Raptor fans have suffered through a lot of heartbreak over the years. Add Monday night’s game to the mix. Toronto, minus top player Kyle Lowry, as well as its top two options at small forward, was in tough against a solid Utah Jazz club, yet should have come away with a win.
The young Raptors just got confused and weren’t aware of the time remaining. That’s the only explanation of why they didn’t foul. Dwane wanted them to, it was obvious they needed to – you ALWAYS do that in that situation. Yet, since these are the Raptors, the franchise that suffers the slings and arrows of mostly misfortune more than most, of course they didn’t foul and of course it resulted in a loss. Also, of course Al Jefferson hit his second career three on his 26th attempt. Even DeMar DeRozan said “It had to be us,” laughing at the absurdity of the ACME piano that constantly falls on him and the franchise.
On a positive note, that’s the best I’ve seen DeRozan play. He attacked, moved the ball, got on the boards and generally, had better shot selection. His defence still needs work, but he’s taken a massive step forward and done a lot to make his many doubters, including this corner, change their tune and understand what Bryan Colangelo was thinking when he handed out DeRozan’s extension.
John Lucas finding his shot was also a positive. They’ll need him, especially if Kyle Lowry is out for a while yet.
Casey said you could second-guess him for sitting Jonas Valanciunas for four quarters and we will. The rookie is the future of the team and needs to be out there learning from situations like this. Not playing him with Amir having a tremendous game made sense, but opting for Aaron Gray over him didn’t. Gray doesn’t have the quicks to defend Utah’s bigs and doesn’t have an offensive game.
Have to bring up the referees. They were atrocious, maybe the worst-officiated game I have ever seen. They incensed Casey, Tyrone Corbin, Jefferson, Millsap, Calderon, Bargnani, DeRozan and a host of others. They had no grasp on what was happening and blatantly favoured the visitors, missing a slew of calls on Bargnani and DeRozan. It’s a tough job and everybody has of nights, but this was pretty brutal
Close doesn’t count, so while this was a great, gritty effort by the Raptors, not pulling it out is going to sting. A lot. This team could be looking at a 4-14 or 6-16 start to the season based on all the road games and the tough schedule. Still even if the team is 10 games under .500 after its brutal first 22, it’s a long season and the 36 wins I predicted would still be attainable with a .500 finish. To get that .500 finish, the Raptors would have to be healthy and make a trade to upgrade at small forward.
Andrea Bargnani continues to be maddening. Looks like a superstar early on, hurts the team from the third quarter on. When guarded by Derrick Favors, Bargnani shot 0-10. We’ll keep beating the drum, the Raptors aren’t going to win with him and need to deal him for value at a position they are not stacked at. Memphis is off to a great start, but when things unravel a bit, new ownership will start thinking about a big luxury tax bill that will be due after the season. The Grizzlies surely have to deal Zach Randolph or Rudy Gay. Either would be a great fit in Toronto in some sort of Bargnani swap.
Biggest problems for the Raptors on Monday: Not boxing out – Utah got some back-breaking offensive rebounds. When it happened early, Casey almost broke the sideline stanchion, when it happened late, Jefferson hit his three (or Millsap hit a three). Also, not rotating well: Utah shot wide open threes all night and finished over 50% from deep. Yes, you need to get Utah out of the paint, but letting a team that can shoot well bomb away is asking for trouble. The rotations have been off all year. Only four teams defended the three better than Toronto last year. Only two are doing it worse than Toronto at the moment. Surrendering 42.2% shooting from deep is a recipe for many losses. The defensive identity is gone. The closing out on threes is gone and the rotating has been spotty. Jonas Valanciunas has been posterized twice this season because his teammates either aren’t guarding their man, or aren’t helping quickly enough on blow-bys.
Dwane Casey has a lot of work to do. Kyle Lowry can’t come back soon enough