In another game there for the taking the Raptors blew an excellent first half, coming out flat to start the third quarter, and fell flat on their faces losing to the Chicago Bulls 105-94.
There may indeed be a good deal of finger pointing after this loss. The Raptors got solid play from Chris Bosh and Mo Pete as usual and both Matt Bonner and Mike James had good games offensively. However the team shot only 41% while allowing the Bulls to shoot an astounding 58%. The Bulls also killed Toronto on the boards, outrebounding the Raptors 42-25. These stats are somewhat interconnected as the Bulls shooters (Ben Gordon in particular) simply hit their open shots and the Raptors did not, giving the Bulls many more rebounding opportunities. However the Raptors' defense in the second half also ALLOWED way too many open shots, in particular ones close to the basket with the shot clock winding down. These types of plays absolutely kill any momentum you're trying to get going and it must be excruciating to watch as a coach.
Oh yes...to be the Raptors' head coach and associated staff.
I'm not sure how long we can keep these guys out of Unit 9 at St. Mike's.
With 3 days of practice to prepare for the Bulls, and Chicago coming off a tough 3 point loss to the Miami Heat the night before, there was no excuse for the effort brought to the table by the Raptors. The Bulls simply outworked Toronto in the second half and made much better defensive decisions, in particular on Chris Bosh. With Tyson Chandler out of the game with a sprained knee it seemed like the Raptors could pound the ball into Chris Bosh to keep walking him to the free throw line (he made 17 appearances last night.) However Chicago coach Scott Skiles put Michael Sweetney on Bosh and he and the rest of the Bulls forced Bosh into catching the ball high on the elbow thus making his path to the basket much longer and negating his quickness. The Raptors were unable to adjust and with CV Smooth relegated to the bench for poor defensive play it became the Mike James show and thus a jump shooting contest from there on out.
After the game Sam Mitchell spoke to the press about the loss and one message was clear...he was not impressed with some of his players effort and Mr. Villanueva seemed to be the main offender. Mitchell alluded to the fact that some of his players must have been "looking at the local media too much" and felt they DESERVED minutes and did not need to earn them.
Obviously he was referring to RaptorsHQ and our pro CV Smooth stance but nevertheless...CV Smooth just did not have his head in the game last night and apparently hasn't had it in practice lately either. Mitchell referred to somewhat lax play in practice by some of his players and once again it appeared that Villanueva was the main offender. While not quite a tirade against Charlie, coach Mitchell illustrated his displeasure with Villanueva to the press by remarking that they had spent days going over game tape on how to guard the individual players on Chicago only to allow a certain Bull to shoot 10 free throws. One quick look at the box score reveals that that Bull was in fact Andres Nocioni and he shot most of these free throws when guarded by....that's right, Villanueva.
Bottom line here is that while one rookie had his best game of the season (Joey Graham had 15 including some sick dunks and is looking more and more comfortable with each game), the other two struggled. Jose Calderon had an uncharacteristic 5 turnovers to go with his 6 assists and just did not look like his usual spark-plug self. And as previously discussed, CV Smooth was anything but. The Raptors don't have the talent and experience of other teams at this point, that's a given. But as Mitchell correctly pointed out after the game, the players have to start taking these losses, especially at home, personally. This doesn't mean just the veterans on the team, but the TEAM IN ITS ENTIRITY. And if that means players getting in each other's grills then so be it...accountability is usually bred and not born.