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Tip-In: Rinse and Repeat - Same Old Issues Plague Raptors in 85 to 81 Loss to Hornets

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Even if you're rooting for a top 5 pick in next year's NBA Draft Lottery for the Toronto Raptors, losses like yesterday's to the New Orleans Hornets still sting...pardon the pun...

Andrea Bargnani is averaging 22 points a game on the season.

He's been remarkably consistent in many ways too in scoring these points, as he averages a shade under 23 points at home, and 21 on the road.

Versus the division, 25.

Versus the conference, 22.

And no matter how many days of rest he gets, he still averages between 20 and 23 points.

Even in losses he averages 20 points per game!

As the 16th leading scorer in the league, he's simply one of the best in the NBA at putting points on the board.

However averaging under 6 rebounds and under a block a game while manning the center position, he's drawn the ire of many a Raptor fan.  Traditionally in the NBA, your center is the team's last resort defensively.  He's the juggernaut who secures the key rebound, the human fly-swatter who bails the club out by a appearing out of nowhere to block a shot, the low-post presence who hammers his opponent into submission with a series of post-ups and dunks...

...unfortunately none of these things describe Andrea Bargnani.

Do they describe Shaq and maybe apply more to the 90's NBA big man?

Perhaps, but even in today's "Smaller, Faster NBA," they describe the majority of dominant low-post presences, from Blake Griffin to Joakim Noah.

However simply because Bargs doesn't have these traits, doesn't mean he can't be a useful basketball player to the Toronto Raptors in some capacity, and I think this season has been a great example of how to, and how not to use the man known as Il Mago.

In fact, I'd argue you can transfer this line of thinking to the entire team, and despite an injury-filled season that has our beloved Raps on pace to win about 25 games, to me, that's the real bright spot emerging even as the losses continue to pile up.

One game short of the halfway point in the 2010-11 season for the Dinos, it should be pretty clear to management as to the strengths and weakness of this club, and the individual players contained within.  Injuries have forced playing time on just about everyone, and games like yesterday's 85 to 81 loss to the New Orleans Hornets continue to drive home various truths about the current roster.

Let's go back to Andrea to illustrate this point.

He was only 4 of 17 from the field yesterday for 11 points.

Not good.

However that happens.  As I pointed out earlier, he's been a pretty consistent offensive threat in terms of the final number of points he puts on the board.

But at times, it takes him 20 shots to get those 20 points, and he does go through stretches where his shot isn't falling.

That happens to the best of them in the league, but the problem is, without scoring, Andrea just doesn't impact the game in any other way, and often becomes a detriment to the team.  Yesterday he was responsible for guarding Emeka Okafor, and to say he was successful in doing so would be akin to saying the Raps are going to win the NBA title this year.

Okafor carved up Bargs inside, and finished with an incredible 12 offensive rebounds on the afternoon.

No, not all came directly at Andrea's expense, but replay after replay showed a pretty nonchalant Bargnani, standing around watching in the paint as Okafor and David West bullied their way to a combined 40 points and 26 rebounds. It got to the point in the third quarter that Jay Triano even lit into him for his passive play in that regard.

But then Triano left Andrea out there for 42 freaking minutes.


To put that in perspective, Chris Paul played 31.

Even the wrecking ball of West and Okafor played less at 38.

This simply doesn't make sense, especially on a night when Bargs was struggling mightily with his offense, and I started feeling sorry for the guy, as it was almost like he was being punished!

And sure, the Dinos were short-handed having essentially 8 guys available, but Joey Dorsey, a bit of a wrecking ball in his own right, played a measly 8 minutes.

To me, yesterday was a clear example of how not to use Bargs.  If his offence isn't going, you need to get production from him in some other capacity, and if that's not happening, he simply can't be on the court.  Remember, this game was decided by four points.  Much like the Raps' win over the Mavs pre-Christmas, a win minus Andrea, the game was being won at the defensive end of the court, however it became harder and harder for the game to be closed out with each errant attempt by Bargs, and each failed box-out.  A couple more secured rebounds or a few more shots for players other than Andrea could easily have been the difference.  (Although one of our readers did make a solid point post-game that NO failed to capitalize offensively on a number of their second-chances.)

That's not to put this all on Andrea, yikes, the reffing didn't help, but the point I'm trying to make is that the bulk of this current roster has severe limitations and the coaching staff has to start doing a much better job of maximizing player strengths and minimizing weaknesses if they want to start winning games.

And not just this year, but more importantly, down the road when some more talent is on the scene.

Hence the title of this recap.

The bulk of the issues yesterday, from protecting the paint to execution down the stretch (what was with the post-up play run for Amir Johnson near the very end of the game?) were the same ones fans have seen all season.

It's frustrating, but it has to be viewed as an opportunity to learn so next year, when additional talent is added, the team can take a giant leap forward.  Right now perhaps Jay feels he has to lean so heavily on Bargs because of a lack of talent and personnel, but as noted, there were other options yesterday.  Toronto didn't field a team of only five players.

It's the same thing we've been discussing all year in terms of Julian Wright.

Wright's not the best option offensively, but when the D has been such a problem all season, why not give him major minutes in a defensive role, and flank him with your premier offensive options like Bargnani?  Even with Andrea's struggles on O, the club's D with Wright starting next to Bargs and Amir Johnson was enough to keep this one close up until the latter stages of the game.  That's when Triano's insistence on PT for Bargs, who hell, could have been exhausted from all that run for all we know, I felt became a major hurdle for the team to overcome.

So my plea here going forward is for this coaching staff to break the wash-rinse-repeat, play bad D, try and shoot yourself out of it, over-rely on Andrea Bargnani cycle.

Put Bargs in a situation to maximize his mismatch ability, and his deadly offensive game that can absolutely dominate for periods of time.  Put guys like Wright, Barbosa and Kleiza in similar situations as well, and let's get more run for youngsters like Davis and even Alabi.  

Davis played 30 minutes yesterday and had another double-double, looking more and more confident at both ends. Perhaps this road trip is a "failure" in the end thanks to the team's won-loss record, but if Ed can put up consistent numbers like that by the time the team returns home, I'd have to say that's a much bigger win looking at things on a larger scale.

And again, that's what this season should be about.

Now if someone can just communicate this to Triangelo and co...