Follow along with me for a second.
Louis Amundson – 20 points (career high) and 10 rebounds.
James Singleton – 12 points and 16 rebounds (career high.)
Carl Landry – 22 points (ties career high) and six rebounds.
And I don't even want to get into the play of Von Wafer, who exploded off the bench for 14 key points.
I’ve harped on enough about the fact that all three of these players, and various others, were available to Toronto so I’m not going to rehash that argument. However I want to emphasize that again, it was these hustle and grit types who absolutely killed the Raps on this road trip.
Yes, Shaq, Yao and Dirk were all dominant, however Phoenix, Dallas and Houston don’t win each of these past three without some contributions from their benches.
Toronto on the other hand, got a sprinkling of help from Joey Graham, but that’s about it.
And I think we’re far enough into the season now to say that I’m not sure what else as a fan you’re supposed to expect?
Bosh is Bosh. He’ll give you close to 20 and 10 a night. And Andrea game-by-game is looking like a dominant offensive option. However while Jose will facilitate the offense, he’s not exactly a big scorer, and Marion, Parker and Kapono can be as streaky as they come, and none can effectively create their own offense on a consistent basis.
That folks, is the 2008-09 version of the Toronto Raptors; Chris Bosh, a developing Andrea Bargnani, some useful support from Jose and Marion, but that’s about it.
That’s why while Toronto started last night’s match strong, as soon as foul trouble hit Andrea, who was absolutely terrorizing Yao Ming, the tide quickly turned. Bargs is hardly an All-Star yet but the drop-off from even him to someone like Jake Voskuhl is just monumental. Big Jake tries his best, but he’s a 12th man playing a 7th or 8th man role.
And this again is something that’s mystified me from the get-go in regards to the Raptors this season. It was obvious in pre-season that this team didn’t have enough talent, and that was before Andrea was playing at half the level he is now.
You look at the Rockets, and they have options. If Yao is getting beat on the perimeter, they can switch things up and go to a smaller, more physical and athletic option.
The same at their other positions.
If Battier’s shooting has gone cold, the Rockets can bring in Von Wafer to get to the rim and create off the dribble, or if Brooks is struggling to create, Houston can sub in the more physical Kyle Lowry.
Toronto? Well if Anthony Parker’s jump shot isn’t falling, they can bring in Jason Kapono…to shoot more jump shots.
The Rockets are essentially the opposite of the Raptors. They play tough, physical basketball so that even when the shots aren’t falling, they’re making sure yours aren’t either, or you’re having to work extremely hard to get them. It starts with their starters, and extends right to the tip of the bench. Guys like Luis Scola just have a nose for the ball and can negate the impact of more talented match-ups.
In fact, this version of the Rockets actually reminds me a lot of Toronto two seasons ago; a deep team without a ton of star power, but with a number of complimentary players who play within a system. The Dinos right now have no identity, and a gaping void in talent on the pine, something a visibly frustrated Jay Triano post-game even touched on.
"Their bench play was outstanding..." "It's big when you have that kind of production." "When you have guys that can come in off the bench like that, it really makes things easier for your starters."
(Pssst – BC…hint, hint, nudge, nudge.)
If Bryan Colangelo still has delusions regarding this team, hopefully they have been shattered after this three-game road trip.
The club has no one who can create offense from the wing position on a consistent basis, the back-up point guard play has been spotty at best, the club has no toughness or grit, and the club’s lack of size and strength inside is embarrassing. Toronto gave up an incredible 192 points in the paint the past three games and I expect to see that trend continue, especially with Jermaine O’Neal now in Miami.
Jack Armstrong said it best post-game; when you don’t threaten teams with post-up or slashing opportunities, it makes the game that much easier for opponents and it’s a trend we’ve seen all season. Teams know that Toronto is essentially a one-trick pony and so if the can force contested jumpers, they have a good shot at giving the Raptors the L at the end of the night. Chris Bosh is really the Raptors only consistent inside-out option (although Andrea is improving rapidly in this capacity) but injuries (again last night he tweaked his knee) have kept Bosh from looking like the explosive player he was earlier this season. It sounds like CB4’s knee will be ok to let him play Friday against Miami but with the way Dwyane Wade has been playing, I’m not sure it will matter very much.
I also though want to say that watching last night’s loss (Justin.TV feed aside) was not nearly as frustrating as other games this season. Had Bargnani been able to stay out of foul trouble perhaps things would have been a lot closer in the fourth quarter but in reality, it was the third straight opportunity for fans (and hopefully management) to see just where the holes in this club are. This is actually what I wanted to see since January but injuries and player transactions made that quite difficult. I spoke of the three-game road-trip as being a "litmus test" for this group and I think you’d have to say mission accomplished. Toronto took on three fairly different teams in terms of style, and three equally talented clubs (5 wins separate them all in the standings) and showed just how far they have to go to get back to even being considered a good squad.
Now hopefully Bryan Colangelo can get to work.
But before personnel decisions can be made, he needs to decide what type of team he wants to build, because right now no one’s sure what’s going on.
Exhibit A – Shawn Marion and Chris Bosh’s post-game chats with the press. In his, Marion called out his teammates a bit saying that he could see guys starting to get down and stop running as the game progressed, and that the team needed to run, run and run, even if that meant forcing the issue a bit until it became a habit.
Contrast that with what Chris Bosh said after the match where he stated that the club "didn’t need to push the ball every time."
You knew that it was going to take some time for the club to adjust to a more up-tempo, running style, but if everyone isn’t on the same page regarding it, then it’s going to be extremely difficult to get many wins from here on out.
PS - Blogger power rankings are up at SLC Dunk.com. Scroll waaaay down to see Toronto...