The Raptors started off ok against an undermanned Wizards club, had a strong second quarter behind Chris Bosh to grab the lead, slept their way through the third quarter, and got some help from Hump in the fourth and a huge shot from AP to get to OT. There, it was the same story as the majority of the game; superior offensive execution from the Wizards and too many offensive rebounds allowed.
Instead of our usual format therefore, I’m going to discuss a few things that have been bugging me about this loss.
What’s bugging me Part I – Offensive Rebounding
On average this year, the Raptors grab 10 offensive rebounds a game, which puts them 24th in that category of the league’s 30 teams. Last night Toronto had 12, but allowed the Wizards to grab 19, many of these in crucial moments in overtime.
Post game, Sam Mitchell made these comments in regards to the rebounding issue that is once again rearing its ugly head.
"I don’t know what to say when, what, this is three or four games this year, when a team gets 15 or so offensive rebounds…"
"…we gotta get stronger, and we’ll have our guys work on that over the summer…"
"What do we do until the summer comes? – I don’t know…"
Not exactly singling out Jerome Moiso, but not exactly a ringing endorsement of your troops either.
I wrote at length on Monday about rebounding issues perhaps being as or more important than the point guard situation and last night this was indeed the case. The Raptors got outworked on the glass and considering the team’s defense forced the Wizards to shoot 42 per cent from the field, rebounding was indeed Toronto’s Achilles Heal.
Unfortunately I can’t simply chalk this rebounding discrepancy up to "lack of effort" as Leo Rautins and others suggested. Yes, the Raptors lacked some aggression at times, but anyone who has ever played ball knows; you can face-guard, box-out and get position all you want, but when human trampolines like Dominic McGuire and Andre Blatche are leaping over you, or getting to the ball quicker due to their athletic ability, sometimes there’s not much you can do.
What’s Bugging Me Part II – The Points in the Paint Situation
This Raptors team and this Wizards team are quite similar in many ways. Both are top 3-point shooting clubs, both can get up and down the court, and both can be blistering offensive clubs.
The difference is that while the Raptors have one giant inside presence in Chris Bosh, the Wizards have several guys who can score in the paint and others who can put points on the board by getting into that area. In other words, when the jump shots aren’t falling, they can go to a plan B.
The Raptors actually got to the free-throw line 28 times as opposed 21 for the Wiz but 18 of those attempts were by Mr. Bosh. The Raptors need to give him some help. He refused to let his team go silently into the night, even putting up a huge step-back 3 in OT to bring the team back from the dead once more. But to get 37 points, 12 rebounds, three steals and a block from your franchise player and lose is inexcusable. Players like Anthony Parker, Jamario Moon and Carlos Delfino all had rough shooting nights yes, but they all also settled far too often for these jumpers.
This has been another common theme throughout the season unfortunately.
What’s Bugging Me Part III – Living and Dying by the Jump Shot
Directly related to the first two points is this one; when you don’t rebound the ball well, and you don’t score in the paint, you need to shoot a ridiculous percentage on your jump shots to win.
This is how the Raptors won in Boston but last night it was not to be.
Anthony Parker, OT-shot aside, was off his mark all night, Jason Kapono seemed tentative taking only three shots, Andrea Bargnani was invisible offensively, and Carlos Delfino reverted back to his 0 for 6 ways.
The problem is you can’t really fault guys for not knocking down shots. As Sam Mitchell likes to say in his post-game speeches, "it happens." However it’s when you’re not making those shots that you need your Plan B’s and C’s to kick in; that would be your interior scoring, your defence and your rebounding. And unfortunately for the Raptors last night, those things did not occur as a whole.
This brings me to my final point in this recap; for the Raptors to start being a consistent team and challenge the Washington’s, Cleveland’s and Orlando’s of their conference, they need to start getting consistent offensive execution. If a team is relying almost solely on jump shots, like the Raptors do, on nights those shots don’t fall, the team is most likely going to lose. This is a huge part of why Toronto has had such a high and low season in many respects.
Tonight in Round 3 of this battle, the Raptors need to get their offense going to the rim. Washington switched defensive schemes in the second half after being torched by Bosh in the first and it forced the Raptors to look elsewhere for their scoring. The result? 15 third quarter points and a permanent swing in the game’s momentum. In fact had it not been for Kris Humphries impressive play in the fourth, this game would have been long over before the halfway point of the final quarter. Toronto needs an aggressive Andrea Bargnani in the post, a Jamario Moon who realizes he’s not the second-coming of Ray Allen, and a Carlos Delfino who remembers that he can dunk off the bounce with some of the best of them. Only then will the offense open up, and maybe the team won’t have to play CB4 for 50 minutes.
This isn’t meant to be a "doom and gloom" declaration, but it is meant to reiterate something we’ve been saying all season; without someone else who can get to the rim besides Chris Bosh, this team’s play comes and goes with its outside shooting.
Unfortunately it’s also forced me to wrinkle my brow a bit at some of the Raptors’ recent draft acquisitions. Seeing guys like McGuire, Blatche, Pecherov and Young come off the bench for Washington last night was a painful reminder of how important the NBA draft is for keeping your cupboard stocked. Bargnani aside, there were many options in recent drafts that could have addressed some of Toronto’s rebounding issues and I’m not even sure a little PJ Tucker wouldn’t have given the team a lift last night. But to see players like Craig Smith, Paul Millsap and Leon Powe all thriving with other teams when they were available for Toronto to draft recently still burns me I won’t lie.
Giving him the quick hook leads to our same old discussion of development versus wins but I’m sorry, tonight’s game, especially if Caron is absent again, is one you HAVE to win.