Milos Raonic was in the house court-side, with a plastic-looking model on his arm.
Milos was in the house court-side, with a plastic-looking model on his arm.

Hawks 100, Raptors 77 – Box

Well, it’s back to the drawing board for Dwane Casey. After his small, two-point guard lineup performed admirably in a win against the Nets on Sunday, they fared quite the opposite against the Hawks last night.

It seemed a curious decision to use the small lineup against a rather large Hawks team anyway, but the thinking was that Jose Calderon could be hidden defensively on Marvin Williams (who generally refuses to play inside, despite such a significant post-up advantage on most wings), while Bayless took on Jeff Teague. This, of course, left DeMar DeRozan on Joe Johnson, and I’m sure everyone could guess how that would turn out beforehand.

The Raptors allowed a season-worst 56 points in the first half, but the game basically came down to the 24th minute. Trailing 48-37, a reasonable margin to enter the half, Johnson took it on himself to go on an 8-0 run in the last minute to push said lead to nearly 20. This served not only to suck the energy out of a listless Raptors squad, but send them into halftime in a panic rather than with something to work with.

Coach Casey made the decision to ditch the two-PG lineup to start the second half, replacing Bayless with Rasual Butler’s Corpse and Amir Johnson with Aaron Gray. It’s my opinion that the Bayless sub was due more to matchups than performance, but Amir’s replacement was yet another indictment on his effort and output of late, as he had just two points and a rebound at the half. It’s not like Zaza Pachulia is a daunting matchup for him, either.

A quick aside since I mentioned Rasual Butler’s Corpse – he made a great hustle play in the third to save a wild outlet pass, but landed funny and had his right ankle twist on him. He limped back on D, but when the Raptors got a stop, instead of calling a timeout they ran the floor (while Butler stood still in the defensive end), scored, and then had to foul the Hawks to make a substitution. As Butler limped off the court, his walk actually resembled his play for a change, in that they both made him look like a basketball zombie.

You could argue that the defense picked up in the second half, allowing just 44 points and holding the Hawks to 40% shooting after a 60% first half, but this of course ignores things like garbage time minutes and the fact that the game was already locked up, so games tend to get a bit more ISO-heavy or lack offensive flow. Regardless, ATL hit the dreaded century mark and shot over 50%, so even though the Raptors finally managed to keep a team off the line (13 FT attempts), it was largely at the detriment of strong defensive play.

Whether to blame the lineup choices, individual efforts, or just a red-hot Johnson (he was 13/18 for his 30 points, after all), blaming the defense alone masks the fact that the offense was every bit as putrid. Unless you’re playing again the Orlando Magic lately, 77 points isn’t going to get it done. I’ll defer to the roll call for most of the player-by-player analysis, but allow me a few notes…

DeMar – Wait, so you finally have a break-out game, the media S’s your D for two days saying you’ve turned the corner and rediscovered your aggression, and your response is to….not build on that at all? 4 FT attempts and just 3/9 shooting saw DeMar finish in single digit points yet again, and with one or two exceptions he really failed to attack or put pressure on the Hawks’ D. I remember one maddening play where Zaza got switched onto DeRozan on the outside in an Iso situation, and DeMar opted to dribble and shoot a jumper over him rather than exploiting the huge quickness advantage and space to the lane. It’s been very frustrating to watch him this season, seeing him do his Jekyll and Hyde as it pertains to his offensive game.

Amir – What is going on with him of late? I could probably point to the offseason surgery, the lack of training camp, and the compressed schedule and guess fatigue, but this is a guy who usually makes his living on effort. Dwane Casey said the 0 second half minutes was not a message, but it’s hard to take that at face value given his declining minutes.

Ed Davis – Ed had an efficient 11-and-11, and it’s to the point now where what I see when I watch the game doesn’t appear to be matching up with what media members and the coaching staff see. I personally think Ed has looked strong more often than not, and he’d be my starting 4 or first big off the bench right now, not relegated to the rotational yo-yo. His “Hollinger” numbers don’t support my view, either, so maybe I’ve got rose glasses on or something.

Bayless & Jose – Other than a barrage of 3FG attempts in the first quarter from Bayless, not a whole lot of offense was driven from this pair (Bayless had 14 points with just 2 dimes, while Jose had 9 dimes but just 6 points). These numbers aren’t great, and playing both together will likely fatigue one or both, but at the very least I think it’s a win to see that they can effectively play together on offense – with Bayless manning the 2 – when the opposition’s lineup allows for one to be hidden on a low-offense wing.

The Blake Murphy Vince McMahon “You’re Firrrrred” Watch – The Raptors are now 1-15 across two seasons when I cover games here. If we use the simple assumptions that a) the Raptors 29-75 record between this year and last is their true talent level, and b) that the RR coverage schedule is distributed evenly in terms of schedule strength, then the odds of someone covering a 1-15 stretch are just 3.8%, or slightly worse than 25-to-1.

Looking Ahead – The Raptors draw the Celtics tonight, who are also on the second night of a travel back-to-back after beating the Cavs yesterday. The Big Three all played north of 30 minutes and Rajon Rondo sat out, so maybe there’s hope for the Raptors yet. To be fair, though, I’m covering the game again tonight.

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