Teams have good memories, even bad ones like the Detroit Pistons. They remembered the embarrassment that was dealt to them on their home floor and delivered a dominating performance as they ran the Raptors off their own court last night. Their was one Piston whose memory was not so good, however. Tracy McGrady forgot he’s a washed up has-been and single-handedly put the Raps away in the second quarter. Yep, the game was over in the second quarter. You just knew that there would be no comeback given the context of the situation, at least not without bloody and far-ranging consequences. T-Mac was back in the house that fateful quarter, as he tore up the limping, undermanned Raptors with precise jumpers and drives to the rim. What made it even more painful was that he did everything predictably slower than we are used to from McGrady. He picked us apart in slow motion, except this replay lasted and excruciatingly long twelve minutes.
The Raptors, as mentioned were understaffed without notables Jerryd Bayless and Sonny Weems, and guys like Amir Johnson, Bargnani, Kleiza, and Calderon were playing hurt. Guess you had to play someone. Amir Johnson’s the one player who’s health should be re-evaluated because he’s clearly not himself right now. The activity level isn’t there and he’s laboring on the floor. He needs to mend. Bargnani seemed affected as well, but also had a couple of decent moves to the rim and his defence was relatively good as compared with the rest of the team. That’s not saying much is it? 16 points off 17 shots and 2 rebounds in 33 minutes. Ugh. So much for hoping Bargnani could build off his good game against New Jersey. What was I thinking? More ugly numbers: 8 turnovers from Jose Calderon, the same number Detroit has all game. The 8 Detroit had just shows to you just how little pressure the Raptors exerted defensively. It was pathetic, really.
But this is your homecourt boys, have some pride will ya? Nope, sorry, not with Chistmas right around the corner and some warm eggnog waiting for them, I guess. They rolled over like a cheap suit as soon as the Pistons went on that big run in the second. The Raptors made it a 16 point games with 9 minutes to go in the game, and had the ball, but rookie Greg Monroe stole the ball of Andrea for and a resulting 3 point play pretty much took the wind (more like a gentle breeze) out of their sails.
What else can you say? There’s not much to break-down, except that it was a lacklustre effort that seemingly sucked the energy right out of you. Let’s see how Tracy McGrady does in the next few games. I wouldn’t be surprised if he went back to being his usual ineffective and lumbering self, as he has been for the last two seasons, essentially. He was getting into the lane unmolested, usually with a drive and kick in mind. His favorite recipient was Richard Hamilton in the corner. We saw this time after time. The entire team should not be collapsing on McGrady at this point in his career, especially the man on Hamilton, who is a dead-eye shooter and especially not from the corner because it`s probably still within his comfort range. The corner three is one of the effective shots in basketball and a lot of good teams attempt them by design. Remember Anthony Parker for us a couple of years back? What you want to do is pick your poison and let one of their other shooters take a regular three, but don’t send help from the baseline. I mean 6-10 from 3 point land for Rip, that shouldn’t happen, he shouldn’t even be allowed to hoist 10 attempts, let alone make 6. You’ve got to adjust at some point don’t you? Hamilton also scored in usual fashion, by running constantly off screens to free himself. No Raptor was up to that task on this night. They haven’t been taught to fight screens on simple switches, which is such a shame in itself, so why would you expect them to be any good at fighting through anything? It’s such a, what’s the word, wimpy (?) way to the play the game. Wimpy, yeah, that’s a damn good word to describe it.
One observation I want to throw in about DeMar DeRozan. If you saw how he played in that 3rd quarter of the Laker game, then you saw how he played in the Summer League. While I fully realize that it should be taken with a grain of salt, he was clearly on of the best players in the entire league. He played calm and composed and his jumper was sticking. It was very encouraging to see. Come the regular season, and you see an entirely different player. Passive, inconsistent, lacking confidence in the jumper. My take on it is that DeRozan is a rhythm player that (unfortunately?) needs the ball in his hands. He’s that kind of guy who ends up hitting that tough fading jumper from the baseline but then rimming an open jumper at the free throw line. Some of the greats of the game have the same problem. One of the things holding Miami back is that Dwyane Wade and LeBron James are not great off-the-ball shooters. The Raptors owe it to themselves to give this kid the ball and see what he can do with it. To me, there is no better way in improving our team outside of adding talent through the draft. Whenever he has the ball, he seems to be making what he thinks is the right play for the team, but not necessarily what he does well. It’s great that he has that team-first attitude but it’s time to get a little selfish.
Leandro Barbosa was the lone bright spot on the team, as he has become our most consistent player. Not suprisingly, he is also one of the more experienced players. Does he fit in the long term plan, or is he better off to look at as an asset that can be flipped to a contender that needs scoring off the bench? You can’t fall in love with players and even after 29 games it seems clear that this team isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, so using tradeable assets like Barbosa to stockpile is always a decent option.
Here is the silver lining that seems to shining brighter after every loss: We’re getting closer to a lottery pick. This was like the ugly sister of the “4 point” game, where the loser gets to pull even with the other team in the standings, except in the wrong direction. You have to have this mindset to maintain some semblamnce of sanity when watching this Raptors sometimes.