Sometimes there's not much of a need to write a recap for a game like this.
At times, all you need to do is scan through the reader comments, and you can put together a pretty good description of what went down the previous night.
I'd concur on all accounts.
Last night Raptors' fans saw yet another game where "the little things" made the difference, and in the end, a team measuring pretty low on the talent scale couldn't overcome said "little things" in order to get the win, losing 97 to 91.
What I'm referring to are events during the game that in isolation, probably shouldn't have made a huge difference but put together, on a team that struggles in various fashions, they become magnified and usually result in a loss.
Take Sonny Weems leading a 3 on 1 late in the game.
Instead of forcing the defender one way and dumping the ball off to one of his running mates for the easy hoop, he decided to take it all the way, only lost control of the ball and watched as it harmlessly sailed out of bounds.
Or our buddy Mr. Bargnani, who looked like his mind was in Charlottetown PEI, not Charlotte North Carolina, most of the night. He didn't have a great shooting night that's for sure, he was 4 of 14, but it was the rest of his game that drew the ire of fans. His 8 rebounds should have been about 12 as he out-worked repeatedly on the glass, he made some horrendous decisions (see team-high 4 turnovers), was a beautiful minus 15 on the night as mentioned above, and just didn't really look like he cared too much. The best example of this was him snaring an errant offensive rebound late in the game that placed him under the rim for what appeared to be an easy 2 points. Only for some strange reason he decided to fire the ball back out to the perimeter ala Reggie Evans...
....or perhaps ala Charles Oakley, as the pass was about two feet over Jerryd Bayless' head, and headed out of bounds.
It's frustrating no doubt, but in many ways it's to be expected with a young team, and a team that really doesn't know how to win. They'll have their nights like last Saturday's against Detroit where they'll look like world-beaters, but the bulk of matches will likely fall into last night's category; grind-it-out affairs that come down to making little plays like the ones described above.
And until the Raptors start making said plays, the wins just aren't going to be forthcoming on any sort of a regular basis.
Tonight's match against the Chicago Bulls is a good example of this.
The Bulls are starting to round into form as one of the top contenders in the East thanks to the return of Carlos Boozer. However star point guard Derrick Rose is day-to-day, and may not play this evening.
If he doesn't, it's another big break for a Toronto team that's faced numerous teams already this season that have been without one of their top players.
That doesn't mean an easy win though. To get the W, here are our 3 keys:
1. Control the paint. Last night was yet another match this year that saw the Toronto Raptors make one of the league's lesser big-men look like an All-Star. We've seen it earlier this season with the likes of Hilton Armstrong, and yesterday evening it was Nazr Mohammed who crushed Toronto's interior.
This doesn't all fall on Andrea Bargnani either. Sure, he got out-muscled on a number of occasions and allowed Nazr to get deep position, but Mohammed was actually Amir Johnson's cover and while a solid shot blocker, Amir struggles in one-on-one D situations at times.
This simply can't happen tonight. Joakim Noah alone has dominated Toronto's interior himself in the past, and add in Carlos Boozer and it's a recipe for disaster.
This goes for the other end of the court too.
The Cats outscored the Raps 58 to 34 in the paint last night and it was incredibly frustrating to see Andrea shooting jumper after jumper instead of using his size and touch in close to post-up the likes of Boris Diaw. Tonight he needs to be aggressive in this area from the tip.
2. Point guard play. It doesn't sound like Jose Calderon will be back tonight which means more Jerryd Bayless. In some ways this is a good thing (I thought Bayless individual defence last night was stellar, so if Rose plays...) but in others it's not. The team really missed Calderon's ability to control the tempo and get teammates involved late in the game as Bayless went into Mike James mode.
He's a young guard who's running a team alone for the first time really in his NBA career, and considering the only other option is Leandro Barbosa, you've gotta live with it. But regardless of Rose's status tonight, the Raps need much better decision-making in clutch situations and that falls right now on Mr. Bayless.
3. Wing play. Hmmm...I just realized my three "keys" essentially have now included every position on the Raptors...maybe not a good sign.
In any event, every night can't fall on Bargnani. The best in the league have rough nights (see Kobe missing all three of his free-throws on "fouled shooting a 3" situation yesterday evening) so others have to carry the weight.
This ain't happening.
Sonny Weems, DeMar DeRozan, Linas Kleiza, Leandro Barbosa...pick your poison.
For me, the improved play has to come from Weems and DeRozan though as Kleiza just isn't an effective option at present, and Leandro's always been a streaky option. Consistency from this spot on the floor is the name of the game and I want to start seeing that from Toronto's "young ones."
He started off the game playing pretty well, hitting good open looks, not forcing the issue, and doing a solid job on D, even drawing a few charges.
But as the game went on, the suspect shooting came out, and the defense was nowhere to be found. Most egregious was completely falling asleep on a screen for Gerald Wallace, allowing him a wide open dunk in a tight game.
This can't happen.
Sure Wallace is a tough cover, but there's not excuse for plays like that.
DeMar wasn't much better, getting hung up on a screen that he should have seen coming on the very next play, allowing another easy Bobcats look.
Tonight I'm going to be watching these two almost extensively.
The Bulls have Luol Deng but beyond him, DeRozan and Weems shouldn't get their lunches handed to them by the likes of Ashton Kutcher...er Kyle Korver, and Ronnie Brewer. They at least have to play these guys to a draw or this one will be over early.
That goes for the whole team in fact as another bad first quarter against a team like Chicago is something the Raptors can ill afford.
It's one thing to crawl back against the Pistons, it's quite another to do it against a stingy Bulls team that can both get stops, and score the basketball with the best of them.