After a 114 to 107 loss Sunday afternoon to the Boston Celtics, Franchise notes that despite the Raptors string of recent wins, yesterday's match shows that the Dinos still have a ways to go before being considered amongst the league's "elite."
Drum roll please...
And the team that HQ readers would least like to face come playoff time is...
...the Boston Celtics!
After yet another loss to the C's yesterday afternoon at the ACC, perhaps this isn't much of a surprise.
Toronto has now lost seven straight to the big, bad Celtics, and this team out of any other in the league perhaps, has had TO's number the past few seasons.
However my opening statement isn't simply in reference to this Boston dominance.
No, on Saturday, nearly 300 readers answered our poll question which alluded to potential Raptors first-round playoff opponents, and while I expected to see Atlanta as fans least preferred opponent, (Orlando was the most preferred receiving nearly 60% of the votes) it was Boston which took the cake with only 4% of readers looking forward to a Celtics-Raptors duel.
And of course, this was again backed up by yesterday's Toronto loss.
So is it that Toronto simply isn't as talented as Boston and regardless of how many times these teams play, the Raptors won't be able to get a W?
Or like that Hawks, are the Celtics simply a terrible match-up for the Raps, and it has little to do with "talent level?"
I'm going with the latter.
Yesterday's match, despite essentially a 10-point loss (Jack hit a meaningless 3-pointer near the buzzer), was in reality fairly close. Looking over the box score both teams shot about the same percentages from the field although Toronto had the advantage at the free-throw line. Boston was slightly better on the glass, but Toronto actually out-scored the Celtics on the break, and had more points in the paint, both stats that you don't often see from this Raptor club.
However Boston has several intangibles that in almost every game these teams have played the past few seasons, always seem to come out in crunch time; killer instinct and toughness.
Yesterday it was Rasheed Wallace, Rajon Rondo and even Paul Pierce who made clutch plays when their team needed it most to prevent Toronto from making game-winning runs. Previously, we've seen the same thing from the likes of Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett and even Eddie House in this capacity.
Outside of Chris Bosh, the Raptors just haven't gotten that type of "clutchness" consistently from anyone on their roster. Andrea and Hedo have shown flashes at times, and so have Jack, Belinelli and Calderon. But against top tier teams like the Celtics, the Raptors need a lot more.
In fact, yesterday's match was perfect from a timing standpoint in my books. While I didn't feel the Dinos played much worse than they did against the 76ers (in fact, you could easily argue that they played better), the game really showed the difference in effort and efficiency needed to beat a team like Boston. For the second straight game, Bosh and Bargs led the charge with little help from the supposed third member of TO's "big 3," and while that was enough to get a W Friday against Philly, it wasn't yesterday afternoon against Boston.
Sunday's game also made me revist another poll question from last week, the one posted asking if readers felt that Toronto's secondary players were of a high enough calibre to help the team advance past the first round. The results were an almost 50-50 split between those who thought they were, and those who felt the secondary options still needed an upgrade.
Again, yesterday there certainly wasn't enough secondary firepower, especially from TO's wings, and that's something that simply needs to be present if Toronto is hoping to consider itself on the same tier as the Boston's, Cleveland's, Atlanta's, and Orlando's of the East.
That's not to say though that it won't come.
DeMar DeRozan wasn't as effective offensively as he'd been in the previous games but he continues to show signs of progress.
And while I've been down on Hedo since day one, there's no denying that he does have the ability to be a game-changer...when he puts down the pack of smokes.
The loss to Boston was therefore perhaps a necessary one, a game that statistically was quite close but showed just how far TO still needs to come in terms of certain intangibles, especially considering that the Celtics were still missing two key players from their main rotation in Garnett and Marquis Daniels.
The Raps get one more shot at Boston in their fifth last game of the season.
My hope is that by then, this Raptors' club will have acquired a few more of these intangibles and thus finally be able to give the Celtics all they can handle.
Until then...on to the Pacers...
Yes, no rest for the weary as Toronto heads to Indiana to take on the beleaguered Pacers tonight in what can only be described as a "trap" game.
The Pacers have but 11 wins on the season and have had major issues at point guard but this is one the Raps definitely can't take lightly. Instead of our usual 3 keys, I thought this morning we'd switch things up a bit and go with "3 Reasons Why Toronto Can't Sleepwalk Through This Match."
1) Danny Granger's Back.
Simply put, Granger has given Toronto major headaches in the past. It will likely be up to Hedo Turkoglu to keep Granger in check, an idea I'm not relishing considering Turk's recent play both on O and D, so hopefully Triano has some defensive schemes in mind to help on Hedo out without giving up the farm at other spots on the floor.
Indiana has been one of the least effecient offensive clubs in the league this year but they play at the second-fastest pace in the league. Toronto has struggled with transition defence all season so what I don't want to see tonight is a fast-break fest that the Dinos are unable to slow down. In addition to Granger being back in uniform, multi-position threats like Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy Jr. have returned as well and former Raptors' draft pick Roy Hibbert has been doing a very good job manning the 5 spot. These players all have the potential to give TO problems so the Raps need to come in focussed and ready to get the job done.
Perhaps enough said here as fans know all too well about TO's struggles in this capacity this season. Bargs and Bosh have played big minutes of late and carried the club so tonight the Raps' bench needs to give the team a big lift. Indiana doesn't exactly have a wealth of depth on its bench so this is an area where the Raps need to take advantage.