The Toronto Raptors went into Charlotte to play a Bobcats team fresh off a defeat in New York of the Knicks. The feisty ‘Cats started fast, and had just enough to fend off Toronto 92-90. DeMar DeRozan’s driving hook shot to tie was well off the mark, and Charlotte kept the ball for the final seconds. The Raps should not have had the chance to keep the game close, but Charlotte missed 13 of 30 free throws. The ‘Cats made but three 3-pointers, and their top scorer, point guard Kemba Walker, was 2 of 13 from the field. This game was eminently winnable for the Raps, but they lost anyway.
Raps coach Dwane Casey will shortly lose his job if he continues to get out-coached like he did again last night. [20-second timeout: The NBA's website criticized the coach for not fouling a ‘Cat with 26 seconds to play, in a sub-section entitled “Bad Move”. I've never seen anything like that before in their usually anodyne post-game comments. That was a tactical error; I’m concerned with his strategic decisions.] Jonas Valanciunas must be thoroughly confused. His coach consistently stops doing what’s working, namely playing an inside-out game using JV as the fulcrum, in favour of the turnovers of Rudy Gay. Coach Casey was very clear before the season began: he was going to emphasize defense, because he thought the Raps lost their edge last year. However the Raps defense has not been the reason the team is now 2-3 early. Toronto has yet to break the century mark in points, though they should have, after pouring in 35 Q2 points to turn a hefty deficit into a 53-all tie at intermission. The third quarter was poison for Toronto. After pulling ahead, they went 7+ minutes without a field goal. Charlotte’s 6 point margin entering Q4 was just enough for them to nurse home.
Drawing up a defensive game plan against the Raps is easy at the moment. The ball stops once it’s in Rudy’s hands, and it only emerges when he’s double-teamed and stripped, or takes some crazy off-balance toss (not a shot; there’s no form or control). Rudy led the Raps in scoring (20 points on 21 shots) again last night, which seems to be of greater moment to him than victories. He’s barely shooting 33% for the season – how can he be the leader of the offense?
The Raps got non-contributions from others besides Rudy. After D.J. Augustin provided no lift at all from the backup point guard spot, he was benched in favour of Julyan Stone, who at least didn’t turn the ball over. However, Stone gave little sign he can do much other than defend. Terrence Ross hit a few 3-balls, but continued to have difficulty making ordinary field goals, despite dribbling smartly into the paint on several occasions. Austin Daye got another look, and fumbled it. Quincy Acy is in the doghouse, and Steve Novak isn’t dressing because of back woes.
The Raps travel to Indiana for a Friday night game, then return home to play the Utah Jazz on Saturday night. If the Raps lose both of these games, you can expect turmoil at the Air Canada Centre sooner rather than later.
Brian Boake is Senior Editor for Raptors Rapture. “Like” Raptors Rapture on Facebook and follow us on twitter @RaptorsRapture for all the latest news and updates about the best damn NBA team from Canada.
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