Tip-In: "Let the Tanking Continue" - Raptors Complete Lack of D Helps Push Knicks to 131 to 118 Win


Two days after taking down the Orlando Magic, the Toronto Raptors returned to their woeful defensive ways last night in New York...

Carmelo Anthony simply shrugged his shoulders after one 3-pointer fell, surprised at how easy things came against the Toronto Raptors.

Yep.

That was the opening line of ESPN.com's recap to last night's debacle, a 131 to 118 loss by the Toronto Raptors to the New York Knicks.

It's hard to know where to begin to break this one down as if you suffered through it, you saw a team that seemingly forgot about how they played Sunday against the Orlando Magic, reverting to the "we'll let you score as much as you want, and hopefully we'll be able to score just a bit more" style that's defined the bulk of the 2010-11 season for the team.

Is it Andrea Bargnani's fault?

That would be the easy way out as with Andrea back in the line-up the Raps looked a mess at both ends.

They allowed a disgusting 78 first-half points, and weren't exactly efficient at the other end either finishing with only 11 assists on 92 field goal attempts.

However Bargs played only eight minutes in this one before shutting it down, apparently unable to make a go of it on what now seems to be a chronically sore ankle.  He may have been 0 of 4 at that point, but his teammates hardly picked up the slack in his absence.

Sure, things got better in the second half and Toronto actually made a game of it at times, but this was close to the Golden State debacle in terms of defensive ineptitude.

The Knicks hit 15 3's and shot over 55 per cent from both the field and beyond the arc, and had 31 assists on 78 field goal attempts.  They were simply the picture of offensive efficiency last night and while some of this yes, as Jay Triano alluded to post-game, was thanks to some hot shooting by New York, the bulk of it was due to a Toronto defensive effort that could be described as laughable at best.

Time after time I watched various Raptors getting out late to challenge shooters, from a ho-hum jog to try and block Carmelo Anthony early (that was Bargs) to miscommunication between Toronto's wings allowing Bill Walker enough time to read War and Peace before making his move to the hoop.

I get injuries and all the other possibly legit reasons for the team's struggles on D this season, but there were far too many points last night that simply fell into the realm of "you guys should know what you're doing on plays like this by now."

However, the good ol' silver lining was in effect last night as both the Sacramento Kings and Washington Wizards, teams Toronto is fighting with for lottery positioning, won their matches meaning the Raps now sit tied for the league's third-worst record with the aforementioned Wiz.

I'd argue this is big, as it's a top three spot that I'm confident this club needs in order to get an impact player out of this draft, and the odds are that a bottom three finish gets them said prospect.

Unfortunately, what doesn't help their odds is playing the very worst team in the league tonight, the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are albeit coming off a win last night over the injury-depleted Charlotte Bobcats.

A win would again move the Raps back into fourth in terms of lottery seeding, with little breathing room between Toronto and the fifth-worst club, the Sacramento Kings.

The Wizards meanwhile play the Pacers and while have won four of their last five games, are taking on an opponent desperate to lock up the final playoff spot in the East so it will be no easy task.

Toronto therefore has to do its part to lose and sadly, here are our three keys to getting the job done:

1)  Duplicate last night's defensive effort.  Look, Toronto could have actually won last night had they played anything remotely resembling D.  It's not like the team didn't shoot well, they hit 49 per cent of their shots!  They also crushed the Knicks on the glass, so this was strictly a matter of getting stops.

If Toronto wants to guarantee an L, another night of allowing guys to get open looks on the perimeter would help, and while the Cavs are fairly woeful on O, players like Anthony Parker and Daniel Gibson can certainly fill it up from deep.

2)  Continue to sit Jose.  Jerryd Bayless' box score last night looks ok.  He had 19 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists. However you really saw difference between he and Jose in yesterday evening's game as Bayless struggled many a time to get the Dinos into their offensive sets.

We noted the 11 assists above, a pitiful mark considering how many points Toronto scored, and so if Raps fans are looking for a loss tonight, another evening of one-on-five and poor ball movement would really help the cause.

3)  Bargs, Barbosa and DeMar.  On a similar note, putting Andrea back in this evening at face value would seem to help the team's tanking efforts.  However after last night, I'd be shocked if we saw Bargs play in this one, and I'm guessing he'll probably sit the next couple.

That's a shame, but hopefully sitting Leandro Barbosa will balance things out.

Barbosa is hardly the team's most efficient player but he's streaky enough to help win some close games, much as he did down the stretch Sunday against the Magic.  His current injury status (sore right pinky finger) is one step removed from "lower body injury" on the list of "we're tanking" indicators and hopefully he gets another rest tonight.

And DeMar?

Well he, and arguably Ed Davis, were Toronto's lone bright spots last night and for tanking purposes, the team would do well to play him a lot less than yesterday evening's 40 minutes, unless his shot isn't falling early on.  However considering the importance of these two in terms of the team's future, perhaps the best-case scenario tonight would again be for DeMar and Davis to lead the charge for TO in a hard-fought game where they simply come up short.

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