Raptors 85, Grizzlies 96 – Box

That was the winnable game on this three-game roadtrip. Too bad all the Raptors could muster was a decent quarter of play, after that the wheels came off and by wheels I mean turnovers. Twenty-five turnovers leading to 27 points, it’s like a disease without a cure. I’d like the NBA to keep a stat on the number of fastbreak points that were the result of turnovers, I bet that it would be really high for this one. Andrea Bargnani was out so the Raptors were missing a big chunk of their offense, but you still would have thought they’d perform better after a big layoff against a team playing on the back end of a back-to-back. The Raptors were in this game for about a little more than a quarter before things normalized into what was expected from the outset.

It was 24-16 at the end of the first and you had to be thinking that the break had rejuvenated the Raptors and that the the Grizzlies were feeling the effects of their late trip from Indiana. Linas Kleiza had it going against Rudy Gay in the post, Jose Calderon was picking apart Mike Conley Jr., and Jerryd Bayless partnered with Leandro Barbosa for some effective minutes off the bench. The offense was flowing, the defensive rebounding with Joey Dorsey in there was solid, and it looked like the Raptors were going to hang their hat on team-ball and stay in this one. Didn’t happen.

The tide turned in the second quarter for two reason. 1) Turnovers, lots of ’em. It killed the Raptors’ flow on offense and started tons of Memphis fastbreaks, a lot of the turnovers happened above the FT line and Memphis was aggressive in cashing in on them. I can understand Calderon’s turnovers, that’s part of his new aggressive style, what I can’t forgive is DeRozan’s, his dribble lets him down too many times and he’s got a problem with catch-and-drives on the curls. Kleiza too, his passing off the bounce and in two-man games is quite terrible. 2) Dribble penetration. The Raptors were doing OK for a while this season, but of late this is becoming more of an issue. Conley Jr., Gay, Allen and Mayo got to the paint either on their own or with the help of single screens, the Raptors defense wasn’t containing or rotating which meant they were in a vulnerable position and hence the 28 Memphis FTs. The amount of pressure the bad defending of the guards put on the Raptors’ bigs is significant.

Memphis hit back hard in the second and were about to go in at the half up seven before Calderon hit a three at the buzzer to cut it to four, hoping to swing the momentum back in their favor. At the rate the Raptors were playing defense, scoring 20 (2nd) and 19 (3rd) points in quarters isn’t going to cut it. The Raptors tried to make up for Bargnani’s absence on offense by a good blend of team ball, and to say they failed would be harsh since they did shoot 50% (38-76) for the game. There were key periods in the second half (more on that below) where the offense looked lost and got into short-clock situations which it didn’t handle well by coughing the ball up. Barbosa forced some shots which are hard to criticize because “that’s his game”, some of Calderon’s decisions were questionable (that pass from the mid-court to the curler?!), DeRozan clanged his share of open jumpers, but for the most part things were going okay.

Without any players that command double teams, the Raptors were forced into a lot of perimeter possessions and took 19 threes, making only 4. I didn’t find many of the threes being “forced”, they were the best available shots on possessions that were defended well, you just have to shoot better than 21% from downtown. When the Raptors did get to the line, they were miserable – 5-14 compared to Memphis’ 23-28. That’s an 18 point difference in an 11 point game.

The turnovers are a talking point. Some are the result of speculative point guard play which I appreciate, the Raptors were never going to win this game playing in the half-court because they don’t execute well enough to live by their set offense. Jose Calderon’s aggressive play is acceptable, it keeps everyone on their toes and generally speaking, it’s leading to good things. There’s also an issue of unfamiliarity here, the two-man games between Calderon and Dorsey/Davis did’t look very smooth because those are plays the Raptors just don’t run often enough, probably not even in practice. With Amir Johnson still feeling the effects of his injury, the Raptors were forced into low-percentage possessions which unfortunately for them, led to cough-ups instead of missed shots (hence the high percentage and high turnovers).

Halftime had the scoreline reading 48-44 Memphis and the third quarter blitz was more or less expected. Memphis hadn’t utilized Zach Randolph or Marc Gasol to the extent we’d thought before the game, and you can make a case that had they followed a traditional game-plan they’d be in control right from the start. Randolph had 8 points in the third and Tony Allen came off the bench to give them 6 in the frame as they started controlling the flow of things. This was a make-or-break quarter for the Raptors, either they would bounce back and stick in this game or Memphis would continue to ascend. The latter happened as the Raptors’ offense went in a funk which put this game out of realistic reach. They went scoreless in the final four minutes of the third in which the lead went from 6 to 14 entering the fourth. Have a look at the possessions in that stretch:

3:10	Leandro Barbosa misses 24-foot three point jump
2:57	Linas Kleiza misses 25-foot three point jumper
2:24	Leandro Barbosa misses 23-foot three point jumper
2:00	Rudy Gay blocks DeMar DeRozan's layup
1:40	Leandro Barbosa bad pass (Mike Conley steals)
1:06	Jerryd Bayless misses 25-foot three point jumper
0:28	Tony Allen blocks Leandro Barbosa's layup
0:01	Jerryd Bayless misses 28-foot three point jumper

The Raptors went three-happy at the wrong time in the game, you can call it good defending, bad shooting, or settling, just pick one. Whatever it may be, it was the result of not having a double-team threat on the floor.

Barbosa had a couple “Detroit moments” and DeRozan scored on a drive to cut it to 7 midway through the fourth and then another bad stretch of offense hit us:

5:20	Linas Kleiza turnover
4:54	Jose Calderon lost ball (Tony Allen steals)
4:22	DeMar DeRozan turnover
4:09	Joey Dorsey misses free throw 1 of 2
4:09	Joey Dorsey misses free throw 2 of 2

It’s quite simple, bad defensive teams which concede a high FG% and can’t defend without fouling can’t afford to have cold spells. The lead stretched to as many as 15 and it ended with an expected but disappointing loss. I’ll end by talking a little about DeMar DeRozan, statistically he had a decent game, 7-13 for 18 points, but some of the things I saw out there were very worrying. He’s very unsure of himself when he’s driving and considering his passing options, it’s like he loses confidence in himself with every dribble he takes. On a symbolic first-half drive, he drove the ball right into the paint and had a chance at a floater, but instead chose to pass it to the wing and got it picked off. Once on the break he hung on to the ball for so long, that would should have been an easy two turned out to be a deflected pass and a missed shot. At this stage in his career, I’d rank his basketball IQ below average, and what’s disappointing is that considering the amount of playing time he’s received to start his career, I thought he’d be better. I won’t even mention his defense, you simply can’t let Tony Allen juke you.

Tonight the Raptors are in Dallas, a place where the Raptors haven’t registered a win in the last decade (here’s the last one). The Mavericks did drop home games to Memphis and Milwaukee, but it’s going to be tough bordering on impossible. In fact, with Houston, Boston and Chicago to follow after that, the next realistic chance at a win will be away to Cleveland on January 5th. Right now the Raptors have lost 9 of 11, it could very easily be 13 of 15.

Try not to lose it. Think of the rebuilding.

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23 Responses to “Good start, bad rest of the game”

  1. Milesboyer

    I’ve watched almost every game for the last six years, this year I’m growing a new limb of indifference.

  2. c_bcm

    I didn’t watch this game. But i’m beginning to lose faith in our young talent. This is a good chance for the younger players to play above their scouting reports and show everyone what they can become. Even flashes. Not sure i’ve seen too much of that in the past 15 or so games.

    The only saving grace that i’ve seen recently is Amir. The guy just goes out and plays, gives you whateer he’s got and stays within himself most of the time. Not sure about any of our wings though.

  3. Daniel

    We are debating the merits of tanking on online forums without too much consideration for the real life. Let’s consider the economics of tanking. In a hockey (aqnd partially soccer) city like Toronto losing will bring a loss of revenues for the basketball business. Less revenues means that real people will lose their jobs as well as there will be no new hiring, part-time or full-time. Everyone who supports “tanking” or “rebuilding through draft” should buy season tickets or merchandise to support the organization. Otherwise they are hypocrites.
    In the same time organizations have long-term memories. Even when times are good they are so scarred by the threat of survival during bad times that they will not fully invest even during good times.
    The only real hope for a tanking organization is the promise (the sell of the promise) that there is a LeBron or Howard or Griffin at the end of the tunnel. In reality only one team will snatch that player. In addition some drafts are weak with no clear-cut nr. 1 pick. In other words, all the losing is for nothing. It will be very hard to re-build the basketball interest in the city after years of suckitude. I’m afraid we are on the path to irrelevance for a while. I just cannot believe how bad has Colangelo been for this organization.

    • Nilanka15

      Even before the season started, it was safe to assume that we would not be a playoff team. In other words, a magnitude of losses was inevitable given this broken/flawed roster.

      So the question becomes, do you play the older players more minutes in an effort to win 30 games (which does nothing to sell tickets NOR improve the franchise), or do you play the kids more minutes for evaluation purposes, win 20 games, but gives us the CHANCE to significantly improve this team via the draft? Both scenarios involve a diminished fan-base.

      What you call “tanking”, and I call “rebuilding” is the far lesser of 2 evils.

      • Daniel

        Toronto is not Oklahoma or Atlanta or Chicago. Chicago did enjoy a lot of success, Atlanta and Oklahoma have excellent young players. It’s OK to develop and evaluate 1 or maybe 2 young players in an NBA roster. When the entire roster is made of young players it is like betting in a casino: young teams have never had any success in NBA.
        Fans like the hope of winning: the certitude of losing turns off fans en masse. The debate is not theoretical: it has real consequences in the real life in terms of jobs, revenues and patronage. Anyone who supports tanking should be given the task to hand out a pink slip to a person who did nothing wrong. The management screw up big time however they will end up pretty well, I’m sure.

        • Nilanka15

          As a fan, I don’t give a rat’s ass about saving jobs. I want this team to put themselves in a position to win (and win consistently). Unless we acquire talent with trades (but you have to give up quality to get quality), we need the draft to bail us out. Otherwise we’ll be perpetually stuck in the battle for the 7th seed for years to come.

          Losing is what it takes to win. But just because I feel this way, I shouldn’t be expected to buy tickets to watch a shitty product. It’s not my fault Peddie hired Babcock, who traded a top-10 talent for nothing, who wasted lottery picks on Villenueva and Graham. It’s not my fault Colangelo attempted to build a team around a finesse big man, and stood pat at last year’s deadline. I had nothing to do with the decisions that had a direct impact on the current state of this franchise, so why should I be expected to help maintain attendance during the rebuild? In other words, why are the fans expected to correct someone else’s mistake, or risk being called a hypocrite?

          • Daniel

            One day you’ll understand the only reason for the entertaining business is to create economic value. You may not care about it however the financial decisions are based on expectations of profit and ROI and not sport ones. It is not that the fans have to bail-out the franchises when they screw up; my point is that every sport decision (“to tank or not to tank”) has to take into consideration the economic aspect of it. Toronto is not a basketball market thus it has to create buzz and wins in orer to genrate interest among casual (and paying) fans. You are a typical rep of the prisonner dilemma: you expect other people to act according to your desires and expectations. The unfortunate result will be a disaster in both economic and sporting terms.

    • cesco

      LeBron and Howard and their fans past or present have been waiting for 6-7 years for a championship because they were/are not surrounded by enough quality players . All Raps fans can hope for is a top pick who MAY make the team half decent (i.e. getting into the playoffs regularly) with the help of the likes of Andrea and DD . That is the most we can hope for at the moment . Forget about building a championship team , it is a pipe dream in our life time.

    • Brain Colangelo

      I wouldn’t worry about job loss. Historically attendance fluctuates b/w 16,000 and change per night and 18,000 and change per night. There’s not a lot of jobs up for grabs in the 2,000 at risk. Toronto has shown that it’s willing to support a winner and that there’s a strong base of basketball fans. The reason to tank is to build a team that can sustain 5-8 straight years in the playoffs. The payoff from that is worth the risk (in a business sense). Tanking, if done right by preserving goodwill and hope for future success, can be good business and in the long term best interests of stakeholders like employees.

  4. flats

    bill simmons book of basketball has an entire paragraph devoted to brian and his trades when he was in phx…..

    • tonious36

      You mean the trades that he proclaims, “As I say this trade you Phoenix fans can light yourselves on fire now”. those trades were BAAD, very bad, but you must consider that Sarver made those decisions as well and it forced BCo to escape Arizona.

  5. FAQ

    Get real … because a team composed of bench players cannot possibly beat a legit starting 5 in the NBA.

    What we are now witnessing on RR is hope turning into delusion … and then insanity follows.

    • cesco

      Now we know why you are so cynical , you are afraid that if you thought like a normal fan you may become mad.

  6. Bendit

    Wonder how successful DD is on the contested layup in a practice scrimmage? I cringe when he starts on those forays…do the coaches?

    • Buschfire

      and even bargs is inconsistant with his play some nights he can drop 30 pts and 5 reb other nights he can get 12 points and 0 reb lol i hate his inconsistancy.

  7. cb

    i heard paul jones say on the radio that everyone of us shouldn’t be surprised that the raptors are not doing well. his implication was that we shouldn’t be upset at all because it was obvious we were going to stink.

    i think that’s a gross disrespect to the fan base. Not only do we deserve to have a winning team with a, at least, competent coach and general manager, but we ought to out and out demand it at this point. I think it’s pathetic to suggest that we’re willing to accept yet another year of sub-par performance simply because it was obvious that our team sucked. it’s ridiculous that the team has squandered the position it was in four/five years ago to devolve into this horrible mess.

    it’s also very very difficult to understand how jay triano was ever hired in the first place. a career assistant coach, he was hired without as far as has been reported any sort of coach canvassing by our GM. were any other candidates even considered?

    anyway, this team is simply abysmal to watch. i was courtside for that bulls shellacking and it was like watching a varsity team get schooled.

    i’m incensed. i feel like our local sports broadcasters ought to convey this and yet they continue to apologize for the performance and invent excuses on behalf of the franchise. I even heard eric smith say that he would have signed BC to an extension this past summer. Unbelievable.

  8. cesco

    I will be damned , absolutely no one could have thought that a victory was possible with all the injuries . Congratulations to all the players that played to-night .


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