It's hard to know where to begin in terms of breaking down an abomination like last night's loss to the Bobcats...but unlike last night's incarnation of the Raptors, the HQ gives it their best...I had to double check the final score.
Then triple check it.
The sad thing is I sat through the game, and yet still was in disbelief.
In the most lopsided victory in the history of their young franchise, the Bobcats ran a clinic in a 116 to 81 romp over the Raptors. The 'Cats took control for good in the game's second half, then never looked back, turning this one into a laugher before the fourth quarter even began.
So where to begin in terms of breaking this one down?
To be honest, I have no idea.
To put it simply, this was a game the Raps needed to get, with matches looming against the Celtics and Suns. A win would have at least ensured the club closed out November with an 8 and 10 record, respectable considering the team's schedule.
Now, things could look a lot closer to the 5 and 13 I predicted to open the season; dare we say 7 and 11 in fact? What really has to get you though as a fan is that there's no reason the Dinos couldn't have come out of the month at .500 or hovering right around that mark. Last night's loss was just another brick in the "this team has a long ways to go" wall.
Let's start with the defence, which again was non-existent.
The Raps gave up 116 points to a club that was averaging about 85 on the season and one of the least effecient offensive clubs in the league. Yes, Stephen Jackson helps sway that average, but it's not like the Bobcats were raining jumpers all night! The club shot only 45 per cent from the field and only 28 per cent from downtown so the majority of the damage was done either in the paint or on the fast break. The Raps simply allowed the 'Cats to do whatever they wanted offensively with virtually no resistance given. Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh were especially terrible in this regard; there might as well not have been any defenders on the interior for most of the night.
One sequence in particular stuck out as to the Raps ineffectiveness.
Raymond Felton drove the ball along the left baseline and after easily getting by Jose Calderon, looped a pass to Nazr Mohammed in the paint. The pass went right by Bargnani, Nazr's defender, because Andrea was turned the wrong way and had no chance of intercepting the dime. Mohammed missed the shot, but easily grabbed his miss for the put-back as Bosh and Andrea just sort of stood there, watching the ball.
Incomprehensible from a fan's perspective and probably to a coach's as well.
Speaking of coaching, you've got to tip your hat to the job Larry Brown did last night. His team locked in defensively and simply exposed each and every one of Toronto's weaknesses.
The best example of this in my books was Charlotte's play on the fast break. Yesterday I wrote that the 'Cats played at the league's second slowest pace but having watched the game last night, you never would have known. Knowing that Toronto's transition defence was particularly miserable, the Bobcats ran the ball down Toronto's throat all night, leading to a dizzying array of dunks and easy baskets. It was these plays that sucked out whatever little life the Raps had in them, and by the time there were about 3 minutes left in the third quarter, you got the feeling this one was over.
So now what?
Well, last night I was angry enough to go on a complete tirade about this club but having slept on the loss, I'm hoping instead that this becomes the proof in the pudding - not just to players but to the coaches and the team's management.
You simply can't rely on offense alone.
Toronto couldn't hit the broad side of a barn door, as my Dad used to say, last night and as a result had no other options in terms of trying to stay in the game. Toronto's "big 3" were particularly atrocious, relying far too often on jump shots and outside of Amir Johnson, the rest of the team seemed to follow suit.
There's one of the "big 3" though that I want to touch on in particular; Hedo Turkoglu.
One of our readers noted last night that up until very late in the game, Gerald Wallace had nary a foul. Considering Wallace's style of play at both ends of the court, this seemed absurd!
Then I remembered that he was guarding Hedo.
Hedo settled for J's all night, and failed to show any sort of "attack mode" against Wallace, or any of the other Bobcats for that matter, something simply not acceptable considering the expectations placed on him. It's games like last night's where Toronto needs a lift from guys like him and Bargs, in particular when Bosh too is struggling with his shot, so to essentially be invisible for 48 minutes ain't gonna cut it.
And to really rub salt in the wound, consider that most of the offensive damage last night was done by the very player Hedo was supposed to be guarding, a player with many of the Shawn Marion-esque intangibles that I was pining for this past off-season.
The Raptors of course went in another direction and I'm unfortunately we're seeing the results of the "all O/no D" philosophy.
Granted, this loss isn't the end of the world.
It's only game number 16 of 82, so maybe this is the kick in the ass the players and coaches need to really lock-in defensively in practice.
I hope so.
Because the joke of an effort last night wasn't fit for a junior high basketball squad, let alone an NBA one.
Last night's game should definitely have been a W but as I mentioned in the game-day preview yesterday, until this team figures out some D and more consistent O, I think as fans we can unfortunately expect a lot more matches like this to come.