First Jay Triano counted them. Then he showed them to the whole team.
On 22 possessions on Monday night the Raptors had either one pass or no passes before throwing up a shot.
For a team that prides itself and depends on swinging the ball and sharing the ball, this was a recipe for disaster and that’s exactly what the Raptors got in a lopsided loss to Houston.
It was completely uncharacteristic of this team, and as angry as it made Triano, he can now understand it.
“Everyone tried to pick up the slack individually,” Triano said, referring to his team that was missing not just Chris Bosh but also Jose Calderon and Hedo Turkoglu, if only for the second half.
“I appreciate the fact that they wanted to make us better but there has to be a concentrated and educated way on how to do it,” Triano said.
“Right now our guys have all taken it upon themselves to go one-on-one. We had 22 possessions where there was either one pass or no passes. When you play like that, you’re either going to turn it over or you’re going to take bad shots and those are two things that lead to fast breaks going the other way.”
Asked about the poll at practice Wednesday, Evans said he first heard about it from a fan on this Twitter account. Evans wasn’t sure what the fan was referring to until rookie DeMar DeRozan spilled the beans Wednesday morning.
“I would say it’s a compliment,” Evans said. “Hey, at least they’re talking about me.”
Evans said as long as his teammates and the fans in Toronto know he’s out there working on their behalf, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks of him.
As far as Bosh is concerned, his time and the Raptors time to shine has arrived.
“The urgency is we have 23 games left and we lose two in a row, we’re on the outside looking in so this is our situation,” Bosh said. “We knew it was going to happen. We knew it was going to be a photo finish at the end so every game is important now. This is the part of the season I’ve been waiting on. It’s exciting.”
Bosh is keeping close tabs on the ever-changing playoff picture. He was aware Miami had fallen out of the top eight on Tuesday and then moved back into the eighth and final spot by Wednesday with Charlotte falling down to ninth.
He also knows any notion of peaking for the playoffs, something a team that has already locked up a playoff spot can build towards is now unrealistic.
“I accept this,” Bosh said. “This is the fun part. I want to make the playoffs but the playoffs have come a little early for us. To make it we are going to have to play the right kind of basketball. Charlotte is out (not in the top eight) now. Miami was out Tuesday. We could be next. We have to have that urgency.”
Bosh has every intention of playing with a playoff type urgency for the remainder of the season.
“I think last year (missing the playoffs) taught me a lot and I’ve been waiting two years to be back here. So I’m going to make sure I play like that. You’re going to be able to tell every time I step on the court how long I’ve been waiting for this.”
It may be too much to ask of one player, to individually turn a team’s fortunes around, but it’s what the Raptors have to bank on.
“We’ll go back to plays that are more familiar to everybody because they’re what we’ve done throughout most of the year,” said coach Jay Triano. “Most of the stuff will go through him and he’ll be the focal point of the offence but it’s not necessarily going to be all upon him to have to produce. It gives the other guys an opportunity to play off him.”
An opportunity they’ll welcome.
“Another great player, he makes your job easier,” said Hedo Turkoglu, whose presence Friday is unknown as he fights a sprained ankle. “He’s been great all year, and dominant.
“It helps you to get better shots and better looks.”
Turkoglu isn’t about to panic. His ankle’s not too bad; Bosh is back. The worst is behind them. “Everyone realizes what we’ve done wrong the last four games,” Turkoglu said. “I didn’t practice but I saw the guy and there was a different atmosphere. People realize what we have to do to be successful. We have to play together, play hard, play both ends of the court.
“Hopefully me, Jose, Chris, all our hurt guys will be back and we’ll do what we were doing before.”
It is tempting to say the Raptors’ slump cannot be chalked up to merely the absence of Bosh. Indeed, there appeared to be a disturbing lack of fight in the team in both of the last two games. However, Bosh makes this team go. His injury really does explain, at least in part, the myriad ways in which they have struggled.
The Raptors have allowed their last four opponents to shoot 51% from the field, a statistic that augers back to the wayward days of late autumn. However, the poor defence has been as much a product of turning the ball over as anything else, a flaw made all the more widespread by the absence of the default option of Bosh, not to mention carelessness.
"We’ll probably turn the ball over less and look after it better and be in offences where we’re more familiar," Raptors coach Jay Triano said. "Therefore, teams won’t be able to run out on us.
"I think our biggest mistake was that our guys, and not to fault them, but they tried to do it themselves instead of playing team basketball. They tried to pick up the slack themselves.
"And I appreciate the fact that they want to make us better, but there has to be a concentrated and an educated way to do it.
The Raptors are as close to a lock as any team in the East, but as of today, they’re only two-and-a-half games away from being on the outside looking in.
They’ve hit a snag since returning from the All-Star break, losing five of seven and four in a row. Fortunately, they do have a pretty good excuse for their recent slide: The absence of their lone All-Star, Chris Bosh, who has missed the last six games.
While the Raps haven’t been struggling to find offense in Bosh’s absence, it’s their defense that’s taken the biggest hit, giving up nearly 110 points a game without him. They’ve gotten torched the last two games, losing by 20 at Oklahoma City and 24 at Houston.
The Raptors are probably the most underrated team in the league, being north of the border. They have been struggling a little bit after the break, but that’s mainly because of an injury to Chris Bosh (yeah, that guy’s pretty good).
If the Raps want to hang on to that 5th spot, they have to end the 4-game skid they are currently riding right now and start putting some wins together.
When Bosh returns though, I think they can do it. The Raptors are a lock for the playoffs, and probably will face the Hawks or Celtics in the first round.
That brings us to our next point, which concerns those very rotations. Obviously losing a big-minute guy like Bosh is unfortunate and will require creative roster adjustments to compensate for the loss, but Reggie Evans simply isn’t the answer. While the Raptors staff and management spent much of the time Evans was injured singing his praises, no one could have expected how much faith they had in the rugged big man. He has been eating into the minutes of the ultra-productive Amir Johnson (a nonsensical approach given how well Johnson has performed in Evans’ absence this season) while also becoming something of an – and I can’t believe I’m saying this – offensive focus at times during games. This is an absolutely laughable thought considering that Reggie Evans ranks as one of the WORST offensive options the Raptors organization has EVER employed. The man is actually shooting a career-low from the floor in his brief time this season, while shooting a career-low from the line as well, and yet when he comes into games he is given an inordinate amount of freedom to shoot the ball. In fact, in the last four games (all losses), Reggie is shooting 58% more shots per game than his career-average. Remember… he is shooting career-lows from the floor and from the line.