The Raptors may have been able to come away with the win last night against the Bobcats, however the effort that the team put forth left little else to be optimistic about for Raptor fans.
Sounds like a good thing right? Well, that's not exactly the case here.
On the plus side the Raptors took care of business against an inferior team, winning their second game in a row for the first time since Andrea Bargnani went down with a calf injury against the Utah Jazz on January 10th.
On the down side, the Dinos were barely able to pull out this victory and didn't look great doing it. And of course, there is the fact that the Raptor win now pushes them back a couple of slots in the Anthony Davis sweepstakes.
Consequences aside, the game itself featured a number of common trends that we have seen out of the Raptors this season for better or for worse.
To start with, the Dinos got a couple of vintage upside-downside games out of DeMar DeRozan and Andrea Bargnani. Although Bargnani was impressive in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 of his 30 on the night including some big crunch time buckets that allowed the Raps to halt the Bobcats comeback and pick up the W, he grabbed just three rebounds and played horrendous defense, allowing Byron Mullins to have his way with him all night long.
DeRozan, likewise had an efficient offensive game, scoring 20 points on eight of sixteen shooting; but much like Bargnani, provided precious little else to help his team.
The effort out of the Raptors' "one-two punch" was just further evidence of what is, and has been problematic about their status as the Raptors' two cornerstones going forward. Both players have shown that they can score, however their lack of effort in other areas, including defensively and on the boards, continue to set this team back time and time again.
Outside of those two players, the Raptors got steady games out of Aaron Gray--who has been one of the few positives during such a trying season--and Jose Calderon who took only two shots, but was able to affect the game with his playmaking ability.
Linas Klieza was also strong, leading the push off of the bench with 18 points and five rebounds. From a bench perspective, Ed Davis was solid again, grabbing seven rebounds and scoring six points in twenty-two minutes.
Those were the positives at least; the negatives? There were quite a few of those as well.
For starters, the Raptors lost the free throw differential yet again, allowing a team that shot 40% from the floor to have 30 extra opportunities at the free throw line.
Defensively, they missed multiple defensive rotations which again gave the Bobcats many more opportunities at the rim. Perhaps this was a result of fatigue, or just a simple lack of effort, but if they were to put up this type of performance against a team of a higher caliber, it is unlikely that they would have been able to come anywhere close to getting a win.
The bottom line here is that the Raptors played poorly, but by virtue of playing the less talented in the Bobcats, they were able to overcome their struggles and still come away with a win. However, unlike other wins this season where the Raps have put up a great effort and shown progress towards becoming a solid team; this isn't one you can feel good about and really, drives home the fact that this team needs a serious talent upgrade in the offseason.
With little time to rest, the Dinos will now travel to Philadelphia to take on the 76ers tomorrow night. If they are going to continue this mini winning streak that they are currently riding, here are the three most important things they must accomplish against the Sixers:
1) Bench Production: Despite their struggles over the past month, the 76ers are still one of the deepest teams in the NBA. The 76ers bring three big-time contributors off of the bench in Lou Williams, Jodie Meeks and Thaddeus Young who all play more than 20 minutes per game.
If the Raptors are going to be able to overcome this three-headed monster, they are going to need to get a repeat performance by Linas Klieza, as well as some help from new comers Ben Uzoh and Alan Anderson.
2) Fight the Fatigue: Despite the fact that the Dinos are playing in the second night of a back-to-back, that will not be a viable excuse against the Sixers, who also played last night in a hard fought overtime loss to the Miami Heat.
Judging by the effort level that most of the Raptors put forth last night, they should have plenty left in the tank for tonight. With the season winding down and the Sixers fighting for seeding in the East, every game is crucial for the 76ers, however if the Dinos can come out and put forth a strong effort, they may be able to outlast a tired Sixers ballclub.
3) Scoring Punch: The 76ers are a team that pride themselves on their defensive abilities, and while they lack a true elite scorer on that end of the floor, their defense and depth is what wins this team games.
For the Raptors this means that they are going to need multiple guys to step up and score the basketball. If the Raps are going to pull off the upset, guys like Bargnani and DeRozan are going to need to be sharp yet again on on the offensive end of the floor.