It’s not that a no-name player is dunking on the Raptors that bugs me about this picture, it’s that none of the Raptors actually jumped off the floor.
There’s losing a tough, competitive game that came down to the wire; there’s losing a nasty one to a better team where you weren’t really expected to make any noise; then there’s that once a year performance that would cost a coach his job. Clearly Casey is in no danger of losing his job, and shouldn’t be, but if Triano was still around, this would have been the nail in his coffin.
Last night was the result of a perfect storm that was bound to happen. Not only to the Raptors, but we will see a lot of fugly results like this across the league:
Injuries It says a lot about the state of your team when missing Jerryd Bayless in the lineup is cause for concern. Look, he’s not the worse thing that has ever happened to the Raptors, but at least he gives Calderon some rest (70 minutes in two nights, and he didn’t play the entire 4th quarter), and is aggressive off the bounce when he has the ball in his hands. It would also be nice to have Kleiza (again, I only weep for myself that I’m hoping Bayless AND Kleiza get back in action asap) force both Butler and Johnson into playing a combined 15-18 minutes a night.
Scheduling & Player Management The Raptors have played five games in the last seven nights, with little time for rest, and more importantly, practice. It’s tough to really work on things when you’re either on a plane, at the airport or sleeping. Top that off with heading into the 2nd night of a back-to-back, and things don’t look good considering the Raptors aren’t the most fit bunch. What made things even worse was Bargnani and Calderon played 45 and 41 (DeRozan played 38, but that shouldn’t be as big an issue) minutes respectively the night before against the Wolves. I questioned Casey for riding those two for so long, but at least they got the win out of it.
Scoring The Raptors couldn’t put the ball through the hoop; it was tough to watch.
Now to the game…
The game started ugly for both teams; it took two and a half minutes and a combined five shots before Bargnani put the ball on the floor and got things rolling. The key during that two-minute stretch of ass was that the Wizards were missing off the bounce and in the paint, and the Raptors were clanking jumpers. This set the tone for the entire night where the Wizards were just monsters in the paint, scoring 38 of 46 points in the paint in the 1st half. That’s a big deal since it isn’t like the Wizards have a dominant front court that had it’s way with our boys. They attacked off the dribble with Wall, Young and Crawford taking their man, and making some difficult shots.
Aside from Calderon getting his second wind a minute into the game (it was downhill after the first quarter for the guy), three things stood out for me in the quarter: offensive rebounding and defense kept the Raptors in the game early; the Wizards had a grand total of 2 assists in the quarter; and DeRozan wasn’t actually playing any basketball. Given that the Raptors had just played the Wolves the night before, I expected some tired-lazy shots, but it was nice to see the defense do its job. The Wizards scored because their guys took the game into their hands and instead of running plays, made super aggressive moves off the bounce to get a shot off. This made me me happy heading into the second because when you control the boards, and are forcing a team to score off of broken plays and zero ball-movement, good things will happen.
I was wrong, the 2nd quarter was a warm, tightly curled pile of doo-doo (I actually used the word doo-doo six times in my game notes). If I could take back 40 minutes of my life, it was witnessing the 2nd and 3rd quarters of this game. Yes the Raptors were tired, but the worst team in the NBA managed to set the pace of the game, and capitalize. Eighteen of the Wizards first 20 points were transition buckets in the paint.
There was also a two-fold problem of turning the ball over (9 turnovers in the quarter), and when they managed to protect it, scoring the bloody thing. DeRozan, Butler and Johnson were a combined 1-15 from the floor in the 1st half. To compound things, each and every shot they took, and missed, was early in the clock and obviously forced. In all fairness, DeRozan isn’t getting the ball in his sweet spot: catching the ball after curling off the high screen. He’s getting the ball on the wing, with no weak-side action. Unfortunately, his shot isn’t there quite yet. Butler and Johnson are just brutal; makes me miss watching Mike James go 1-on-4 for a bucket five-times a night.
The third was more of the same, and Casey threw in the towel in the 4th, trying to conserve some energy for tonight’s affair against the Kings.
After turning in an ugly effort against a lesser squad, I’m still happy with how the season is going. The reality is that the Raptors should have won this game and lost to the Knicks – net change is zero. Regardless of the outcome, some really good things happened last night:
- The Raptors defense was pretty decent; a 93 point performance where the starters didn’t play the entire 4th quarter isn’t something to hang your head low on. The Raptors were rotating on defense fairly well, but you have to give the Wizards some credit for hitting shots with next to no ball movement until the second half of the second quarter
- Bargnani weathered through his fatigue and managed 22 points on 16 shots in 29 minutes
- The Raptors out-rebounded the Wizards 44-38, with their offensive rebounding keeping them in the game, 14
- The zone defense worked until it didn’t, and by didn’t, I mean they didn’t use it enough. Still, it’s nice that they can throw out different looks that are effective
I really hate to say it, but the Wizards were due for a win, and the gods conspired to set the stage for them to capitalize. It’s an easy one to put behind you and prepare for the Kings at home.
If you don’t know, watching the game while keeping track of things on Twitter makes things a bit more interesting. The highlight for me last night was this exchange with some random dude (start at the bottom and read up the thread):
Photo Credit: Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images