It was not a pretty site, even for the most hardcore Raptor fans. The Detroit Pistons hosted Toronto last night and gave the Raptors a thorough spanking handing them a 117-84 loss. Tayshaun Prince led the Pistons with 27 points and Richard Hamilton and Ben Wallace had 18 and 15 respectively. In fact, 7 of the Pistons scored in double figures.
The Raptors shot well in the first half (almost 50%) but were plagued by consistent foul trouble. At one point the Raptors had committed 18 fouls and Detroit only 8. This resulted in Detroit shooting 36 free throws, 16 more then Toronto. In addition, the Raptors were once again killed on the boards, being outrebounded 57-35. This resulted in 16 offensive rebounds for Detroit and numerous second chance points. Putting the fouls and rebounding numbers together, the Raptors were way behind the 8 ball from the get-go.
Jalen Rose led the Raptors with 25 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals. Jalen still took some ill-advised shots but you almost couldn't blame him last night as the team was DESPERATE for an offensive spark. Mo Peterson and Jose Calderon were the team's best players once again with Calderon dishing out 10 assists and Mo Peterson dropping 17 points.
I've been accused at times of seeing this team through "Rose-coloured glasses" and yes at times, I'm maybe a bit too optimistic. However, last night's performance was indeed a bare bones "all the cards are on the table" type game. This is our team. Last night wasn't pretty but it showed some of the realities this team is facing this season. In order:
1. We lack talent. This was the first and most obvious point. Anytime the other team is bringing Antonio McDyess off the bench and we're bringing Matt Bonner...you know there's trouble. In fact, you could argue that our entire team is a bench with the exception of Chris Bosh and maybe Jalen Rose. After watching the third game of the Raptors' season I've already noticed a trend. In all three games the Raptors have fallen into a hole early and then climbed back when the opposing team has gone to their bench. Our starters simply aren't as talented as most other teams or don't yet have the necessary NBA experience. Therefore it's going to be imperative to get a starting lineup that can at least keep the games close...and until then, we might be in for a really long season.
2. Rebounding and defence. These two areas killed us again last night. The Pistons ball movement is a thing of beauty and yes, they've had the same core for the past 3 seasons, but Toronto simply did not do a good enough job defensively. Once again too many open layups and 3 point shots. And while the Wallace's are about as tough to get a rebound from as any other frontcourt in the league, there's no excuse for letting Carlos Arroyo grab 6 boards, including 2 offensive ones. That's simply not boxing out.
3. The center position. This is of course directly linked to point 2 and something that Rob Babcock may have to address sooner rather then later if the losses pile up. Loren Woods is currently playing his way out of the league and Rafael Araujo just isn't ready for NBA minutes against most teams. The encouraging play of Aaron Williams was cut drastically short only 2 minutes after his entrance into the game when he fell after blocking a shot, dislocating two of his fingers. (As a sidenote, is it REALLY necessary to replay the injury 12 times? Fingers should just NOT BEND IN LIKE THAT!)
4. Coaching. Sam Mitchell was outcoached last night, plain and simple. Any adjustments the Raptors attempted were met by an onslaught of Detroit offense and Flip Saunders seemed to be 1 step ahead of the Raptors at all times. The concern on my part is that the last 3 games I've seen signs of this. However from a fan's perspective it's hard to say whether this is due to Mitchell's inefficiencies or the players simply not understanding or executing correctly.
5. Energy. In the last two games the Raptors just came out flat. I thought maybe getting away from the ACC would be good for the young team but apparently not as once again the Raptors simply didn't bring the same energy and intensity as their opponents. The interesting thing is that I expected Mike James to be one of those "energy" guys but he's not looked great so far. The ill-advised shots have us seeing visions of Rafer Alston and it would not be a surprise to see Jose Calderon starting sooner rather then later.
Toronto attempted to keep this one close but a third quarter 14-2 run by the Pistons put it out of reach. Sam Mitchell after the game stated that "things weren't going to get any easier."
With Lebron James and the Cavs in town on Monday, truer words were never spoken.