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If I had to pick one play in the Raptors’ (7-15) 100-77 home loss to the Atlanta Hawks that accurately summarized the rest of the game, I’d probably point to Josh Smith’s alley-oop off a Tracy McGrady pass with about three minutes to go in the first quarter.
It wasn’t so much that Smith was dominant (he only had seven points), but it offered a telling example of the stark difference in talent, athleticism and explosiveness between the two teams. Smith was able to beat his hustling Raptors counterparts down the floor off a Jerryd Bayless missed three and, despite DeMar DeRozan’s spirited attempt to intercept the ball, easily plucked the ball away and dunked it into the net in one fluid, air-borne motion. It represented what the Hawks did to the Raptors all night – overwhelming them with skill.
Double-Double for Davis
One game after it was Bayless and DeRozan who stepped up, Ed Davis was the latest young building block to emerge from what has been a disappointing season to put forth a strong effort. Davis had 11 points and 11 rebounds in 26 minutes off the bench, producing his first double-digit rebound game since January 20, his first double-digit point game since January 6 and his first double-double all season long.
New Look Gets Ironed Out
Dwane Casey made it clear in his pre-game comments that the small line-up which debuted on Sunday (Calderon/Bayless/DeRozan/Johnson/Johnson) would not be the go-to starting five and would only be used if the match-up was right. Well, either the match-up was right or (more likely) Casey decided it wouldn’t matter what he threw at Atlanta, as the same five men started off the game once again on Tuesday. While they didn’t fare too well (only Bayless reached double digits in scoring), the team got quality reserve minutes from Gary Forbes in yet another indication that he can handle the back-up point guard role if that’s what he’s ultimately assigned.
No Answer for Johnson
A look at the boxscore may beg the question of how Joe Johnson was allowed to go off for 30 points. But perhaps the better question is how did the Raptors hold Johnson to only 30 points. Who on the Raps roster can be relied upon to stop him? Calderon and Bayless are too small and not nearly physical enough, James Johnson doesn’t have the quickness and DeRozan, Forbes and Leandro Barbosa simply don’t have that level of defensive capability. Hard to take a “we’ll get ‘em next time” attitude when this loss was so clearly about being the less talented team and having no answers for one of their stars.
When Toronto falls behind, the team gets panicked. When the team gets panicked, they force the offence. When they force the offence, it leads to turnovers. When they cough up turnovers, they get discouraged. When they get discouraged, they loaf back on defence. When they loaf on defence, it leads to easy fast break points for the opposition (Atlanta had 27 points off 19 Raps’ turnovers). And so it goes.
The Off-Season Signees
Aside from maybe Forbes (and even that’s being generous at this point), are the veteran free agent acquisitions from this past summer really adding anything of consequence? Rasual Butler has been more liability than asset, Anthony Carter loses locker room credibility every time he steps onto the floor, Aaron Gray has twice as many fouls this season (26) as points (13) and, even with Andrea Bargnani out, Jamaal Magloire has gotten into just one of the team’s past five games.
- The Raptors don’t exactly need much help in terms of getting overlooked within the NBA universe. However, even the Gate 5 Live pre-game show in-house broadcast made sure to do their part, choosing to withhold any coverage of the team’s successful road trip in favour of about 10 replays of Blake Griffin’s dunk on Kendrick Perkins, complete with commentary from Paul Jones and Eric Smith and even a soundbyte about it from Casey.
- Spotted in the crowd on Tuesday night: Milos Raonic, who is in town for the week before heading out to Vancouver for next weekend’s huge Davis Cup tie vs. France, and Barenaked Ladies bassist Jim Creeggan.
At this point, the Raptors might just embrace playing on the road, where they’ve collected five of their seven wins. Then again, their last trip to TD Garden didn’t produce one of those wins (7:30pm, SN1).
Keep an Eye on:
1) … the Raps’ shot selection. The last time these teams met (a 96-73 Boston victory), Toronto fell victim to settling for bad shots and rarely trying to penetrate (4-15 from three-point range and just 56 points off field goals).
2) … Toronto doubling the ball. No Rajon Rondo (wrist) frees up the Raptors defensively, as Avery Bradley is hardly an offensive dynamo and the team can significantly weaken the Celtics by restricting their ball movement.
The Pick: Celtics 85, Raptors 74 (12-3 this season)