Lakers fired Mike Brown. I saw that coming the day he got hired.

It’s Philly at home today and the visitors are on a back-to-back after beating Boston last night. Kyle Lowry remains questionable due to his injury and is a game-time decision. Landry Fields is also questionable, in more ways than one. Despite not having Andrew Bynum to start the season and being widely criticized for their off-season, the Sixers come in at 3-2 with the two losses being to the red-hot Knicks. Unlike the Raptors, they’ve got some momentum on their side and are threatening to have the Raptors start the season 1-5, with a home game against the Jazz coming up. After that it’s on the road against Indiana and Boston, and those aren’t easy trips.

Thinking about this start a little more and you come to the conclusion that the game the Raptors have truly dropped this season is the home one against the Pacers since losses to the Nets, OKC, and Mavericks are to be expected. The panic button is still stashed away for now, and will remains so unless the Raptors can’t get at least one of two against the Sixers or Jazz. The problem, as identified by Casey himself, has been defense. As good as we’ve been in forcing teams to turn the ball over (2nd in Opponent TO% at 16.9% behind ATL), our transition defense has been poor and there are times when our aggressiveness on the perimeter has left tons of space underneath for back-cuts, forced players to make lengthy rotations, and has reduced the “recoverability” of our defense. Aggressiveness has its virtues and we love it; on closer examination of the personnel, however, it has may have more drawbacks.

Maybe these are growing pains of a team learning to work together, a team which has three front-court players who have never played with each other and three new starters. The DRTG is 106.3, down 2 points from last year (from 14th to 22nd), which has prompted Casey to do a good ‘ol gap analysis:

“Today we got after it, man,” forward Anderson said. “(Casey) posted the defensive percentages last year versus now and we could see where we let off. We want to get back to where we were at least last year and those will bring wins right there, just getting back to that.”

“We are going to get back to that,” Casey said. “We have to get those numbers down. Our major problem is not protecting the paint. We are stretched out. Our steals numbers are up and that’s not a number I like because that means our paint is open. Last year we were third or fourth in protecting against points in the paint and that’s what we have to do. That’s where our problems start. The other part is getting back in transition to give our defence a chance. Most of those are in the first quarter for whatever reason.”

You can’t have your cake and eat it too, is what the Raptors are finding out. It’s about balance, I suppose. Can’t be too aggressive because it leaves you open underneath, and when you don’t have a guy with Tyson Chandler`s mobility who can hedge a guard and come back to contest the baseline drive, you suddenly have choices to make. The poor play of Landry Fields (and let’s be honest, he’s been terrible on both sides of the court), having a defensive void like Bargnani starting, is likely to undo whatever good Lowry and Valanciunas bring. It sounds by Casey`s comments that he`s going to be asking the team to hold serve on defense by falling back and playing a traditional half-court set instead of gambling on perimeter passing lanes and trapping guards. He`s got the right center in Valanciunas to do that, I`m not sure about the other frontcourt positions.

Basically, Casey’s defense in Toronto relies on a slower pace and the current rate of 94.1 is well ahead of last year’s 89.3. In other words, slow down.

I’m not too worried about the Raptors, mostly because I find the games generally enjoyable to watch and have been conditioned to the losing. At least this year they have a real player in Kyle Lowry and I thoroughly enjoy Jonas Valanciunas busting his ass on the court. There’s no way he should be starting on any NBA team aiming to achieve anything of significance but given the situation in Toronto, he’s in a perfect role. Terrence Ross has been us grimace so far, not so much because he’s taking people’s eyes out with airballs, but because his nerves seem to be shot. He just needs to relax, not force shots and understand that he’s going to get his minutes whatever happens and that he doesn’t have to prove anything every time he’s on the court.

Back to Philly, and even though they scored a 100 against Boston last night they remain the worst offensive team in the league so you would expect the Raptors defense to hold up at home. Jrue Holiday is the leading scorer with 18 and Thaddeus Young far behind at 13.8. I expect the Raptors to realize the urgency of the situation and pull through at home.

  • Nilanka15

    Raps need to win both these games at home (Philly and Utah). Following that, 12 of the next 15 games are on the road. I’d hate to go into that stretch 1-6 or even 2-5. If we fall too far below .500 early in the season, it could be too much of a psychological obstacle to overcome with this mentally fragile/inexperienced team.

    • sleepz

      Can see them beating philly with no Bynum but Utah has some players that Raps have no answer for (Milsap, Jefferson, Hayward). 

  • Canadian Paul

    Raps go down early, try to recover frenetically in the second half and lose by a whisker. 92-88 Philly

    • JHP

      Totally agree.  You have 1 guy down with a bad ankle, one guy with a band hand (switch hands !!!) and another guy away on personal issues. Throw in a couple scrubs, couple 1st year players and your scenario looks about right.

      And to make matters worse you have AB and Jose kind of just going thru the motions.  AB because he can and Jose cause it’s his last year.  My unreliable crystal ball says at least 2 other players will go down when the road games really start.  By then a couple guys will be back (rusty/out of shape/…) and the status quo can be retained.  2/3 starters banged up at all times.  Then at Christmas BC will pull out the injuries/new players and the team has yet to jell card.  You would think they were playing full contact football :-)

      I like the new players but I’ve seen this type of season play out before.  Next year we’ll see another 6/7 new faces and the cycle will repeat itself.


  • Daniel

    Actually Arse, Lowry and Jonas are the problem defensively. One is gambling all the times, leaving passing lanes open, and the other doesn’t hedge correctly. On a higher level though, how do you figure that we are worse defensively than last year and the new players are not to blame for that? It just doesn’t make any sense. The entire off-season the arguments have been turned upside down among the media, mainstream and alternative. It’s quite a shame. The media is supposed to provide objective analysis and informed opinion. It failed miserably, the same as for the Blue Jays the previous off-season. I came to the conclusion that fans in this city are not knowledgeable but easily impressionable by the top brass and the media. It is shocking that the arenas are still full when the product is awful.

    • Arsenalist

      What I mean is that if the Raptors fall back to a less aggressive defensive style, Lowry and Jonas will be fine. I agree, their current style of D is causing issues at the back, but I think a good team deals with that by having a Plan B at the back.

      In conclusion, at least they’re doing something positive so it’s good enough for the early season.

    • Theswirsky

      “The media is supposed to provide objective analysis and informed opinion.”

      and because it doesn’t give the analysis or opinion you want to hear it failed miserably? 

      “how do you figure that we are worse defensively than last year and the new players are not to blame for that”

      well lets see:

      – Andrea has played every game this year, unlike last year where he played less than half the season.  Toronto’s defensive rating was much worse with Bargnani than without.

      – the relationship between increased pace and decreased defense

      – less minutes for the teams best defenders

      – less zone defense

      – quality of opponents so far + incredibly small sample size

      – Lowry’s injury.  Toronto dropped from top 10 defensively to below 20 from before the OKC game until today.

      Those are all possible considerations to go along with your ‘new faces’ argument.  If we take a quick look at players defense ratings though, the two bottom players so far are Bargnani and Jose (aside from Acy’s 4 minutes played).  The two best are Lowry and Amir. 

      While Jonas may be hurting the team defensively right now, that shouldn’t be a suprise as he is a rookie.  Thinking Lowry has been a problem defensively is just a joke statement period.  With all the evidence pointing in the exact opposite direction – from the advanced numbers, to simply looking at the quality of D over the last 2 games without Lowry, to actually watching the game.

      If Toronto doesn’t go back to what it did last year (slow pace, avoiding offensive rebounds to run back on D, more zone D) and keeps giving heavy minutes to Bargnani, this teams D will most definetely be worse.  But having Lowry on the floor is only benifiting this team, and not having Jonas on the floor will hurt this team in the long run.

      • Balls of Steel

        Agreed. The team is second in forcing TOs and I attribute some of that to Lowrys aggressive defensive style. JV should spend some time on the bench. As for Bargs, if the team finds its record to be 3-12, the other shoe has to drop (either Casey gets fired, or Bargs gets traded). The defensive rating will be worse this year than last because of Bargs minutes. Something’s got to give if we want to see progress here.

    • mountio

      The insinuation that Lowry is worse than (or even comparable to) Jose defensively (you dont come right out and say it .. but its implied throughout) is laughable.

  • NyAlesund

    We have to win this game.

    I am wondering why didn’t we take Dragic instead  Lowry?

    • nottheendoftheworld

      Defense, dude .. we needed toughness and someone to represent it.

      I feel if he hadn’t gone down, we’d be 2-3.

      • NyAlesund

        Ok defense, but running the offense is also important. And until now Lowry didn’t show a lot.

        As regard the defense, I am wondering what kind of toughness we would have had from Nash.

  • sangaman

    Who invented the scheme that has Bargnani constantly trying to trap guards at the perimeter? It never works and he leaves his man open to do so.. 

    • FAQ

      I noticed this too, and Bargs is doing his utmost to trap and then run back to defend against the opposing centre.  This exhausts Bargs and affects his shooting touch.

      Let’s just accept the fact that Bargs is not a rebounding leaper even though he is a 7 footer.  He hardly elevates at the arc for his 3-pointers or even his pull-up jumpers.

      What you see is what you got with Bargs, and to ask him to add rebounding to his game is just asking for too much.  He tries to play tough defence, but his ‘jumpless’ legs just stop him. 

      Now how does the coaching staff mitigate that situation?

      • Dc

        HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. It’s too much to ask a 7 footer to rebound now???? geez. The less bargnani performs the dumber the excuses get for real. Tim Duncan, blake griffen, zach randolph, marc gasol, dirk nowitzki, andrew bynum, kevin garnett, amare, tyson chandler, dwight howard, pau gasol. Are just a list of names off the top of my head that are around 7 ft that defend and rebound efficiently. Your excuse is lame as hell. Bargs is a 6th man at best I don’t see why this can’t be accepted stop pulling out them lame ass excuses for his lackadasical effort on d and rebounding. If his shot aint falling he’s basically useless as a player. 

        • nottheendoftheworld

          His man defense is actually better than about half of the names you list here, and Dirk is about as abysmal a rebounder. 

          I think the point was that he can’t rebound effectively, or help on D, so to continue to expect this of him is futile.

      • what the

        they ask him to give back some of the money he got from BC.

    • Balls of Steel

      He’s trying to hedge as with most bigs in Casey’s scheme (actually most of good defensive teams in the league). His problem is that he’s lackadaisical in getting back.

      • FAQ

        I disagree… Bargs is scurrying back… he’s not ‘lackadaisical’.  He may get trapped, but he’s busting his arse to get back to cover his man under the basket.  What’s the rest of the team doing??

        I think it’s stupid of Casey to have Bargs trapping the guard and then asking him run to the backcourt to defend.  Stupid stupid stupido..!!!

  • j bean

    Last year’s defensive success meant an emphasis this year at trying to add some much needed potency at the other end. So what happens, three new starters haven’t had the same focus on defensive responsibilities and it shows. It’s good to hear Casey is going to rectify that situation. His strength on defense is the foundation they have to build on. 

    • FAQ

      Playing effective defence requires a higher b-ball IQ, than playing offense.  You can rest on offence, but you gotta work your butt off on defence.

      Let’s just admit that this newly cobbled together bunch of players just don’t have the physical nor mental skills to play consistently strong team and individual defence.

      • j bean

        -1.  Sometimes I wonder how serious your posts are. The main additions to the team can all play defensively. Last year Casey slowed things down and even had AB motivated by a new emphasis on team D. This year they’re playing a more up tempo game and have given up 30 point quarters it seems every game. With a re-focus Casey will demonstrate this team will be as good as last year defensively and is better than last year offensively. 

        • FAQ

          I question the seriousness of your comments.  You’re assuming that Casey will succeed by a simple “re-focus”.  How do you know this?

          You assume that the new player additions can play defensively on a Raptor team.  How do you know this?

          You’re assumptions are nothing more than personal conjecture.

          • CJT

            As are yours.  Just the opposite ones.

  • 511

    I’m curious to see who-gets-what minutes tonight and how the team comes out and ‘competes’ as Casey’s been liking to say. It’s getting precarious now the way the schedule is lining up and with what they’ve done with what they’ve had so far (not enough), they have to know it as well as anybody. 

    The gloves should be off as far as who starts and/or stays out there … and if Casey really is the coach that some of us (or I) like to think he is, he’ll have them ready to go balls-out tonight to take this mofo. Counting on, at the very least, a GOOD game. GR. 

  • mountio

    As for defensive ability .. I think people often overlook the biggest contributor – pace. The year before Casey gets here, we are running up and down .. and look brutal on D. Casey slows things down (to the point where our offense was putrid) .. all of a sudden “weve made so much defensive improvement!”. Now, we pick up the pace and people are scratching their heads .. what happened? I realize there are a number of other factors .. but the most simple thing is pace. If we slow it back down, we will start to look a lot better defensively (but is that the best thing for the team?)

    • The Truth

       “If we slow it back down, we will start to look a lot better defensively (but is that the best thing for the team?)”

      The best thing for the team would be having personnel capable of increasing the pace *and* playing good defence. Unfortunately we have built our empire on scrubs and more scrubs though so here we are.

      • FAQ

        … and that’s the brutal reality that t.h.f.’s on the forum can’t accept.. and then try to find somebody to blame and hate.  Such a childish mentality!!!

    • Philoveritas

       Slowing the pace and using more of the clock allows you to extend your starters it also provides the same benefit to the other team. If the raptors’ strength is truly their bench then they should push the pace to wear out the opposing starters while bringing in fresh legs which should be better than the competition. Casey wants to slow the pace because it drives down the overall score which makes his team defensive stats look better.

  • mountio

    On a total aside .. its interesting to see Harden coming back to earth .. has looked pretty bad the last few games.
    Will be an interesting test for the advanced stats believers and the PER36 crowd. I was convinced he would regress when teams had a chance to focus on him as the first option. I looked like I was going to be proved wrong with his first couple amazing (and efficient!) games. Now .. maybe Ill be right? We will see ..
    Obviously applicable to the low minute / no one cares about Raps (Amir, Ed) and how they would do with more minutes / teams focusing on them …

  • Rpsfan95

    Raps favoured by -2.5 o/u: 187

  • Philoveritas

    I am trying to remain realistic about the season thus far. Considering the raptors schedule I had expected them to lose games early. To be honest I have been surprised that they have been competitive in almost all of them(OKC was ugly). The one thing that they are missing is a closer. Lowry has shown that he can score big buckets but not when they game is on the line. Andrea ain’t that guy either, or DeRozan. Landry Fields can’t even hit buckets that don’t matter. Jonas will only ever get a game winner by being in the right place at the right time. This is clearly another rebuilding year so it’s gonna be hard to watch. But I love to watch basketball so I’ll still watch it and cheer on the home team…

  • ad

    All the games with the exception of the OKC game have been winnable. Raps NEED to get these 2 home games or at least 2 out of the next four. They cant afford to lost the next four games and start 1-8. Thats a very deep hole to get out of for this team. Tonights game is very winnable since they are at home and both teams are missing their best player. As much as it hurts to say this, I would probably start Anderson. Well, because who else? The bench desperately needs scoring and kleiza should stay there.

    • FAQ

      This is a “development” team, so why are you putting so much importance on “winning”??  I would think you should be concentrating on what the team and coach are doing towards development.

      The current edition of the Raptors is a team under construction, not trying to win to get into the playoffs … which is contrary to what BC and DC are telling the gullible, pleasure-seeking fans to put bums into the seats.

      • ad

         How long is this team going to be under “development”? They have been for the last 2 years and BC pretty much got rid of all the flexibility with the idiotic dd extension. Look, they are a shit team but the fan in me will always want to see them win. Especially this early in the season when there is sooo much basketball left and I cant tolerate another terrible season.

        • ad

           Ive always said this is a 35 win team but at the same time i want them to be competitive and surprise me.

  • Jamshid

    This should be an easy win for us. We are at home. We had few days rest. Phi played last night. They don’t have Bynum and ….

  • Ppellico

    you wanna play run n gun ball when you do NOT have the talent.
    This team has Jonas…but still is not able to play defense even with his fleet feet.

    Amir has fast feet…but is small.
    Gray is big and plays defense but is  s  l  o w.

    IF you are gonna play run n gun…get the payers.
    If slow…put in Gray.

    Right now tis team is confused and playing terrible ball.
     They are not playing to their talent.

  • hotfuzz

    Kinda off topic, but what’s up with the game chat? It always starts when the game is halfway done. Someone fix that ish.

  • OvertheWall

    I really hope that the team sucks big time for the next stretch, so that we will all frigging realize that Bargnani is the problem.  Well, I mean they do know that, but management won’t act unless fans react to the record.  So, keep the losses coming, PLEASE!

  • Southie42

    In the opener they missed open looks going down the stretch and squandered their 10 point lead.  The Raptors are so disappointing.  What’s the opposite of magic, because they have it.  

  • Gered

    If they lose this game I will hop on the tanking train.

  • chrisbem1

    Relax everyone.  Right now, AB is shooting about 36%.  That will not last for the whole season, regardless of whether or not he’s hedging on D, rebounding better, etc. We would all like to see more from him, and while he’s not going to become a superstar, he will be better than he has been so far. 

    Fields is shooting 20% and has looked terrible.  IMO (and I don’t think I’m alone here), he’s trying to play up to his contract and do too much.  He will be better as the season goes on- don’t panic yet.  He’s also not going to be a superstar, but he will be better than he has been so far. 

    JV is a rookie, so of course he has looked lost out there at times.  Take a minute and look at the numbers some other 5s put up as rookies.  He’s not a superstar right now, but look at what he’s doing now, and let him develop.  We can all talk about how we feel about his game at the end of the season-5s take some time to develop.

    Wait until after 15 games.  If our record is 6-9 after all those road games, we’re in good shape.  

  • cesco

    The game is on TSN2 not TSN .

  • Minks77

    ohmygawd, AB was actually able to turn the corner and score!


  • Dan

     Time to fire BC. He’s a terrible GM and this team will continue to lose with him in charge.

    • Jamshid

      What about the financial flexibility that he gave our team?
      What about the age of this team and how young we are ?
      Ask Matt52 to explain these for you and then you can see how great BC is 😉

  • Minks77

    synergy of jose n amir indeed! What a way to close the 3rd q