East’s Battle in the Basement an Entertaining Display of Mediocrity


Blake Murphy’s fate at Raptors Republic.

Raptors 108, Wizards 111 (OT) – Box

Tanking: The act of a sports team intentionally losing to better its chances of receiving a high pick in the draft.
Blakeing: The act of Raptors Republic assigning Blake Murphy coverage of a game against a sub-.500 team to ensure a Raptors loss to better their chances of receiving a high pick in the draft.

After all, this is what we have all been saying we wanted, right? Games that are played hard, fought competitively, but ultimately lost? That should be especially true against our fellow dregs, in this case the now-5-20 Washington Wizards. Yes, the Raptors fought back from down as many as 18 to force overtime against the Wizards, ultimately losing by three after some poor execution down the stretch.

Of course, no team has any business ever being down 18 points to this Wizards squad, so we all, along with coach Dwane Casey, were understandably frustrated that such a comeback was even a requirement.

From ESPN…

“That was a bad exhibition of basketball,” Casey observed. “We had an unprofessional start.”
The Raptors trailed by 10 after the first quarter, 29-19, and by 57-42 at halftime.
Casey ripped his team at halftime, and they responded by falling even further behind before cutting the deficit to 82-72 after three.
“You have to go off on them at halftime to get them to play. It shouldn’t have to ever get to that, and that’s why I was disappointed, even with the second-half comeback,” Casey said.

Can’t say I disagree, but if we want to take some positives from the game, let’s start our analysis at the end of the third quarter, as the Raptors closed on an 11-3 run capped by a James Johnson triple, cutting the lead to a manageable 10 points…

*The Raptors continued the run to start the fourth, as a Jerryd Bayless 3-ball cuts the lead to 7 and forces a Wizards timeout at the 9-minute mark. Of course, this 18-7 run has happened with Nick Young and John Wall on the bench for the Wizards, and they check back in to try and stop the bleeding. At this point Bayless is 6/13 shooting with just a single turnover. The story down the stretch really was Bayless’ aggression and the pressure he puts on a defense weighed against his decision making.

*Five minutes have passed and the Raptors finally break the 7-point plateau they’ve been nibbling at, as DeMar deciddes to attack and gets to the line. Bayless follows with a quick 3-ball, forcing another Wittman timeout. The announcers praise Jamal Magloire for a strong screen to free up Bayless, completely ignoring the fact that he has no business being on the floor over Ed or Amir. The lead is down to 96-93 with 3:39 to play.

*Bayless rushes an early-shot clock long-two, completely negating a great defensive stand where the Raps forced a late-clock attempt. Wall follows up with a pair of free throws after a Kleiza blocking foul.

*Bayless (it’s all him right now) hits a 24-footer with just 4 on the shot clock, and Nick Young misses a jumper. 98-96 Wiz with 2 minutes to go.

*Bayless (remember him?) drives wildly under the basket and throws an ill-advised pass…that the Wizards knock out of bounds. Bayless follows it up by air-balling a three….which the Wizards knock out of bounds. With 0.7 on the shot clock, the inbounds is for Kleiza who BANKS a deuce to tie the game. Unbelievable 24 seconds of basketball there, with two big mistakes from Bayless being bailed out by a bank shot, of all things, from Linas.

*Trevor Booker reclaims the lead with a pair of free throws. Bayless misses a layup that he was driving too quickly on, but Amir grabs an O-board, setting up a wide-open Kleiza three for the lead, their first since it was 2-0.

*John Wall takes the lead back, using only 8 seconds of clock. Bayless hits a pair of free throws, and then fouls Wall too weakly, allowing him to make a ridiculous And-1 layup. Wall misses the free throw, but Jan Vesley manages to tip the ball to Jordan Crawford on the rebound, who is fouled and splits a pair. 105-103 Wiz, 17.3 seconds remaining.

*Amir sets a high screen for Bayless, who of course misses the layup….setting up an Amir Johnson put-back jam to tie it. James Johnson blocks a Nick Young jumper with 0.9 seconds on the clock to force overtime.

I’ll move a little quicker through OT…

*Raptors allow an offensive rebound on the first play, turning a potential lead into a 2-0 deficit. Bayless misses a lay-up but Amir grabs the board, only for Kleiza to miss a three at the end of the clock after 27 ugly pump fakes. Luckily, Epic Vale knocks this wild miss out of bounds for some reason, giving the Raps a fresh clock. Kleiza is fouled and splits a pair.

*A display of the Wizards sometimes-frustrating basketball-IQ…John Wall misses a layup, and all four teammates on the floor, two from the bench, the mascot, and coach Randy Wittman all try to tip-slam the miss, allowing for a Raptors rebound.

*Amir is blocked on two straight lay-up attempts under the basket. He’s fouled on the floor, only to be blocked once again when Linas finds him under the bucket. If he could get these layups off, he’d be having a monster game. He grabs another board off a wild Bayless miss on the next possession, setting up a Kleiza air-ball three attempt.

*DeMar bails out Nick Young after an awful pump-fake-and-fade, giving him two points instead of a turnover. A quick turnover on a miscommunicated pass from Bayless-to-Kleiza (and yes, the Raptors are playing with only Linas, Bayless, and Amir on the floor), but Young helps them out by rushing a shot in OT with a 3-point lead (of course he does). Hey, remember when we were all offended if someone suggested that Nick Young might be DeMar’s ceiling? I miss those days.

*Amir hits a pair with 27.2 seconds left.. The Raptors then allow 19.5 seconds to tick off the clock before fouling, in an inexplicable display of poor game management. Booker splits the pair, stretching the lead to two, but on the miss the ball is touched by three Raptors (Magloire, Carter, and Amir) but ends up in Young’s hands. He splits a pair, and it’s 111-108 with a little over 1 second to go and the ball in the back-court. Bayless has fouled out. Jose inbounds to Rasual, back to Jose for an open three….air ball short. 111-108 Wizards is your final.

I realize it’s not customary to just review some play-by-play for the post-game coverage, but the game was only really interesting for those 18 minutes. Before that, it was a lot of the same frustration we’ve been dealing with all season, although there was plenty of frustration in the fourth and OT as well.

Jerryd Bayless….well, he’s getting exposed to trial-by-fire, that’s for sure. The ball was in his hands on a permanent basis down the stretch, and he made some huge plays but some curious decisions with the ball as well. It’s still unclear whether his aggression on the offensive end is necessary or misplaced, whether it’s owing to the team requiring it from him or a lack of self-awareness (read: you’re not Derrick Rose). Bayless finished with 30 points, but took 23 shots to get there (9/23, 6/10 3FG, 6/6 FT) and only had 3 assists. He only had a pair of turnovers officially, but poor shot decisions that miss wildly might as well be considered turnovers as well. From the 9-minute mark of the fourth onwards, Bayless went 3/10 from the floor with a turnover and just one assist, a pretty inefficient line when you consider he had the ball 75% of the time. It’s obviously frustrating to watch him t times, and I’m sure the fanbase is pretty split on him as a prospect, but at least we’re getting a good long look at him in this type of role. Sure, his upside might be a change-of-pace third guard, but we need to know.

Lines Kleiza was option 1B if Bayless was 1A, and if you ignore that this flies in the face of youth and development, he’s been a very effective offensive weapon off the bench of late. He finished with 30 on 11-of-16 shooting (just 4/8 at the line, but 4/8 on threes), and added 5 boards, but with just 1 helper and 3 turnovers. Kleiza’s versatility is his biggest asset, as he can score from long range, at the elbow, or on the block. His drives to the hoop are sometimes ugly, but the defense has to respect them. With a more talented team around him, Kleiza could be a major asset in creating space and mis-matches. But this is not a more talented team around him.

And we’re now out of positives. DeMar chipped in with 15 points on 4/10 shooting, and thankfully got to the stripe 8 times (7/8) to help pick up his line. He added 4 boards and 2 dimes to the cause, and it’s ridiculous that this is a positive note on his ledger compared to most nights. He’s averaging 3.6 boards and just 1.5 assists, so if he can’t start to imrpove on that 17.2 Pts/40 he’ll struggle to be a net postitive. I suppose I should be happy that he attacked some, but when you match his line and shot chart up with Nick Young’s (9/20 for 29 points, next to nothing at the rim) you see that he needs to be a ridiculously high-average 2-point shooter to have value in his current incarnation. Please keep attacking DeMar…it’s your only chance.

James Johnson had a nice all-around game…or maybe he didn’t. His final line looked okay (4/10 for 10-4-6), but I hardly noticed him outside of his huge block on Young to force OT. It’s odd that I rarely made note of his 6 assists in my game notes, but perhaps there’s value in contributing offensively without sticking out.

The most curious thing about this game, in a match-up against a team with no interior scoring presence (Booker had a good game with 19, but that’s certainly not the norm) was the substitution pattern of the bigs. At the half, Gray, Magloire, Amir, and Ed had all played at least 7 minutes but no more than 9. By game’s end, it was Amir with 21, Magloire with 18, Ed with 16, and Gray with 8. That’s a total of 63 minutes, 0 of which should have been given to Magloire. I understand that he’s a decent defender and sets good screens, but he’s also 33 (wait…what? I looked this up…definitely thought he’d be north of 35…dude looks old). Those minutes should be going to Ed and Amir unless they’re making just unforgivable mistakes and showing no effort at all, which I don’t think was the case. Amir should probably learn to execute a lay-up without getting blocked, but he had NINE (!!) offensive rebounds. Ed played poorly in his limited time and looked a bit apathetic, and Amir had some foule trouble, but I just can’t accept a world in which a rebuilding team plays Magloire 18 minutes in a close, winnable game. But I digress.

All in all, this was a disappointing showing after shellacking the Wizards Friday and playing the Heat respectably on Sunday. This was a winnable game, but one the fan base is probably happy, long-term, to have lost. As I’ve said though, such an attitude and perspective doesn’t really mesh with single-game coverage. The Raptors disappointed again, and I guess that’s the point for now. 1-17 folks…1-17 when I cover games.

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