Raptors 101, Mavericks 129 – Box

We were in a back-to-back situation and the Mavericks were playing on three days rest, but 62.4%? That’s like…a lot! Even if you consider the team still gelling and all that chemistry stuff, that’s still a very high percentage to give up, in fact, it’s the worst given up by any team this season and everybody’s played back-to-backs. The game did follow classic Raptors back-to-back pattern, start off with the energy you finished the night before with, cool off towards the second and sh*t bricks in the third. It’s almost like after the Raptors played well early somebody reminded them, Hey, remember, you’re supposed to suck in this game because you played last night and suddenly the team drops their energy, forgets about defense, hangs their heads and loses focus. That’s what the game-deciding third quarter was about, I don’t know what Triano said at the half, but he might want to take note and trash that speech.

Josh Howard made his season debut after ankle injury and the Mavs’ first few plays were all about trying to get him in rhythm. It was clear strategy on their part as he hoisted 7 shots for 7 points in the first. This meant that DeRozan had to do some defending which he did well enough but still managed to get replaced at 5:20 of the first. I don’t get it, I just don’t. While the red carpet was being laid out for Howard, Bosh went back to work in the manner we’ve become used to this season – determined attack against the slow-footed Dampier who couldn’t cope. The result was 10 points and 7 rebounds in the frame, he was hitting the offensive glass like Realizar hits the bottle – aggressively and with passion. Dirk was relatively quiet getting a couple hoops here and there and Bargnani, after missing two jumpers early, nailed two deep bombs right in his face.

Dirk looked pretty suspect on defense in their last game against New Orleans and actually fouled out against West and Okafor. I would’ve liked to have seen Bargnani test his lateral movement and nail him to the bench with a couple quick fouls, instead he opted for the jumpers which are great if they go in, but a guy like Dirk will always concede that in favor of actually playing some defense. When DeRozan was benched for Wright, Jack was brought in to face Jason Terry midway through the first. My thought at the time was to let DeRozan stay in the game and have Wright come in to guard Terry (taller and all), Jack’s not shown the ability to defend scoring SGs so far this season and he didn’t again tonight. In fact, he got lit up. More on that later, but for now let’s say he turned the ball over twice throwing lazy cross-court passes which even a TV viewer eating Cheetos and sipping on JD could foreshadow. This led to points and started to give Dallas momentum. It was 26-25 at the end of the first.

Terry, Barea, Howard and Kidd pushing the ball in transition against a back-tracking and late-reacting defense was the theme of the second and third quarters. The second was all about Dallas high screens and our defense leaving Nowitzki open in the 16-20 foot range (8 in the 2nd). With Jason Terry spreading the defense and Barea’s quickness against Jack proving to be too much, it resulted in the Raptors helping/collapsing on dribble penetration in the 7-12 foot area. Now, whereas another team might panic and turn the ball over when surrounded by defenders, Dallas is a club that thrives when “forced” to swing the ball to find the open shooter and are always looking to get easy baskets by dumping it inside to their bigs like Singleton and Dampier when the defense is too busy paying attention to the wing shooters.

The Raptors offense in the second quarter went cold. Hedo Turkoglu was being defended very well by Shawn Marion, he was up in his face, forcing him to drive into the paint which he shied away from doing. I thought the opportunity to be assertive was there (as Hedo had showed early in the first) but for whatever reason he didn’t feel motivated to do it. The Mavs were showing doubles against Bosh and Bargnani already which meant Hedo was seeing single coverage all night long. He was 1-5 midway through the third when this was still a game and finished 3-8, Marion got the better of him with 18/8/6, all high percentage shots in transition or deep post-ups, check out his short chart. It wasn’t pretty, Hedo looked old and slow and couldn’t deliver in that third quarter when we really needed our offense to match theirs.

The second unit had failed to deliver the spark they did against New Orleans and Detroit and it was 55-48 at the half. The warning signs for that third quarter were already here, Bosh cooling off, Hedo struggling, Bargnani only 3-8 and Calderon was the only one who seemed could get by his man (how’s that for a change?). There were also problems on the offensive end, the Raptors were swinging the ball around well and were getting clean perimeter looks, but the shots that went down in New Orleans, weren’t going down tonight (38% for the Raps, 52% for the Mavs in the half). That’s how jump-shooting works. You could also make out that Dallas had no issue conceding the jumper to Wright who went 1-9; I like his defense but if he’s shooting 9 shots in 18 minutes this team isn’t going anywhere.

There was no semblance of a post-presence for the Raptors and Bosh’s assault on the offensive glass was about as close to the rim as we got. Bargnani did demand the ball but the entry passes were poor, leading to turnovers; even the point-to-wing pass guards make to find a better post angle were being deflected. It was almost as if we wanted to post Bargnani up against Dirk but encountered some difficulty and were too lazy to try again. We’re pretty thin on options in the post and I would really like to see us give the ball to DeRozan a couple possessions a game in the block and see what he can do with it. He doesn’t have to back his man down, let him get an iso on the elbow and figure out where to go from there, it’ll go a long ways in helping him figure things out and we might even get a pleasant surprise.

It was a 25-12 run in the third that did the Raptors in, what I remember the most is Bosh guarding Nowitzki and giving him way too much space to shoot. Dirk was getting open by doing nothing, they weren’t even setting screens for him and he was finding space. In hindsight, Bargnani’s first half defense on Dirk was something we should’ve stuck with. No idea why the switch happened. He had 14 points in the quarter which the Mavs started on a 15-4 run to take an 18 point lead. The Raptors looked lethargic and had mentally conceded the game. Bosh looked exhausted and unwilling to step up to the challenge, he was hardly alone.

Jarrett Jack’s defense was god awful in the third and the combo with Jose failed again due to defensive reasons. He blew his assignment on Terry with a big fat F. Forget about shutting him down, how about staying within 8 feet of him. He was losing him in transition, leaving him open in the corner in the half-court, and not putting any pressure whatsoever on him on the live dribble. I was screaming to whoever would listen that Jack was costing us the game., Sometimes you need someone to lift the team spirit when its in doldrums and as one of the most vocal Raptors who’s supposed to be a good defender, I was expecting him to do just that. Not only was his defense terrible, he couldn’t get anything going on offense – 3 turnovers and 0 assists, a terrible PG game against a very average defense. Didn’t see any fire from him tonight. It’s in this area that I feel we miss Reggie Evans, I think a guy like him could’ve made a difference, at least would’ve given us a lift and maybe inspired some emotion and effort. He was the only one standing on the bench when things went from bad to worse.

The whole team’s energy was awful in the second half and it reflected in Dallas’ PINP and fast-break point advantage, 56-36 and 24-12, respectively. Singleton and Humphries went 8-10 for them which should not happen under Bosh, Bargnani and Johnson’s watch, you have to take some personal pride and stop scrubs from scoring against you, that too on layups and dunks. Of course it’s part dribble penetration, part strategy, part back-to-back but it’s also definitely part laziness.

“It was our first back-to-back, and they got off to a track meet,” Bosh said. “We kind of played into their game. We settled for too many jump shots. They got long rebounds and were off to the races.”

“They went past us, and they shot over us,” Toronto coach Jay Triano said. “They had more movement and energy and had confidence in their shooting. Our energy level was low.”

It’s a disappointing loss even though Dallas is a good team. You get the feeling that after a good enough first half, if we had only kept up our pace and intensity through the third, we would’ve been in the game in the fourth which is all you can ask. We were 2-8 from threes in the first half which cost us, they were all clean looks which could’ve given us a big boost going into the half, instead we went in feeling a bit sorry for ourselves and expecting a meltdown. I don’t know how much is chemistry, a new system, laziness or fatigue, but that defense we saw in the third was despicable. There was a genuine lack of effort which should be unacceptable. Our starters got a good rest in the fourth against New Orleans so you can’t blame it on fatigue, back-to-backs are a part of NBA life and they’re usually more competitive than this. Triano made no excuses later:

“We have 19 of them,” he said of back-to-backs. “What are we going to do? Just mail it in 19 times when we have a back-to-back? That can’t happen. We have to find a way to fight through it with mental toughness.”

The fourth quarter was a mere formality and to tell you how meaningless it was, let me just say that Patrick O’Bryant and Marcus Banks saw the floor.

Liners:

  • Our bench got outscored 58-30. Terry had 19 and Singleton had a hustling 10. We need more offense from Belinelli and Johnson.
  • I expect players like Marco Belinelli and Amir Johnson to thrive in this open court style of ball but they’re both struggling with their offensive games, going a combined 2-7 for 8 points. Johnson’s effort has been better of late but you get the feeling he’s just not going to be able to provide much offense off the bench in a garbage-man capacity. His finishing is too weak and his footwork is terrible, his six rebounds were nice but we have Reggie who can do that job better.
  • Bargnani: 22/5/4, Bosh 26/12/6. Good numbers but a great example of how the box score doesn’t tell the whole story, especially in the case of Bosh once you consider his third quarter. There was an offensive rebound Bargnani got in the second quarter for a put-back that made you wonder why he can’t do that more often. No complaints tonight though, rebounding isn’t the reason we lost.
  • We lost because we let our defensive guard down, nay, our defensive guard was shattered in the third and you have to give credit to the Mavs for making us pay. Their ball-movement was brilliant, their guard play was impressive and Dirk got his points without having to work too hard for them – too many weapons.
  • I cannot explain what DeRozan did to get benched early. He was doing an okay job on Howard who was forced into contested shots. I would’ve even liked to have seen DeRozan on Terry and see if he could bother the sharp-shooter with his size because Terry was simply shooting over Jack all night long.
  • Did you know the NBA changed rim manufacturers this year? Could that have something to do with the increased scoring?
  • 3-3 after 6. I think most us had them going 2-4 in this stretch so it’s not all terrible. Let’s give this team a little more time before we burn Triano at the stake for his team producing the defensive effort they did tonight.

I got me a new Twitter account for all things Raptors.

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