I’ll have you know that the Jazz were without Al Jefferson and Derrick Favors, and had Paul Millsap in foul trouble for a large period of the first half and yet managed to, somehow, out-rebound the Raptors 51-41, while collecting 15 offensive rebounds and scoring 131 points, the highest conceded by the Raptors this season. Perhaps a scientific study with control groups and such should be sanctioned right away to find out just how this can possibly happen? Or perhaps the empirical and statistical evidence compiled thus far is sufficient to identify the culprit of such inadequacies to be a sorely lacking Raptors defense, peppered with a dash of laziness.
Let me run you through the first half and a bit, as that was how long this one lasted. The visitors started off fairly well, and it appeared that the absence of Jefferson and Favors had injected some confidence into the unit, as the Raptors were clearly the better team. To help advance the cause, Paul Millsap picked up two fouls and Valanciunas and the Raptors did well to go at him to get some points on their way to a 10-point lead. The Jazz interior game was more or less shot after that, with Enes Kanter as their main big. The Raptors were buzzing, Mickael Pietrus hitting threes, Andrea Bargnani shooting every time he touched it, and the backcourt of DeRozan and Lowry clicking well together to keep the ball moving.
The party ended shortly as the Jazz realized that with their bigs missing, a different approach was needed against the bigger Raptors frontline. Enter forth small ball, and the Jazz lineup of Hayward, Marvin Williams, Carroll, Millsap, and Mo Williams, deconstructed the Raptors defense to full effect, with wide-open threes stemming from excellent ball movement being the watermark of the attack (Jazz were 13-23 3FG!). The Raptors response you ask? Not much, certainly nothing from a strategic point of view. A lineup of Bargnani, DeRozan, Ross, Valanciunas/Johnson, and Lowry, was used for a bit until Lowry got injured which is when Calderon came in. Whatever Casey tried, he couldn’t quite match the Jazz’s perimeter quickness and with the defense not communicating, giving up penetration, and being in a generally confused sort of state, the Jazz scored when they wanted.
The Raptors were all too much in a hurry to urge their own demise, as turnovers started springing up in the unlikeliest of situations and under minimal pressure. The transition defense to counteract those turnovers was obviously not there, so it became a layup-line for the Jazz starting in the second and ending at the final buzzer. The first play of the third quarter is telling of the mentality the two teams came out with. The Jazz ran a crisp double-screen to free up Foye for an open three, whereas the Raptors dumped it to Bargnani on the corner and he took a standstill jumper which was missed. How a deep two with no ball movement was our first play of the third quarter shows you either the quality of the halftime talk, or the attention being paid to it.
I think I saw a zone in the third quarter, but it made no matter, the damage of the second quarter when the Jazz completed a 24-point turnaround (from down 10 to up 14) was always going to be difficult to overcome. Nay, impossible to overcome because the team seems to have given up. Maybe they’ve given up on the roadtrip, or on the coach, or maybe on each other, I don’t know. I do know that the effort out there wasn’t honest, and I realize it only takes a slight nudge to fall down when you’re already reeling, but that’s where character is to be relied on for support. That character is what I associate with Casey and, perhaps mistakenly, with this team. It was nowhere to be found and the Raptors bent the knee in submission.
I don’t want to go too much into individual performances, because the Raptors collectively failed as a team on defense and were, to a man, selfish on offense – always looking for their own. When the blowout was made official in the third by having the game shoved down their throat, and even during the fourth when the tea-bagging was complete, was when the accusing glances were most noticeable, the body language defeated, and the belief gone. Entirely. There’s even no need talking about Terrence Ross’ thwarted playing time, and how after having an effective first half he didn’t see the court till a minute left in the third. I cannot find an explanation other than Casey perhaps saving him for Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
As the Jazz were expanding on their lead in the third with the team looking completely defeated and deflated, Casey didn’t even bother calling a timeout. Even the conservative Jack Armstrong couldn’t help but scratch his head at Casey’s willingness to “let them play”. A team which has shown the type of weakness of character and resolve as the Raptors have cannot be hoped upon to recover themselves. I’m far from suggesting a timeout in the early third could’ve won this game, but it sure would’ve given pause to the proceedings and maybe some time for the team to reflect upon the fact that they were getting blown out by a team that had no business winning this.
This was a game that was there to be taken if the team had decided to play 48 minutes of basketball. Instead, they came out early and found some success as the Jazz were finding themselves. They mistook that success as the norm for the night and inexplicably downshifted. The Jazz did the rest.
The Quick Reaction has more.
Here’s a quick rundown of general impressions of the notables so far this season. Nothing too statistical.
Bargnani – He don’t give a shit and this doesn’t bother him. Look at him on the court for more than 60 continuous seconds and you know everything you need to about the guy.
Valanciunas – His character is to be respected even if the results have been varied.
Lowry – A point guard is the captain who has to stabilize the ship when the waters are choppy. When he’s hitting his shots he can run with the team, when he’s not, he disrupts it function. There’s no in-between.
DeRozan – Wants to be the man on the team, is aggressive enough to do it and plays the right position for it, but is some time away to actually start carrying the team, which is what he ends up trying to do too often.
Ross – Finding his role and taking his time in doing so. There’s no hurry here, he can take the rest of the season to figure things out.