So I asked myself, "If the Raptors won, would I write a huge post about how enthusiastic I was?"
Not in the slightest.
In what I saw as one of the most troubling returns to a pre-Triano game style, the Raptors completely shot themselves in the foot. It just didn't matter who you were on the team, there was just something off about each Raptors' game last night.
If you were Andrea Bargnani, you got to the line 8 times, finished with 20 points, but shot a horrible 5-for-14.
If you were Chris Bosh, you were efficient, scored and rebounded well, but only made 7-of-12 from the free throw line.
If you were Roko Ukic, or Will Solomon, you put Jay Triano in such a position that Anthony Parker had to close out the game in your stead. It's that kind of stagnant offense that simply drives me nuts as it shows that the Raptors simply do not think about each other as a group, nor do they work towards a common goal.
Oh, and then there were the 20 combined turnovers. With everyone except for Solomon and Moon contributing to the turnover-fest, the first reaction would be to say that referee Bill Kennedy simply had it in for the Raptors. While I can say there were a few questionable calls coming from him, a lot of the turnovers reminded me of the Cleveland game earlier in the year, where the Raptors simply refused to cut to open parts of the floor when their teammate was in trouble. Last night, the Raptors stood around dumbfounded at times as their teammate was double teamed and trapped.
When a player gets trapped, the Raptors should be flashing to gaps in the defense so that a pass can be made out of a sticky situation. Instead, for most of the night (and season for that matter) the Raptors would sit around and wait for the player to attempt a contested shot.
Over the course of my lifetime, I've had many different jobs. The one job that I can say emphasizes teamwork more so than many others is the time I spent helping out as a cook and manager in my friend's restaurant. If there's one thing that I took from that job, it's that when a restaurant is running well, the waiters and cooks all work as one to get meals out in a timely fashion. Everyone pitches in to fill in the gaps, and without a word, the kitchen develops a flow.
Laziness, after all, kills teamwork.
Top contender for Mr. Lazy 2009 might go to Jamario Moon. Once again, the evening showed Moon in a poor light as he defended Granger in a lackadaisical effort. If Joey Graham wasn't in foul trouble for the night, Moon might have seen himself nailed to the bench. Emblematic of his effort was a play in the second quarter. While Moon got a basket in the second by laying it up on a drive, his two mistakes on that play almost cost him the bucket. First, he waited for the pass to reach him instead of meeting the pass and the finish was an incredibly soft floater for such an open drive to the basket.
It was then that the Raptors decided to toss three bigs into the game because they just could not find a solution at the SF position. However, our boys had to run zone in order to try and negate the quickness that they would be giving up. Nevertheless, I had to question the move. For one, Bargnani would have far less room to operate in the paint and the Raptors would be unable to close out on shooters as well as would continue to get punished by the cutting Pacers. If I had to venture a guess, Triano implemented this lineup because he simply didn't have an answer for the weak willed Jamario Moon, nor foul-troubled Joey Graham. To me, it was a strategy employed simply to buy time.
But there were several points that one could conclude from the lineup:
1) Jermaine O'Neal is going to take time to get back into his flow of things.
2) Bargnani and O'Neal on the floor at the same time isn't going to work too well because it clogs up the paint.
3) Jermaine O'Neal is now a 20 million dollar bench player.
To me, the most interesting aspect of last night's game was seeing how Bargnani would react to O'Neal's return. It was for the second and third quarters that Bargnani seemed almost out of sync thanks to the interior presence of Jermaine O'Neal. As we've observed, O'Neal's return means another big body in the paint which gives Bargnani less room to operate and drive to the basket. As opposed to Voskuhl or Humphries, O'Neal has a lot of trouble moving in and out of the paint. While it may be because of the lingering effects of his knee injury, I believe that it's simply because Jermaine is not as agile as our other two front court options, which makes crashing the glass from the perimeter much more difficult. By the end of the third, we were staring at a 24 point deficit.
But in the beginning of the fourth, the Raptors went on an 11-0 run to cut their deficit to 13. Parker ran the point for the majority of the fourth and the Raptors managed to get Indiana their fifth team foul with 4:07 to go.
Bargnani, once again was a key cog in the Raptor's offense coming down the stretch. Heck, he even managed to close out on Troy Murphy in a life-or-death defensive play to cause a turnover. However, the margin was just too large to overcome and a series of defensive break downs allowed the Pacers to close out the game.
As we look towards the upcoming game against the Suns, we've talked a need for a trade, and whether the Raptors should attempt to scrap this season in lieu of attempting to get a high draft pick, or to make minor changes and hope that it's enough to turn around this season and make our team into a contender. We're seeing this season unravel before our very eyes and unfortunately, I can't see our Raptors pulling off a win against the team-that-Colangelo-once-built.