Right now the Raps aren’t getting any calls and hit a new low last night getting to the free throw line just 12 times.
Not that there weren’t plenty of opportunities.
DeMar DeRozan, a guy who with more time in the league will begin to get calls, had more than a handful of times he could have got a call but didn’t.
The Raptors also desperately wanted a call on Jose Calderon’s last second drive to the basket where Al Horford appeared to bump the Raptors point guard as he lost the ball out of bounds on the way to the basket.
Not only did they not get the call, the review to determine possession, which looked like it would go in Toronto’s favour, went against them as well.
Complaining about the referees in a public forum is a no-win situation for any player or team official, but if the references are veiled enough, you can get away with the odd dig without getting fined.
Triano made just such a reference when he was asked about the decision to put the ball in Calderon’s hands on the Raptors last legitimate chance to regain the lead.
“We knew they were going to switch and with a big (Horford) on him we might have had a call coming,” Triano said. “We knew there would be a big on him and you use your quickness to get by him. We shot 12 free throws to that point. We thought we might have a call coming.”
There are no moral victories in the NBA, no reason to feel good about oneself in the wake of a loss, no matter how it was achieved, no matter how painful.
The Raptors will lament their latest setback for about one day, but for one night they didn’t look the part of a team that has struggled to play at a high level.
If not for a clutch Mike Bibby three-ball, if not for a questionable play sequence that featured a Jose Calderon drive to the basket with Al Horford draped all over the point guard, Wednesday night’s 104-101 loss to the Atlanta Hawks could have been much different.
Andrea Bargnani had a decent look at the buzzer, but his three-pointer hit front iron, a margin that pretty much summed up the night.
So close and yet so far away.
The Raptors were right there, but they couldn’t make the right plays down the stretch, which included a Bibby three when he came off a screen on an inbound play that ultimately proved to be the decisive bucket and the game’s defining moment.
As much as Calderon groused about his non-call, he did lose possession of the ball when Horford got his hands up.
After a review of the play, it was deemed, correctly, that the ball went off Calderon and possession was awarded to Atlanta.
The Hawks won because they made one more big play down the stretch than the Raptors did, getting a big shot on a crucial possession right before Toronto failed in a last-gasp attempt to pull out a win.
After a botched Jose Calderon drive and a couple of Atlanta free throws by Joe Johnson, a desperation three by Andrea Bargnani bounced off the rim at the buzzer.
“We just figured if they had a smaller guy on him, we could throw it high, he could catch it high and get rid of it in one second,” said Triano.
The turning point
So many to choose from.
The biggest basket of the night came from Atlanta’s Mike Bibby with the Hawks down two and only 10.5 seconds left. Instead of trying to run a play and free up a shooter, the Hawks got Bibby the ball right off the inbounds pass and with a couple of Raptor defenders running at him, he simply let fly right away.
“It’s a play that they run, it’s a tough play,” said Triano. “Amir (Johnson) came up on the one side, Jose (Calderon) came up on the other side, both guys were right there challenging him. It wasn’t like we didn’t guard it. We guarded it and he made a tough shot.”
Bibby made only two shots all night, both threes, but the last one was the game-changer and on a night when a couple of his teammates were far more effective, it was still the veteran guard who made the biggest shot.
In the third quarter, Toronto led by as many as four, thanks to some tenacious defence and the fact that Crawford had cooled off. That set up a heartbreaking fourth quarter for Raptors fans. Crawford added 11 more points while the teams swapped leads five times. After a clutch three-pointer from Bargnani put Toronto ahead by two with one minute left, the Raptors appeared to have the win cinched, until sophomore guard DeMar DeRozan made an unfortunate foul on Crawford during a three-point play, which put the Hawks up by one.
And despite an aggressive three-point play in the paint by Amir Johnson that regained the lead for Toronto, it wasn’t enough to overcome a huge three-pointer from Mike Bibby with less than 10 seconds remaining.
“It’s going to be tough for all of us to sleep,” Triano said afterward.
Bargnani and Barbosa each contributed 26 points for Toronto.
“We’ve just got to feed off the energy that we had tonight and bring it out the next game,” Barbosa said.
DeRozan is for the Raptors in many ways what Luke Schenn is to the Maple Leafs: the guy you’d like to think will really be something when the team can make it count.
What does it say that DeRozan’s sophomore season compares favourably with numbers put up by other athletic wing players in recent seasons? Just that it appears all the positive character traits that his coach and general manager and teammates say he possesses – Raptors television analyst Jack Armstrong calls him a gym rat – are translating into improvement. It’s nice that DeRozan hits the practice court at night to work on his shooting with assistant Eric Hughes; better yet that it’s making a difference.
“DeMar should continue to improve almost by default based on his extensive on-court experience,” said Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo, referring to DeRozan’s average of almost 33 minutes a game. “He is clearly getting more savvy about when and how to score.”
Of course DeRozan’s defence needs work. And there will still be nights such as Wednesday’s: a start in which he writes himself large all over the game – eight points in eight minutes, including a reverse jam and brazenly returning the favour of a Joe Johnson blow-by with one of his own on the ensuing possession – only to get lost after spending the first five minutes of the second quarter on the bench. Not much he could do about the phantom foul he was assessed on Jamal Crawford that sent the Atlanta Hawks player to the line for three: Crawford flops. He sold the play. Crawford is a big-time player and he put the Hawks on his back down the stretch.
DeRozan nodded in the affirmative when it was suggested there will come a time where he will demand the ball in games such as Wednesday’s, won 104-101 by Atlanta.
“Leandro [Barbosa] stepped up for us, though, so all I wanted to do was focus on defence,” DeRozan said. “Yeah, that time will come. But right now, a game like this one, I’m just trying to play to the flow of the game and do what I can.”
Mike Bibby hit a three-pointer with 8.2 seconds remaining in the game, one that swung the lead back to the Hawks for the final time. Bibby shot just two of eight for the night, but he always seems to manage to hit those shots. (Well, at least after he left the Vancouver Grizzlies.)
“If you watch it again, Amir [Johnson] came up on one side, Jose [Calderon] came up on the other side, both guys were there challenging him,” Triano said. “It wasn’t like we didn’t guard it. We guarded it and he makes a tough shot.”
What came before rankled the Raptors more, though. Crawford hit a trio of free throws with 53.5 seconds remaining after it was ruled DeMar DeRozan fouled him.
DeRozan, still accepting of his role as a young player who must earn respect in the game, had to restrain himself from going off on the official.
“I don’t know what to say,” Triano said, forgoing a longer answer that might have netted him a fine.
And still the Raptors had a chance to win. However, Calderon’s layup attempt with two seconds remaining was blocked, and the ball deflected off of him and went out of bounds.
There was some body contact between Atlanta’s Al Horford and Calderon.
“I thought it was a foul. I didn’t understand the call,” Barbosa said. “But they gave the ball to them.”
“If I wanted to second guess myself, I could say Barbosa should have had the ball at the end of the game because he was playing well,” Triano said. “We went with what we normally do, and we didn’t get it. We didn’t finish.”
What to make of Davis, the 13th pick in this past NBA Draft?
“I love the fact that he’s got a good knack for the ball, where to find it, how to go get it off the glass,” coach Jay Triano said. “He’s obviously got to keep working on his jumpshot. If you don’t have a jumpshot, teams won’t guard you. If they don’t guard you, your whole offence stalls.”
As with most rookies, Davis’s early returns have been mixed. “Up and down” is how Triano describes it.
Davis, however, has shown an ability to block shots at this level, and for an asset with such uncertain value as the 13th pick, that counts for plenty. Davis is blocking two shots per 36 minutes, and has swatted 10 shots over his last four games, despite averaging just more than 20 minutes.
This is no great feat given the Raptors’ history of defensive ineptitude, but Davis is certainly the Raptors’ best defensive big man prospect since Triano came to Toronto in 2002.
“He’s got great instincts,” Triano said. “His arms are a lot longer than you think. The one thing about him is when you look at him walking around, he’s got that loafy look. But he finds a way to get to where he needs to go.”
“I always thought that rebounding and blocking shots and running the floor would be stuff that always translates, from high school to college and from college to the pros,” Davis said. “It’s not a big surprise.”
Okay, so DeMar DeRozan isn’t all that and the Raptors aren’t quite NBA champs just yet. Toronto, coming off a home win against Sacramento on Sunday, battled Atlanta from start to finish tonight at the ACC, falling 104-101 when an Andrea Bargnani three rimmed out at the buzzer. DeRozan, who came in averaging 23.8 points per game over his last six and having scored double figures in 14 straight, scored nine points in the first quarter but was held off the board over the final 36 minutes in the loss.
I took this one in live, which coincidentally (or not?) was the first game DeRozan missed double figures since a loss against Denver just over a month ago. Yeah, yeah, stick this one on me. The Raptors actually hung tough after a slow start, erasing a 60-55 Atlanta halftime lead and taking a 77-75 lead through three quarters. After a back-and-forth fourth, Mike Bibby nailed a three with eight seconds left to give the Hawks a 102-101 and Joe Johnson made a pair of free throws with a second left before Bargnani’s deep ball rimmed out to seal the Atlanta win.
The whistle has not gone the Raptors’ was lately, and tonight’s game was more of the same. The Hawks hit 25-of-31 free throws, while the Raptors only got to the line 12 times (hitting 9 of them). And it wasn’t that the Raptors didn’t drive to the basket enough, because they outscored the Hawks 60-38 in the paint.
But, when all is said and done, the Raptors only have themselves to blame. They made fundamental mistakes which gave the Hawks the opportunity to win this game.
The bright side? There’s always one. It was a very promising performance, and the Raptors proved that they’re capable of getting some stops against potent offensive teams. Hopefully, they can carry over the positive things they did tonight and apply it to the rest of the season.
- Amir Johnson had gotten an and-1 on a pick-and-roll with Calderon vs. Bibby and Al for a 101-99 lead. But Johnson fouled things up when the Raps tried the same play again and he seemed less concerned with rolling to the basket and (for some reason) more worried about taking out Jamal.
- He inexplicably committed an obvious moving screen against Jamal (who sold it well to officials) with 10.5 seconds to go. That left the door open for the Hawks, and Bibby busted through it. He curled around a double screen from Al and Josh to make a 3. I think it was the same play the Hawks used for a key bucket late in their W at Orlando.
- Calderon thought he had a mismatch when Al switched off on him but really he would have been better off trying to swing the ball around and isolate one of Atlanta’s guards. Al played excellent D to get a piece of Calderon’s shot without fouling, then pulled back as the ball went off Calderon’s shoulder and out of bounds.
- Officials originally awarded the ball to the Hawks but overturned it after looking at the replay. “I was not sure [of the call]; that’s why I called my guys in,” L.D. said. “My players were indicating the ball went off them. I was actually preparing myself to defend on that end because I didn’t see what happened.”
- After Joe made two free throws, the Hawks survived a pretty good 3-point look for Bargnani. The Hawks didn’t handle the Raps like the better teams have lately but they got out of Toronto with their fifth straight W and ninth in their last 11.
Andrea Bargnani is beginning to bust loose on the NBA. Ever since he was drafted, rather infamously, number one overall, Raptor faithful have mused: “if he can ever put it together consistently, he’s gonna be great…”
It would appear that we are on the cusp of that time. Bargnani has been damn good for several games in a row and looks like a key building block going forward. He is gaining confidence with every game. The true mark of a great player is when they shoot the ball, you just know it’s going in.
Lebron has that feeling. Kobe has that feeling. Vince used to have it. and Bargnani is starting to have that feel to his game right now.
When he let’s go of the ball, you can just hear the swish before it’s left his hands. He feels like an automatic every time.
Tonight he carried his team. Il Mago was the only consistent Dino, outside of Barbosa, and he put the team on his shoulders for periods of the game. This is another mark of a star.
Now, I’m not suggesting that Andrea Bargnani be the centre of the Raptors universe and Bryan Colangelo should build around him like he did with Chris Bosh. I think Bargnani is a great #1B or #2 on a competitive team. He is showing that he deserves consideration for an All Star position and carrying the load without the departed Chris Bosh.
Against the Raptors, the Hawks found themselves down two points with 10.5 seconds left. To be honest, they were lucky to even be in the game with their struggles against the zone offense (more on this in a later post). Almost taking advantage of the situation, the Hawks decided to go for the win with a three pointer for Mike Bibby: