After being fully entrenched in pre-March Madness with the various NCAA conference tourneys going on, it was tough for me to sit through yet another dismal Raptors performance.
While Toronto was allowing Philly to shoot almost 60 per cent from the field in a 115 to 106 loss, Texas Tech was coming back from a TWENTY-ONE POINT DEFECIT to somehow beat a much higher-ranked Texas A&M team in the Big 12 tournament. Watching the fight in Texas Tech, lead by Mike Singletary’s Big 12 tourney record 41 points, made it even harder to then flip back to see a Raptors’ team that essentially gave up after Philly’s last run in the fourth quarter. There was no fight in the dog, and really, after the second quarter you knew this one was over.
Yes, that second quarter, the one where Toronto allowed Philadelphia to score 37 points and played anything but defence.
And that’s where this recap really starts; with fight and defence.
Toronto displayed neither last night and coupled with sloppy turnovers, the one thing the Raps couldn’t do against this Philly team that excels in transition, it was a perfect recipe for loss number 42.
Thaddeus Young had a career-high 29 points on a ridiculous 65 per cent shooting night, and the very bigs Vicious D warned about stopping in his preview had a field day as well against the butter-soft Dinos.
So now that we’ve gotten most of the facts out of the way, let’s get into some observations.
First off, this Jose Calderon situation needs to be resolved. Again last night he was abused defensively and when Bosh and others were rotating to help, Andre Miller was just tossing it up near the rim for Philly’s superior athletes to go and get. Not only that however, Jose’s execution offensively was definitely sub-par, and if he’s not healthy then he needs to have a seat for good. At some point this team needs to get a better look at Banks and Ukic but again last night AP was the first option at the 1 when Jose went to the bench.
Second, the following players should be given more time on the court while the rest should ride things out:
No, AP didn’t have a great game last night and Shawn Marion has been under-whelming lately, but these are the only players who still look to have any fight in them.
Just look at last night’s +/- stats.
These can be somewhat useless but in yesterday’s contest I really believe they ring true. The best +/- numbers across the team were those from the players listed above. Even Shawn Marion, a minus 11, failed to touch Jose Calderon’s –17 or Chris Bosh’s minus 27.
Yes, and unfortunately after last night’s game I’m finding it harder and harder to defend CB4. Bosh last night simply looked like he gave up after the first few Dalembert blocks and rarely attacked the basket. Even in his post-game interview with Raptors TV’s Paul Jones, Bosh interrupted questions regarding the team’s play to comment on Anthony Parker’s dress shirt and its similarity to his own.
I just didn’t need to see that.
I’m not a professional athlete and I’m not sure what’s gone on in that dressing room. I know Chris works extremely hard, and is a competitor. However the sight of Bosh, after a rather pathetic effort against Philly, looking like he was simply performing lip service to the media, made me angry, especially considering that this is supposed to be your team leader.
Instead, it was Shawn Marion who did the talking for the team post-game, letting it be known that he was not impressed with his team’s effort. Marion actually said "it was time to go out and get some balls" in regards to the Raps and then followed that up by angrily requesting the media to ask "everybody in the dressing room" if they’re playing as hard as possible.
If that wasn’t a "call-out," I’m not sure what is.
Marion echoed the words defence over and over and just like rebounding, a good part of defensive play is based on effort, something that certain members of this team simply aren’t giving right now. It was extremely refreshing to hear Marion’s comments and I hope that Jay Triano heeds his words and starts handing out bench passes more readily to non-effort givers.
The argument could be made that this lack of effort is possibly good for the team long-term as the lack of effort is translating into losses, which hopefully will help Toronto’s draft position.
However I’m not sure how Bryan Colangelo can properly assess a club that is barely showing up in these contests. Forget playoffs, the time is now for BC to decide who needs to stay next season and who needs to go. He needs to determine which of his players are ready to put up a fight down the stretch, as those are the ones this team needs to go to battle with next season.
Right now there’s not a very long list.
In fact it probably looks much like the list I previously posted in this article. As Jack Armstrong said after the loss, the team "needs some dudes who will fight back."
Maybe this means leaving members of that second unit in, the ones who brought Toronto to within 10 in the fourth quarter and who used their athletic ability and toughness to fight Philly’s fire with fire.
Or maybe in the end there’s nothing that can be done and TO simply needs to ride this thing out and do a major revamp in the off-season, bringing in players who both want and can defend.
Jay Triano didn’t exactly say post-game that his players were bad defenders, but he echoed that his team "couldn’t keep guys in front of them" and when Paul Jones asked about effort being the problem, Triano seemed to allude to the fact that it wasn’t just a case of effort, but that his club simply didn’t have the ability to keep up with the 76ers.
Well, I’d say that allowing a team to shoot over 50 per cent for the fifth time in the last seven games proves that there’s a problem of some kind.
Do I expect things to get fixed over these final 17 games?
With the way Toronto is playing it’s hard to see this team winning another game no matter the opponent. There’s no confidence, no fight, no nothing and until they find some way to search deep within themselves to regain these elements, I fully expect the losses to keep coming.
In any event, while they try to figure things out, I’ll be taking in some real passionate basketball…the final games of the Big East and ACC tournaments…