Another atrocious third quarter, another bad loss. Toronto's recent losing slide continued last night as the team dropped a 124 to 112 decision to the Golden State Warriors, and Franchise looks at three areas that are in dire need of repair if this club hopes to get back on track...
It's one thing to lose to a Sacramento Kings team on the second night of a back-to-back, after a heart-breaking loss to the LA Lakers.
It's yet another to give up nearly 100 points through three quarters to a Golden State Warriors team that features recent D Leaguers Anthony Tolliver, Chris Hunter and Reggie Williams, after your club has been resting for three days.
Last night Raptors' fans again saw a return of the November 2009 Toronto team; the one that routinely gave up 120 points a night, the one that got blown out starting in the third quarter of games, the one that played zero perimeter defence and who got torched in transition, the one that struggled to rebound the ball, and the one that looked much more like a lottery team than a playoff contender.
And...with their fourth straight loss, and eighth in the past nine games, the lottery could very well be where this team is headed.
As DeMar DeRozan tweeted late last night:
"Damn man. We need to figure this out quick....."
And that's the crux of it.
These type of performances, Bosh or no Bosh, should have ceased months ago. There are no chemistry excuses here, no "getting to know new players" issues, no "working on new offensive or defensive sets that the coaches have implemented" situations. This team should be hitting its stride, or at least playing .500 ball now that the schedule has toughened up a bit.
Instead, fans have been left with what can only be described as pathetic performance after pathetic performance. I mean, Golden State essentially played six guys last night when you look at how their minutes were doled out! They were missing seven guys due to injury! This should have been a W no matter how hot Steph Curry and Monta Ellis got!
The problem is, unlike earlier in the season where you could easily point to one or two underperforming targets, right now, this is an entire team that's struggling.
Yes Chris Bosh had 24 points and 11 rebounds, but he also had a ridiculous six turnovers, and looked like his head was somewhere else. There was zero leadership shown on the court, and considering he pulverized his match-up almost every time he got down in the blocks, you have to wonder why he was settling for 15 foot fade-away jumpers so often.
Hedo was his usual terrible self, a solid 2 of 6 from the field for 4 points. "Oooh but he had 6 rebounds, 8 assists and 2 blocks" some might say.
To that I say shut it.
This isn't fantasy basketball, this guy is being paid $53 Million to make sure losses like this don't happen. If he needs to take 20 shots and score 30 points for it to happen, so be it. At least that way I could stomach his half-hearted rebounding attempts.
And speaking of rebounding, that brings me to Andrea Bargnani. Again, for those who think I've been too harsh on him the past few months I'd love to hear a defence of his performance last night, when he was outrebounded 11 to 4 by a player a good 3 to 4 inches shorter than him who wasn't even drafted. I'm sorry but you just can't win games like that. The Warriors are one of the worst rebounding clubs in the league and yet they won the battle of the glass last night, despite the fact that their average height is probably 6-6.
I could keep going around the circle too here; DeRozan and Calderon for their defense (although Jose's offensive game was the best it's been in weeks), Weems for his shot selection, and Belinelli for...um...not playing enough. I'm not sure what happened to Triano's whole "I'm going to give Marco some major run tonight" thing, but it never came close to occuring.
The entire team was horrific, and I'm not sure they could have beaten Kansas, Kentucky, Duke, Ohio State or West Virginia last night , five of the college teams competing for the four top seeds for the upcoming NCAA Tourney, let alone a club like the New Jersey Nets. And the problem is, Toronto's next three games are against very good opponents, two of which post tomorrow's match with the Blazers, are absolute Raptor-killers.
I guess what I'm saying is that we might not have even hit rock bottom yet, as bad as this last stretch has been.
So instead of simply three keys to beating the Portland Trailblazers later tonight, let's look at three keys to try and get this thing turned around before it's too late.
1) That thing called Defence.
No secret here. We all know how good Toronto's offence can be, so it really comes down to getting stops, particularly on the perimeter. It seemed like Triano and co. had things under control for a while, but lately there's been a complete regression in this capacity. I mean, it's gotten so bad that Marcus Banks, a player once seen as the bane of Raptors' fans existence, is now being touted amongst Raptornation as a possible solution to TO's perimeter woes! Even Jack Armstrong was openly lobbying for this on last night's broadcast! Does anyone else realize how crazy this is?
And yet it's not that crazy from a tactical standpoint. Banks is a solid perimeter defender and could probably help. It just slightly blows my mind that in the off-season I got killed for writing this piece, and yet, a good chunk of it now could come to fruition! If Banks does get the call and can come in as a defensive ace, it's not impossible that he helps to right the ship, therefore becoming a key in Toronto's late-season push. Yes folks, this is how bad things have gotten.
However it goes beyond personnel.
As John Hollinger stated in his harsh yet astute critique of the Raptors' defense, "The Raptors don't have good defensive players, and the coaching staff isn't getting much out of the players it has."
Steph Curry echoed those sentiments last night when post-game, he told Jack Armstrong that his team noticed that the Raptors were switching everything, thus giving the Warriors great advantages for their uber-quick guards thanks to mismatches.
I'm no NBA coach but it's easy to see that the current system with the current players isn't working. Therefore unless Triano starts playing Banks, or gives more minutes to solid defenders like Weems and Wright, then it's the system that needs an overhaul. Agreed, it's a bit late in the season to put something else in place but what about some more zone at least? That might be a good look in particular tonight against a Blazers' team that struggles shooting from long-range.
2) Rotations, rotations, rotations.
Last night Triano played 10 different players. I thought at one point Reggie Evans was going to make an appearance, so that would have made 11.
At this point in the season teams should be looking to trim their benches, not expand upon them, and yet to me, it looks like Jay's still trying to find rotations that consistently work. I'd argue that this too is having a negative impact on Toronto's D, so the sooner these first two points are addressed, the better for the Raps.
3) Will the REAL Chris Bosh please stand up?
When Bosh was injured I argued that without him, the Raps are simply not a very good club.
Now he's returned, and they look even worse.
However I think we can all agree that there is a BIG difference between this current version of Bosh, and the one that was destroying opponents prior to the All-Star break. Currently his stats just feel empty, even on double-double nights like yesterday evening, and this team desperately needs him to regain his form, starting tonight against Portland.
There are only 18 games left on the schedule and Toronto is hanging onto a playoff spot for dear life. Yes, the Bulls are banged up and have a tougher stretch to finish the season, but given this club's fragile mental disposition, it's not impossible that a loss tonight sends the Raps into a giant tailspin that sees them completely collapsing and missing the playoffs altogether.
That would be an unmitigated disaster for this franchise on many levels, and while I'm all for lottery picks, the simple fact is that talent-wise, there's no way this team should be in the precarious position it currently finds itself in.
I've presented three key issues that must be addressed, now it's up to the players and coaches to get this ship turned around.
One only hopes that any changes that are made aren't of the "too little, too late" variety.