Tip-In, Toronto Raptors’ Post-Game: Rock Bottom

Jermaine O'Neal now knows what many of Durant's college victims felt like...

Jermaine O'Neal now knows what many of Durant's college victims felt like...

After losing to a team that had only two wins on the year, Franchise is at a loss for words and finds himself scared to even consider tonight’s match against San Antonio.

Why do I have a feeling that Sam Mitchell is having a good laugh right now?

Is it because he’s sitting around Atlanta with friends and family, catching up on old stories?

Or is it perhaps because the team that recently dismissed him, the Toronto Raptors, got beaten by the worst team in the league last night, a pathetic 91 to 83 loss that not only drops the Dinos to six games under .500, but also starts a six-game Western Conference road trip off on a really bad foot.

Frankly I’m at a loss for words here too in terms of recapping this one. I had to make due again with the 2 AM "Game in an Hour" and even that was about 55 minutes too much of viewing. It was possibly the biggest brickfest I’ve ever witnessed with the winning team shooting 44 per cent.

The Raptors – oh they shot a beautiful 36.4 per cent.

Let’s see, they also got beat on the boards 54 to 48, shot only about 74 per cent from the free-throw line and got there four times less than OK City.

And that’s not even getting into the aerial display that the Thunder put on. About four of Oklahoma’s dunks last night will be up for plays of the week and two of them, most notably Desmond Mason’s complete destruction of Jamario Moon, will probably be up for dunk of the year when all is said and done.

Oh wait – it’s already up on Youtube.

Right before the buzzer the Thunder were celebrating as if they had just won the NBA title and really, it epitomized how bad things have gotten in Raptorland.

So now what?

Is there any way Toronto can get their heads back on straight and at least salvage some dignity on this road trip?

Or are we talking about a situation now where the team starts 2009 at 12 games under .500, which is quite possible all of a sudden. I mean, if you can’t beat Oklahoma, how are you going to even beat teams like the Kings and Warriors?

Right now this team just looks in complete disarray to me and I’m not sure what exactly Jay Triano or anyone can do. They can’t score, they can’t rebound, and even their defense, which was much improved of late, fell apart last night! The energy was just not there to start the game and while the Raptors made a valiant comeback attempt, they had dug themselves in too deep of a hole to start the game and came up short.

So before tonight’s nightmare of a match against San Antonio (this could be the November 23rd loss to the Celtics all over again in terms of types of games), is there anything positive that can be taken from this loss?

I’d say that besides the play of Joey Graham, (9 and 9 with 2 steals in 20 minutes) and perhaps Andrea Bargnani towards the end, no. Even Bosh, who statistically had a solid outing with 22 points and 16 boards, struggled shooting and played a lackadaisical first half. He did show some much needed fire towards the end, ripping into Jamario Moon for falling for an up-fake with the score tied, but really, had he been more active early, this probably would have been a close Toronto win. Taking nonchalant 3-pointers ain’t gonna get it done.

And with no real positives to be found, how about adding on a few more negatives, like the health of Jermaine O’Neal? O’Neal injured his shoulder in the match and did not play in the second half. His status at this point for tomorrow’s game is up in the air and it’s not even clear to what degree the shoulder is hurt.

And unfortunately now, the Raptors have to turn around from losing to the worst team in the NBA and play one of the best, the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs have lost their last two, but had won six of eight before that now that stars Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili have returned from injury.

This game has "20-point loss" written all over it but if the Raptors want to keep things close, here are our 3 keys:

1) Move on.

The most important thing here is that the Raptors need to forget the Oklahoma nightmare. Easier said than done of course but with the quick turnaround, hopefully the team doesn’t have time to dwell on things. What you don’t want is the team chemistry to start falling apart and this is my biggest concern after watching Bosh’s fourth quarter outburst. These guys need to band together again and quick.

And let’s face it, Toronto has nothing to lose tonight. San Antonio is a top 12 team in almost every major statistical category so the Raptors should just go and play. Triano needs to keep the team loose, allow them to play to their strengths, and most importantly get his guys running. San Antonio plays at the fourth slowest pace in the league in terms of number of possessions so if the Dinos can sprint early, perhaps that gives them the cushion they need to keep things close later on.

2) More Joey and Andrea.

Believe it or not, I’m actually hoping that Jermaine O’Neal can’t play tonight. Yes, with him in the line-up the team would probably have a better chance of winning but perhaps it’s time to get more minutes for the two guys on the team with the most upside, Graham and Bargnani. I thought Graham was Toronto’s best player last night and while he still at times isn’t aggressive enough, or misses assignments defensively, I also think he’s still just starting to understand how good he can be. I’d like to see Graham start instead of Moon in fact and see how that works. The team is hardly cruising along right now so why not shake things up a bit?

This goes for Andrea too. I’m guessing he’ll start at the 5 if JO can’t go and that suits me fine. At some point this year Toronto needs to know at least to some degree of certainty what they can expect from this guy. We’re nearing two and a half years in the league now for Bargs. At this point the team should have a much better idea of whether or not it needs to keep him around or whether they can cut their losses and move on.

3) Make shots.

Toronto’s lack of athleticism was seriously put under the spotlight again last night but things wouldn’t have been so bad if the Raptors had just made some shots. Yep, the old Sam Mitchell line but last night was indeed the case. I can’t count the number of easy looks that Toronto missed from inside and out and without anyone who can consistently get to the rim, the Raptors have no other options but to keep firing them up. Three normally great shooters in Jose Calderon, Anthony Parker and Jason Kapono shot a combined 11 for 31, something I don’t expect them to do again tonight. These guys need to keep shooting when they’re open and move the Spurs around tonight on the perimeter. Bosh has seen clogged lanes the past few games because of Toronto’s terrible outside shooting so if the Raps want to get their star going, and thus open things up offensively, those outside shots need to drop.

FRANCHISE

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