Toronto Raptors 104, Washington Wizards 108

You would think after earning an undeserved lifeline courtesy of Anthony Parker the Raptors would play five minutes of good basketball tonight. It didn’t happen and we crumbled to a miserable defeat at the hands of the Wizards who played without Caron Butler and Gilbert Arenas. Before we start ripping, bashing and placing blame, let’s give a collective round of applause to Eddie Jordan who made the adjustments on Bosh and the Raptors in real-time and silenced the Raptors best player into a woeful second half and overtime. In short, we played bad and got out-coached but might’ve still had a chance if we’d just played harder.

The Raptors downfall tonight was eerily familiar, lack of perimeter defense by leaving shooters wide open, helping off the wrong people and giving up 19 offensive rebounds (4 in OT, haha) which were converted to points at an alarming rate. We got outmanned 57-44 (19-12) and gave up 5 threes to Deshawn Stevenson and 3 to Roger Mason Jr, the last of which came after Calderon and Humphries couldn’t figure out if they were supposed to switch or not. That play and the late, late Jamison tip-in were the microcosms of the Raptors defensive performance which ranged somewhere between careless to lazy all game along. Anthony Parker elaborates on the problem:

“It’s the same thing, nothing’s changed,” Anthony Parker said of the rebounding problem. “It’s going to continue to haunt us until we get better at it. … In games like this, it comes back to bite us.”

Yeah, we couldn’t rebound a fucking apple fall off a tree.

Aside from a 3 minute stretch where we erased the 11 point lead thanks to some Washington turnovers and a hustling Bosh, our defense was as bad as one can remember it to be. Compounding our technical problems on defense was the lack of hustle or willingness to stop Washington which got any shot they wanted anytime they wanted. We played like we had already won the game when Butler went down half an hour before tipoff.

Forgive me for painting a picture of doom but losing to a severely shorthanded team in an uninspired performance doesn’t fill me with anything positive to stay. Aside from Jose Calderon, the Raptors were struggling to find a consistent scorer, even Bosh was only effective in the first half and after that was the victim of a defensive plan by Eddie Jordan which focused on doubling him and allowing him ample space on the perimeter which ultimately seduced him into shooting jumpers. Forget the offense of Andray Blatche, it was his defense on Bosh late in the game which prevented the Raptors from trading baskets with the Wiz. Chris Bosh was hoping to draw the foul more than trying to score in overtime which is usually a good option but late in the games you don’t get the same calls you get in the first quarter. Calderon’s 23/13 were big, he hit some huge threes which kept the Wizard lead to manageable levels but unfortunately it all amounted to nothing. Bosh’s big night of 37/12 was first-half heavy and only saw us take a four point lead into halftime because of our bad, bad defense. A wasted effort really.

Yes, Anthony Parker had a horrible game, a real stinker and you can point to him as one of the reasons we lost but I wouldn’t rip on him too much. It’s not like he took bad shots, turned the ball over and forced things. He just didn’t hit his open shots tonight and we should all expect that from him once in a while. His perimeter defense has never been good and if you’ve got the game taped and have some spare time, go through it and you’ll find him lunging at three point shooters after helping out on somebody else for no reason. I don’t see why Sam hasn’t address this glaring problem in his game or why people don’t talk about it more, to me that’s the area where he needs to improve the most.

The other more subtle reason we lost today was because we got nothing from Delfino, he’s a player who we rely tremendously on to play intelligent basketball but when he reverts to taking bad shots his entire game goes down the toilet. Tonight he wasn’t hitting his threes which meant he didn’t rebound the ball or attack the rim, something which we desperately needed to do in the second half given the PITP numbers. Jason Kapono’s having a very hard time finding his shots and we should consider either trading him or creating some plays for him because teams have very obviously adjusted and are completely taking him out of his game. Of course it doesn’t help that he tends to catch the ball just inside the three point line guarded by two of his own players, those two sequences in the fourth quarter were sick, twisted and hilarious.

The start of a third quarter was a horror show. Bosh wasn’t getting touches and we weren’t looking to force things with him, Washington picked up the tempo and recognized that we were there to be had. They went inside with Blatche while we turned the ball over and took jumpers. The first three quarters we played were very similar to the ones in Philadelphia where we were in cruise control while playing at a very mediocre level. There was this very weird sense of complacency amongst the Raptors that was as surprising as it was maddening. Whatever Sam said at halftime, it didn’t work. Here’s what he should’ve said:

We are lucky to be up by 4 in this game, we’ve played horrible defense and are leaving their shooters wide open. Make Stevenson drive, double Jamison and force a pass out of him. Andrea: take Haywood out to the three point line on offense so he doesn’t bother us on the boards. Chris: keep doing what you’re doing but know that they’re going to make it harder for you in the second half so establish position early, when they double, Anthony and Delfino will be cutting, got it? Good. Hey, CD, WTF is up with the threes? None of that shit unless you’re wide open. Lock down on Stevenson. Guys, we’re switching 1-3 to prevent them getting open shots, let’s see how that goes….

Hope you guys remembered Andrea Bargnani’s Boston performance because we’re probably going to have to wait till late March to see that again. In fairness to Bargnani he did manage to toil 6 rebounds, a couple were even impressive, but the overall throughput only amounted to 3 points on 1-6 FG. I suppose this is the place where we mention something about his confidence, defense and shot selection but its all gotten a little too old and repetitive so there’s really no point. All I have to say is that we need him to be our Andray Blatche but he’s playing like Will Purdue in his final days. It’s just amazing what scouting reports can do to you.

It’ll be awfully hard to watch tomorrow’s game knowing we just blew an opportunity to sweep the Wiz 2-0. I thought when Sam told his team “Let’s play some basketball” at the end of regulation that we’d take it up a notch and thwart the deflated Wizards which is the opposite of what happened. The Wizards took the opportunities presented to them, played very hard and simply wanted the game more. All you really have to look at is the way Dominic McGuire ripped his 10 rebounds (6 offensive) to know that they were ready to play and we were not.

Damon Stoudamire. I’m not sure what my feelings are here, it all depends on TJ’s injury status, if he’s actually done for the season then we need to bring in Damon but if he’s coming back after the ASG, having three true PGs would cause a bit of a logjam, no?

One-Liners:

* Chris Bosh: Great first half, miserable 2nd and OT. I’m not sure what the wisdom in him catching the ball at the top of the three point line after a pick ‘n pop really is. His 3 late in the game was the worst play of the season.

* Jose Calderon is the best spot up shooter for the Raptors. Kapono is close but if you’re not shooting the ball, you’re not a shooter.

* Jamario Moon should be fined for taking jumpers with more than 2 seconds on the shot clock. I don’t care if they go in sometimes, he should not be shooting, it’s embarrassing.

* Our defensive confusion on Washington shooters and their complete dominance in the paint reminded me of the Phoenix game. They had a plan to get Bosh out of the paint, we didn’t have a plan to shut down Jamison or Stevenson. Sam, care to comment?

* The trading deadline is fast approaching and we’ve had to needs since the start of the season: defensive rebounding and second scorer. BC needs to address one of them, I’m not sure acquiring Stoudamire does anything here, he might be a nice fit but it doesn’t solve our existing issues.

* Juan Dixon played a good backup PG tonight and Kris Humphries was the reason we were able to tie this game in regulation. He was our primary scorer in the fourth quarter which doesn’t say much about how our offense reacts under pressure.

Till tomorrow.

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