Not sure what a win or a loss here means. A loss would go right in hand with what’s been going on with this team and a win would be just plain confusing. We’re at a very precarious stage of the season, after 25 games the record isn’t exactly brutal but at the same time the team hasn’t shown that they’re better than it. It’s one thing to hold a bad record and be a half-decent team, another to own a bad record and actually be bad. A familiar theme seems to be arising – beat the terrible ones, play .500 or bit lower against teams considered on par and lose spectacularly to the good ones. That, sir, gets you a record below .500 which doesn’t do much for the franchise.

First up, I’m sick of the fans who are trying to figure out who had the less shitty game – Bosh or Bargnani. Does it really matter? The fans were split along the Forderon lines a few years back but that was understandable because the team was winning and it was a fun thing to debate. This is different, we’re trying to assign blame on one particular player when the whole unit is playing like complete crap. It doesn’t make sense, take Atlanta for example, I read a comment in the post yesterday complaining how Bargnani was given credit for only one rebound in the Globe and Mail instead of 3. Really? Does that even warrant mention? I mean, it’s not like 3 is so much higher than 1 that it changes the meaning of the stat. We’re debating Bosh’s 5 turnovers and wondering whether one of it came due to an offensive goaltending. All this time Atlanta is kicking our ass in our own building while Jay Triano looks like he’s in a can trying to squirt one out the size of a baseball bat. Or while Bryan Colangelo models his high-collared shirts standing in the ACC tunnel next to Maurizio Gherardini who’s still chewing the pork-chop he ate yesterday. Let’s look at the big picture and be done with the Bosh/Bargnani BS.

Houston trots in tonight without Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady and still finds itself at 13-9. A solidly constructed team with quality at each position and more importantly, players who are committed to the cause. They’ve won 5 of 6, the lone blemish a one point road defeat to Brandon Roy on the road. They’ve got speed with Aaron Brooks, pure hustle with Carl Landry, a tidy professional in Shane Battier, a solid defender in Trevor Ariza, and one of the most underrated players in the league in Luis Scola. Even their second round pick, Chase Budinger, is averaging 9 points leading all second rounders. Holding this bunch together is Rick Adelman’s experience and faith in team-ball philosophy, something he’s been preaching for ages and which has manifested in success in Sacramento and now in Houston. They’re better than us, and the purest proof of it is that we pick up their trash – Pops Mensah-Bonsu. Game thread has more. Trevor Ariza on the Rockets frontline:

“They’re undersized, but they play with a lot of heart. That’s what got them here, and that’s what got us where we are right now.”

Aah, heart. I long for those days. Back to the team-ball thing, when I heard that we were going Euro in Toronto the thoughts that conjured up in my head were those of beautiful passing, all five players touching the ball, movement-oriented offense, Princeton cuts, hi-lo feeds, high IQ plays, cross-court passes that slice open defenses, and all those things I for some reason associated with European basketball. None of that has happened, we’re playing traditional basketball with non-traditional players, something tells me it’s not going to work. Square peg, round hole.

Sustaining effort and competitiveness beyond the first quarter has been a problem in the last two games. We hung with Milwaukee and Atlanta in the first quarter but as soon as the benches came into play, we got crushed. Our bench got outscored 55-33 against Atlanta and thoroughly outplayed in the late-first and early-second stage of the Milwaukee game, in both instances the opposing team built a lead we never managed to erase. Consistency is the key and we don’t have it, Belinelli (as much as I like him) doesn’t seem like the guy that can be counted on to bring it every night, Jack is a solid pick-up but after him it really gets thin. This is a team built entirely around its starters and when they’re not producing as expected, we will suffer. While the good teams have backup plans, we don’t. Our depth at the 3, 4 and 5 positions has been exposed, Wright has been a failure, Johnson has been pleasantly surprising but far from a solution, and Rasho has been about as expected given his age. Evans hasn’t had a chance to do anything yet but c’mon, I mean, c’mon. He’s not a saviour and if we’re relying on him to be a saviour, we have much, much bigger issues.

A guy we all would like to see more of, Sonny Weems, is expected to get more burn against Houston. Belinelli hasn’t done much to make the bench minutes at the SG his own so we have to look at other options and so far this season Weems has been more or less ignored. Reggie Evans practiced but remains out, Jose Calderon practiced but didn’t appear to move too well and got shut down early; he’ll be out for a while. Triano’s going to have to figure out the backup PG position and right now waiving Douby doesn’t look like the right move (Carlos Arroyo could soon be available), he’s going to rely on Belinelli and Turkoglu to pick up the slack but Banks will be activated (formality, really, what the hell would it say about him if he’s a health scratch on a team with one PG). Triano spoke about the PG situation and how the team seems to give up after conceding a small run:

It’ll change the point guard spot… We’re going to make a couple of other changes too, to bring some more energy. Our biggest problem has been, I don’t know if it’s complacency or what, but they go on a 6-0 run and we kind of hang our heads a bit, and we’re still up. We just have to make sure that we get fresh guys in, energy and do the little things.”

What do you do when you’re not making your threes? Shoot more threes, of course. That’s what Triano’s plan is to get the team out of their slump, Chris Bosh tends to agree although why he’s commenting on three-point shooting is a mystery:

“Shooting is a lot mental. If you start pump faking and thinking about it, you’re probably not going to make it. You have to step into it and shoot your shot…. Lay it out on the line. That’s what this game is about. Lay it on out there. I don’t care if I miss five shots in a row because if I don’t [take an open shot], what’s the best we’re going to get? A panic shot at the end of the shot clock. That’s just about being aggressive and believing in our talent.”

So as we wait for this afternoon’s game against Houston, all you hope is that if the Raptors do win, it’s the start of something good. If they’re winning this game only to drop 4 of 5, I’d rather they lose this one too and get exposed for what we all fear they are – gutless. That gut will be tested this afternoon, Houston leads the league in offensive rebounding and plays 48 minutes. An optimist could argue that on paper this is a close game, but once you factor in team form and Houston’s effort level, this could get ugly. Bargnani and Bosh have offensive advantages, but will they be able to put that to use and not give it right back and more on defense? That seems to be what plagues every Raptor. Here’s hoping Hedo Turkoglu has two good games in a row, it’ll help us win this game and might even go some ways in renewing Portland’s interest in him. Houston is only a 1.5 favorite, I guess the odds-makers have more faith in the Raptors than we do.

Hey, you know how Scott Skiles threw Roko Ukic out there hoping he’d have some incentive to do well against his former team? You think we could pull something like that off with Pops? Naaah…just joking. Try to enjoy the game and I’ll try to do the same, although these days watching Raptors basketball seems to suck the life out of me. This has been surprisingly enjoyable.

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