Nets 95, Raptors 87 – Box

Over Christmas, my girlfriend and I got a puppy. I named him José (Yes, as an homage to Toronto sports stars Calderon and Bautista).

Without going into too much detail, my life for the past two weeks has been a mess. Between a severe lack of sleep, the waking energy requirement, and the complete lack of schedule flexibility, the dog has been more of a monkey (ZING!).

That said, he is an awesome dog. Even ignoring his adorable bat-face (having earned him the nickname Joey Bats, or Shit-Bat), there is a pretty overwhelming sense of pride that accompanies one’s first foray into dog ownership. Every successful urination or defecation in the designated area, every time a trick is performed successfully, and every time he allows us to sleep for more than an hour uninterrupted, I am immersed in calm, pride, and hope for a future where he is less of a stress.

And then, of course, he’ll wake me up having shit in his crate.

Tonight, the Raptors shit in their proverbial crate.

The reason I talk about my dog, you may have guessed, is because I feel like I can really relate to Dwane Casey right now. Dwane Casey is, for all intents and purposes, the owner of a young, impressionable, inconsistent, and maddening basketball team in the Toronto Raptors. The parallels are never-ending.

To wit, just yesterday John Hollinger was writing about the Raptors as one of the league’s most pleasant surprises, while one ESPN reader even posited that Casey was an early coach of the year candidate. You may remember that the Raptors were 3-3 through a relatively soft schedule at that point. Still, they were in the top half of the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency, and were near the top of the league in opponent Field Goal Percentage. Casey, the credited defensive mastermind behind the defense of the NBA Champion Dallas Mavericks, appeared to have already brought over and installed his defensive schemes with a team that finished last year dead last in defensive efficiency and near the bottom in just about every other defensive statistic.

Basically, despite a shortened training camp, a roster without many strong individual defenders, and offseason additions that sadly included names like Butler, Carter, and Magloire, Casey had quickly trained himself quite a good puppy. Similarly, despite the challenges of being given a dog in Burnaby (Vancouver suburb) while staying a week with in-laws, and facing an exhausting flight home to his third home in his 14-week existence, we seemed to have a good puppy on our hands.

José was adapting quickly to pee pads, commands, and even the snow. The Raptors were adapting quickly to zone schemes, help defense, and Andrea Bargnani was rebounding (the equivalent of my dog writing this article for me, basically).

And then we left José in his crate while we left for an hour and he destroyed it with explosive diarrhea. And then he did it during a 15 minute absence. And then he did it in my car while I was getting Quiznos. Separation Anxiety or not, it doesn’t appear we have quite as easy a pup as we anticipated.

The Raptors, meanwhile, hosted a lowly 1-6 Nets squad that boasted starters like Mehmet Okur and DeShawn Stevenson, with subs like Johan Petro and Sundiata Gaines. And the Raptors had metaphoric diarrhea in their metaphoric crate. Dog analogies aside, this game was Pug-ugly.

Interestingly enough, the defense wasn’t that bad, as the Raptors held the Nets to just 38.8% shooting on the whole. The issues came almost exclusively with rotations and lazy close-outs on shooters, as the Nets rained down 15 threes in 31 attempts despite being just a 28% 3FG team entering the night. Sharpshooter Anthony Morrow was consistently left open by a lackadaisical DeMar DeRozan and a confused Leandro Barbosa, padding his reputation as a marksman with a 6-of-10 night from long range. Morrow finished with a team-high 24 points on just 14 field goals, without taking a free throw. That’s an impressive night in an empty gym, and that’s basically the resistance he faced tonight.

DeShawn added 5 triples in 12 attempts for 15 points, which is one more point than he had in the six previous games combined, and was his highest total in a game since January 8, 2011. That left the rest of the team to go a combined 4/9, which aint too shabby either.

Of course, it wasn’t just the distance shooting that hurt the Raps, as Deron Williams finished the game with 24 points on porous 6-of-18 shooting, aided by a 11-of-13 night at the line. Deron added 5 boards and 9 assists, and really took over in the second half from a scoring and distributing perspective. I know the Raptors contingent of Calderon, Carter, and at points Rasual Butler’s Corpse aren’t exactly world-beaters defensively, but the wings need to figure out when to help and when to stay on their men. There was one maddening play where Deron waltzed toward the bucket and Barbosa left his man just enough to give him the open shot while being in no position to help on Williams if he continued under the basket (basically, the least perfect spot on the floor he could choose to be), and you bet your best kicks Deron found Morrow for an easy triple.

Should I continue? Why not, I’m only 900 words in full of dog shit and stories about my puppy (see what I did there? Hey-oh!).

The rebounding was pretty awful tonight too. I mean…Baby Huey (K-Hump) had 16 boards, NINE of them on the offensive glass. NINE! In all the Nets won the rebounding battle 44-39 with a 13-9 edge on the offensive glass, but it was much worse than that makes it seem when you realize the Raps closed that gap with some garbage time buckets. Amir Johnson and Ed Davis were the only interested parties on the glass, collecting 10 and 8 respectively, while Bargnani, who I’ll remind you is 7 feet tall, somehow managed just 4 boards in 36 minutes of play. One rebound should hit just land in his hands every eight minutes if he held them above his head with no effort (Hmm…).

Speaking of Bargs, where the hell did he go in the second and third quarter? He started off red hot 4-for-4 shooting, and then took just five attempts until the fourth (missing all five), finishing just 6-of-12 for 17 points. He was guarded by Kris Humphries, Shelden Williams, and Johan Petro…C’mon Son! If you can’t be aggressive against that convoy of A-plus defenders, what matchup can you recognize and exploit?

It was no better for our other top scorer, DeRozan, who seemed to sulk his way through his 27 minutes at both ends, finishing just 1-of-6 for 3 points with just two boards. That line is just completely unacceptable, and at least Casey took notice and sat him down for good with about 8 minutes to go. Nice to see some accountability, but that move could have come at halftime and I couldn’t really have argued.

Once again, puppy namesake José Calderon was our best and most inspired player, posting 19 points (7/13) with 8 dimes and playing turnover-free basketball. No, he’s not a strong defender, but he works his ass off and is an offensive dynamo. I love how he wears the emotion of every play on his face and clearly cares at all times, and while I know this shouldn’t factor into “analysis” it’s something I love and appreciate (obviously…I mean, my dog’s name is José).

We’ll do a quick lap around the rest of the line-up: Amir showed solid hustle and continues to prove himself a better player than the box score would show with 8p-10r-2b but a best-among-the-starters +/- of -1. I’m sure when we have enough data for Liston, Amir will grade out as a high-quality player in terms of adjusted-+/-; Ed Davis has looked better the past two games after Casey’s big sit-down, and he earned a season-high 26 minutes. He posted 11 points and 8 boards, adding a block and some solid energy; Rasual Butler’s Corpse somehow managed 11 points but is still welcome to retire any time now; Silky Johnson had 8 points and a pair of blocks, but despite shooting 4-of-6 from the floor looks just completely lost offensively. I made the Antoine Wright (King of PER) comparison (offense only) during the game, which I feel kind of bad about in retrospect; Forbes continued to struggle in limited playing time, going 1-for-5 in 8 minutes; Barbosa continues to struggle with his shot, going 1-for-5 and dropping close to 40% FG% on the year; the old guys played a bit.

Really, it was a huge let-down. This game should have and could have huge implications for the confidence of this team moving through an extremely tough stretch of schedule. Including tonight they play 7 times in 9 days, going Home-Away-Off-Home-Away-Home-Off-Home-Away, a stretch that will allow Coach Casey very little practice time and will allow the players very little downtime between disappointments. The quality of opposition isn’t exactly daunting but isn’t full of push-overs either, so starting off with a lethargic loss to the Nets is definitely a bad sign.

Of course, you could easily just blame this loss on me. If you’ll think back to 2010-11, the Raptors went 1-12 in games I covered for this site. Here we are at 0-1 for 2012.

Or you could blame it on the growing pains Casey and the fan base will continue to deal with as this young, inexperienced team continues to learn the value of defense and improves as a unit (we hope). We can keep hoping the Raptors see their potential when they can block 10 shots and hold a team, even one as bad as the Nets, to 16-of-49 (32.7%) shooting on two-point shots, and how with continued improvement to rotations and close-outs (among other things), they can show this defensive efficiency to be more than a sample-size error. Meanwhile, I’ll keep praying to whatever God will listen that my dog sleeps through the night and that I don’t return from a morning coffee run to a messy, brown-anxiety-covered crate.

I’m on Twitter.

  • K.J.P

    Your Fault Jerk!!!! =p

  • Brian B

    I wouldn’t blame Jose. He was always going to be overmatched in this game. Jose at least had good offensive stats. This ugly loss was the result of a bad match up for the Raps- as in the lack of reliable perimeter defenders against a team with multiple hot outside shooters. Penetration, ball movement, our slow footed or befuddled defenders rotating- sooner or later, Morrow or Stephenson had to be open. And what happened to the offence? No penetration, few free throws, but also few three balls…

  • onemanweave

    Thought we might be in trouble when someone referred to up-coming game against the ‘hapless’ Nets. Obviously, the team felt the same way — ‘Look out Joisey, here come OUR TORONTO RAPT-O-O-O-O-RS!
       Any time the Raps consider ANY team to be ‘hapless’, there will be problems. The thing that has driven me crazy about this team is — they’ll get blown out; then buckle down and play good, competitive basketball, then next game, they figure they can coast and pull it out at the end and — get their heads handed to them, again! Blue-and-white on hardwood.
       Casey has done well.  However, he has a long way to go and a short time to get there. So does his team.
        One Knick blogger screamed about them losing to ‘the freakin’ Raptors’. 
       Under hapless,  Webster has a picture of a fuzzy, purple dinosaur.  Play hard and sometimes, you’ll surprise em.  If not, it’s business as usual, for the hapless Toronto Raptors.

  • Valit

    Excellent article..put a smile on my face this Saturday morning. It’s funny how people did not realize yet  after years of watching the Raps, that that a schnauzer can not be a bulldog and viceversa. Bargnani will never be a consistent 20 and 10 ( few 7 footers are in this NBA) so let’s try to make him a consistent 20 and 5 and get somebody who is a monster rebounder ( mr. Kardashian figured out his niche ). Jose ( the player not the dog) will never be a stellar defender but if he holds on his own as I think he did last night let’s put some good defenders around him , defenders who can actually  score 5-10 points  a game. I like the way Raps are playing and the new philosophy; I understand it is a process and as long as they are not giving up it’s good. Having said that, the brains upstairs have to figure out sooner rather than later the glaring holes we have in this roster and  start patching them .

  • Thierry Bertho

    All the dog references made me sick of reading, sorry but I didn’t follow you there…

    • John

      It was unnecessary and garbage. 

      • Pizzaman

        Blake you should or do write for the piece of trash Toronto Star where every article is some dribble about some reporters life or feelings….no one really cares as this is a basketball site. you lost me the first paragraph.

  • Milesboyer

    This game is what I expected the whole season to look like – boring, uninspiring, with all the eggs in next year’s basket. I have a feeling the puppy will be taking alot more unwelcome dumps as the games roll on.

  • brother

    I blame you. And I thank you for it.

    Another L! YES!!!! Inching closer to that bottom 3 finish that will get us a building block.

    More than ever you need to look at the team out there on the floor and say “what point would there be to putting these guys in the playoffs??” Could they beat the Hawks in a series? No. Chicago? Miami? Boston? Anybody? No. So let them grab another helper for the two seasons after this one.

    Dreaming that they grab the eighth seed on a last second three in the final game of this meaningless 66 game season is like using the public toilet as a wishing well: useless and disgusting and from which, only bad things will come.

    Who wants to see James Johnson and Gary Forbes and Carter get run over by Kevin Garnett or Joaquin Noah or Dwayne Wade in four straight? Not me. Not the experience these guys need. Keep losing and keep grabbing position in the lottery.

  • Quantum Rap

    Sometimes the energy-flow is just disjointed and messy. And sometimes, it begins way before it seemingly even makes any sense. Like the other day, reading comments here, somebody remarked along the line of ‘we should probably go ahead and count the upcoming Nets game as a win’ (not those words) and I thought … “uh-oh”. 

    And yesterday, yapping-by-email with a buddy who enjoys wagering, it was too easy to offer up the opinion that there was little reason to really even consider that the Raptors might lose this game … other than — and I did say this — it’s so obviously one of those games that you look back on afterwards, on what you were thinking before the game and say to yourself, “wtf?” … or ‘what a jerk I am for jinxing my team like that’. (Ok, that last thought is a shot at those who did say that out loud. Sorry.) (And yes, superstition runs rampant. But not without justification, I assure you.) 

    When the game started, it took about a quarter and a half for me to figure that this game  was not likely going to end well. So I watched The Big Lebowski on the On Demand channel and checked the score, afterwards. For me, best move of the evening. 

  • new flash

    Demar i told you to leave that primo chit alone you gats to get yourself some RAGU in a bottle

    • cesco

      It is not the food he eat . He is confused as to his identity ,the next Allen or the next Kobe . Hopefully Casey will remove that confusion by sitting him down even more if warranted .

      • voy

        i think dd is an alright guy. however i never understood the constant comparisons with kobe.  from the first time he stepped on the court you could tell kobe could do it all with ease – shoot, handle the rock, drive, etc etc and he was fearless.  Demar, in his 3rd year, I dont even think he can dribble with his off-hand. 

        Demar seems like a good kid who works hard but any aspirations of him becoming kobe are foolish. I’d be happy with a rip hamilton-lite.

      • new flash

        what?! only six games in and you want to put the king on the bench and Cesco you’ve got to stop this now you’re telling me that the KING PRIMO PASTA is confused as to his identity good lord help us are you sure he’s not smoking the ROCK when he should be pounding it,and whats going on with the 2 rebounds per a quater did the coach scrap that.CESCO WHATS GOING ON? or should i ask BCSTEFHASTOGO guy

  • DonCarlos

    Tired Raps team, fresh Nets leaders (D-Will and Hump both back from a few days’ rest). Cold offensive night for Raps, hot 3-point shooting from Nets. Meh.

    Just remember this game and remember that the Nets are now 2-6. Then the next game the Raps shoot lights out against a useless opponent, keep this game in mind, know that blowouts both ways are a part of the game, and resist the temptation to pump this team up any more than it needs to be. Sometimes it just happens.

    • new flash

      ya ya i’ll bet you got two cases of the PRIMO PASTA after the NEW YORK game

  • Rpsfan95

    time for Barbosa to go, he probably has a handful of good games left, but seems so out of place on this team, and totally checked out

  • Daniel

    Barbosa is useless in half-court offense. DeRozan has no dribble so he got completely owned by DeShawn Stevenson, who by the way is exactly what JJ should become: excellent defender and competent 3-point shooter. Butler has no confidence in his shot. This team is missing for years a wing with the full arsenal offensively and competent defensively.
    I saw Horford potential in Davis however he is a huge let-down: after a full summer off he still has no shot and he’s missing easy gimmies.  If at his age you need the coach to get in your grill to make you play hard then there is no hope for him. 

  • Daniel

    Sorry, one more thing: what is wrong with the defensive strategy of letting the star player getting his and stopping everybody else? Yesterday we could have let Deron get 40 points and stay with their 3-point shooters: do you think the outcome would have been the same? How many times great individual performances meant a team loss? If you remember, almost always when Bosh had 30 points or more or TJ had the highest scoring output we lost. Just take away Deron’s lay-ups and give him space to shoot jumpers, close out on all shooters and leave with the result. You can’t let Morrow or Stevenson to beat you: if Deron does, there is no shame. Casey got outcoached in this one: Nets stopped DeRozan and Andrea, double-teamed Jose to get the ball out of his hands and left anybody else open to shoot.Nobody else step up so our offense sputtered.I hope Casey understands in NBA you can’t take away all the weapons. I hope he wants us to learn the principles of a full defense and then become smarter in the way we strategize for each game.

    • new flash

      let the stars get theirs? are you mad do you want another KOBE  80 POINTS?and SAM should have been let go after that game

      • Gusser

        While I disagree w/ him putting all of that on Casey, who knows what he’s doing, Daniel is correct in that you have to pick your poison. 
        I think they got too close to Deron’s grill, and should have forced him to dish to the wing, when he tried to drive the lane.  They gave his outside shot WAY to much respect.

    • rgzzy

      I agree with you Daniel. Didn’t we let Melo get all the shots and he eventually got tired. I don’t mind Jose getting schooled by DWill as long as all the other nets didn’t get into their streaky shooting. Casey seemed to be testing out DD, Ed and Amir’s offense but I think it failed. AB will have to get some rest on these back to backs and someone else needs to step it up. Unfortunately the offense only flows through AB and without a consistent backup scorer Il Mago will get tired. Casey’s right, Nets had too much D Will power.

      • news flash

        the franchise need a break after 7 games wow

  • p00ka

    We’re going to see lots of games like this as this insane scheduled season wears on, so no matter how good the team plays one day, we can’t expect the same the next. Two days ago Portland looks like championship contender making the Lakers look positively pedestrian with Gerald Wallace going 13/19 and 31 points. Yesterday, they go up against defensive beast Phoenix and get spanked managing 77 points with old man Grant Hill holding Wallace to 1 point in 23 minutes. I wonder if they’re calling for his head in Portland.
    *
    Two days ago, NBA champ Dirk goes 3/11 for 6 points, but I bet they’re celebrating his contribution of 2 more rebounds than AB who finally had a pedestrian(?) game with 17 points on 6/12, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks, when most everybody else on the team not named Jose stank at one end or the other (or both), but some can’t resist bringing out the pitchforks over the rebounds.  Sad, but expected. Hohum. A few more rebounds by him would not have made a bit of difference in this game. Like everyone in the NBA, he’s going to have off nights. That one is bloody not bad for an off night, with a stinking cast around him..
    *
    Anybody predicting playoffs for this team after a few excellent games by them is lacking in knowledge or too young to know better.  I don’t think there were many, but let’s not harp on the foolishness of those few misguided souls. Most saw what this team is made of from the start. In a normal season, we knew we were going to see plenty of pumps in this evaluation/development year. In this insane schedule of a season, there will be plenty and some very pronounced. Enjoy the good, chill on the expected bad, and don’t expect consistency every day on the progress of the young core. Casey doesn’t have a magic wand, but as long as the players keep buying in to his plan, without getting down about the off days, that rock will crack in it’s time. Not this year, but the core are building up the strength to do it in the not too distant future.
    *
    Don’t expect much from the fillers BC picked up. They are what they are. Short term fillers, giving rest time for the core, and helping with the financial flexibility for the future. They weren’t picked up to chase a few more wins this year, and they’ll seldom contribute much.
    *
    The future looks bright. Cheers. Go Raps!!!

    • new flash

      no BARGS in the forecast tonite

    • news flash

      your so dumb can’t you see that Dallas are the defending Champs and that any team that is playing them will be bringing their A game

  • SR

    Agreed that D. Williams didn’t cost us the game….poor 3-point coverage, inept rebounding, and a lack of offence did.  Franchise NBA players will get their numbers against you, you have to contain them as well as possible, deny everyone else, and play your game.  Raptors failed on the second two of those points.

    The game also shows how everything has to go perfectly for this team to win.  There will be more of these losses, so better be strapped in for a multi-season journey with the growth of this squad.

    • new flash

      if its not broken don’t fix it … build a lead and then hold it/defend it we have to play wth the lead

      • p00ka

        Yup, it’s simple. I don’t understand why the opposition doesn’t buy into the program every night.

  • John

    “Speaking of Bargs, where the hell did he go in the second and third quarter? ”
    Obviously you did NOT watch the game and were too busy chasing and cleaning after your dog. Jose simply was too busy looking to establish DD and Amir on the offensive end and did not look for AB !! If AB is that hot, you have to give him the ball and if you actually watched the game, you would have noticed AB was open many times and in the right position but Jose did not pass the ball to him. Chris Webber says this all the time: You want your Big man be aggressive, then your guards should pass them the ball !!! It is that simple.

    As I said, you either did not watch the game or are simply an AB basher who got his first opportunity to attack him this season. As far as rebounds goes, I agree with you. I hope AB grabs few more rebound to shut people like you for good.

    By the way, all the garbage about your dog and Shit cleaning and … not only was not funny but actually was a waste of RR bandwidth. Keep your Day Job because your writing is just like the stuff coming out of Jose’s ass.

    This article does not belong to RR and more to Picket fence and could have been written by Tim W.

    • thatpeterguy

      I liked the dog anecdote. It added a little colour to what is usually a very vanilla type of writing job.  If he wrote every article with dog analogies that’d be one thing but just once is fine.  So I’d recommend relaxing.  

    • Nilanka15

      Complaining about a FREE source of entertainment. Classy guy.

  • raptorsdd10

    I hope Casey teaches Demar Bargs and Ed to play D…Bargs to rebound, thats alll i hope they accomplish this year…lets LOSE LOSE LOSE…High draft pick baby

    • news flash

      RAGU! PASTA BOY how does it look tonite any chance of bargs in the forecast

      • AB7.38pt.on.cb4

        I have a nice salami for you. I know you like it.

        • news flash

          dip it in some RAGU and feed it to pasta boy

  • http://twitter.com/ryanmcneill Ryan McNeill

    Did anyone else notice that James Johnson was on Deron Williams for stretches? It was during that time when Toronto enjoyed moderate success slowing Williams down.

  • KJ-B

    funny stuff… the raps are the still the raps… #7 It’s only a matter of time…