Matt Bonner drives in for the two-handed slam!

Make no mistake, that ball is going nowhere but out of bounds for a turnover.
Raptors 124, Spurs 131 – Box

Matt Bonner drives in for the two-handed slam! Those are words that have never been uttered before and it’s for good reason. It’s just not supposed to happen, but leave it to the Raptors to make the impossible possible. Giving up 129 against Dallas was terrible enough but we had the back-to-back excuse to use but what about tonight? We got ours handed to us by a Spurs team missing Tony Parker and Tim Duncan for one reason: they wanted it more. Full credit to the Spurs who didn’t use their two All-Stars being out as an excuse and came out fighting against a Raptors team which was all too content to play only one end of the floor. Losing despite shooting 59% says all you need to know about a defense, a defense which got exposed for what it is at its core – fundamentally cracked and to top it off, lazy.

You had to like the way the Raptors started this game. Jefferson was checking Bargnani who didn’t hesitate in taking the smaller player into the post-area for short jumpers and drives. No complaints there, but what goes around usually comes around. Jefferson conceding Bargnani size meant Bargnani conceding quickness and more importantly, coming even further out to defend a small forward. This was a background story for most of the game – Jefferson coming straight at slower defenders like Bargnani, Wright (awful tonight) and Belinelli for slashing scores. Good ‘ol RJ, he’s switched two teams since his NJ days but things haven’t changed. Bargnani had 14/4/4 but Jefferson had 24/8/7, and it says something about a guy collecting 8 rebounds when the other team shot close to 60%. Don’t fear, we’ll get to Bargnani’s four measly rebounds and his defense on the great Hall of Famer Matthew Bonner in a bit.

Bosh had 9 first quarter points against Theo Ratliff who really shouldn’t be in the league. Credit to Bosh for starting strong just like he has all this year, no messing about, straight to the rim on most possessions which meant a good share of camping out at the line, he made 15-17FT. The defensive warning signs came early, and it was George Hill planting the seed in the Spurs’ brains that this team can be had if you only drive it at them. As well as Jose Calderon’s 9 first half points looked, there’s nothing to celebrate when his check, Hill, goes for 11. Any arbitrary screen set to clear out Jose Calderon is emblematic of our pick ‘n roll issues, which have not improved from last year.

If a screen is set behind the three-point line, either Jose Calderon should come under and get back in position on the other side OR we should hedge to buy Jose some time to recover. None of those two things happen, what happens is that the other PG will just use the screen to go past both our defenders while Jose is still on the wrong side of the screen and his man. WTF? Of course we gave up 131 points! Not to single out Jose here because it was a problem with Jack and even Wright.

The second quarter saw the introduction of Matt Bonner and DeJuan Blair. Bonner immediately hit a three after being left open and then followed it up by an Oscar Robertson-like drive for a floater. Now I know you want to make a shooter drive but is the only other option that he glides to the rim like an eagle in flight for two? Is there no middle ground? Can’t Bargnani or Wright just crowd him at the three-point line, force him to either pass or dribble into a turnover by moving their feet? Apparently not. Help defense shouldn’t even be an issue here, you shouldn’t need to provide help against players like Matt Bonner, Keith Bogans and the fossil that is Michael Finley. They are role players that rely on others creating for them, when they started creating for others it’s a problem!

So 32-31 at the end of the first after Jack hits a three at the end. Blair came in and brought with him some intensity on the boards and frustrated Bosh and Bargnani with his physicality, the guy is huge, his biceps are the size of Bosh’s thigh. Combine this with RJ, Manu and Hill driving to the rim and our tendency to help on everything and you get yourself a weak rebounding core that is over-matched in one-on-one play and out of position because they’re being told to help. Fact is that you can’t collapse/help so often, the human body isn’t designed to go inside-out, rotate, close-out on every defensive possession, you have to make an initial stand and avoid all that mayhem that’s bound to follow if you get beat.

Ginobili and Jefferson started to heat up in that second quarter because the Raptors were too busy trying to deal with Blair and McDyess who were both crashing the offensive glass. Once the Spurs got the ball back, they kicked it out to their wings who waited for a close-out that was easy to negotiate, drove to the rim and either finished themselves or teased us with a couple more swings. The Spurs had 19 first half second-chance points and were beating us 11-2 on the offensive glass. That, folks, nullifies our 63% shooting. The bench scoring was 30-14 in favor of the Spurs thanks to the legend that is Bonner and Ginobili. Hedo Turkoglu was scoring but he was also being scored on by Jefferson and Ginobili with ease. Our defensive stalwart, Wright, was being shaken by eye-fakes and jab-steps 23 feet out. I mean, what can you say to that? That’s just…..unacceptable?

We had good offensive performances from Belinelli, Bargnani and Bosh in the third quarter but we gave everything right back on ensuing possessions. Chris Bosh went to the bench at the 5:09 mark of the third quarter and our bench did a great job of keeping the offense going with him out; Jack, Belinelli, Johnson were very effective in that stretch and helped the Raptors nurse a 2 point lead into the fourth. It was apparent that the first team to either go cold or play any defense would win this game.

When Bosh returned for the fourth quarter I expected us to put this game away but our defense failed us, an 11-2 San Antonio run which followed a Belinelli three turned the momentum against us. Worst part about that run, every shot they took was open. Let me comment about that early fourth quarter in bullet form:

  • Jarrett Jack should not be getting beat by George Hill so easily, high-screen or no high-screen.
  • There is no reason for Wright to be helping off of Ginobili.
  • There is no reason Andrea Bargnani (who is not involved with the ball in any way) should be leaving Matt Bonner to wander aimlessly.
  • If you’re Chris Bosh and your man is setting an elbow screen for Ginobili to get open, you can’t just do nothing and allow Weems to get caught without stepping out.
  • Belinelli should be hanging on to RJ instead of letting him get to an open baseline spot for a fake and a J.
  • It should not be an ordeal for us to get Bosh the ball in the low-block against Matt Bonner or McDyess.
  • The inexperienced Sonny Weems is probably not the guy you want guarding Ginobili during crunch time. Play the cards you’ve been dealt and rely on your defensive stopper, Wright.

For the season we’re allowing opponents to shoot 45% from threes. It’s clear that we’re helping/forced to help to such a degree that our opponents are getting very clean uncontested looks. I’m starting to wonder whether Triano’s help-scheme is suitable for the players’ physical ability, which he insists isn’t the case:

There’s nothing wrong with our coverage, we just need to close out better

The Roll Call has the player ratings but let me touch on a couple special cases:

Hedo Turkoglu: He made me look like a god-damned fool in the Daily Dime chat after I said that he’s actually a pretty good defender and knows how to use his size. I’ve never seen a 20 point, 8-12FG performance get washed out so easily by bad defense. Anybody caught how he fell for the fake-left move by RJ? When has RJ ever gone left? I know he’s got that sleepy-eyed look about him but it sure doesn’t look like he’s spending any energy on moving his feet or rushing for a close-out.

DeMar DeRozan: I know he struggled early on defense but what’s with not getting any minutes past the 7:22 mark of the third? Were Wright and Weems that much better? Do substitutions like these follow a pattern or make any sort of matchup sense? I’m trying hard and not seeing a thing.

Andrea Bargnani: 4 rebounds in 31 minutes when the team is -12? Piss-off. Players get 4 rebounds by not doing anything, if you play for that long the chances of four balls rolling your way are pretty high. I counted one real rebound by him and that came in the fourth quarter. Maybe he was out of position because he was guarding perimeter oriented players tonight but that is no excuse. We have high expectations of him on both ends of the floor and he failed defensively. I’m also surprised Triano didn’t see how easily he was getting beat by Jefferson and didn’t switch earlier.

Antone Wright: Terrible defensive performance and what’s with trying to go one-on-one? This is the first team he’s been on where he feels he has the freedom to get creative with the ball. Triano should nip this disease in the bud and inform him that his role is to hit the glass and play defense. Nothing more.

This game was all about our wings (Calderon, Jack, Turkoglu, Wright, DeRozan, and to a lesser extent, Belinelli) getting beat far too easily on the perimeter and our big men losing rebounding position to concede second chance points. Ginobili scored the easiest 36 points he’ll ever get, hitting wide open jumpers with his defender about 8-12 feet away mangled between a screen set by his own teammate. Ask a coach, every single one of them will tell you that defense is about communication and we can’t even communicate first order things like “fight through”, “hedge” or “rotate”. Oh Triano, what the hell did you spend training camp on?

Terrible way to lose.

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