Game Analysis

Do you believe in Magic? The Toronto Raptors do.

What the f*** you gonna do? You’re a young rebuilding team that walks in to a championship contender’s home court and they practically emasculate you with their experience, skill, strength and effort. I’m ok with all of that, except for the effort part. Yes, we’re going to lose and sometimes we’re going to get blown out, but when Ryan f***ing Anderson is dropping 21 and 10, then it’s got something to do with effort. Defensive effort. We need to play better defense, duh. Lather, rinse, repeat. Is it as simple as turning on a switch? Obviously not, but like a growing child, you need to create good habits with what appears to be your nucleus going forward.

None of those habits were on display last night. Dwight was Dwight and then some more. Rebounding was an issue all game. Jose had an off night, and Amir Johnson was in foul trouble. With those two struggling, unquantifiably the best players on this team, you have no chance against the Magic in Orlando. Linas Kleiza was back to add offense, but was ineffective. We play Orlando pretty well usually, because Bargnani’s post defense is usually decent on Dwight, which reduces the need for double-teaming and such. But it wasn’t there, and power forwards like Amir and Joey Dorsey are not cut out to deal the best center in the league. The Raptors absolutely requires average to above average offence to succeed. If they do not get it, they are in big trouble, and what’s unsettling is that even the offence is not consistent. Bargnani is the only consistent threat, but he’s struggling as well the past three games.

Is there f***ing something Jay Triano can do? He can’t turn this team into the Boston Celtics overnight, but he can start by creating an environment of accountability on this team. That’s not just calling out players about their defense and rebounding and using profanity in your post-game comments, which seem almost uncharacteristic and forced. Maybe he cusses because that’s all he’s got. Because he clearly cannot sit certain players even if when they are complete and utter liabilities on the court. You take that away from a coach and you don’t really have much left.

Yes, I’m mainly talking about Andrea Bargnani, and today everyone will agree with me because he went 3 – 14 with 11 points. But the thing is, he hurts this team even when he scores 20 points with above average efficiency, because of the glaring holes in other parts of his game. The saddest thing is that some of these holes are simply related to a lack of effort. Why do I keep harping on Bargnani’s shortcomes more than any other player? Well one, because he is truly pathetic on defense, and two, because his position is absolutely the most important on defense. There’s a reason why Sam Bowie, Michael Olowokandi, Kwame Brown and a host of other players reside in the pantheon of big-man bustitude. It’s because size gives you good defence and rebounding. And that stuff wins championships, crazy I know.

Would we still give Bargnani credit if he scored 30 points and just stayed at the opponents rim? Probably not, but at this point (other than a few post-up possessions, where simply his length gives him an advantage) it’s pretty close to the truth isn’t it. The Raptors allow 33% of a teams shot attempts at the rim, and 60% of those go in. The Raptors themselves attempt 30% of their shots at the rim, but make 65%. What that means is that the Raptors are not that bad at allowing penetration, but are horrible at defending it. A lot of that falls on the center of a team. He’s supposed to rotate over and contest those attempts. Or box out guys that grab offensive boards for putbacks. At 33%, it pretty much means that center is responsible for close to a third of defensive possessions. Not every attempt at the rim is guardable, but a lot of them are and this is where he fails. That’s why centers are tall, so that they can do that better than other guys.

I’ve never seen an organization coddle their draft picks this much. Even first overall picks are held accountable to some degree. OKC has evaluated James Harden as a good player off the bench even though he was a higly-touted top-5 pick. Evan Turner’s minutes have been reduced because of his lacklustre play. Now Evan Turner may still turn out to be a stud, but this is the right way to deal with him. It’s one thing to recognize that the player has potential and needs minutes, but it’s another thing to unconditionally dole out those minutes for said player to reach his potential. Especially when that player has issues with his motor. The world runs on incentive, except for the Toronto Raptors. Why should DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis play hard? Would it even matter? There is no precedent that they will be actioned of they don’t.

And around and around we go like a hamster on a wheel. That’s the Raptors in a nutshell. Score some buckets, but then give them right back on defense and guess what, you’re right where you started.

On second thought, the hamster never goes backward, but the Raptors rebuilding phase already is.

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