The answer to the “What happened?” question in the Raptors locker-room was: Energy.
There wasn’t any, at least not enough to matter.
Sonny Weems started strong and kept them in the game. Linas Kleiza came off the bench and provided some scoring. Reggie Evans, just off his sick bed, tried to rally the troops with his boundless energy but all to no avail.
At the morning shootaround, head coach Jay Triano listed the musts for the Raptors to give themselves a chance. With no John Wall, that list was down to contain Andray Blatche, Gilbert Arenas and Nick Young.
Turns out that was about the only thing any of the Raptors really got right on Tuesday. Between the three, they scored 62 points.
“It’s not like we didn’t relay that same message to our players,” Triano said. “We came out flat, they got a little momentum going and then when we try to pick up the momentum, they’re already feeling good.”
Triano went through his entire bench trying to find some energy, some combination that would work and he came up empty every time.
“We all have to be better,” Triano said. “Every single guy. I even start to question where we are. Even guys like Julian Wright, who always gives great effort — he had no juice tonight. Amir Johnson who usually has good energy — he had nothing tonight. It was one through 12 we had really no bounce so I have to re-look at us. We certainly didn’t play that way the two previous games in this road trip. It’s surprising to me to have our team come out so flat.”
Triano was asked specifically about Andrea Bargnani’s night, a 3-for-13 night from the field with an equally unproductive night on the defensive end. Bargnani finished the night with 12 points and two rebounds. Triano saw the lacklustre effort and sat him down for the final five minutes of the first quarter. He was asked if he thought his message was getting through.
“You will have to ask him,” Triano said. Asked if he saw any improvement from Bargnani the rest of the game, Triano replied, “No, not really.”
This one wasn’t all on Bargnani but with the majority of plays being run for him and being the focus of the offence, when Bargnani disappears like he did in Washington, the Raptors tend to follow suit.
“We just didn’t play with no pride, no passion, no dedication — nothing like that. It was more like just going through the motions,” said Reggie Evans, the starting power forward, summing up the mood in a hushed visitors locker room. “We just need to go find a couple new hearts — a couple of heart surgeries or something.”
Indeed, if you were looking for candidates for such a radical treatment, you needn’t have looked further than Andrea Bargnani, Toronto’s starting centre. The comatose Roman pulled off a couple of impressive feats on Tuesday. For one, he managed to stand 7 feet tall and not pull down a single rebound until the game was well out of reach, finishing with two in 28 minutes on a night when the Raptors’ deficiencies on the glass were part of the difference. For another, Bargnani, who flat-footed it through a 3-for-13 shooting performance from the field, made the likes of JaVale McGee and Andray Blatche, Washington’s starting centre/power forward combination, look like relative beasts.
But it was hardly one man’s lack of an obvious pulse that led to such a waxing. The Raptors were out-rebounded as a team, 47-36. They were out-passed, the Wizards dishing out 28 assists to Toronto’s 19. And certainly they were outshot, allowing the Wizards to rack up a far-too-comfortable 56.3 per cent from the field while shooting just 40.7 per cent in reply. On a day that began with Jay Triano, the Toronto coach, stressing the importance of shutting down Blatche, Wizards point guard Gilbert Arenas and reserve gunner Nick Young, the trio scored 22, 20 and 20 points, respectively, on combined 57 per cent shooting.
In my quick postgame recap of the game against the Charlotte Bobcats I wrote that "if the jumpers don’t fall, this team doesn’t win." The corollary to this of course is that if the jumpers do fall, then the Wizards are going to very pesky team to contend with on any given night.
And fall the jumpers did like raindrops on this wet D.C. evening. Led by Gilbert Arenas and Nick Young, the Wizards shot at a blistering 56.4% pace and 40% from the three point line. The rebounding also significantly improved, with the Wizards holding a 13 rebound advantage at the half which ended up being an 11 rebound advantage at the end of the night. Notable among those more active on the boards was JaVale McGee, who ended up with nine rebounds in 25:40 minutes of work. McGee’s work was so impressive tonight that Flip Saunders singled him out for praise, noting that he would have reinserted McGee into the game to allow him a chance to close, but Toronto moving to a super small lineup prevented it from happening.
The Wizards shot a season-best 56% from the court tonight, led by Andray Blatche, Nick Young, Kirk Hinrich and Gilbert Arenas, making his first start since January 5, 2010. The Wizards also dominated the boards, out-rebounding the Raptors 47-36, led by C Javale McGee, who grabbed all 9 of his boards in the front court. Blatche led all scorers with 22 points, shooting 9 of 13 from the court and adding 7 rebounds in under 32 minutes of work. Hinrich played a team-high 39 minutes, hit 5 of 8 shots, dished 12 assists and scored 13 points. His starting backcourt mate, Gilbert Arenas, scored 20 points, including 10 in the 3rd quarter when the Wizards took control and blew this game open. Gilbert added 7 boards, 6 dimes and his +24 court ratio was the best of the night. Hinrich had a +20 court ratio, as the Wizards starting guards completely dominated their Toronto opponents.
On a team where poor starts are beginning to look like a persistent issue, Sonny Weems was an exception to that rule for a second straight game. On Tuesday, Weems poured in 11 of his team-high 16 points in the opening frame (on five-of-six shooting), which accounted for nearly half of the team’s offence in the opening 12 minutes.
He couldn’t avoid the shooting woes that plagued his teammates in the third quarter and sat of the fourth, but he’s continued his recent production — averaging 15 ppg over his last six games.
"We played with a great amount of energy," Wizards coach Flip Saunders told reporters. "I liked the way we really shared the ball and played as a team."
Sonny Weems led the way with 16 points for the Raptors who slipped to 2-9 for the season. Toronto shot just 40 percent from the field and have now lost two of out three on their four-game road trip.
The bright spot for the Wizards this season had been their prized rookie guard Wall, who has made a strong start to his NBA career by averaging 18.1 points and just under 10 assists per game.
In his absence, Arenas made his first start of the season and drained a trio of three-pointers one game after he scored a season-high 30 points against the Chicago Bulls.
For starters, his nickname is Il Mago. Il Mago is Italian for “The Magician”. How many people can say they have an awesome nickname like that? Ranks right up there with yet another foreign player, Sasha “The Machine” Vujacic. I’ve never been quite certain how he came about being called Il Mago, but I can only infer that it may have something to do with his frequent disappearing acts in games. Or it could be from his natural ability to make himself appear invisible on the defensive end. Whichever reason it may be, his nickname is certainly well deserved.
He was also drafted number one overall. Not many players can lay claim to that. Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo made history on the night of June 28, 2006 when he made Bargnani the first European player, and second foreign player with no US college experience, the first overall draft pick. Bargnani has never lived up to the expectations that come with being a number one pick so maybe this is something he’d like us to forget, rather than praise.
He IS averaging a career high in PPG this season at 20.5, up from his 17.2 last year. However, it sort of cancels out with all the points he gives up defensively. I could mention that he is shooting a career high from 3PT range this year as well at 44%. Not bad. Although then I’d have to mention that his overall field goal percentage, 43%, is good enough for sixth worst on the team. Or seventh best, depends on how you want to look at it.
He HAS tied his career low in fouls per game, but that probably can be attributed to his magician act he pulls when he “plays” defense.
He’s just a weak minded individual period, and gives foreign players a bad name.
This is the first time Toronto has sent down a player to Erie since it became an NBA affiliate of the BayHawks last season.
"As long as he’s here, I think it’s going to be a good situation for him," said Raptors assistant coach and director of player development, Alvin Williams, who played nine NBA seasons.
Playing two seasons at Florida State, Alabi averaged a single-season school-record 2.3 blocks per game last season.
So Alabi should provide Erie an inside defensive presence.
"Any team can use that," said Williams, who will be with Alabi while he’s in Erie. "Just for his personal development, I think he should concentrate on rebounding, blocking shots and not worry about scoring. That brings a good element to any team."
The Dallas Mavericks drafted Alabi with the 50th overall pick in 2010 but traded his rights to Toronto for a 2013 conditional second-round pick and cash considerations.
A native of Nigeria, Alabi has played in only one game for the Raptors. He saw 18 seconds of action in a 109-100 loss at Miami on Saturday. He didn’t score.
"I’ve been working hard, but it’s the coach’s call," Alabi said.
So being in Erie will not only give Alabi a chance to play quite a bit, but also prove he can contribute to the Raptors in the future.
"He’s going to get experience," Williams said. "Playing opportunities. He was learning a lot. We have good players, veteran players in Toronto, but there is nothing like playing experience.
"Down here, he’ll get a chance to show what he really can do."