Tip-In: Raptors Finish Preseason 0 - 2

It's only two preseason games, but the HQ's Scott Campsall notes that the Dinos have some major work to do at both ends of the floor before they're ready to fully compete this season.

Your Toronto Raptors officially went 0-2 in the preseason after dropping their second consecutive game to the Boston Celtics 81-73. The game was not as close as the score indicated, and was over by the half when the Raptors trailed 47-31; the second half simply provided the Raptors some practice against a Celtics lineup that was largely composed of bench players and rookies.

The game itself was more of what Raptors fans have become accustomed to in the last couple of years; Andrea Bargnani scored an inefficient 20 points and grabbed only 4 rebounds, the Raptors gave up 52% percent shooting in the first half, before the Celtics decided to rest their starters, not much defence was played, etc, etc. In other words, the Raptors followed the same script of seasons past, only this time they also struggled from the floor, shooting a combined 32%.

The Celtics top five on the night got off to a great start, including an 8-0 run right out of the gate. This was due in to in large part to Jerryd Bayless's unwillingness to guard Rondo from 20 feet out, a trend which continued throughout the game.

Another issue for the Raptors defense was their inability to handle the Celtics bigs out on the perimeter. Kevin Garnett, Brandon Bass and even Greg Stiemsma-The hero for the Celtics on Sunday-took advantage of the porous Raptors defense, knocking down open jumpers as well as taking the ball to the basket off of the dribble.

There were moments in the game, particularly towards the end of the first half, where the Dinos showed some flashes on the defensive end of the floor. Unfortunately, the effort and success just wasn't there for the majority of the game.

Point guard play was another problem on this night. Jose Calderon and Jerryd Bayless combined for 5 assists, 5 turnovers and shot a combined 6-22. Neither player looked particularly sharp, nor played with the competitiveness that you would expect out of a couple of players vying for a starting point guard spot in the NBA. With the way both of these guards are playing, we may see Anthony Carter starting at the 1 come opening day.

What was most noticeable for the Dinos offensively was their lack of shooting prowess which really stagnated their offensive flow. As noted, the Raps shot 32 % from the floor and were a whopping 6% on 1-17 shooting from behind the arc. The glaring lack of shooting will continue to be a problem for the team this year, and is a reason we may end up seeing Gary Forbes take the starting role over James Johnson.

Speaking of James Johnson, he is slowly becoming one of the most polarizing players on this team. Defensively Johnson played extremely well, tallying 5 steals and 2 blocks as well as providing some solid on the ball defense. He also grabbed eight rebounds and did a good job acting as a point forward, pushing the break on a number of occasions. However, offensively he set the team back with his inability to make a jumpshot (0-7) and erratic play attacking the baskets which lead to his 4 turnovers.

As we have argued in this space before, Johnson is going to have to make jumpshots in order to stay in this lineup, but he is arguably their best defensive player, which is a focal point being preached by this organization to anybody who will listen. The way in which Johnson's season shakes down will be an interesting subplot to this campaign, and certainly something to watch as this team continues to pile up the losses.

As far as the offense is concerned, the Raps have some work to do because shooting 32% simply isn't going to cut it. Casey has stated that the focus is practice thus far has been on defense, and rightfully so, but he might want to consider putting in a couple offense sets after what we witnessed from the Raptors last night.

In the end, holding the Celtics to 80 points and 39% shooting will look good on paper, but this team has a lot of work to do if they hope to put up those numbers against teams in the regular season.

The veiled optimism, with which the first game was met by most, is slowly dissipating after the way the Toronto played last night against the Boston starters. This season is going to be a tough one, with a number of ups and downs and last night was certainly a down, yet it will be important to remember that this is a young team and things won't turn around in one day. As the saying goes, "Rome wasn't built in a day."

Colangelo has said this is a "building" season for the Raptors, yet seeing the way the Raptors performed last night against the Celtics, Toronto may be doing a little less "building" and a little more rebuilding this season still.

SCOTT CAMPSALL

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