuck and Leo. It was too much.

* I don’t want to hear about Calderon’s Assist to Turnover ratio anymore!!!!!

* Cleveland has a game-plan, it’s damn simple and revolves entirely around Lebron, but at least it’s a game plan.

* I don’t want to hear this “Sunday afternoon advantage” bullshit anymore.

* TJ Ford is the starter for a reason. He’s an out and out creator.

* Watching Bargnani is becoming sad but at least it’s tolerable now. I don’t have any expectations of him so when he tanks it with 4 points and 3 rebounds, I don’t even get bothered anymore.

* Jamario Moon was fun to watch today, especially early on the break. Still don’t understand why we didn’t look to run, it’s not like Cleveland was preventing the leaks.

* Every Raptors fan should get this through their head: Bosh is a not a superstar and it’s unfair to expect him to go head-to-head with Lebron.

* The Raptors are pathetic at leaking out and running the break and Calderon isn’t great at encouraging it. Given how nobody aside from Bosh is really helping out at the boards, I would think the least they could do is leak out and try to get some easy baskets.

* The Raptors can only win as a team because they lack the personnel to dominate with skill. Team rebounding, team offense and team defense are a must. Cleveland can afford to take three quarters off and rely on Lebron, we can’t.

* We played like this game was over once we were up by 20 which is funny because the Dallas game wasn’t that long ago.

* The Raptors are a jump shooting team and we shouldn’t be shocked when they struggle to score for stretches. That’s the nature of a jump shooting team.

I’m pissed and disappointed.