It sure looked like the Raptors got the message early on that the effort displayed against Washington was embarrassing … If you only caught the first quarter, it looked like a laugher, the makeup game for the disaster against the Wizards. But, again, the Raptors played down to the competition (a Cavs team missing its top two players) and showed a stunning lack of fight in what is purported to still be a race to make the playoffs (even though that ship actually sailed long ago, as I’ve been saying for a while).
Why did it happen? Well, the bench stunk. Getting outscored 39-8 by a medicore group of Cavs reserves after all the starters had done to take control was a damning knock against a unit that has struggled more than it has succeeded of late. The bench has been far too inconsistent and it’s time to free the rookies and see what they’ve got (more on that in a bit).
Second, the team stopped moving the ball the way it had early on and went back to the more iso or two-man heavy style that has been employed of late.
- Clearly the Andrea Bargnani reclamation project is not working. It’s time to sit him down and play Quincy Acy. Acy played well earlier in the year and gives a far more honest effort. Somebody else will have to step up and score points and Acy can’t defend bigs nearly as well 1-on-1 as Bargnani can, but he is a far better rebounder, shot-blocker and team defender. With Alan Anderson extremely inconsistent, it’s time to play Terrence Ross more as well. The team needs to develop these guys, especially Ross. While we’re at it, Jonas Valanciunas could use a minutes up-tick as well. Especially since he’s been playing his best basketball of the season of late. I know Dwane Casey doesn’t trust the youngsters yet, but his veterans aren’t giving him the consistency he needs, so why not develop the guys who are going to be around for awhile and live with their similar inconsistencies? Of course, no coach wants to admit the season is lost and very few coaches want to play rookies over guys who have earned their trust, but we’re getting to the point where it simply has to be done for the long-term good of the franchise. At the least, what’s the downside of giving Valanciunas more time? He’s proven himself and keeps getting better. If you want to argue Ross and Acy haven’t earned minutes yet, that’s one thing, but Valanciunas certainly has. Toronto is better with him on the floor (unless he’s out there with Bargnani).
- Bargnani is not increasing his trade value at all. Sure sitting him might decrease it further heading into the summer, but unless he buys into his role as a scoring reserve who at least pretends to give a damn on defence, he’s useless out there. As I said, I’d bleed some of his minutes to Valanciunas or even Acy unless he is dialed in (and the coaches know when he is).
-DeMar DeRozan still could stand to lessen the number of long two-point attempts he takes, but lately, he’s done a better job of mixing up his offence and taking smarter shots. This has been particularly true over the past two games.
- That said, DeRozan was part of the fourth quarter offensive brain cramp that saw the team make bad decision after bad decision in terms of where shots were coming from. The decision-making was horrific in the quarter, and prevented the Raptors from stealing a win. Too many three-point shots were attempted and too many tough shots were “settled” on. I’m sure the team will be watching a lot of tape of the first quarter, when far smarter decisions were made.
Two Cavs thoughts:
- Tristan Thompson was forcing his offence a bit in the absence of Kyrie Irving, but he’s improved substantially this season. His confidence is way up and so is his production.
- I’ve always enjoyed watching Shaun Livingston play (especially early on, before his horrific injury), so it’s great to see him carving out a role for himself and doing well. Most people who went through what he did injury-wise would not still be playing in the NBA.