I must admit, it has become harder and harder to write about this Raptors team that continues to struggle at pretty much every part of the game night after night. After the two losses to the Celtics in which Ray Allen and Paul Pierce took turns destroying our already thin back court defense, week 12 continued with losses against the Bulls, the Pacers and the Suns leading into week 13 which has brought us losses against the Pistons and the Hawks. Here is how I saw those games.
Wednesday, January 14th, 2009 – Raptors vs. Bulls
Raptors – 98
Bulls – 102
Having built up a 71 – 68 lead after 3 quarters, the Raptors found a way to let Derrick Rose score 17 points in the 4th to post a come from behind win on the road. On a night when the Raptors enjoyed Andrea Bargnani dropping a career high 31 points to go with 10 rebounds including 3 offensive boards, they allowed the Bulls to tally 33 assists while being outrebounded 26 – 11 in the first half finishing the game -10 on the glass. The Bulls exploited our awful perimeter defense all night and finished with 25 points and 10 assists while Kirk Hinrich added 12 points and 6 assists off the bench. Luol Deng had a huge game with 16 points and 14 rebounds and was offered little resistance on either glass and was one of the reasons this game turned in the 4th as we could not find a way to keep him off the boards and maintain ball control as the Bulls took over. One of my favorite players, Joakim Noah didn’t bite on a Chris Bosh pump fake and blocked his shot late to seal the game. 5 offensive rebounds won’t win you a game in High school let alone the NBA. Jermaine O’Neal missed his 9th straight game and Jose Calderon was out again and the back-court of Will Solomon and Roko Ukic 9 points, 9 assists and 1 turn over. Anthony Parker had a solid game with 15 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists in a losing cause. The Raptors gave up 44 points in the paint and were -18 in the paint, so much for the over-whelming front court attack the Raptors hoped to present as this has become the norm for this team as we can’t seem to consistently score inside, which allows teams to harass our shooters all night long. Simple basketball is killing this team.
Friday, January 16th, 2009 – Raptors @ Pacers
Raptors – 107
Pacers – 111
This game was over very early in spite of what the score says. The Raptors scored 39 points in the final quarter to make a run at the Pacers, but could not tie or take the lead as the closed within one point of the home team. Troy Murphy who dropped a 20/20 performance on the Raptors the last game they played settled in for a tidy 15/15 game as Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy provided 23 and 22 points for the Pacers. Jarrett Jack provided 17 points and 7 assists and T.J. Ford added 12 points to the game against his former team. Jermaine O’Neal played his first game in about 3 weeks and looked tired. I suspect he was not ready as he sat the next game, but was able to 7 rebounds and 2 points while Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh scored 20 and 25 points while Chris grabbed 16 rebounds, but committed 4 turnovers. With only 22 points off of the bench, this team just does not have the scoring second unit that it needs nightly to compete at the level expected of them with any consistency. The Raptors were down by 24 heading into the 4th quarter and looked lethargic at best most of the game. On a night when they dominated on the glass ending the game +11, the Raptors were beaten by the back court’s inability to score and defend. Ford, Jack, Dunleavy, Stephen Graham and Danny Granger combined for 83 of the Pacers 111 points, while our back court and SF’s scored 57. Jason Kapono scored only 8 points, Joey Graham added only 8 as well. The score flatters this team as it was not really that close at all, but with one quarter of play, they were able to score 39 points, but the Pacers play less defense than we do, so, take it for what it is worth.
Sunday, January 18th, 2009 Raptors vs. Suns
Raptors – 113
Suns – 117
Steve Nash brought lust to the hearts of Raptors fans everywhere with his 18 assist performance as he has stated he would love to end his career north of the 49th parallel. Amar’e Stoudemire scored a game high 31 points and Grant Hill collected a team high 9 rebounds as the Suns needed every part of their game to work as the Raptors played a balanced game and were in a position to steal a win until Nash scored with less than 30 seconds left after an Anthony Parker miss. Parker had his best scoring game in a long time with 26 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists while starting at the PG spot. Jamario Moon added 16 points Andrea Bargnani had 15 while Chris Bosh scored 20 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, but committed 5 turnovers. Kris Humphries had 6 while the entire bench offered only 14 points with the Raptors dressing only 9 players. Joey Graham had 22 points and 7 rebounds while Shaquille O’Neal was limited to 16 points and 4 rebounds, Matt Barnes had 16 and Leandro Barbosa had 14 off the bench for the Suns coming off a tough loss to the Timberwolves. Again, the Raptors were -18 in the paint and -10 in points off of turnovers as Jason Richardson added 17 to the Suns total.
Monday, January 19th, 2009 Raptors @ Hawks
Raptors – 84
Hawks – 87
Joe Johnson scored 28 points including one with 12 seconds left while Mike Bibby added a couple of late free throws while scoring 23 to over-take the Raptors and ring up the win. With only 9 players dressed, Center Al Horford, Speedy Claxton, Marvin Williams and Randolph Morris all were not dressed but they were able to battle through and secure the win while the Raptors again could not find anyone able to take the final shot and make it count. Andrea Bargnani scored 20, Chris Bosh, 22 while they both had double doubles, Anthony Parker scored 12 and collected 9 rebounds and had 9 assists for a second solid game in a row. With 17 points off the bench, this was a game we should have won, but hitting must have shots is not a strength this team has as we can’t seem to figure out who to get the ball to in that clutch situation. Overall, the game was very even, but the Raptors allowed the Hawks to settle outside and score 7/26 from 3 point range. Raptors scored only 2/18 for a pathetic 11%. Josh Smith added 22 points while Zaza Pachulia was kept off the scoreboard and played only 11 minutes the Raptors could not find a way, again to dominate the game inside with the Hawks playing small ball. This was the 6th straight loss in a row for the Raptors.
Wednesday, January 21, 2009 Raptors @ Pistons
Raptors – 76
Pistons – 95
Richard Hamilton was moved to the bench, but that didn’t seem to help the Raptors at all as they once again allowed Tayshaun Prince to eat them up off the dribble. Amir Johnson started in place of Rip and the Pistons back-court of Allen Iverson and Rodney Stuckey combined for 28 points and 13 assists while Jason Maxiell had 16 points and 11 rebounds and Antonio McDyess had 10 points and 8 rebounds off the bench. The game was close after the first, but the Pistons outscored the Raptors 59 – 40 in the 2nd and 3rd quarters. The Raptors offered little resistance and very little effort being out hustled on the glass with the Pistons using their depth to destroy our very thin second line. Jermaine O’Neal offered 11 points and 1 rebound on his second game in the past 12 or so with trade rumors swirling between the Heat and Shawn Marion, this Raptors team looks like it is waiting for something huge to happen and they can’t seem to find a way to respond to anything on the floor.
The rest of this week offers the Raptors the Bulls again, the Kings who are 0 – 16 against eastern teams and the Bucks and the Nets. Unless something happens to change the intensity on this team, they will just keep losing.