Raptors’ western woes continue

One more game to go for this dreadful road trip to end.

The Raptors hung around for 3 quarters, but once the final deciding quarter rolled around, the Clippers simply stepped up their defensive intensity and the Raptors could not respond.

Now, the most interesting event of this game didn’t take place on the court, but was an appearance by the President/GM Bryan Colangelo. He spoke with Matt and Jack for a few minutes. Likable guy, really. He complained about a moving screen, commented on a turnover by Terrence Ross. Self-deprecating, well-spoken and always equipped with an answer delivered with oodles of confidence. There were two main points that stood out for me.

1. This team is talented. They just lack focus.
2. This team is talented. They are just really young right now.

They lack focus? Sounds so simple. But does it make any sense? Look no further than this game, which is actually quite similar to the pattern of other games this year.

What pattern, you say? The Raptors seem to fall apart a lot in the fourth. So they start losing focus in the final, deciding quarter of the game? Or is it that the Raptors might have been overachieving for a good portion of the game, and when the other team decides to step it up, the talent level is too much to overcome?

Majority of NBA games are somewhat close going into the fourth. That’s just how it works. It’s a long distance race that turns into a sprint around the final bend. The more talented teams win that final sprint, more than any other sport. This issue of closing games is a talent issue, nothing else. Andrea Bargnani isn’t that guy who you can rely on to score in these situations. DeMar DeRozan is not. You would hope Kyle Lowry would be for the kind of draft pick he was traded for, but he hasn’t shown he can either.

The Clippers have three guys who have the talent to score in crunch time situations. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and even this year`s Jamal Crawford. This team lacks the talent to create offense in the fourth quarter. If they do manage to, it’s usually at home against one of the weak sisters of the Association.

Quit blaming the coach. He could have tried 100 different things and the end result would more or less be the same. In fact, his mixing up of defensive schemes, to zone, actually confused the Clippers for stretches. You don’t see other teams doing that, maybe they don’t really need to against the Raptors. Casey avoided the two point guard lineup, but fans will always find a way to justify that the COACH lost them the game, rather than accept the more sobering reality that the team itself is just not good enough.

That’s where we are. The team is not not good enough. Not good enough to contend, not even good enough to be average, which is exactly what gets you into the playoffs in the Eastern conference.

This team is still young? Let’s look at the age of our team, and since we played the Clippers, let’s compare again.

Kyle Lowry – 26
DeMar DeRozan – 23
Linas Kleiza – 27
Andrea Bargnani – 27
Jonas Valunciunas – 20

Chris Paul – 27
Willie Green – 31
Caron Butler – 32
Blake Griffin – 23¸
DeAndre Jordan – 24

The “core” guys for the Clippers are Paul, Griffin and Jordan. 27, 23, 24
Our “core” guys are Lowry, DeRozan and Bargnani. 26, 23, 27

I don’t see much difference in ages there. Good players peak fairly quickly. You don’t have to wait on them for long. There isnt much of a “process” as Colangelo is apt to say.

The Raptors are a relatively young team, but their main players have amassed a lot of playing time at the NBA level and are likely not to improve much more. Valunciunas is the obvious exception, but how much better will Lowry, DeRozan and Bargnani get.

Andrea might actually be on the way down. It’s been researched that most NBA players peak at the age of 25. After that, some maintain their peak, some even appear to get better, but for the most part players decline. The ones who have good work ethic generally tend to fare better. We know where Bargnani stands here.

Talent needs to be added to this team for it to get better. It’s not going to happen organically as Colangelo wants you to believe. Sure, the schedule will become favorable in a week or so, and some home cooking will bring in wins. But the reality is that this core can’t perform against some of the better teams in this league, and beating the Washington Wizards is not going to change that reality.

This time around, the game was pretty much over before the starters came back in during the 4th quarter. DeMar and Jose Calderon could not get any offense going early in the fourth. Just a lot of outside jumpers while Eric Bledsoe and Jamal Crawford carved up the Raptor defense. It was over before Chris Paul and Blake Griffin had a chance to get back in the game.

The Raptors`response?

9:06 DeMar DeRozan makes two point shot
7:03 Amir Johnson makes free throw 1 of 2
7:03 Amir Johnson makes free throw 2 of 2

0:19 Linas Kleiza makes 26-foot three point jumper

Nothing for the last 7 minutes of the game. Dissect it any which way you want to, that’s a lack of offensive talent. We’ve seen it time and time again this year.

Our General Manager thinks the team can fix it by focusing harder. Right.

At this point, as a fan, you want to see the shit hit the fan. Let the losses pile up so we can hopefully see some changes right at the top, starting with the dismissal of Bryan Colangelo.

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