Raptors 99, Magic 118 – Box

Same crap, different city. They even stuck to true form and lost by 19, the average they’ve lost their last 12 games by. What can you say about this team other than that it’s not one. I can’t really say that I’m disappointed since the definition of disappointment is “to fail to fulfill expectations” and I wasn’t really expecting a win or even an honest effort. This game played out exactly like we feared it might, start off looking okay but slowly but surely let the game slip until you’re down double-digits and there’s instilled a complete sense of security in the Magic. Last time we came back to win a game after being down double-digits was against the Clippers on November 13th so the chances of this team suddenly finding guts and mounting a comeback are zero. Somebody take this horse to the back and cap it in the head.

The first half of the first quarter would’ve been totally great if we all didn’t know that there is no way in hell that we’d play like that for the rest of the game. We ran almost every single play after a Bosh or Bargnani touch and it gave us good shots, it helps when Bosh is hitting his jumper and it helps even more when Bargnani’s being aggressive. The two had 15 of our first 17 points and it was 19-17 Magic with 4:31 left. A great offensive start (7/13) but the problem was that the Magic were shooting 8/11 at this point. Now, which of these two teams would you bet on to maintain that pace? Exactly, as nice as it was to see both of our bigs play well, the defensive concerns were already mounting. Howard, who was getting tremendous position in the post on his own, was getting even better opportunities when the Magic ran their PnR which we didn’t have a clue of how to defend all night season.

Howard is a tough cover but we played right into their hands by helping on him early and shading towards him every time he touched it. The Magic hit at least five threes by throwing a cross-court skip pass to the weak-side corner as the defender shaded towards Howard on the strong side. It was too easy of a shot for them, they caught the ball in rhythm and the defender had zero chance of recovery. Such are our defensive schemes. Triano did call an early timeout when we were down only 5 with 2:48 left, he subbed in Belinelli, Weems and Johnson who were soon followed by Banks and Rasho (in there to disrupt Howard’s positioning – didn’t work). The bench conceded the majority of the 16-5 run the Magic ended the quarter with to be up 11. No shock really, who in that bunch can provide offense? Nobody.

Jack had a good second half but when the game was still a game in the first, him and Banks were being lit up by the neckless Anthony Johnson. The 35 year old was sneaking his way to score on leaners and drives by using his size to shield off our guards. Jack’s offensive game was of the right mentality, he drove the ball more often than he stayed on the perimeter, but for the second night in a row got snuffed at the rim, Howard’s intimidation (8 blocks) being the main deterrent. Leo criticized Howard for not keeping one of his blocks inbounds. Some of his teammates said the same thing, here’s what Howard had to say about swatting it to the front row:

“It sounds better. And the crowd, I think their reaction is better when you block one and it hits somebody in the front row”

Triano on Howard’s blocks and the disaster of a roadtrip:

“I wish I could go back to Toronto with a better result. We tried to be aggressive, but he’s a shot blocker. We have to take better shots and not let him have eight blocks. He blocked shots, and he just changed so many. He took a lot of our stuff away.”

Honestly, even if Howard had had zero blocks, it wouldn’t have mattered since we were leaving them so wide open on the other end.

The second was more evenly played despite Bosh and Bargnani only attempting a combined 2 shots, both by Bosh. This after they had attempted 9 in the first, there’s absolutely no pattern to this mayhem. The Raptors cut the lead to 54-49 by the 2:59 mark of the second, Turkoglu had picked up his offense and hit a couple shots and went to the line. The defense was still poor as Barnes and Carter were left open for threes, Barnes soon followed by driving it in for a slam as the defense gently backed off. Jack tried to create off the dribble and caused some disruption in the Magic defense to bring us within five as mentioned. That was it though, Van Gundy called a timeout and reminded his team that they had Dwight Howard. They went right back to him and he gave them two FTs on their way to a 7-0 run as Lewis made Bargnani pay with a three for helping off of him when help wasn’t even needed (inconceivable stuff). The Magic lead at the break was 12 as they shot 68% for the half.

Take that number in, 68%. Folks, that is not a frequent occurrence in the NBA and yet we seem to be accustomed to it. Sad times. 35 year olds dribble penetrating, constant unnecessary over-helping, leaving shooters open, late getting back, you name it, we did it. If I had to pick a play which epitomized the Raptors defense I’d point to the Howard high-screen at 4:01 of the third which saw Amir Johnson pick up a foul against Carter after realizing too late that he’s supposed to switch and not stay. That’s just one play, it happens on literally every possession. The concept of responsibility and ownership on defense is non-existent in any unit we put out. If at times our defense looks passable, it’s only because of the hustle of our garbage men, nothing we’re doing technically or through instruction.

Johnson and Weems gave a good effort off the bench, it’s no coincidence that they’re also the most hardworking of the Raptors. Even though he didn’t get the rebound every time, Johnson did keep a balls alive. We had 19 second chance points in the game and the majority came in the second. Weems’ form on the jumper (4-8 FG) is rock-solid and it doesn’t surprise me when it goes in after he squares up, he definitely deserves to be playing instead of Belinelli who again struggled going 2-9 FG. The degree of difficulty in his shots is so high that he’ll always shoot a low percentage, he desperately needs to mix his game up a little and do more than just come off screens and shoot threes. Bargnani’s started the last couple games attacking the rim and it helped his offense, Belinelli should take note.

The Magic’s strategy was to make DeRozan a shooter and Carter was giving him a good 7 feet for his jumper, the rookie couldn’t make him pay early and passed up too many looks, knowing it’s what the defense wants. I say take those shots, if nothing then in the name of development. DeRozan’s body isn’t strong enough to come close to handling players like Carter and Wade, once he bulks up after a few summers in the weight room he’ll be fine but right now he’s too skinny to contest them seriously. We were 13-14 FT in the half and a lot of it was thanks to Hedo Turkoglu who struggled otherwise going 2-7 FG. We also forced some Magic turnovers early in the second quarter (Banks doing a decent job of pressuring the ball) which led to points and so we were technically still in it. A third quarter rally was required.

The Magic even obliged by starting the third 1-5 with two turnovers but the Raptors failed to capitalize. Bosh missed two FTs and a jumper, Bargnani missed two jumpers and the Raptors only scored 2 points in the first 3 minutes of the third. That was our chance to make this a game and we blew it, after that Bosh got a couple scores but it was a 17 point game and the Magic had lifted their foot off the pedal as the game was in neutral. They doubled Bosh and our offense failed to make them pay for it, the pass out of the Bosh double was so slow that the Magic defenders rotated with ease, we put no pressure on their defense. Other than a Jack and a DeRozan drive, nobody took it to the rim and the game was basically over as the Magic had an 18 point lead midway through the third.

Sonny Weem’s insertion into the line up late brought some energy and Jack’s drives finally started paying off a little, they both forced a turnover each and Barnes got a technical after one of them. Lewis missed a clean look from three late on and we cut the lead to 13 as the energy seemed to get back in the game heading into the fourth. It wasn’t a huge lead but based on the looks we were giving up, a comeback would’ve required the Magic to go ice cold and everything to fall for us – low probability of that happening.

After Bargnani and Bosh’s great first quarter display playing together, they didn’t even share the court in the fourth. They subbed each other out twice, great coaching, eh? What a crock? Bosh didn’t even attempt a field goal! We only scored 20 points in the quarter as the Magic iced the game (well, they iced it a lot earlier, really) after a helter-skelter run midway through the fourth which saw Redick, Anderson and Lewis hit wide open threes to push the lead to 19. It could’ve been worse, the Magic missed some pretty clean looks and finished shooting 57% (14-30 3FG).

Bosh ended with 20/6 and Bargnani had 12/2. Bosh had a poor game, we needed him to provide the punch in the second half and he only mustered 8 points while being invisible in the fourth. Unfortunately, nights like these will have no bearing on his market value since everybody will write off performances like these to him playing on a bad team. We needed him to show up big time and he weaseled out on us. When you’re -11 on the boards and your starting center has two rebounds, the stats do the criticizing, I don’t think I need to say a damn thing about that. The effort on defense was questionable as usual, the Magic got any shot they wanted and coasted for most of the third. They knew they had this game after the half, we knew it before it even started.

Bosh:

“We’re all over the place right now, guys don’t know what they’re doing, we’re not talking on defense. We got to know what we’re doing first of all and then do what we’re supposed to do with intensity.”

Bargnani:

“There’s not much to say, they’re a better team than we are and they won the game. It’s pretty simple. Our defense has problems, I think it’s pretty clear.”

Those are some pretty incriminating quotes coming out of that locker-room, safe to say that this team is on edge. Here’s some good news, though. Our next five opponents are under .500 teams (Nets, Hornets, Pistons twice and Bobcats), four of them are home games and there is no back-to-back excuse to fall on. If we can’t go at least 4-1 here, there is absolutely no reason to have any faith in this unit.

Swing by later for the game in screencaps.