There are many places you could look on Game 1's stat sheet to attempt to find answers for the Raptors' soul-crushing 93-86 overtime loss at home to the Washington Wizards. Most of the columns that have the word "rebound" attached to them would be a good place to start.
Washington simply destroyed Toronto on the glass, winning the rebounding "battle" (it wasn't much of one) 61-48. That includes a 19-10 edge on the offensive glass, which resulted in a whopping 20 second chance points for the Wizards.
That's really the statistical story to focus on after this one, but there's simply something else on everyone's mind.
Take a look in the comment section of any Raptors blog today, peruse the Twitter accounts of any fans or analysts, or simply listen to the chants of the crowd at the ACC from the game tape. You'll find a common thread that almost made this post write itself:
When asked about Johnson's DNP-CD after the game, Raptors coach Dwane Casey downplayed JJ's role on the team (via Raptors Republic):
"James will play in a matchup situation. Again, he could be in play later in this series. The difficult thing to do is play all of our wings. We’ve got a good rotation with Greivis, Kyle, DeMar and Terrence in that group and it’s just hard to get that fifth guy in there unless it’s just a special matchup. Again, it will come into play in this series at some point but today wasn’t the day. Believe me, I heard all the people yelling, ‘Put James in, put James in," but, again, who do you take out? We were having trouble with outside shots. DeMar was doing a good job. Lou was a threat. So, we’ll see. There’s going to be a place for James in this series. I’ve talked with him about that."
As the team's head coach, it's up for Casey to decide who he plays and who he doesn't, but the answer to his "But who do you take out?" question is pretty obvious to anyone who watched the game or has access to the Raptors' playoff statistics from this year and last:
You take out Terrence Ross.
Ross was flat out terrible last year in Toronto's first-round series with the Brooklyn Nets. Over seven games, he averaged 5.0 points, 2.0 rebounds, and little else, while shooting 29.8 percent from the field, 16.7 percent from long range, and 60.0 percent from the free throw line.
He had a player efficiency rating (PER) of 0.9, which -- if you're not familiar with the stat -- qualifies as one of the 10 worst efficiency ratings in a single series in NBA playoff history for someone playing at least 100 minutes.
Yesterday, he hit the first shot of the game and then quickly went right back to last year's form. He finished the game shooting 3-for-11 from the field (including 0-for-6 from downtown) and without taking a single free throw.
The Raptors scored at an abysmal rate of 68.7 points per 100 possessions in the 22 minutes that Ross was on the floor, compared to 99.1 during the 31 minutes he sat. He was fairly effective on defence, helping to hold Bradley Beal to 6-for-23 shooting, but the Raptors were also 1.7 points per 100 possessions better on that end when Ross was out.
Overall, those offensive/defensive splits resulted in a net rating (points scored minus points allowed per 100 possessions) of -27.5 when Ross was on the court, compared to +4.6 when he was off.
And James Johnson -- he who made the Raptors 4.5 points per 100 possessions better on defence when on the court this season and 1.3 on offence -- couldn't even get a single minute?
Paul Pierce torched the Raptors with 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting (4-for-7 from downtown) in Game 1 and six of those shots (five makes) were uncontested. Johnson plays the same position as Pierce and is known as a defensive stopper, yet the matchup wasn't "special" enough to get him on the floor?
And Johnson might be known as a specialist on defence, but his driving game is also an important part of the Raptors' offence and is often overlooked. He led the Raptors in both field goal percentage (63.7 percent) and points per 48 minutes (8.4) on drives this season, easily one of the league's best in both cases. With the Raptors "having trouble with outside shots" (6-for-29 from downtown), putting him into the game to facilitate attacking the basket wasn't even considered?
Throw in the fact that Johnson grabs 10.8 percent of available rebounds when he's on the floor, compared to Ross' 6.2, and Casey's explanation for gluing Johnson to the bench goes from head-scratching to simply infuriating. When you lose a game because you couldn't contain Paul Pierce, you got embarrassingly out-rebounded, and your offence was inefficient, you can't say that your team's best wing defender, rebounder, and most efficient driving option didn't fit the matchup.
Casey's adjustments from Game 1 to Game 2 will be heavily scrutinized. Ross' development is very important to the team and its future, but it's not worth losing in the present. If he doesn't have it during the playoffs just yet, the Raptors will simply have to find someone that does.
And if Casey doesn't at least try to see if "Big Red" is the answer and Toronto loses another game at home, then Raptor fans will soon start seeing a different kind of red than they had hoped.