A lot better, but still not good enough.
The Raptors rebounded from the horrors of the Utah game to play two strong quarters against the Clippers on Sunday. But things started to fall apart after a decent start in the third. The reserves came in and didn’t do the job, a recurring problem recently, and the more talented Clippers proceeded to blow the doors off.
No surprise to see passion and commitment in the first quarter. That tends to happen after a closed-door meeting.
The team played well defensively in the first half, holding the Clippers to 35% shooting. Blake Griffin did what he wanted, but otherwise, the defence was good. Kyle Lowry got right up on Chris Paul and limited the future hall of famer’s production, which is not an easy thing to do. This probably was Lowry’s best defensive game as a Raptor – but, he has yet to put a complete game together as he didn’t have his offence going. That said, Lowry was about the only Raptor moving the ball, unfortunately, he moved it to the other team five times as well.
- DeMar DeRozan shook off a brutal start (bad shot selection) to have a decent game in the end.
- Linas Kleiza gave team a boost with shooting and toughness. It was a mistake to sit him for ice cold rookie Terrence Ross who has really struggled over the past week or two. Not sure why this team doesn’t ride the hot hand more (or even just those who are playing well, like Ed Davis in the past).
- Davis had his worst outing in a while. Amir Johnson was the only reserve to play well.
- Jose Calderon is arguably in the worst two week stretch of his NBA career. He was torched by Eric Bledsoe and does not look like himself on offence. He is 4-for-16 on this road trip, 2-for-9 from three with 7 turnovers (a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio is very un-Calderon-like). He is not taking to life off of the bench at all.
- The second quarter was one of Toronto’s best of the season, but they could not follow it up with a good third and the fourth was a nightmare.
- Even when Andrea Bargnani is decent and shows some fight, he isn’t a difference maker. Yes, his defence was more dialed in and he bothered Griffin at times, but Griffin still scored 19 and Bargnani shot just 5-for-15 with just 2 rebounds. Overall, he wasn’t the biggest problem, but he was a net negative. The beat goes on, this isn’t changing. Unless he is having one of his rare on fire games, Bargnani hurts the team and should be coming off of the bench. Until they accept this, they’ll be compensating for his deficiencies and starting every game with one hand tied behind their back.
- As solid as the Toronto defence was early, the problem was, the team wasn’t forcing enough turnovers. The Clips still took care of the ball, despite the pressure, which prevented Toronto from getting out and running. The Raptors need to run more, but need to create more turnovers to do so.
- The zone really worked well for the Raptors, so it was odd to see them go away from it.
- Bryan Colangelo insists the team likes each other and enjoys playing with each other, but I find it hard to accept that nobody has any animosity towards Bargnani, particularly, how he is guaranteed minutes no matter how hard he plays or what he is doing wrong. If accountability is a message the franchise preaches, it is hard to see teammates being happy when the “star” player gets a separate set of rules.
- The Raptors never seem to be truly bad in the correct year. The franchise hasn’t been in on generational talents like Tim Duncan, Paul, LeBron, Howard, etc. at best getting the 4th-best odds or so. Now, the 4-17 record probably ends up quite a bit better when this season is over, but, assuming somehow the winning percentage stays the same and the Raptors get some of the best odds, the big prize is not there to be won. There is no franchise-changer in this draft, by all accounts. Next year, the Andrew Wiggins year, is the time to be the worst of the worst. So, fans, don’t get too upset when the Raptors win enough games to end up with the 7th or 8th best odds and likely send the pick to Oklahoma City.