The Raptors hung with the Magic for the majority of the the game, but just couldn't close the gap between the two teams talent-wise or on the scoreboard. With players like Marco Belinelli banged up, the Raptors were particular short at the wing positions. Vicious D takes a look at a loss that many probably expected...
I was waiting for it.
Jay Triano cracked a clipboard over his leg in the fourth quarter after yet another blown defensive assignment and no movement on the offense.
While some may be of the opinion that a 104-96 loss to the Magic is nothing to sneeze at, I'm very disappointed in the Raptors today, and quite possibly Jay Triano is too. It shouldn't be that surprising that the Raptors scored under 100 points for this game as they were without Marco Belinelli thanks to a pulled groin.
However, there are some things that we should all acknowledge about this team. Here's just a few of them, but the Raptors are continually making the same mistakes over and over again with no change in sight and it is driving.me.up.the.wall.
- Jarrett Jack can score from the corners shooting 3s, he can drive to the basket for a layup. He should not ever take a 3-pointer from any other position and he should definitely not take a single shot off the bounce. If he hasn't figured it out, someone better sit him down.
- Jose Calderon should not ever be guarding his man for shot. He should always be setting up to guard his man for dribble penetration. We see the blow-bys and it's because he stays close to his man and bites on every move back and forth that the Raptors end up with a point guard near the basket.
- The Raptors should not be afraid of using their energy bench players down the stretch. If the starters insist on taking lazy jumpers and sitting back on defense, then Triano should play the players who will be aggressive. For this game, it happened because some players were in foul trouble, but Toronto has to use players that have gotten them back into games. It sends a message to the team.
At the end of the day, yes the more talented and deeper team won this game.
Nonetheless, the Raptors could have had this one and it's a repetition of errors that has cost them yet another W. Oh yeah and the refs once again didn't do the Raptors any favours either with momentum-changing blown calls down the stretch, but there is little that can be done about that.
The game started off well enough with the Raptors attacking Dwight Howard and getting two quick fouls on him. Toronto though, refused to continue to try and attack Howard and rack up more fouls on him. Bosh stayed to the outside in the 2nd quarter allowing Howard to conserve his fouls. And although Dwight picked up four personal foulss by the third quarter, the Rap just couldn't manage to take advantage. The team simply shied away from attacking the paint at the end of the game and therefore wasted a big opportunity to take out a big part of Orlando's game.
DeMar DeRozan also didn't do himself any favours with his horrible pick-and-roll work for the afternoon. He had the tough assignment of guarding Vince Carter, but if the Dinos are going to continue insisting on starting the rookie, I'm not going to pull many punches. Granted, part of his horrible game has to be shared with the Raptors' big man he was working with. Chris Bosh and Andrea Bargnani would often end up sticking to Dwight Howard on the pick rather than following Carter down or hedging to slow down Carter. DeRozan would then get hung up on the top of the screen, giving Carter little resistance to the basket or to pull up for an open jumper. In the second half Toronto started to do the switch, but only when Sonny Weems was on the floor. And just to illustrate that it wasn't all DeRozan, there was a particular play early in the 4th where Chris Bosh and Jarrett Jack were defending the pick and roll and ended up bumping each other, leaving Marcin Gortat with a wide open look in the paint and an easy basket.
Speaking of Jack, while I'd love to hate on the Jack and Calderon combination as is en vogue right now, Triano was left with little choice. Weems and DeRozan showed some questionable shot selection and their defense... well, I've covered that already. With both Marco Belinelli and Antoine Wright out with injuries, I'm going to give the Raptors a pass on the Jack and Calderon experiment for yesterday. However, it's something that this team has to stay away from once they're back to full strength.
Raptors with a fairly good afternoon?
Bargnani's work was pretty good despite being sick. The Italian fouled out of the game but he did try to post up several Magic players, grabbed some good rebounds, and did what he could despite feeling under the weather. Sonny Weems gave us another great dunk in the first half, but insisted on shooting from the outside for the majority of the game, only managing to make a few of these. We just did not see much of the aggressive Weems, especially with regards to dribble penetration and being active in the passing lanes.
No, the player of the game had to be Amir Johnson.
Asked to take on the role of being the Raptors' energy "big" off the bench, Johnson has quickly become one of the more aggressive Raptors night in and night out. His continued work on both ends of the floor as far as being an energetic presence on the interior has been a wonderful discovery. He was everywhere on the court; taking position away from Howard, drawing fouls on bigs, and even making the correct decision to come down into the paint from the perimeter to assist Weems with defensive mismatches on switches. Here's hoping that his banged leg at the end of the game was only a minor thing as it was tough watching him gingerly running down the floor towards the end of the game.
It's been argued that the Dinos will need to hang their hat on defense night in and night out to win games, and that even a MEDIUM level of D will go a long ways for this club. Defense is where Toronto has had the most trouble this year and Jack Armstrong has repeatedly called for the Raptors to pay more attention to it. It's been nearly a month of basketball now, and the conclusions have been there for all to see. Our starting and finishing units have a propensity to rely on jump shots down the stretch which has also led to a certain laziness on the defensive end. It is possible to win games like this, but even a small change of Marco Belinelli into the lineup has changed the make up of the unit at times. As Charles Oakley had pointed out on a broadcast several weeks ago, the Raptors have a good collection of players, but the balance is off because some of the Raptors most aggressive defenders are in the second unit and the Raps softest personnel are in the starting unit. It is a fairly big indictment against the starting and finishing units that Belinelli, a player not known for his defense, has been the most aggressive player on both ends of the floor at the end of games.
The question is, will one change be enough?
On a Raptors team that has had a month of good grace from me, I'm still not sure if this unit will be able to gut out those wins and not merely rely on the jump shots falling. More concerning is whether this group has the aggression and communication required to close out games with something more than a token defense.
If they don't, I'm bracing myself for many more broken clipboards this season...