You want me to take this game seriously? We had our announcers singing over the PA in a one-point game in the fourth quarter. Obviously, they’re taking a lighter, non-serious, approach to this season, so there’s little reason why anyone else should see things in a different light. This is on the heels of the ACC cheering wildly for Jeremy Lin after he beat the home team at the buzzer. I don’t know what’s going on at 40 Bay St., but something is seriously wrong, and I’m not even referring to the product on the court.
I signed up for rebuilding, I didn’t sign up for having the Charlotte Bobcats, losers of 16-straight games, coming into our house and beating us on our home floor to give MJ a birthday present. That is not cool – rebuilding or not. There are too many things amiss to point them out one-by-one, so let’s trudge through the game until we reach the main talking point here – matchups.
DeRozan pulled up for a cool, casual, mid-range jumper in the early first quarter and knocked it down. It was one of those shots that exudes confidence, reflects the relaxed nature of the player, and gives the viewer the distinct feeling that the offense for the player is there on the night. 13 points to be exact in the first quarter, mostly jumpers. Of course, if DeRozan’s bane isn’t poor finishing near the rim, it’s his defense and Reggie Williams outdid him with 14 in the same amount of time.
Offense rarely sets a tone in the game because you can never sustain it for the full 48, defense is longer-lasting and it’s Bismack Biyombo’s 7 blocks (the party started in the first, went all the way to the fourth) that one remembers the most from the first half. That’s a season/career high for him, and they weren’t just regular blocks, they were ones that started fastbreaks. For the Raptors, Calderon added to DeRozan’s offense by turning past Kemba Walker and D.J Augustin on high screens, while Charlotte had Corey Maggette (Xhibit or Method Man?) doing Corey Maggette stuff, i.e., using his physical strength to bull his way to the rim, and when he’s feeling just a dash of laziness, unleashing wayward jumpers with full aplomb.
The energy was decent in the first quarter for both teams and the Raptors finished it up one. The second was where I witnessed one of the worst individual spells of basketball ever played. Jerryd Bayless was brought in to counter DJ Augustin’s quickness, and the man was torn to shreds on every single defensive possession. On offense, he took two wild shots and missed both, one of them an airball floater. It took all of five minutes for Casey to decide enough was enough and Anthony Carter was inserted to quell the onslaught. Bayless never saw the floor again.
Kemba Walker and DJ Augustin dictated the tempo and style of this game for the remainder of the night, with Casey refusing to once again be creative in defending a quick point. I would’ve at least tried putting James Johnson (great overall game – 14pts, 8reb, 2stl) on one of those two to keep them on the perimeter and force them into a jumper, especially Kemba Walker. I love Kemba, but he had no business penetrating the way he did without ever having to prove his jumper first.
The Augustin and Maggette-led attack had the Raptors down two at the break, and it was enough for Devlin to use the phrase “vintage Maggette”. The Raptors had their moments in the second, a great steal by Calderon leading to a DeRozan dunk being the apex of the frame, but Charlotte’s penetration at the point always meant clean shots from the perimeter, and when their big men could manage to hang on to the ball with their wooden hands, chances underneath.
Amir Johnson and Ed Davis held their ground against Biyombo’s size, and Diaw’s low-post game, so they’re certainly not to be blamed for anything tonight. The rebounding battle was even and the Raptors were +6 in point in the paint, so make no mistake, this game was lost on the perimeter.
The Raptors took the lead again in the third by capitalizing on Charlotte turnovers, and had the crowd on their feet. Charlotte looked a little rattled and had the Raptors gone on a bit of a run, the Bobcats would’ve folded. Instead, some great point guard play by DJ Augustin, checked now by Calderon, kept the Bobcats offense chugging along. The Bobcats closed the quarter on a Kemba Walker drive which slashed the lead to one. A crucial bucket which gave the Bobcats a lift heading into the final quarter. If they had doubts until now, surely now they felt they had a chance to win.
After DeRozan got called for an offensive foul which knocked the wind out of him early in the third, his offense sputtered a bit. By the fourth rolled around, it was Barbosa who once again took the onus of scoring upon himself and fared well, often producing in situations where you’d bet against him: little ball movement, left on his own to produce, but produces. Unfortunately, it’s the other end of the floor where the game was lost. Walker and Augustin caused havoc against Calderon and Barbosa while Casey looked on. The two plays that had a massive impact of the result were Walker’s two crucial steals in transition against Barbosa, which would’ve easily resulted in four points. Overall, the poor FT and three-point shooting didn’t help matters and could be the technical causes of the loss, but it should never come to that against the Bobcats. At home.
The absence of Kleiza and Bargnani cannot be used an excuse as well, not on the heels of the performances against the Lakers, Spurs, and even the Knicks. This was a simple case of a team which, despite the mounting losses, has been performing well of late playing “down” to the level of their competition. If you can believe that. I’m honestly surprised that we saw the effort we did last night because that’s not what Casey’s tenure has been all about.
This was one ugly loss that a fan simply can’t accept. Under any circumstance.
Photo Credit: (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Frank Gunn)