There have been a few games this year where I felt that Toronto’s lack of talent at various spots on the court was abundantly clear. Earlier this season it was a game against Portland that showed Toronto’s lack of rebounding ability, one to Boston that showed a lack of grit and resolve down the stretch, and of course various others where there was simply a supreme lack of effort on display (Denver, Oklahoma etc.)
Last night’s was another prime example, and hopefully a reality check for a certain MLSE executive if you will.
The Toronto Raptors dropped a strange one to the Golden State Warriors, a 117 to 111 loss that had this never-ending feeling to it, as if the game would still be neck-and-neck if another quarter was added.
How did they lose?
Well, if you simply looked at the stats, you’d probably be scratching your head.
I mean, the Raptors smoked the top offensive rebounding team in the league 20 to six on the O-glass, and won the overall battle of the boards.
They equaled (actually had one more) assist than the Warriors and turned the ball over only one more time.
The Raptors also shot almost 40 per cent (38.5 per cent) from beyond the arc and got 30 and 14 from Bosh and 21, 16 assists and six rebounds from Jose Calderon.
And yet they still somehow came up on the short end of the stick.
Post-game, the Raptors TV crew wanted to blame the loss on:
a) The Warriors 3-point shooting and
b) Toronto giving up 26 points to Golden State off of turnovers
These two issues resulted in the L in their books however if you’ve been watching this team all season, or hell, for the past three seasons, you know that’s an overly simplistic view.
The main problem once again for Toronto, was that they got almost nothing from their wings.
End of story.
I mean it wasn’t like the Raptors turned the ball over 32 times to Golden State’s 12.
The difference was ONE TURNOVER.
The problem was that Golden State has a boatload of players who specialize in scoring in traffic, getting to the rim, and taking advantage of another team’s miscues. In fact, that’s almost there whole game-plan besides shooting long range shots (which we’ll get to in a minute.)
The Raps on the other hand have possibly the weakest wings in the league in terms of being effective transition players and therefore, what might have been a stalemate statistic, looked pretty grim when things were all said and done.
Best example of how ill-suited our 2-3 guys are for getting up and down the court in attack mode? Our most athletic player Jamario Moon soared in off a cut to the basket early in the first quarter and instead of trying to dunk it, or even lay it in on the strong side, attempted the most 107-pound B Team weak-side flip lay-up that I’ve ever seen – all to avoid contact.
With Jermaine O’Neal unavailable due to the flu, you just knew it was going to be a long night and while Toronto kept it interesting until the dying seconds, Bosh and Calderon just didn’t get any help. Joey Graham was probably Toronto’s third-best player last night but regardless of how well he’s played this year, Joey Graham should not be your third option on a good team. Together, Graham, Kapono, Moon and Parker were a horrific 37 per cent from the field. Throw in the 3 of 8 job from Andrea and it’s even uglier.
Toronto had their chances, they had climbed back to within a bucket yet on three straight offensive rebounds, came up empty via the long-range shooting of Kapono, then Jose, then Parker. And once those 3 struck-out, you just got the feeling that a W was not in the cards for the Dinos.
The funny thing is, I wasn’t even mad at these three for missing shots. Jack Armstrong was right in saying that shooters need to get shots up in practice and maintain a rhythm, and that’s hardly been happening since Jay Triano has taken over and the Raptors have gone seemingly from back-to-back, to back-to-back.
No, I was mad at Bryan Colangelo.
You can’t live and die by the jump shot EVERY SINGLE GAME and unless Bosh starts being the biggest ball-hog this side of JR Rider, that’s what almost every game is going to come down to. This is especially true with O’Neal out of action as there’s just no one who can create off the dribble.
Yes, Golden State took and made a lot of 3’s, but they also got to the free-throw line 33 times and made 29 of their shots.
The Raptors in contrast took only 25 free-throws, missing an uncharacteristic six of them.
We’ve said it before and we’ll be saying it for the remainder of the season I’m sure; until this team gets someone who can consistently drive the ball to the hole and create when jump shots aren’t falling, they are going to need huge games from Jose, Bosh and O’Neal just to keep things close.
And this is where I get frustrated.
Colangelo needed to address this issue in the off-season and could easily have, even without going into luxury tax realm. Yet he curiously signed two unproven NBA back-ups for point-guards who together make up over $2 Million, he signed Hassan Adams, who might as well be writing for our site, and drafted a big-man who dominated a league that may not even be at a tier two level in Europe.
Meanwhile teams like Golden State were signing the Anthony Morrows and retaining the Kelenna Azubuikes of the league for very little. (I refuse to believe that Colangelo couldn’t have lured Azubuike to Toronto by going a bit over his $3.3 Million price tag, especially with the lure of a starting 2 or 3 spot.)
What’s worse is that the team now sits floundering at 12 and 19, and still facing a juggernaut of teams in early January. The Raptors go from taking on Denver tomorrow night, to Houston, to Orlando! That looks like three straight losses to me (five including tonight’s loss and Saturday’s to Portland) and then who knows what the confidence level of this club will be even when the schedule eases up a bit against Milwaukee, Washington and Memphis?
So I don’t want to hear any more of this Joe Smith talk.
Smith is the kind of guy you bring in to shore up a bench on a team like Boston, LA, or Cleveland, you know, teams that just need perhaps one more little piece.
The Raptors need a lot more help, and help at other positions more importantly.
If Bryan Colangelo was a little foggy on whether Joe Smith was the answer going forward, I hope to heaven that last night’s affair was the Mastercraft 2000 Mega Flashlight that he needed.
PS - RaptorsHQ will be posting the latest round of the NBA Blogosphere's MVP and ROY rankings later this afternoon.