Jack's final comment before the game started was for the Raptors to put in the necessary effort because the effort in the last game just didn't cut it.
Oh, this game was close. The Raptors made shots down the stretch to always keep them within fighting distance. But if you're playing the worst team in the East, and a team that is without their highest paid player at that, close just doesn't cut it.
Ok, yeah, it took one final last second bucket from Caron Butler to seal the game at 100-98, but a game such as this shouldn't have come to that point. After all, it's not as if the Raptors didn't have their fair chances to win.
For one thing, the Raptors were as soft as fresh mozzarella cheese when it came to their defense yet again. Allowing multiple open looks and constant penetration, the Raptors gave up over a 50% shooting percentage to the Wizards. If the Raptors managed to play a bit harder on defense, it would have been enough to close the gap completely. Certainly, if the Raptors managed to grab a few more rebounds, the game may have turned in their favour as well. But once again, Toronto was out rebounded by four, which makes three losses in a row where the Raptors were out rebounded by their opponents.
But maybe the most disappointing point about this loss was to see Bosh, Marion, and Bargnani logging in 38 minutes, 39 minutes, and 34 minutes respectively. Calderon even logged in over 30 minutes. With this same core a week ago creating some positive buzz going into next year, watching them become ineffective against one of the league's worst teams was simply disheartening to me. And while Bargnani and Marion both had off shooting nights, it was shot selection that really did it in for me.
I mean what happened to that inside game that we had a week ago?
Ok, I get that Bargnani was still banged up and Pops Mensah-Bonsu has an injured thumb. So why play them? If Triano was attempting to send a message to his players, all it did was to confuse me. If the team is out of the playoffs, why risk further injury to two of the best impact players? If you're in it to win, why play players extended minutes if they aren't 100%?
In the end, here we are again. You, our readers and fans, and us, loyal bloggers and enthusiasts, trying to come to grips with this iteration of the Toronto Raptors. Nights like these are nights that just about every team goes through in the league at some point, but the question has to be asked if these kinds of losses are becoming the norm for this team, rather than the exception.
In the second quarter, the Raptors paid tribute to Alvin Williams. In perhaps a moment that made the night worth it, the fans remembered Williams for his dedication, hard work, and love of the game. He was a great player, but more importantly, he was and still is a great individual.
My favourite Alvin Williams moments though have to be his fight to go toe-to-toe with Allen Iverson in his prime. Allen Iverson at the time was almost an unstoppable force. A scoring machine who stopped at nothing to get his points, Alvin Williams made it his mission to try and at least slow down A.I. For seven games, Williams stuck to Iverson despite AI's superior quickness. The work probably cost him his knees and significantly shortened his career, but without Alvin Williams, the Raptors would never have even come close to beating the 76ers in that seven-game series.
And clutch? There was no Raptor better in the clutch. In the fourth quarter, it was Alvin Williams time.
Doug Smith might point to that big shot that led the Raptors to their only playoff series win as an example of "clutch," but Alvin brought the Raptors back from the dead time and time again, game after game. It didn't matter if it was against the Supersonics, or the Reggie Miller-led Pacers, Williams was ready to make that winning bucket or winning defensive play.
In fact, it was Williams' 3rd quarter words that spun this Raptors' team's performance this season in a new light for me.
Alvin Williams talked about what he perceived to be a deficiency in this Raptors team. The lack of a veteran presence is not something that we've talked about much yet, but without a proven winner, even a guy like Rasho Nesterovic or Jorge Garbajosa, the Raptors this year have been lacking guidance on the court. And as much as I like Anthony Parker, he's only a single presence who has trouble making clutch free throws. He's also not the type of player who demands the full attention of his team on a regular basis.
Alvin Williams talked about how much it meant for him to have Charles Oakley, Muggsy Bogues, and Kevin Willis to teach him about the need for effort, work ethic, and heart.
Currently, the Raptors have nobody that fits that description.
It's those kinds of players that drive a team on the days that you aren't all there. It's those players who make sure that you play your hardest even when you're playing the worst team in your conference and you don't have the focus to make it through.
It's those kind of players who would have made sure the Raptors won last night's game.