One day after their season let-down the Raptors trotted over to Detroit to completely trounce the Pistons 111-97. While the ball is now in Chicago's court as they play the Celtics, Raptors HQ wonders where even an iota of this effort was a game ago.
Where were these guys a game ago?
How does it make Chris Bosh feel to know that his team wilted under the pressure of their biggest game of the year, only to come back and post monster numbers against the Pistons?
I'm sure many fans are unsure what to make of this game. You could argue that when the Raptors came out flat the other day against the Bulls, they were simply ill prepared and played a team which was rounding into playoff form. You may even argue that the Raptors came back and did what they had to do to put all the pressure back on the Bulls and are still seriously trying to make the playoffs.
Fact is, this team had their own destiny in the palm of their own hands and instead gave it up to the team that was chasing them. Instead of seizing the moment when they had the chance, they will now rely on lucking out to make the playoffs. And the scary thing is, the Raptors just might make it despite squandering all their earlier chances to put things away.
It's frustrating knowing that Andrea Bargnani essentially lived in the post for the entire first half and made life a living hell for the Pistons. While he once again disappeared from the post in the second half, one half of post-work is better than what he showed against Chicago. If you're a fan of Bargs, I'm sure you can be satisfied that he had one of his best shooting nights in recent history. He was at least an active interior presence for half of one game, but this is something that we should have been seeing much more frequently by now.
But maybe you're satisfied with the effective performance by Jose Manuel Calderon when he managed to dish off 11 assists and minimize his own damage on the defensive end by playing within himself. By attacking the paint and prodding the Detroit defense, Calderon managed to create seams and gaps for himself to distribute the ball so that shooters would have an open look at the rim.
Perhaps you were content with the controlled effort that Sonny Weems gave the team last night. He gave the team the most amount of minutes out of any player, and yet took less than 1/3 the shot attempts compared to a game ago. And while Weems seemed to roll his ankle in the final minutes (why he was on the floor at all is up for debate), Sonny's early-morning tweets seem to indicate he's ok, and that nothing will keep him from playing in "the biggest game of his career Wednesday."
The Raptors even got a career game out of Amir Johnson. As he slashed towards the middle for a series of slams and layups towards his career-best 26 points, Johnson also stretched out his game to do his best Chris Bosh impression by nailing a few outside shots.
But here's the rub: I'm not happy and here's why
If you're a guy who's rooting for the Raptors to make the playoffs, you should be pretty angry that the Raptors didn't put out a similar effort against the Bulls to seal up their playoff hopes. You should be absolutely livid that they dropped an egg of a game at home and then went on to show that needed effort against one of the worst teams in the East. You should be angry because this is not how a team shows that they are ready for the playoffs and are simply showing a half-baked effort to enter the post-season. With this kind of effort over the last two games, how does anyone expect the Raptors to remain competitive with the Cavs in a seven game series?
If you're a guy who's rooting for the Raptors to get a higher lottery pick, winning this game didn't help your chances. Toronto is now only a mere half game back of the Bulls with the tiebreaker still in their hands, they can easily catch the Bulls if Chicago even marginally falters. With the Bulls still having to play the Celtics and Bobcats, Toronto somehow is still in a pretty good position to grab that eighth and final seed in the East, thus pushing them out of the lottery.
However, what's most maddening to myself is just how half-baked this team is from top to bottom. The Raptors currently are the very definition of "middle-of-the-road", as they are not bad enough to draft high and get a great pick, but likewise are not good enough to even put up a token fight against a team that they're fighting against to get into the playoffs. And while the Dinos may be without the services of Chris Bosh, they should be a team that has more than enough talent to secure an eighth seed considering that they were originally aiming for 50 wins and a top five spot in the conference. Good teams find a way to overcome adversity (see Milwaukee) and come together even without their star player.
Unfortunately, all that we're stuck with is not even good, not even horrible.