Only once this season has a Raptors opponent scored more in a quarter than the Sacramento Kings did Wednesday night.
A 43-point third quarter had the Raptors not just back to the porous defence of late February and early March, but all the way back to November and early December when teams such as Atlanta regularly were running up big scores on the Dinos.
Combined with the 23 points the Raptors managed at the other end in that third quarter, it was the most one-sided quarter of the season.
It all added up to an ugly 113-90 loss, and some tough questions for a team that is looking squarely at a battle just to squeak into the NBA playoffs.
Fittingly such a sieve-like effort earned the Raptors a move in the standings that has brought them within sniffing distance of ninth place in the Eastern Conference and, potentially, another year of watching the playoffs.
Both the Charlotte Bobcats and Miami Heat have now caught the Raptors in the standings, meaning the next step down is ninth.
“I think we just got very selfish,” Triano said. “We had guys come down and take a shot and I guess other guys are not happy because they don’t touch the ball. We miss the shot, it gets rebounded, they’re on a fast break and it’s a 10-0 run before you know it and we cave after that.”
Triano later softened his tone, but only marginally.
“Guys are tying to do it themselves,” he said. “They are taking it upon themselves to get us back in the game. When it comes down and only one or two guys touching it, the other guys don’t want to set screens, they don’t want to run back on defence, they don’t want to defend or help. That’s where we have to become a little stronger mentally.”
Or, to put it another way, that’s where this Raptors team needs to grow up.
The numbers from the game, while horrible, aren’t even close to the worst thing about the night. That honour would go to how quickly the Raps disappeared after the Kings opened the third quarter on a 12-0 run.
“It’s part of the resolve we need to have. When a team goes on a run, we have to be able to come back and snuff it out by scoring points. We missed a couple and they ran out on us and they have all the confidence in the world and we can’t find a bucket.”
"Our body language at the start of the second half wasn’t very good. They came out and they went on a run … We never were able to get back into a groove after that," said Antoine Wright, the reserve swingman. "That’s when the selfish play came in. Guys started holding onto the ball a little bit longer. I’m guilty of it as well as everybody else."
Indeed, with two of Toronto’s top three point producers, Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu, continuing to struggle in the wake of respective ankle injuries, Toronto’s offence — a stagnant, selfish concoction that managed just 15 assists on Wednesday — couldn’t compensate for the deficiencies. Bosh was limited to 14 points on 6-for-20 shooting. Turkoglu was even worse, making just 2 of his 8 shots for 6 points.
"I would love to come in and play the ball I was playing before I turned my ankle. But it’s not like that," said Bosh. "I’m trying to get back into the same mode I was in. It’s hard right now. I’m going to get there soon. We’re just at a tough stretch right now.
"It’s just getting a feel for the game. I missed a lot of easy shots today, shots I feel I should make, especially 15 feet and in. I can’t say much about that. They just went out. I don’t get too down about it. I know those shots are going to be there. There’s still plenty of basketball left to play. I just have to step up and make sure I play some decent defence and get some rebounds, and I can help this team out a lot more."
Remember the other day when I mentioned that there were those in the hierarchy who thought change might be coming to the starting lineup?
I am sure their voices are louder now and should be listened to.
I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the starting lineup in Golden State on Saturday wasn’t Jose Calderon, Antoine Wright, Hedo Turkoglu, Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani.
It’s not entirely a knock against Jarrett or DeMar – and Lord knows there’s enough under-performing going on now that everyone shares the blame – but it’s got to be time to do something to see if they can find a spark.
There’s still a quarter of the season to go and that’s plenty of time and they remain right in the thick of a race for fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth.
But the events of the past couple of weeks, plus some private conversations I’ve had with a bunch of people, leads me to believe change is afoot.
And, frankly, I think it should be.
Andrea Bargnani scored 20 points for the Raptors, who have lost three straight and seven of eight games. Chris Bosh, DeMar DeRozan and Jarrett Jack all had 14 points.
“He (Evans) just picked us apart, you can’t stop him with one guy,” Toronto coach Jay Triano said. “He’s a tough guard for us and he makes two or three guys have to guard him and when that happens his teammates make shots. Other guys are going to be open.”
The loss dropped Toronto into a seventh-place tie with Charlotte in the Eastern Conference. The Raptors are only one game ahead of ninth-place Chicago.
“We have to get back to winning games,” guard Jose Calderon said. “The good thing about it is that we are still in the playoff loop. We have to try to get better and hopefully it’s in our next game.”
On what the Kings dubbed "Reke-ROY" night, the organizational hype reached a fever pitch in front of an announced crowd 13,412. A cutout of Evans’ face was placed on a stick and turned into a toy for some 5,000 fans, and the first 10,000 were given T-shirts promoting him as the league’s Rookie of the Year.
Evans certainly wasn’t alone in earning the win. After scoring a season-low 81 points at Portland on Tuesday and mustering just 16 second-quarter points to trail 45-40 at halftime, the Kings dominated Toronto 43-23 in a third quarter in which they hit 18 of 24 shots. Kings forward Carl Landry hit his five shots in the period and scored 10 of his 15 points, with the Kings jumping ahead thanks to a 12-0 run after the break.
Yet Evans did earn the endless praise that continued to surround him. His highlight of the outing came late in the second quarter, when he buried a circus shot from the baseline that went over the glass. The officials conferred, then seemed to bend to the will of the locals in calling the shot good.
We’ve seen a growing number of sneaker-head NBAers who have shunned the team-appointed shoes and gone into their own collections for in-game gear. Amir Johnson of the Toronto Raptors decided the Air Jordan VI (6) Retro Black/Varsity Red was a worthy pick for Tuesday night’s game against the Lakers. The Black/Varsity Red Jordan VI Retro was the highlight of the January 2010 releases, and Johnson reminds us once again that Jordans are, in fact, basketball kicks. Check out the in-game photos after the jump. via Yahoo!.
In addition to continuing his basketball career, Bateer has also begun a move towards whatever the Hong Kong equivalent of Hollywood is called. He first appeared in a film called "The Blue Xanadu" back in 2005, and the above monk photo comes from a film called "Bodyguards And Assassins."
Body & Ass is reputedly one of the most eagerly anticipated and expensive films to come out of Hong Kong cinema in a generation, with a hype fuelled in no small part by repeated delays in its release. The trailer certainly makes it look as slick as a baby’s arse, and better still, Bateer’s part is no small cameo. In the film, he plays an outcast monk (obviously), going by the slightly awesome of Wang Fuming, who moonlights as a tofu vendor. There are not enough films these days written about 6’11 monk salesmen, but Bateer pulls the part off with remarkable aplomb, as you can see in this clip where he kills dudes with coconuts and proves to be nigh-on impossible to kill.
The Raptors mouthed-off to the Lakers, clearly not intimidated by the defending NBA champions.
All of that bothered Lakers forward Lamar Odom to no end, even though the Lakers defeated Toronto, 109-107, on a 17-foot jump shot by Kobe Bryant with 1.9 seconds left.
"Got dudes on the Raptors talking …," Odom said. "They ain’t done …. You know what I mean? As a team, as individuals."
The Raptors have never won an NBA championship.
The Lakers won the franchise’s 15th last June.
The Lakers have the second-best record in the NBA at 47-18.
The Raptors are two games above .500 (32-30) and are seeded sixth in the Eastern Conference.
In Odom’s eyes, the Raptors could act with this cocky attitude because the Lakers allowed them to, because the Lakers have been looking weak.
The Lakers had lost three consecutive games before Tuesday night.
"Our disposition as a team gives like some of these dudes, they feel like they have the right," Odom said about the Raptors. "The way we’re playing as a unit, they got dudes on their team that are talking …. They are like .500.
Andrea Bargnani is a lot better than people think and I think he may experience an Andrew Bogut type of emergence in the next two years. Now obviously, they’re two different types of players/big men. Bogut is a defensive force on the inside with a nice post game and a tireless work ethic on the court. Bargnani is a sleek-shooting big man who can stretch the defense like Mr. Fantastic. He was the one Raptors player who gave the Kings problems the entire time. He’s bigger than you’d imagine, which allows him to score inside. If he gets position, especially on offensive rebounds, he’s able to use his size to get an easy putback. And of course, his jumper is so smooth that he’s always a threat to score from outside. If he can get efficient at driving to the hoop, he’ll be dropping 20 every game.
– If the Kings are planning on pursuing Chris Bosh in the off-season, they’re going to have quite a bit of convincing and selling to do. Coming out of the first TV timeout during the first quarter, one of the Kings fans in the crowd screamed towards Bosh, “Bosh, are you coming to Sacramento?” Bosh heard the question and shot back at the hopeful fan, “Hell no!” It was probably a bit of a pipe dream to begin with but this definitely makes you start moving towards Plan B.
When the sun sets in Toronto and the roof of the Rogers Centre starts to glow like giant spaceship, the downtown club district—once a quiet industrial stretch of garment factories—begins to teem with life. Strolling the streets from bar to bar are well-dressed revelers of all ethnicities.
Jarrett Jack, a Raptors guard, says the "mix of people" in Toronto is far more interesting than he sees in most NBA towns. "One girl told me she’s from Hungary and Chile—I’m like, how does that happen?" says Mr. Jack. "You kind of go outside the box here."
"There are certain cities you go to where you want to get there a day ahead and give (the players) a chance to have their fun—and Toronto has become one of those cities," says Raptors assistant coach Alex English.
On Chris Bosh
“Between Carl (Landry) and Jason Thompson primarily, and help from different places at different times, he had a rough night. Now, we know a player as good as Chris Bosh a lot of times, it’s just because he missed, but we made him work and he did miss. We did a good job of limiting them to one shot and it was primarily Carl and JT.”
Stat of the Day: Toronto has wins over Cleveland and Los Angeles already this season, and they’ve blown games against each of those teams that they should have won as well. Regardless, Toronto is one of only 8 teams in the NBA to have beaten the two best teams in the league this season:
The Refs should be SHOT or HUNG or STABBED but they should not be let go without consequence.
Now before you go and call me a psycho I don’t mean that literally of course but these refs lastnight were a good example of a major issue in this game. That being, giving the superstars preferential treatment. Kobe was given every chance to get to the line on a variety of phantom calls where he would fall on his own ass and not be in the vicinity of a Raptor but yet the Refs who must’ve had something of LA’s in their pants would call everything against the Raps and basically changed the outcome. This is not acceptable. This is not what fair play is about. This is disgusting.
A gutless performance in the second half. The Raptors mailed it in during halftime, put on their night caps and went to sleep. Their offense consisted of a lot of standing around and shooting an ill-advised jumper first thing down the court. Bosh was off big time and he kept forcing up that jumper that just wasn’t working. He needed to post up every single time but he didn’t. They needed to get the ball to him in the post, or post up Bargnani or run high ISO for him… they didn’t. They needed to get Jose the heck off the court and out of the arena. They lost to an obviously inferior team and might as well pack it in this season. This ship seems to be sinking faster than Reggie Evans in a above ground pool.
My writing partner put it best. If the ship was pointed in the wrong direction over the last few games, it’s most certainly sprung a leak and is starting to sink. It’s gut check time. Not sure if it’s going to take a team meeting, or a tongue lashing from Jay, but something has to be done to turn this second half around. They did it before and they can do it again. Maybe a little positive thinking is key.
– “Toronto was completely dismantled in the second half.”
– “Dominating second half by the Kings.”
For me this loss is up there with two others on the season; the November 25th blowout in Charlotte, and the January 11th debacle in Indiana, a game the Raps should have had wrapped up but let slip away. Both along with a few poundings at the hands of the Hawks, were ugly views of how fragile this team’s psyche can be, and from an outsiders perspective, ones that probably make you wonder if this is indeed a playoff team.
Last night you’d be hard-pressed to look at the 2009-10 version of the Dinos as a playoff club, even in the East. The talent is there, but much like previous incarnations of this club, what really concerned me is that not a single player looked to step up to rally the troops when the going got tough. Not Bosh, not Bargs, not the Ottoman…not even Reggie Evans. You can’t be paying X millions of dollars to your supposed top players, and not get that element of leadership from at least one of them. This wasn’t the Raptors vs the Mavs or Jazz…this was Toronto taking on one of the least effecient offensive clubs in the league, they should have been able to stop the bleeding.