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Tip-In: Toronto Raptors' Post-Game Report - Free Falling

Remember the Tom Petty song by this same title?  After one of the Toronto Raptors' worst losses of the season, Franchise expresses concerns over the club's mental make-up, and worries that if the ship isn't righted asap, this track could very well be the team's theme song for 2009-2010 when all is said and done...

After the loss to Philly, things looked a bit shaky. 

After last night's loss to Sacramento, it's hard not to think that the wheels might have come right off.

The Raptors let a five point half-time lead completely evaporate a few minutes into the third quarter, and suddenly found themselves down by 10 and on the ropes.  The Kings never looked back, and were up by nearly 30 points before settling on a 23 point blowout of the Dinos.

So what gives?

I noted after the loss to Philly that things were going to be ok.  Do I still feel like that?

In a word, no.  The reason why?  Chris Bosh.

I'm not sure what's going on with Chris right now, but this is not the same Bosh as the one who dominated his match-up nearly each and every night prior to the All-Star break.  No, his play in fact has been something reminiscent of the 2005 version of CB4.  Last night was a perfect example of this as he had 14 points and 5 rebounds, almost half of his season averages.  I've said it before and I'll say it again, minus a dominant CB4, this club is not even mediocre by an Eastern Conference standpoint.  With Bosh middling along, the club doesn't have much of a chance, even against poor foes like the Kings.

Most telling however for me regarding his performance?  His free-throw attempts.  CB4 was averaging nearly 9 trips to the line per game on the season but since his return from injury that number has dropped to a pettty 3 an outing.

Yes, the Raptors need all the help they can get in the free-throw department but I think more importantly, that stat underscores the fact that he's simply not been aggressive enough since his return.  Is he still hurt?  Perhaps.  But then he shoudn't be playing a team-high 38 minutes, like he did last night if that's the case, because he's only hurting his club.  Last time Toronto met Sacramento Bosh had 36 points and 11 rebounds, simply dominating an undersized King's interior.  It should have been no different last night, even with Sacto's recent addition of Carl Landry.  However CB4 settled for jumper after jumper, an incredibly frustrating thing to watch considering Toronto's success early in the game when they attacked the rim.  The Kings' series of undersized "bigs" just didn't have the size or mobilarity to keep players like Bosh and Bargnani at bay, and yet on the night, Toronto was pummeld in terms of "points in the paint," being outscored 62 to 42 on the night.

This therefore extended to Andrea Bargnani as well, who did post a team-high 20 points on the night off of 8 of 12 shooting, but who didn't get nearly enough touches.  I'm usually quite hard on Bargs for his lack of aggression or consistent production, but last night I did indeed notice that there were far too many times when Toronto's point guards looked him off down low, settling for perimeter shots themselves.  Jack for instance took as many shots as Andrea, something that should be making Jay Triano scratch his head this morning considering his assistant coach at halftime stressed the need to get the ball down low to the Raps' "bigs."

Of course it doesn't help that at times when Andrea did get the ball, he made some horrific decisions passing out of double-teams...

...but the same could be said I suppose about the entire team last night.

The point guards (Jose in particular) did a terrible job running the show, the Raptors' wings were essentially invisible, and the club folded like cheap suit once Sacto got up by 13 points late in the game.

And as one reader put it, you gotta question Jay Triano's decisions in this one too.  Can you see a Sam Mitchell-led team allowing this sort of effort once again to start a second half?  Toronto has been outscored in each third quarter of the past 11 games and last night's record-complacency (the Dinos allowed Sacto to post 43 points on them in the Q) took things to another level.  (As an aside, if your team is getting pounded to start every second half, doesn't that maybe speak volumes as to the combination of players you keep trotting out there??)

For me this loss is up there with two others on the season; the November 25th blowout in Charlotte, and the January 11th debacle in Indiana, a game the Raps should have had wrapped up but let slip away.  Both along with a few poundings at the hands of the Hawks, were ugly views of how fragile this team's psyche can be, and from an outsiders perspective, ones that probably make you wonder if this is indeed a playoff team.

Last night you'd be hard-pressed to look at the 2009-10 version of the Dinos as a playoff club, even in the East.  The talent is there, but much like previous incarnations of this club, what really concerned me is that not a single player looked to step up to rally the troops when the going got tough.  Not Bosh, not Bargs, not the Ottoman...not even Reggie Evans.  You can't be paying X millions of dollars to your supposed top players, and not get that element of leadership from at least one of them.  This wasn't the Raptors vs the Mavs or Jazz...this was Toronto taking on one of the least effecient offensive clubs in the league, they should have been able to stop the bleeding.

But for some reason the club got miles away from their game-plan earlier in the match, and could never get back on track.

This has to be a huge concern for fans.

As part of what I assumed would be a 42ish win team this year, I figured that the much like the 47 win Raptors of a couple seasons ago, this current iteration of the club would excel at beating the league's bottom-feeders, and struggle against the cream of the crop.  That was indeed the case until recently, but if the Dinos start to struggle against the Sacramento's and Phildelphia's, then what?

Perhaps I'm answering my own question by noting that our first NCAA prospect look is going to be up on the site tomorrow...

...because if Toronto keeps playing like this, suddenly the 2010 NBA Draft takes on a whole new level of importance for Raptors' fans...