After two solid performances that had fans thinking the Raptors were back on track, last night's loss to the Wizards seemed more of a case of "3 steps back," after taking 2 forward...
Yep, this was one of those games.
One of those games that as a fan, made you want to run into the locker room post-game, fire the coach, trade every player within spitting distance, and then go upstairs and kick the GM in the ass.
Yes it was that bad, and bad all around.
The 2 and 6 Washington Wizards made the Toronto Raptors look like a D League squad last night in their 109 to 94 thrashing of the visiting team. They outplayed them in every facet, and while individuals like Gilbert Arenas, Nick Young and Andray Blatche were especially troublesome, each and every member of the Wizards put forth max effort and energy...unlike the Dinos.
Even Sonny Weems, who was far and away the best player for Toronto last night, didn't have enough impact on the game in the second half.
Post-game on the Fan590, predictably, everyone was calling for Jay Triano's head.
However to those who think he's the issue with this 2 and 9 team, I say "you haven't been paying attention."
At its core, this team has the same problems it's always had, only this year they're magnified by a giant gap in talent. I'll go back to my three facts from a previous recap; these are the real issues and until they're addressed, Phil Jackson wouldn't have much more luck squeezing wins out of this team.
That's not to say that I thought Triano did a good job last night.
Considering how hard guys like Julian Wright and Joey Dorsey had played for him in the two games leading up to this, it was an absolute kick in the gut as a fan to watch David Andersen out there shooting contested jump shots. It's not like Andersen was actually helping to get the Raps back in the game and again, if you're a team that's playing for playoff positioning and need some veteran savvy, I get it, give Andersen minutes. But on this club? What the hell happens when Ed Davis comes back?
Throw in the bizarre Marcus Banks/Jose Calderon/Jarrett Jack personnel decisions and the erroneous match-ups like having Reggie Evans guard the much more mobile Andray Blatche and you didn't have to be a Raptors' die-hard to see that Jay was grasping at straws.
He admitted as much post-game to the media but at least didn't pull any punches regarding his club's performance.
When asked about what transpired on the court he called it like it was; players 1 through 12 just didn't bring the necessary energy and while he tried everything to kick-start his club, even the usual sparks like Amir Johnson and Julian Wright were just flat.
He also had a few choice words for Andrea Bargnani.
When asked about Andrea's performance and if he thought Bargs was "getting the message" after Triano yanked him for poor play in the first, an exasperated Jay simply stated "you'd have to ask him."
He followed that up by bluntly stating "not really," when asked if he thought Bargnani played better in the second half.
The bottom line here is that if the Raptors turn in efforts like that going forward, they won't win a game.
There's not enough talent to let them ride out tough stretches and really it has to be a 48 minute "all hands on deck" barrage.
Of course Triano has to do his part in ensuring the right combinations are used to maximize this barrage.
But as I said to the Fan 590's Eric Smith post-game, yes, things like defence are first and foremost about individual energy and hustle, but if those individuals playing the defence game after game, year after year, fail to bring the necessary levels of those traits, then it becomes a personnel issue.
So suddenly tonight's game against Philadelphia takes on a whole new meaning.
Which Raptors' team shows up, the one that vanquished Orlando and played Miami tough?
Or the one that forget to set their alarm clocks for the Wizards?
Philadelphia at 2-9 has been nearly as putrid as Toronto so far this season, but should still be a very tough challenge for the Raps.
Here are our 3 keys to getting a victory:
1) Match-Ups: Philly has some players who could simply wreak havoc on Toronto tonight. Holiday, Turner, Brand - these are all individuals who out-talent the Raps at their respective positions so Triano needs to a better job getting the right players out there at the right times. Reggie Evans gave it his all last night, but having him chase Blatche around last night opened up a huge hole in the Raps interior D, and took Evans' rebounding prowess away from the rim. That left the 0 rebounds through the bulk of the game Bargnani trying to hold down the fort inside against guys like JaVale McGee and well...we saw the results.
2) Point Guard Play: Philadelphia doesn't have a John Wall or even a Gilbert Arenas to contend with but guys like Holiday and Louis Wiliams can get the job done. So far this season I've though by and large that Toronto's play at the 1 has been inconsistent at best, and last night it was downright awful.
If Jack's going to continue to start, he needs to do a better job defensively (ie not getting lit up by Kirk Hinrich) and needs to get more players involved. Last night again he tried to do too much and the result was 5 of 14 shooting performance.
As well, if Calderon wants to um...stay in the league, he's gotta come in and have some impact. Period. Last night he was a horrific 1-8 from the field, which is only magnified by the fact that he should really be the team's best pure shooter, and he had a lousy 2 assists.
3) Get back on the Glass: There are only a few clubs that have worse rebounding rates in the league than Philadephia. However one of those is Washington, and we saw how that worked out last night as the Wiz pummeled the Dinos on the glass 47 to 36.
Tonight all hands need to get back to their glass-cleaning ways.
Guys like Amir Johnson and Joey Dorsey should be able to dominate inside as the 76ers after Brand can only offer up the likes of Marreese Speights and Spencer Hawes to help out in this capacity. Easy points on the inside means a much better shot at the W, case closed.
I'm going to add one more key though.
Jay, let's get back to an 8 man rotation tonight.
I know it's probably too much to ask you to yank Bargnani out of the starting line-up completely but let's see Jose, Amir Johnson, and Kleiza off the bench if you're going with last night's starting line-up. Sprinkle in heavy doses of Dorsey and Wright if Bargs is ineffective, but seriously, let's leave Marcus Banks and David Andersen out of the picture unless things really go awry tonight.
And I mean "half the club comes down with Swine Flu" awry.