Fans at the Air Canada Centre expecting to see a triumphant return of the Toronto Raptors following an important road win in Memphis were fated to be bitterly disappointed. DeMar DeRozan and some other people wore Raps’ kit. DD played like an All-Star; the rest might or might not have beaten my Runnymede Old Boys team. The game’s first half was borderline unwatchable as the Raps couldn’t make shots, particularly in the second quarter. The second unit was given its chance by coach Dwane Casey, and flubbed it miserably. At one point the shooting threatened to dip below 20%. Kyle Lowry’s air ball from distance summed up the Raps’ futility, as none of 7 tries found the bottom of the basket.
The Bulls, minus Derrick Rose who was forced to sit down with a hamstring problem, proved full value for their defense-first reputation. Players like Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich swarmed the Raps, resulting in a dearth of easy shots.
Amir Johnson had 3 blocks, but was otherwise invisible. Jonas Valanciunas was crashing the boards effectively, but was taken to school (as I feared he would be) by Carlos Boozer and Joachim Noah. Boozer used his veteran’s array of ball fakes to slide past JV, while Noah’s excellent positioning and timing allowed him to tip in several missed shots. Kyle Lowry missed all 7 3-balls he tried, and his backup, Dwight Buycks, was likewise donut, on 3. In fact, the only Rap besides DD who made a 3 was Rudy Gay, and that was in garbage time.
The game’s second half witnessed a single-handed attempt by DD to carry his team on his back. His brilliant 37 points, nearly half the Raps’ total, went for naught. Gay’s 20 points and 9 boards were welcome, but the rest of the starters contributed a pitiful 13.
One hesitates to read too much into what was just a bad game. That said, the critical weakness of the Raps’ bench must be addressed. The non-starters made 3 of 22 shots, which means they can’t be trusted to enter a game and maintain whatever the margin is. Furthermore, a starter having an off-night can’t easily be sat down. Case in point: Lowry was firing blanks, and Buycks had no points and one lonely assist. Yet D.J. Augustin has so completely squandered his coach’s trust that he never got into the game.
The Raps must regroup quickly, as the Portland Trail Blazers are in town Sunday afternoon.
Putbacks: The fans were booing in Q2, as Raps went 5 minutes without a bucket, and ended the half with a miserable 31 points….Hinrich played almost 40 minutes in place of Rose….was that Amir Johnson’s worst game of the season?….all 5 Chicago starters scored in double figures.