Two bad teams going at it and it so happened that the Raptors lost to the worst team in the league. There’s very little to talk about here, and much like the game in Toronto last week, this was played with minimal intensity and served as a shining example that there are times where players show up to collect a cheque. Normally, you’d be more upset but on a night like this where this is literally nothing on the line, you can almost give it a pass. And since I wasn’t too excited about the win in Toronto, I can’t be too upset about this loss, can I?
DeRozan and Gay started off well individually. Gay had his jumper working in isolation situations and stuck strictly on the perimeter or the first half. It was refreshing to see DeRozan go at a tight-checker in Henderson for a change, and the two combined to form the Raptors offense. While their production dipped in the second half (12-18 FG in the first, 3-12 FG in the second), there was someone who played this game from start to finish: Jonas Valanciunas (18 pts, 6-11 FG, 8 reb).
[Also read: Reaction: Raptors 101, Bobcats 107]
The wins and losses don’t matter any more and the rest of the season is about Valanciunas and Ross, the former of which was the positive last night. He may not even be a top ten rookie but for us Raptors fans he’s the knight in shining armor who gives meaning to this joyless existence. He’s getting more touches on the right block, is gaining some confidence in his moves, and as has been the case all season, is presenting himself beautifully in any two-man situation. If only the Raptors had playmakers at the wing position that can work with him, we might even have the nucleus of a go-to play.
Ross was a different story (2-5 FG, 4 pts, 2 reb). His role as a shooter off the bench means he can’t expect much warm-up time before he’s asked to test his jumper, and that’s been a problem for him. Invariably, his first shot is usually way off (an airball last night), and that affects his confidence and the rest of his game. I was expecting him to have a good game, given the open nature and no/poor defense exhibited by both teams. Maybe it’s a question of touches for Ross, but you honestly can’t expect Casey to start calling plays for him and initiate offense through a rookie. He really has to go and get it, which he does very little of. His best play of the game was a put-back layup. More of that is needed and less of not knowing who you’re supposed to guard, which is what happened in the fourth.
Charlotte shot 63% in the second quarter to offset the start DeRozan and Gay had given them, turning this into a tight game in the second half. They followed that up by shooting 57% in the third quarter which is when the Raptors defense was in complete shambles. In the second and third quarters, the Raptors couldn’t defend without fouling and that shows up in the 40-26 FTA difference. On top of it, the effort dropped. I realize these games don’t count and you’re just trying to get through the season, but I think avoiding a loss to the NBA’s worst team should serve up some kind of motivation, no? Motivation and effort is the reason I still support Casey (sure as hell isn’t his playbook), and if that’s going to hit levels like we saw last night, not sure how long I can defend the man.
Charlotte pulled away in the fourth, Ben Gordon got a couple key scores for them; for me the difference-makers were the Charlotte bigs (McRobers, Mullens) that did well to crash the offensive glass, pass the ball well from the high-post, and caused the type of problems for Valanciunas and Johnson which they aren’t usually accustomed to. Oh well, Johnson’s been a beast all season so all is forgiven, and Valanciunas is a rookie who is showing enough in other areas to warrant a pass.
Gay twisted his ankle and left the game in the fourth and DeRozan and the Raptors couldn’t pick up the offensive slack. Kyle Lowry, who had a very poor first half and bounced back moderately in the third, couldn’t contain Kemba Walker at the point-of-attack, and more importantly, allowed the latter to dictate tempo throughout. The Raptors did go 17-17 from the FT line in the fourth which was the result of Gay and Valanciunas getting to the rim, so the right offense was at least being played. It was the defense that let the team down in the fourth as Charlotte marched to the line 15 times, got key second chance points, and caught the Raptors napping in transition.
In conclusion, a heavy reliance on isolation plays, lack of established two-man patterns, and a defense that drifts between disinterested and lazy means the Raptors drop one to a Charlotte team that circles these kinds of games on their calendar. I do like McRoberts as a player, mostly because I value big-man passing, which is missing entirely from the Raptors’ offense. As the Raptors look for trade options for Andrea Bargnani, I’m thinking you’re not going to get much and will have to perhaps aim for someone like McRoberts. Meh. Thought I’d throw that in there.
This was a brutal game to watch, and was made that much worse by Leo Rautins and Matt Devlin who have got the shine out and are polishing the turd to full effect. We get it, the current roster isn’t as bad as the one in December and the record proves that, but can we please stop projecting wildly into what this team may be able to accomplish next season? Can we, for once, call the game a little more objectively and not devote the full 2 1/2 hours to kissing Bryan Colangelo’s ass? Let’s just acknowledge that the Raptors have made a gamble with Gay, and whether that gamble will pay off remains to be seen. By no means has the play since the trade served as a clear sign that we’re on the right path, just a shorter, riskier one. The bottom line is this: the Raptors have missed the playoffs for five straight years under Colangelo. That is the worst record of any Raptors GM ever. Not even the expansion years were this bad – they only missed it for four straight seasons. Everything this man does turns out to be wrong so let’s wait before getting too excited.
As you were, the Raptors play a meaningless game – outcome hardly matters.