Coming in the middle of the back-to-back-to-back sequence is this game against the Wizards. A lot of people called this game a "trap" game as the Wizards came into the game 0-8. Kinnon Yee says we should have expected it, and that this loss shouldn't have surprised anyone.
Forgive me as I indulge.
The Raptors lost, and lost big. In fact, it was a game that I had thought would be pretty ugly and the Raptors were happy to oblige. Back-to-Backs are hard for most teams, but none more so than those who predicate themselves on defense. There's just so little room for error and as we've seen with this Raptors team, once they're down, they simply don't have the ability to get back out of it.
Besides that, there's a lot to talk about and take away from this game. It's early still in the year, but I think we can come to some conclusions at this time.
For one, this Raptors team, while it has a philosophy, has not found an identity yet. An identity is something that you show on a nightly basis no matter what city or team you play against. It's what you lean back on in your time of crisis. In two games so far, we've seen the Raptors get into trouble and then evaporate. While I'm all for this change Dwane Casey has envisioned, it's an ongoing process that's going to take months to solidify.
Sure, the Raptors can play good defense when they're rested and of a good state of mind. But the Raptors have to learn to continue to play good defense and make life difficult for other teams even in the face of losing. A lack of offensive scoring can't begin to affect your performance as a team on the defensive end.
Another thing that we can take from this game is that Andrea Bargnani really seems to be getting it this year. Even when everything looked lost, Bargnani seemed still want to try and guide the Raptors down the right path. It's just that he's had so little help this year outside of Amir Johnson and Jose Calderon that it's embarrassing.
When Bargnani attempted to get aggressive and get to the line, the rest of his teammates continued to look lost on the perimeter. But at the heart of it, our Italian hero was gassed from last night and could only do so much.
Case in point, our swingman situation.
It was bad in previous years during the Bosh-era when we just couldn't get the right production out of the shooting guard position, but now that Bosh is gone, there's just no excuse. DeMar DeRozan clearly isn't the answer right now as he continues to struggle to find ANY kind of consistency. His shot selection, his decision making, his comfort in dribbling to make his own plays are all well below the average shooting guard at this time. This is your starting shooting guard ladies and gentlemen, a position that is almost predicated on the ability to nail a shot on a consistent basis or the ability to drive to the basket in a manner that leads to free throws or a basket.
Granted, the bench option is not any better.
Leandro Barbosa continues to do his best Jerryd Bayless impression by playing out of control and coughing up turnover over turnover. And it's not like he's doing it by passing the ball (cause god knows that he doesn't even do that often enough). He does it by dribbling into traffic or traps and then trying to dribble out of control back into a shooting position.
Dwane Casey may have given him a green light, but I'd love to see some ball movement first to the open man. Because right now, the Raptors are simply banking on Barbosa to have a good or decent game once in a while to propel their team to victory. Unfortunately that's just no way to build a winning culture.
Heck, it's not even a way to develop your young up and coming players.
I'm not even going to talk about the small forward position either since that disaster has been talked about ad naseum. What I find astounding still is how badly Rasual Butler is playing. Granted, his career percentages of around 36% beyond the 3 point arc are nothing to write home about, but this is yet another ineffectual three point shooter that has joined the Raptors shooting well below his career mark. And with James Johnson still showing us that he's the second coming of JYD (lots of energy, best in limited minutes) you can understand that there was a scary sentiment growing last night on our game thread.
We started pining for Linas Kleiza.
Overall though, I'd have to say that the biggest let down was a lack of energy. We can forgive the starters since Dwane Casey made the right move and secured the sure win against Minnesota, but to have your bench come up and do so little even when they have so much to prove is just disturbing.
Unfortunately, the Raptors have little choice but to just keep rolling on.
It's a flight back home and then tonight, they face the lovely Sacramento Kings. As much as we may question MSLE about their commitments to winning, the scary show that is the Maloof Brothers continues to astound. With DeMarcus Cousins essentially "winning" the Kings from Paul Westphal, the Kings seem to have handed the inmates the keys to the team.
I guess in the Maloof's world, when a player holds the team hostage, the team caves to the player demands.
Nevertheless, the Kings are a dangerous team to be playing on the tail end of a back-to-back-to-back and with this being the final game of the Raptors' triple header, they will need to find energy from the reserves.
To me, this has to be the highlight for a Raptors win tonight. If the Raptors cannot rely on Ed Davis, Leandro Barbossa, Anthony Carter, James Johnson, and Jamaal Magloire to play extended minutes, this game will be over quickly and ugly. It's simply going to come down to that one key again. We can hardly count on the the fact that the Kings are coming off a horrible loss to the 76ers last night as the Raptors are coming off a much tougher grind.
So tonight, it's gotta be time for someone unsung to step it up. The Raptors have a small chance to come out of this difficult Back-to-Back-to-Back situation with two wins. They just have to go and work for it.