Raptors 93, Pacers 104 – Box

This is getting to be ri-goddam-diculous. I certainly have no right to be hoping for victories from a 13-35 team, and in general I don’t, but to get as unlucky covering games as I have is a bit much. Yes, the Raptors fell to 13-36 after a 104-93 loss to Indiana, but just as importantly to me, they fell to 0-8 in games I cover for this site.

The binomial probability of a 13-36 team going winless in an eight game sample is approximately 8.5%. It gets worse when you see that the opponents I’ve covered are: Golden State, Washington, Indiana, Charlotte, Chicago, Miami, Memphis, and Indiana. These teams have a combined record of 179-192 (double counting Indiana), and only three currently project to make the playoffs. The point is, it’s not like I’ve been covering a tough stretch of schedule. The losses have also been by an average of nearly 11 points, so these generally aren’t close games either.

Why am I talking about my own personal streak of ineptitude instead of the Raptors’ current 12-game losing streak? For starters, because the Raptors’ deficiencies have been beaten to death on this streak, and I figured the commenters could take a crack at me instead of the team to give the guys some reprieve. Maybe this nugget will spawn a conspiracy theory about me, or at least have me called an idiot/moron/racist/waste of bandwidth, etc. Still, if I were writing as poorly as the Raptors were playing, the rest of the guys on this site would have given me the boot by now.

Tonight’s effort was standard fare of late, with the Raptors hanging close but never really threatening, down as many as 20 but keeping it close to the 10-point range for the most part. And wouldn’t you know it, Andrea Bargnani had a bad game! Bargs continued his frigid shooting, going 3/15 on his way to 12 points with a whopping five rebounds. Bargs was also a team-worst -14 on the plus-minus scale, and looked largely disinterested (which, of course, I determined with a very strict set of observatory principles).

His partner in shouldering the scoring load, DeMar DeRozan, also had an off-night. DeRozan posted the same 3/15 shooting mark, but added a bit extra to the game with a 10-5-4-3-2 line, and had just a -7 rating. DeMar didn’t necessarily look bad in this one, just out of rhythm, but he also wasn’t at all aggressive.

Together, Bargnani and DeRozan have now combined to shoot 27/102 over the past three losses. These are supposed to be the two best scorers on the team, so this is clearly an issue. Whether ill-timed synchronous cold streaks or due to some larger issue (Sonny’s return to the starting unit?), this is something that needs immediate fixing if the Raptors are going to keep from becoming the Cavaliers of the North.

The Raptors are at Atlanta next, and if a win evades them at home against Minnesota, the remaining five games before the break look ugly (at Milwaukee, a guaranteed loss because I’m covering the game, vs. San Antonio, Portland, Blake Griffin, and Miami). That seven-game stretch includes some sub-.500 teams and five home games, but Minnesota is the only opponent you’d circle as a likely win (uhhh….oops). I won’t be so grim as to suggest the losing streak could grow to 19 heading into the break, but it’s highly unlikely the Raptors improve on their position of 27th overall (29th in the Hollinger Team Rankings) before then. We`re rebuilding, and we expected this, so I`m hesitant to complain. That said, it can be exceedingly difficult to remain positive in the short term when trying to keep the bigger picture in mind, especially when that bigger picture is far from clear or certain.

In terms of tonight, the Raptors failed to capitalize on turnovers while getting dummied on the boards, allowing Indiana to escape with a win despite playing an extremely sloppy game. The Pacers turned the ball over 25 times, but forced 16 of their own and won the rebounding battle 56-38. They also got to the line at a better rate (28 attempts to 21) and dialed up more threes (eight to one), outplaying the Raptors pretty thoroughly and completely.

No Pacer jumped off the screen until the second half, when Roy Hibbert`s ability to gain position low in the post did damage and Paul George`s scoring ability surfaced (seriously, this guy can fill it up, and is one of only three qualified rookies with a better PER than our own Ed Davis). Hibbert finished with 24-and-11, while George had 16, 12 of them in the fourth stanza.

Outside of DeMar and Bargnani, Sonny Weems also looked bad early, found his touch in the second half, but also turned the ball over five times. He still looks extremely tentative on the floor and is either very rusty or still injured. Julian Wright should still be starting to provide the defensive boost (and he was the only player with a non-negative plus-minus tonight) Sonny can’t.

Amir Johnson gave us a scare when he tweaked his ankle landing on Danny Granger in the third but returned shortly after. Overall, Amir played his usual high-energy game, scoring 18-and-8 primarily around the rim. He continues to be an efficient source of production, and he definitely still has room for improvement to make his Liston-justified contract even more Liston-justifiable.

The best player on the floor for Toronto might have once again been Ed Davis. Davis already does a lot of things well, and as the season progresses I find myself having to temper my growing expectations. He makes quick decisions on offense and gets his shots off around the rim quickly, while his basketball IQ on the defensive end (rebound positioning, block timing) is at a high level for a rookie big-man. He scored 13 points and added seven boards and three blocks, shooting 6/9. He has raised his field goal percentage for the year up to nearly 58%, and while his usage rate limits his scoring average to just over six per night, he has performed and improved such that I’m ready to nearly guarantee he becomes a 15-10 guy with two blocks. Is it just me high on Easy E, or is there a growing optimism all around Raptorland?

The optimism more or less ends there for tonight, as it’s a taxing endeavour to constantly search for silver lining. The Raptors lose their 12th in a row, and things will hopefully reach their worst at Atlanta before the streak ends against Minnesota….so long as I don’t end up covering the game.

Site Note: Rapcast #92 comes a little later.

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