Raptors 97, Pistons 103 – Box

The only time the Raptors seem to be able to defend anything is when they go in the zone, unfortunately that’s not a viable strategy for 48 minutes because teams adapt to the zone and figure out a way to beat it after a few possessions. It’s too bad really, because the positive reaction the Raptors see after deploying the zone is too short-lived, much like Liston’s last $20 purchase at the Rail.

So what’s the story of this one? It’s terrible defense for 80% of the game, a spark off the bench which made the game tight, and of course the usual ineptitude that prevents the Raptors from actually winning the game. No complaints here since the only thing that’s worth looking forward to is that high pick.

The Pistons finished this game shooting 52% and were over 60% after the 1st, 2nd and 3rd quarters. The defense played was so bad that even the Pistons were giving surprised looks to each other after their unchallenged strolls to the rim. It’s not just a question of personnel for the Raptors, it’s also the strategy. For example, Detroit started Tracy McGrady as the point forward and he was too good for Jose, even at the ripe old age of 56. There was hardly a reaction on the part of the Raptors who stuck Jose on him and later switched him to Hamilton, another mismatch. Leave matchups aside though, Detroit poses mismatch problems all over the floor so we can let that pass, here’s stuff that makes you scratch your head:

  • Why are the Raptors forcing a player baseline knowing that Bargnani is the help defender?
  • What is the point of hedging if the hedger doesn’t become part of the play after the ball has swung?
  • Is there a reason why Stuckey’s shot is being respected?
  • Why don’t the Raptors guards make a concerted effort of preventing fast-breaks?
  • If we have repeatedly shown an inability to defend the pick ‘n roll, why not put a more versatile lineup which will be more forgiving of switching?
  • Why can’t we close-out shooters and prevent wide-open drives? It’s all about playing your angles and keeping your defensive shape, the Raptors suck at that.
  • Why is there no communication on defense?

Giving up 38 points in the first quarter to a team returning from the West coast is pretty bad, and dug the Raptors into a hole that was going to be tough to climb out of given Detroit’s matchup advantage at pretty much every position. The Raptors received a boost in the second quarter courtesy of the bench, which scored 20 of the 28 points in the quarter. Reggie Evans’ hustle got us going (he drew an illegal defense call on a post-up, I believe that’s what Charlie Sheen meant when he said ‘winning’), and Barbosa shifted into gear to counter Detroit’s pace and movement in the half-court set. An 11 point deficit at the half was something to be thankful for because after the first quarter this looked like it was going to be over at the half.

What’s his face was interviewed at halftime and he flat out said: “Our defense has been terrible” while being thankful to the bench for saving the game. Problem is that the bench is supposed to keep you in games, not win the game for you. That’s the job of the starters who got outscored 80-57. Andrea Bargnani had 20 points on 20 shots, “graceful” is how Matt Devlin managed to describe him. He gave the team a shot in the arm to start the third with five straight points, other than that it was the usual Bargnani – painful defense, little emotion, low-percentage shots and 4 rebounds in 39 minutes. There’s a play in the third quarter where he completely blows a rotation and even James Johnson shakes his head in disgust. I’m too used to complain about this with any vehemence, the only way he can be a consistent positive contributor to the Raptors is if his role is limited to an offensive player off the bench – 25 minutes sounds right. He should be able to maintain his defensive concentration for that long and is likely to put a better effort knowing he’s only got to sweat for so long. It should be said that everyone with the exception of Bayless was bad so Bargnani fitted right in.

The Raptors went to the zone in the third and it was effective enough to slow the Pistons pick ‘n roll machine with T-Mac down (can’t believe I’m writing this), and force them to move the ball around and think for a change. Detroit struggled passing it around in the zone and the Raptors got deflections which led to points, but overall it felt like when the Raptors did manage to get a stop, they couldn’t score for whatever reason. Be it a bad call by the ref, a missed open jumper or one of the 16 turnovers. Leandro Barbosa was hunting his shot and finished 7-16, crossing the line from spark off the bench to chucker who needs to be benched. Sorry, I’m not of Devlin’s nature where my spine tingles when he throws one high off the glass and it goes in. He needs to realize he already has a contract for next year and start passing the ball. On a night where DeMar DeRozan is 8-11, Barbosa has no business taking the shots he did. In fact, I’m surprised Triano didn’t run more stuff for DeRozan, who despite having a very poor defensive game, was determined on offense.

The third was played even and the Raptors made the mistake of getting into the penalty early in the fourth, couple of them very suspect calls. The end result was Detroit shooting 10 FTs in the fourth to the Raptors’ one. I have some issues regarding the way the substitutions went. Bayless, who was effective defensively, only played 19 minutes, Julian Wright wasn’t used in a game where we struggled to matchup with Detroit for size and agility. Wright has played a total of 12 minutes in the last 13 games. Either Jay Triano hates him or Julian Wright is dead.

Taking a panoramic view of this game it was noticeable just where the Raptors fall short defensively, in addition to not having wing players that can slow down their own man, their interior defense is being manned by Bargnani and a rookie in Ed Davis. There really was no hope last night except that chance to out-gun them which is hard. James Johnson had a good showing with 9 points, 5 rebounds and 4 assists, and for the first time in some time appeared to be in relative control of his body and mind. I can see why people like him, and he seems a nice enough find, but know that right now he’d struggle to make the rotation of any NBA team, let alone start for them. He’s a good option at the three while we’re tanking, but if Colangelo is going to market him as the “core” next year much like he did Sonny Weems, I’m going to hang a puppy.

Final word goes to the Tracy McGrady versus DeMar DeRozan matchup, the comparisons are easy to make. Identical body-types (McGrady’s taller), similar early offensive challenges, comparable athleticism, except McGrady was definitely a better defender than DeRozan at the same stage. What I like about DeRozan is that he genuinely wants to improve and is willing to work his tail off doing it, that’s not something which could be said for McGrady who relied on talent more than his love for the weight-room. You saw a couple moves from DeRozan that really got you excited, he had a great drive from the right baseline where he finished a reverse very confidently in traffic, then there was a pull-up jumper in transition that he wouldn’t dare take in November. It’s these small things that add up and turn an average player into a good one, and a good one into a great one. The best thing about DeRozan is that he’s progressing, and progression is the means by which a rebuilding year has to be evaluated.

Raptors lose. The lottery is one day closer.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=58003817 Adam Nathanson

    Great post as always Arse. Can’t load the Sonny Weems twitter exchange. Any chance you can copy and paste it in this comment section?

    • arsenalist
      • Nilanka15

        Ahahaha, awesome!

      • rapsnd


    • Ardefen

      absolutely nothing to do with the thread but i don’t know how else to get my question/comment out there, the question being,
      has bargnani EVER won a tip off, and does anybody else find this pathetic and dicouraging coming from a 7ft plus guy?

      • Nilanka15

        LOL, so true. I wonder the same thing everytime we start a game where Amir’s injured, or coming off the bench.

      • hateslosing

        He has won several this season. I remember him winning against Brook lopez for example.

        • BCGheradiniJayGots2Go!

          Not several more like 2 or 3.

          • Jonathan R.

            less than 5 with 100% certainty.

            You see the problem is a tip off has nothing to with height.

            But it has everything to with agility, passion, and effort.

            None of which of those attributes are andrea’s strong suit. :(

  • KJ-B

    Difference between Sonny Weems vs James Johnson is that Sonny Weems is not really an NBA player…No contract anywhere in the L for that dude next yr! He is nothing like what an NBA 2 guard is supposed to be… James Johnson with coaching can be an amazing do it all swing man in a 6th man capacity–I just hope he spends more time workin’ on his basketball game than getting new tats or earning new degrees on his various martial arts black belts.

    • KJ-B

      In the same breath, I can see why guys like JJ and Weems would struggle on this team… We’ve led the league for a good part this year in fast break points but are struggling of late to do just that. Jose is stuck in that pick n 3pt pop game with #7 and the other bigs are rolling to the basket for Jose assists…THEN there’s DeRozan who’s “elevated” his game, so I blame a lot of the foolishness we’re seeing on HORRENDOUS coaching and a low skilled NBA roster…

      Johnson for 1 needs to play with another guy who has unlimited range, which is where DeRozan is limited and Jose is unwilling–Weems needs to play uptempo to hide his flaws–but when the franchise begins and ends with the dying weight of #7 around its neck, there’s gonna be little life anywhere else…

    • Theswirsky

      Weems has not been good for the majority of this year. But he is also a mismatched every night playing the 3. It doesn’t work defensively, and his check easily has the size and athleticism to make his life on offense difficult.

      there are just too many guys that are undersized or playing ‘up’ to what there position should be.

      Bargnani is a legit 7 ft and ‘classified’ as a C, but plays like a sg and only defends them half the time
      Reggie/Dorsey are short and strong PFs, but spending half the time covering Cs (thanks to #7 and having no other C.. who can play… on the team)
      Ed/Amir are both to small to defend Cs but end up being responsible for them anywyas (again thanks to #7)
      Weems is about 3 inches to short to defend SFs
      Bayless/Barbossa are undersized 2s. Then when moved to the one, they are shoot first pgs.

      Derozan/JJ/Jose/Wright/Ajinca are about the only guys sized for their position on this team. (thats one pg, one sg, one sf and two guys who don’t play)

      Its one thing to have a guy or two that are “tweeners”… but this team is running with 7 of its 10 rotation guys forced into positions that make them ‘undersized’ (well 6 if you count Bargnani as a lefit C, but he sure as hell doesn’t play like one)

  • sleepz

    “that’s not something which could be said for McGrady who relied on talent more than his love for the weight-room.”

    Not sure about later in his career but as a Raptor Tracy was dedicated in the weight room and this has been confirmed by vets on the team at that time.

    DeRozan also doesn’t have the handles McGrady did as a youngster as TMac played the 1 in high school B.Carter let him handle the offence a bit in his 2nd and 3rd years.

    All that being said, DeRozan does work on his game consistently, which is evident, I just see more skillls along the lines of J. Johnson in him than T Mac.

    • Theswirsky

      yeah I agree.

      McGrady had/has both ball handling and shooting skills Derozan does not possess.

      I disagree though that he is anything like James Johnson. JJ is a guy that is closer to the McGrady ‘mold’ than Derozan is. (ie. he can pass and handle the ball… just his level of control is questionable)

      I like that Derozan’s game is improving… but so far he has shown nothing more than being a go the net and take mid range jumper players. No D, no range, no passing, no ball handling, no decision making player. So far on root to being a Ronnie Brewer without any D.

      • Alex Lai

        I’m no mind reader, but i’m pretty sure he’s referring to Joe Johnson.

        • sleepz

          I was. Thanks Alex.

  • Timo in Waterloo

    Just a note on the green uniforms… those should be banned, forever. The Raps should never wear green, regardless of whether it is St Patrick’s day or not…in fact all green should be banned from the jersey stores at the ACC…

    • cb

      the whole green uniform thing is a typically asinine decision for this franchise; it wasn’t actually even st paddy’s day.

      and listening to matt devlin exclaim: “Shades of December 11!!!” after the raptors got within single digits was just super painful.

      i realize local broadcasters usually showcase the dregs of human sportscasting ability, but coupled with every other horrendously embarrassing decision this franchise makes, it’s just the final insult to the injury of our lost season to have to listen to MD, Rautins and the godawful eric smith. I’d rather listen to my Macbook Voice call the plays.

      • Alex Lai

        I found the exchange he had with jack on 3D TVs hilarious

      • BCGheradiniJayGots2Go!

        What do you really expect after all Matt & Jack are just empty Corporate suits ie they were promoting Gulf seafood to eat even though it is contaminated with Corexit.

        How can you trust them to report objectively on any Raptor related particulars ie BC consensus. They just feed the fans the same old BC propaganda whatever it is at the time ie rebuild, no critical thinking just sell the product (Raptor basketball).

        The Swirsky era was much better than the current status quo.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Radpoy Alex Taylor

    not in defence of the raps but an attack on the refs, pistons don’t get called for a foul in the fourth until 5 minutes left??? meanwhile raps in bonus?

    • tonious35

      Refs are giving us a lottery ball, how nice of them…. :S

    • BCGheradiniJayGots2Go!

      Reggie was hacking to start the 4th Q. That got the Rap’s into early foul trouble and sent the Pistons to the ft for almost the entire 4th Q on every foul call.

      Referee in game manipulation?

  • slaw

    “No complaints here since the only thing that’s worth looking forward to is that high pick.”

    Not really. Actually, I will feel bad for any poor guy getting drafted to play for the Raps. Having watched this team for almost 13 years this is the first time I really see no hope in the near future for this organization given the current ownership, management and coaching issues.

    Unfortunately, a high draft pick or two is not going to cure what ails this team. The roster is fundamentally broken (led by a volume shooter at centre who is surrounded by equally one dimensional teammates) with little elite talent, if any. The head coach’s philosophy simply doesn’t work (you are still asking why the defense is bad? it’s cause the players, coaches and management don’t care about defense). The GM’s ability to put together a competitive team is questionable at best. Worse, there is confusion and uncertainty at the ownership level. This entire organization, starting with ownership, needs to be completely rebuilt from scratch before anything will change. And I don’t think any of those changes will happen anytime soon.

    • tonious35

      I thought we will never reach the level of ownership of Detroit, Charlotte, or Golden State because of the “financial stability” of MLSE, but I was freaking wrong. Changes in an upper level will hurt a lot of things very subtle.

      The only hope is that our team has to cross the hump of the Raptors never getting an all-star pure PG and a stable 6’11” Center that can rebound 11 per game for 8 years

    • hateslosing

      Hey Slaw
      Jay Triano, PJ Carlesimo, and Alex English are all guys who care a lot about defense and know how to make a good/great defensive scheme. The problem lies with the players and the GM. A coach can only hide so many deficiencies with a defensive scheme and when you have a bad defender at the point, a bad defender at the 2, a guy who was set to go to the D-league two weeks ago at the three, an undersized rookie at the four, and a 5 who seems to lack basic defensive fundamentals, no coach can do anything to make the defense good. I guarantee if you put Triano in charge of a team like the Bulls tomorrow, you would wish he was still coaching us.
      The future of this team is very positive if you take Bargs out of the equation and replace him with a Bynum or a Howard or even a Darko. DD will get better defensively, our pick this season will likely either fill our hole at the one or three, Ed Davis looks like he is going to be a monster, and if we get a C who plays D the possibilities are endless. It all starts with Bargs and what we do with him.
      BC has always been great at fixing his mistakes, let’s see if he can correct his ultimate mistake of trying to build a team that doesn’t play defense.

      • Nilanka15

        Nicely said. Although, I’m not sure I share your confidence in Triano (for me, he doesn’t seem enough of a disciplinarian to be a good defensive coach), but I do agree that with proper drafting this summer, the upward trek towards respectability doesn’t seem far-fetched for this franchise. Whether it’s with the 1st of 5th pick, I’m keenly looking forward to next year.

      • BCGheradiniJayGots2Go!

        Lets see if BC aka I went to Harvard can take his failed Euro Raptor basketball vision and get the heck out of the TDot & take Gheradini, Jay & Jim Kelly with him!!

        Jay couldn’t lead a playoff caliber Raptor team last season into the playoffs what makes you think that he could lead the Bulls who are currently 1st in the East?

        See it. Believe it. Achieve it.

        All these Jay aka Company Man apologists kill me with all the reprobate rational related to his head coaching abilities.

  • Smushmush

    For the answers to the headscratcher question:-

    1. Funnelling to Bargs who wants no part of help defense just shows how horrible Triano’s defense system is. Triano needs to go.

    2. Yeah, after you hedge on your pick, you are expected to recover back to your man (at least that is what some of the best defensive big men in this era in Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett do on pick and rolls). However, remember this same team having conditioning problems in the training camp and Triano stopped that regimen? Yeah, I thought so.

    3. Do we even use scouting reports this year? sigh. See Bogut scoring 3 straight possessions over Andrea when after the first one going in, you send him to the line because he is a poor free throw shooter for evidence. All you need to know about this team. Do the Raptors care about defense or outscoring their opponents?

    4. The remaining questions shows how much we are a joke on defense and stupid rotations (Triano is not only the coach that is a culprit with bad rotations, Paul Westphal of the Sacramento Kings and the recently fired Jim O’Brien too are some names to know) which is an indictment on Triano’s defensive system (2 training camps – last or second to last in defense both years. Like, really Triano wtf?) and BC’s patchwork roster which is why BC and Triano need to go.

  • Smushmush

    There is a Kuric playing for Louisville in the NCAA March Madness – he can shoot the 3 and has good mechanics and good body form with feet set and legs into the shot. However, he likely could be a senior (which is unfortunate, as what you see with a senior is what you get sigh) – he will fit like a glove to this 3 point deficient roster coming from the bench. It is such kind of gems, our inept scouting team led by Jim Kelly (wonder how he still has a job despite all those draft day blunders smh. Jim Kelly having a job shows that this organization is a joke smh.) can’t find sigh. My 2 cents.

  • Smushmush

    Kenneth Faried too is another revelation – NCAA leading rebounder and blocks shots. He even blocked a game wining jump shot today from Louisville (first upset in NCAA March Madness :D) at the freaking 3 point line getting all ball!

    • Nilanka15

      Although it was a clean block, if that was an NBA game, and it was Kobe, LeBron or Wade taking that 3 pointer at the buzzer, a foul would’ve definitely been called, which would then make you question what the hell Faried was doing challenging a desperation shot that aggressively?

      • Smushmush

        yeah, superstar calls as usual – that is why some NBA games are unwatchable because referees show up and change the course of the game! but David Stern (just like Sepp Blatter) likes his referees altering games smh. That was a clean block imo – all ball, no foul there even a Tim Donaghy will think twice before awarding such a foul. Notice most fouls at the three point line is always a short 3 bringing an illusion of being fouled or the ball coming off the opponents hands, not all ball like Faried got.

        • BCGheradiniJayGots2Go!

          Superstar calls equals legalize cheating- we (most) have been conditioned to accept this particular as part of the game when in reality it is a manifestation of in game referee manipulation for product (NBA Basketball) endorsement capitalization via said star players under Czar Stern.smh

          Stern pushes the idol, icon, star, role model, celebrity player(s) is good for the League basketball philosophy ie profits.

          Even my conditioning has been conditioned.

  • barenakedman

    Wasn’t Wright playing decent D while having the best plus-minus on the team for the minutes he played? He looked like an athletic young guy with high basketball IQ, good court vision, was transitioning into the NBA game and the next thing you know he’s not getting any PT. Sure he has a few weaknesses that he needs to improve but who on this team doesn’t?

    • WhatWhat

      Wright is in the doghouse because we have JJ, who is a clearly a be…He’s younger than Ju…Hmm. Oh wait JJ has better offensive upside, is slightly taller and a better rebounder than JuJu. I think the turning point for him though was in that Miami game in which we were getting blown out.

      It’s kind of like Marco too in that overall, the situation at his position is utter shit, but he’s still clearly one of the better option there, yet barely plays.

      • BCGheradiniJayGots2Go!

        JuJu is as tall if not taller than the 6’7 in shoes JJ. JJ’s not 6’9 like the Rap’s announcers try to claim.lol

        What’s all the fascination with youth- age? Experienced players-teams usually win in the NBA while youth-young teams tends to lose and just give GMs a reprobate rational for stringing along fans with promises of future fulfilments.

        Potential and upside- what about what can you do right now? Potential usually gets most coaches/GMs fired- unless they’re “company men”.

  • dribbles

    I thought you told the rest of us to stop complaining about Julian Wright weeks ago. The guy has been in the doghouse all year. On a team that’s so terrible defensively and lacking in energy many nights, I’ll never understand it (apart from the fact that our GM and coach obviously don’t give a flying fuck about defence). Johnson’s arrival sealed his fate. I miss JuJu’s passing. Kind of funny how he was brought over for Marco and both of those guys have seriously flawed games but probably made the nicest passes on this team.

  • Rapture

    triano is way too soft.. he’s a smart guy, i’ve seen him make mistakes but if he doesnt pursue getting bargnani and weems the F out of toronto, we’re gonna be in some deep deep poodoo for a long time.

  • Guest

    Trade bargnani for a pg who can run an offence, play great d and hit big shots and the raps are a great team. everything else would fall into place

  • WhatWhat

    Reggie Evans: 28 mins
    Ed Davis: 20 mins


    • BCGheradiniJayGots2Go!

      But it’s a rebuild right? Actions speak louder than words 0_0

  • Nilanka15
    • BCGheradiniJayGots2Go!

      A few more to keep an eye on:

      Gonzaga SG Steven Gray & SF Elias Harris.

      Washington Husky pg Isaiah Thomas.

      UCLA big man Josh Smith.

      San Diego St SF Kawhi Leonard. ***He would be a solid Raptor.