After not only the worst loss of the season, but perhaps one of the worst in franchise history, the HQ breaks down the grim situation facing the Toronto Raptors...
Before penning this recap this morning, I spent about 30 minutes scouring the net for Raptors news.
In the wake of a ridiculous 146 to 115 loss to the Atlanta Hawks last night, I fully expected to wake up this morning and find that Bosh had been traded, Triano had been fired, Colangelo had resigned, or possibly all of the above.
However unless Twitter has led me astray, things are pretty quiet.
...that is in regard to any sort of major change in Raptorland.
The fans, as our "Rapid Recap" will attest to, are being anything but quiet. Here's a sampling of some of last night's best comments via Twitter:
skittlebrau78 Dear Bryan Colangelo, perhaps it's time to start over
RapsFan Im actually cheering for the Hawks to score 150
cuzoogle Man the nets are wishing they could face the raps
sportsguy33 If you're thinking about moving to Toronto, Chris Bosh's house and Bryan Colangelo's house are going on the market any day.
bruce_arthur I'm looking forward to seeing which lucky fan gets to score 10 points in the fourth quarter for Atlanta.
And there there's this killer analogy by one of our readers post-game which does a nice job summing up the job many feel Jay Triano has done so far as the coach of the Raps:
Jay is kind of like that girlfriend your mother likes because she says the right things and comes across as really on the ball. You think to yourself, maybe this will work because she’s been asked out by a cool guy before, even claims to have studied the Kama Sutra and knows what to do in theory. Problem is, you’ve been with her for a year and something just doesn’t work and it hasn’t for a while. When the lights go down and it’s time to get down to action, you suspect she doesn’t quite know what she’s doing, but it’s hard to break up because your mother likes her. Eventually, you’ve got to move on, though because you still haven’t found the one and each day it’s becoming clearer that she’s not it.
So where to start here?
Do we really need to get into the specifics of a complete laugher of a game, or should we head right into the "who can we trade for whom" part of the post?
The truth is I feel a bit like one of the CSI detectives this morning trying to sort through the wreckage of what is slowling becoming a train-wreck of an NBA season for the Toronto Raptors.
But let's start with last night's game.
I'm not going to go into too much detail here, most of us saw the carnage. But suffice to say that giving up 42 points in the second quarter blew the doors off the hinges, and things just snowballed from there:
-9 Hawks in double figures
-Nearly 60 per cent shooting from the field, 52 per cent from beyond the arc
-A 51 to 29 rebounding advantage for the Hawks
-100 points given up by the Raps well before the fourth quarter even began
-Randolph Morris and Jason Collins played
How's that for ugly with a capital U?
The thing is, the Raps, by their recent standards, played a decent first quarter. Sure they gave up 33 points, but scored 26 themselves and were hanging around. But that's when the team's two major flaws reared their ugly heads and things started to go downhill fast.
Without any sort of defensive ability, this team's margin of error is ridiculously small. I noted last night that when Toronto was hitting shots, then things were going ok. The team was essentially trading baskets with the Hawks but were neck-and-neck. However once those shots started to rim out, suddenly, it was the little things that started to turn the tide. A Josh Smith rebound here, an open Mike Bibby 3 there, and then Atlanta started to take the lead. An 8 points deficit early in a game shouldn't be a sink-hole - the NBA game is truly a game of runs. However Toronto is so porous defensively, that when the offense isn't clicking, they can't keep the opponent at that "8 point advantage" range and suddenly 8 points becomes 12, which becomes 17...game over. The current group of Toronto starters, Bosh aside, just doesn't make those extra plays and it ends up costing them a few chippy points early on. And without the ability to make stops, those points are all the opposition needs to start blowing things wide open, in particular when Toronto can't sustain their own offense.
The other major thing I keep observing is a lack of dribble penetration on offense. Right now, so much of this team's offense comes from jump shots and 3-pointers that when these stop falling, the well almost completely dries up. As well, misses on these type of shots lead directly to run-outs by opponents, something we've seen that the Raptors are abysmal at stopping. This gives the other team easy baskets in transition, and further plays into the first problem; easy baskets that spiral a 6 or 8 point deficit into something much worse.
I thought one of the reasons Toronto stuck around early, is that DeMar DeRozan was able to attack the basket. This allowed TO to mix things up offensively, and prevented Atlanta from taking off baseline to baseline after possessions. However there's just not nearly enough of this as evidenced by this stat from 82games.com; so far this season 66% of the Raptors shots are jumpers outside the paint. That's fine if you're the Orlando Magic (who also shoot that percentage of J's) and have Dwight Howard cleaning up misses, but on a Toronto team that's so poor from a rebounding perspective, it can be disastrous.
So again, where does the team go from here?
Well for starters, nothing.
I don't want to see any major changes before this week is up. Yes, they got owned last night but if I'm Bryan Colangelo or even Jay Triano, I give the team two more games to show some signs of life. The club can definitely beat their next two opponents but needs to show a lot more pride, passion and fight, something Chris Bosh commented on post-game:
"We've got to care about it," Bosh said. "That's what it comes down to. Have some pride. Without that pride teams just score at will, like they did tonight.
"If we did care we wouldn't give up 145 points."
However. should these next two games result in losses as well, Bryan Colangelo has some major decisions to make.
Many talking heads this morning are already saying that this game signified the proverbial "last straw" for Chris Bosh, and whether that's the case or not, something needs to be done.
As Howland put it to me post-game last night: "either BC needs to believe that this team catches lightning in a bottle and turns it around before Christmas, or they've gotta move Bosh now before the low-ball offers start coming in."
And what about Jay Triano and crew? I'm not at all convinced that he's the major issue here but there's no question this is now a problem; NBA teams, no matter how absent of talent, don't regularly allow opponents to score 115 points a game. Said Jarrett Jack post-game in regards to the coaches' approach this season:
"Every time something happens it’s always, `It’s okay, it’s all right.’ It’s not all right," said Jarrett Jack, the reserve guard. "Problems go by without attacking them or challenging them or bringing them to the forefront and getting them solved. We can’t keep keep putting them to the back of the bus and just saying, `That’s okay.’ It’s not all right. Everybody can’t walk on eggshells around here and say, `We’re playing good basketball.’ We’re not."
Yikes. If Jay hasn't already lost this group, there's no question he's teetering on the brink. Somehow he needs to get this group back on track.
While I maintain this group of players is overrated for the most part, there's no question they shouldn't be this bad. Toronto's schedule the rest of the month includes some very winnable games against clubs like Minnesota and New Jersey so if the Raps can somehow dig deep and grab these next two, there's no reason they still can't right the ship.
To do that, maybe it's time to try another starting five? Maybe you can't start Amir for Andrea, or Doug Smith for Hedo Turkoglu, but let's stop the DeRozan experiment for a minute. Yes, he was one of the lone bright spots last night but overall this year, he's helping put Toronto in a hole early. Again, looking at 82games.com, only Sonny Weems, Antoine Wright and Patrick O'Bryant have worse "net production ratings;" that is to say, their own production gets badly outweighed by that of their opponent's. Try Marco, try Weems, try Wright, try something to shake things up. This team needs a win badly to stop the bleeding so if even a seemingly minor change like that works, then you've gotta do it.
Put it this way.
We've basically reached the quarter mark on the schedule already and this team looks like a much worse version of the one that ended last season. I think over the next few games, we'll see if that's indeed the case as it's usually in a team's darkest hour that fans get a glimpse of just what a club is made of.
There's lots of fault to go around, from players to management, but right now instead of pointing fingers, I want to see this club band together and start to put up some fight.
I'm hoping that last night's game represents this season's turning point, and from here, the Raptors use December's schedule to build a bit of momentum heading into the new year.
Because if the 146 to 115 loss doesn't serve as a turning point, it may indeed be the final nail in the playoff coffin, only 20 games into the season.