Another frustrating loss as Raptors get down big early on and can't quite climb back in 109 to 102 loss to Warriors.
"It's frustrating man...because it's not about ending games, it's how we start the game...and that's what's really hurting us right now. We finish games real good, we just dig ourselves so deep in a hole at the beginning of games we try and scratch and crawl to get back, but it's the NBA, you can't do that against teams..."
In what's becoming a bit of a broken record, the Toronto Raptors dropped a 109 to 102 decision to the Golden State Warriors last night as the Dinos got down big early, fought back late a couple times, but just couldn't get over the hump in the end.
And for fans and players alike, as Sonny Weems alluded to above, it's extremely frustrating.
-Again last night Toronto's starting group looked fit for the D League and got down big, 55 to 41 at the half in fact.
-Again last night the Raps found a second-unit that gave the club a boost and helped them get within a fraction of the lead.
-Again last night down the stretch, greater individual talents took over for the opponent with the game on the line, and that was it.
Yep, a bit of a reoccurring theme indeed.
Last night it was the out-of-this-world play of Steph Curry that the Raps had no answer for as he finished with a game-high 34 points including some absolute daggers down the stretch.
But it didn't need to get to this point and last night, having the incredible fortune of landing court-side tickets, I could easily see why.
Yep, at $1200 a pop, and sitting under the basket, it gave me an incredible view of the action and in particular, allowed me to see various nuances with this club.
The first "nuance?"
The starting unit needs a makeover starting with Andrea Bargnani.
(Uh oh, I can hear the comments section rumbling already.)
I know I had basically said at the start of the season that I was leaving Bargs alone because my expectations for him weren't very high, but last night made me add another piece to this statement. While I don't have high expectations from the Italian, unless he's moved to the bench or is dealt, this team simply can't win and last night showed me why in no specific terms.
First of all, he's not a shot-blocker. Sitting under the basket I watched players like Ellis and Curry get to the rim for open lay-ups time and time again while Andrea flailed around aimlessly down low. Yes, he blocks a shot a game, but if you watch his highlight reel, the vast majority come from one-on-one D with the man he's defending, not on the help side. Reggie Evans is vertically challenged to a certain extent so game after game we see this parade of "speedy guards" to the rim, and it's one of the reasons Toronto keeps getting down big early.
As well, Andrea doesn't rebound.
That didn't seem to be hurting Toronto too much so far but last night showed the enormity of this problem when the Raps face a fairly decent rebounding club. Reggie Evans simply can't box out both David Lee and Andris Biedrins and in the first half last night it was a steady stream of Warriors offensive rebounds that also contributed to the huge deficit Toronto found themselves in. In the end G State out-rebounded Toronto 42 to 32 but at one point the Raps were losing the battle of the boards by about 20.
You just can't win games that way folks.
To compound issues, Andrea's offensive game last night was pretty flacid and he was a beautiful -17 on the evening.
You can't win basketball games with your starting center performing like this.
You also can't win with Reggie Evans being a non-factor on offense.
Time after time the Warriors would simply hang off Evans on D last night in order to double-team Andrea or Linas Kleiza, preventing the Raps from getting into their offensive sets. This resulted in the measly 41 first-half points and 38 per cent shooting from the field.
So what do you do?
I think the second-half showed you exactly what you do if you want to win games this year.
You play Amir Johnson at the 5, Linas Kleiza at the 4, Sonny Weems at the 3, DeRozan or Barbosa at the 2, and Jarrett Jack at the 1.
I realize that's a small starting group, but it's an athletic and relatively skilled one, and one that plays with grit and tenacity. This group, plus David Andersen, was responsible for getting the team back in the game yesterday evening, and this group (with Jose at times) has also been key in most games so far this season in a similar capacity. They play with a certain recklessness and a chip on their shoulders and man this team needs more of that. Watching Andrea up close as he went through the motions or showed little emotion after allowing another lay-up was agonizing to say the least, but hearing the Warriors' bench laugh about it, since they were only about 3 feet away from me, was like someone driving a stake repeatedly through my chest.
Guys like Charlie Bell (who was talking trash to Super Fan all night) and Rodney Carney were encouraging their teammates to take it right to Bargs every time, knowing that he was fairly helpless to stop them.
That's embarrassing but the reality is it's not going to stop until Triano pulls him out of that starting group.
Will it happen?
I'd say that would be next to impossible unfortunately.
And while in some ways that's fine if you're rooting for a lottery pick, I also dread a 10 win season in terms of the culture and stigma left behind in the wreckage.
I'd much rather see Toronto play their young, skilled players ala OKC a few years ago (granted their are no Westbrooks or Durants on this team) than keep trotting out Bargnani and Evans etc, players who simply aren't (or shouldn't be) cornerstones for this franchise's future success.
So we'll see if adjustments are made tomorrow night against the Bobcats, or, later this week if the losses continue to pile up in a similar fashion.
There are no doubt some bright spots on this club still, but it's up to Jay Triano (and Bryan Colangelo in fact) to make sure they're getting the shine they need, because right now not only is it not happening, but it's costing the team each and every night.