A great first three quarters against the Orlando Magic unfortunately couldn't translate into a win as the Raps dropped their third straight match. The HQ takes a look at the loss...
With about four minutes left in the third quarter, Jose Calderon was looking for someone to pass to.
The shot clock was winding down, and he had to create.
His baseline drive was cut off by Jameer Nelson, and his hot hand, Andrea Bargnain was out of reach.
However instead of a turnover, Jose makes a nifty behind-the-back pass as he heads baseline again, this time finding an open Amir Johnson a few feet away from the cup.
Amir catches the ball, turns, raises up for the jump shot...
...and shoots a brick.
This wasn't the TSN turning point on the night so to speak. No, that point was probably somewhere in the last two minutes of the same quarter, when minus Calderon and Bargnani, the Raptors failed to get anything going offensively, and began to allow the Orlando to crawl back from a 13 point deficit.
The fourth quarter mirrored the final possessions in the third quarter to a large extent, and when all was said and done, the Orlando Magic came away with a 102 to 96 victory.
So why highlight the behind-the-back pass from Jose to Amir?
To me, it stood out as a microcosm of this match to a large degree.
Even though the Dinos' shot 46 per cent on the evening, their offense struggled mightily at key points, and outside of Andrea and Jose, there just wasn't much to draw from in terms of fire power. And watching Jose probe and wheel on that possession, looking for something, someone, who could perhaps put the ball in the basket outside of Andrea, hammered that home.
DeMar DeRozan finished with 17 points, but almost half of those came from the free-throw line as he shot 4 of 12 on the night.
After that, it got even uglier.
And even Andrea, who I felt again gave it his all at both ends of the court, just didn't have the energy to finish things off. He had a fairly efficient 28 points as well as 7 rebounds and 3 assists, but with the game on the line, his jumpers just didn't find the bottom of the net as consistently as they did earlier on.
41 minutes will do that, and game MVP Jose Calderon (18 points, 13 assists, including his 3000th, and only one turnover) logged 36 himself thanks to the ineffectiveness of reserves like Anthony Carter.
Unfortunately with Jerryd Bayless likely out for a little while longer, I don't expect a break for Jose, nor Andrea for that matter, any time soon.
The team turns right around now and takes on the Knicks tonight in New York and for that one, here are our three keys:
1) Bench production. 22 points last night, 22 the night before, and so far this season the team just isn't getting enough out of it's pine crew. There's admittedly not a lot there offensively with Bayless out, but one guy that needs to get more involved is Ed Davis. It's a weird situation but Ed just isn't having the impact I think we all thought he would so far this season. On top of that, he played only 12 minutes against the Magic after averaging about 20 on the season. Yes, Ed needs to get going, but the onus here is on Casey and crew too to find out a way to use the former Tar Heel. Right now, he seems to be drifting aimlessly when he's out on the court, something that isn't going to help him get more PT, or help the Dinos get more W's.
2) Paging DeMar DeRozan. Speaking of drifting aimlessly, the other player that I think this description applies to so far this season is DeMar DeRozan. Coming off an excellent end to his sophomore campaign, he, like Ed, seems to still be trying to figure things out. It's pretty early in the season obviously but the team needs him to start knocking down shots more consistently, as well as being more aggressive on O. The nine trips to the free throw line against the Magic was a great start, and so was his rebounding performance, and against the likes of Toney Douglas, Landry Fields and Bill Walker, he's got a major opportunity to get his O back on track.
3) Rebound the basketball. Toronto has been a pretty solid rebounding team so far this season. Even though Dwight got his numbers, and provided issues for the Raps inside, guys like Amir Johnson and Jamaal Magloire did an admirable job working with what they had. On the season, the Raps haven't been crushed on the glass that often either and tonight they take on a Knicks' team that's one of the league's worst rebounding groups. No Amar'e helps this as guys like Josh Harrellson have been left to hold down the fort. If the Raps can keep possession by getting second and third chances via the glass, it will give them an opportunity to put up some easy points on O, plus on D, potentially keep a high-scoring Knicks attack at bay