The Raptors on the second day of their back-to-back looked to come out and challenge Dallas, but as has been their M.O. in recent years, they simply folded in the second half. Vicious D takes a look at the game that was.
It's been a personal mission of mine to find out what exactly the identity of this Raptors team will be going forward. We've seen several different kinds of Raptors already in the first few games of the season. Sometimes, this team just lights on fire from downtown and just attempts 30 3-pointers. Other times, they get out and run you to death with steals and turnovers that lead to easy baskets.
However, there's no denying what has been the fingerprints of a Raptors loss.
In what would be their third loss of the season, the Raptors have once again allowed an opposing team score over 120 points on them in regulation. As much as we may like to talk about the offensive prowess of this Raptors team, they are still not as proficient at scoring as the Suns of yesteryear. With a final score of 129-101, the obvious factor in this loss had to be the Raptors' defense, or rather lack of defensive intensity. Only pressuring the Mavs into nine turnovers for the game, the Raptors had lots of difficulties containing Jason Terry and Shawn Marion, let alone a star of Dirk Nowitzki's caliber. Part of the blame has to go to the lack of communication between players, but in particular, Hedo Turkoglu and Jarrett Jack both showed their defensive weaknesses against quick and strong players. Both players attempted to overcompensate on the offensive end for their defensive inadequacies, which is a shame as it led to rushed and ill advised shots.
While we're talking about our new acquisitions, it was our old standbys that gave us the most solid lift in the beginning. Chris Bosh was of course, playing with a certain anger and determination throughout the game. Jose Calderon was once again showing the fire and determination that has been lost since last season. In fact, since I haven't yet had the chance to mention it yet, I'm going to say it now: No matter what happens this season, I will refuse to throw Calderon under the bus. I know there were a lot of haters out there for the first four games of the season, but this is a guy who has always played at a high level and has always left his heart on his sleeve. He's the guy who we've seen taken on Kevin Garnett and other trash talkers when the team has gone silent. And perhaps most important, Jarrett Jack hasn't been all that perfect either with his shot selection which is often off balance and outside of his "sweet spots" and some of his decision making has led to bad turnovers and easy transition baskets.
Oh, and that big Italian guy was pretty good too for most of the game.
Granted, this was all before Dallas pulled away in the third quarter, but I'm looking a lot at just how the Raptors chose not to go inside during the second half. Yes, Chris Bosh was their primary inside presence, but that's not Chris Bosh's fault. After all, it seemed as though he was the only person hitting from the field over the course of the game. Andrea Bargnani continues to be looked off while posting up or within the arc and it frustrates me to no end just how many times Turkoglu would take the ball and swing it around the arc to the other side when Bargnani had firmly established his post position.
These are all areas where this team will need to tighten up especially when their 3's aren't falling.
To continue to keep shooting threes against a team that thrives on transition baskets is sheer folly. Toss in the fact that it's a back-to-back situation and the Raptors should have been looking for ways to get to the line in order to catch their breath and gather themselves. Shooting 27 free throws is nothing to sneeze at, but the Raptors could easily average 35-40 a night with the way their team is constructed. And they've already shown in a couple of their wins that they are able to get to the line on a consistent basis.
It's here where I'm going to express my concern. The wins we want to see the Raptors pull the most from are the Cleveland and Detroit games. The New Orleans game was a game that was broken open thanks to some freak 3-point shooting which can't be counted on over the course of the season. Getting to the line? Yes, that seems to be a recipe for wins. What also can't be denied is that this Raptors team has to keep being active and aggressive on defense. It doesn't matter if it means that some players get into foul trouble. The Raptors simply need to keep active to force turnovers which will lead to easy transition baskets; something else that was sorely needed in Dallas.
I've been asked about whether I'm a glass half-full guy or a glass half-empty guy about this team. Out of all the Raptors HQ staff, I have probably been the most lenient about the moves and have also felt that this team can do much better than most of my colleague's expectations. I drafted Chris Bosh and Jose Calderon in the recent Mock Draft at PeteMarasmitch.com with the full expectation that both players would do extremely well this year. However, I'm also using this month of November to evaluate the team and see exactly where they are developing and where they are getting hammered. So far, we've only had blow out losses and wins. We've yet to see this team work down the stretch in a close game or overtime.
However, giving up this many points in losses is simply unacceptable. This team has to become better against teams that have multiple scoring options or it will be nothing better than a middle of the pack team. So far, Memphis, Orlando, and Dallas have all been able to defeat the Raptors because they have multiple threats who each require some stronger individual defense. In the Spurs, the Raptors will face another test of the same type of multiple offensive options.
Let's just hope they manage to hold them under 120 points scored.