The HQ takes a look at last night's loss and notes that it was yet another along the same line fans have seen this season.
During the broadcast of last night's game, Toronto Raptors' GM Bryan Colangelo was interviewed by Canadian sports legend Rod Black.
BC looked like he had aged about 5 years in the past few months, and with a team on pace for 27 wins, another playoff miss, and very little certainty in terms of a winning future, who can blame him?
However if I'm BC, I know what I have to do, and last night's 101 to 95 loss by his Raptors to the Detroit Pistons was just another in the long line of exhibits that reinforced my future vision.
How could it not have been?
Again the Raps displayed some of the most horrific defense the NBA has ever seen (allowing Detroit to shoot almost 60% in the first half), got down big early, relied on the offensive superpowers of Andrea Bargnani to try and make a run at the win, but came up short.
Along the way yes, the team lost Leandro Barbosa to a strained right hamstring, an injury that will keep him off the upcoming road trip, but other than that, it was pretty much par for the course. Not enough D, sporatic O, glimpses from players like DeMar DeRozan and Ed Davis, lackluster defensive effort by Bargs, and the Raptors making some of the league's least talented types look like superstars.
Then there was Tracy McGrady.
A shell of his former self, the Raptors must have equipped him with a DeLorean pre-game because T-Mac put on a performance that was more akin to 2001 than 2011. He had 22 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds in the win, and gave the Raps fits via mismatches.
But again, this is nothing new to read in recaps from games this season.
So what is Colangelo to do?
Well to start with, he needs some legit star talent.
After the Raptors' debacle, I found myself drawn into the LA Clippers vs. Golden State Warriors match that was on later in the night. Blake Griffin makes for great viewing but after only a few minutes, I realized that the game was much more than just Griffin.
That's solid young talent.
Well we're getting close to two years into the DeMar DeRozan experiment and he's yet to show fans anything more than that he could perhaps be a 15 point per game scorer. He was abused by the slower, albeit larger, McGrady a good chunk of the night, finishing a team-high -11 amongst starters, and post-game when Jay Triano ranted about "a team running the exact same play 6 times in a row against you," it was pretty obvious who the comment was directed at.
Well he's an amazing offensive talent, as he proved again in the fourth quarter last night, but his effort at times, and "defensive traits" leave a lot to be desired. To win with Bargs, you need to surround him with tremendous rebounders and defenders to balance out his weaknesses. In fact Toronto finally got the game within single digits when Andrea was on the bench, and when the Raptors' best defenders such as Julian Wright, Joey Dorsey and Amir Johnson were on the floor together.
When asked why Bargs sat so much in the third, post-game Jay Triano said bluntly:
"I was looking for someone to get us some defensive rebounds."
And when one of the local beat crew noted that Bargs had some troubles early in the third with his effort Triano flatly stated that the reporter was "being kind."
That's not the kind of thing you want to hear about your team's best player, especially considering said player is hardly a rookie at this point. 31 points and 9 rebounds looks great at face value, but it took Andrea 25 shots to get those points, he was -5 on the night, and in a game of five points, those rebounds and poor defensive sequences could have been the difference between a win and a loss.
After Bargnani and DeRozan?
Well, Toronto has a banged up Sonny Weems, whose break-out season hasn't exactly lived up to expectations, and a few reclamation projects like Julian Wright, Jerryd Bayless and Joey Dorsey.
The lone bright spot here is Ed Davis, but he's miles away from proving to be any sort of franchise cornerstone. If you look around the league, there's probably only a more bare cupboard in Cleveland in terms of overall talent.
But we know all of this right?
It was identified early on in the season, and this recap is simply re-stating the obvious; that the Toronto Raptors are pretty thin on star power, have virtually no good defenders or defensive schemas, and therefore the margin of error each and every time they play is about as thin as wax paper.
But what concerns me over the last while, is the lack of evolution from this bunch.
The talent issue was always there, but Toronto used team play and improved defense at times to get wins no one expected.
The team that played Detroit last night looked for most of the game like it was more interested in playing outside in the Toronto snow.
And that's why this next little trip could be the one that puts them into the bottom of the league for good.
Sure, the Raps play a pretty terrible Wizards team tonight. But it's in Washington, and after that we're talking New Orleans, San Antonio, Orlando and Miami, all on the road too.
Toronto has lost six of their last eight and after this trip, we could easily be talking 11 of their last 13.
And that might not be a bad thing if you're thinking about this spring's draft lottery, but I'm concerned right now as to the club's overall effort level. I'm just not seeing the same fight, with the exception of the loss to Atlanta Wednesday night, nor am I seeing the development of various individuals to the same extent that I saw earlier.
In fact that's my one key, instead of three, for tonight's contest against the Wiz.
Colangelo and co. simply can't afford to lose this group of youngsters at this point in the season, and while I'm not saying that's the case right now, there are certainly some troubling signs.
After all, It's one thing to lose games when the buzzer sounds.
It's another to lose them before halftime.