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Yup, it was that easy for Rip Hamilton and the Pistons

If you were one of the 15 000-plus that paid some of your hard-earned money to watch the Toronto Raptors on Wednesday night, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the team basically wiped their you know whats with your money…and laughed while doing it.

The Raptors got off to a fine start, and looked like the better team for much of the first quarter. Then, as they did in Detroit a couple of weeks ago, the Raptors turned the ball over at an astonishing rate and became increasingly lazy. Only this time, there was no miraculous rally. The Raps simply quit.

It was truly hideous to watch for basketball fans, whether you support the Raptors or not. They bumbled and stumbled up and down the court, committed foolish and careless turnovers (23 in total) without being forced into them by the Pistons’ defence, struggled to in-bound the ball, barely raised an arm on defence while Rip Hamilton and Tracy McGrady partied like it was 2005, and worst of all, never looked down about the fact they were being humiliated by a horrible team.

If you saw any post-practice scrums from Tuesday, or read Holly’s practice notes, you likely noticed that most of the discussions were about the players’ plans for the holidays. I’m not suggesting that the Raptors’ practice on Tuesday was insufficient, but just by watching how little interest the team had tonight, you have to wonder if the Raptors had already checked out and were thinking about their mini-vacations. Young team or not, that’s unacceptable for million-dollar athletes.

I guess an eternal optimist can come up with a list of excuses. The Raptors have been banged up for a while. They have barely had enough bodies to practice. Amir Johnson and Andrea Bargnani left tonight’s game (only Bargnani returned afterwards). The Pistons came in fired up after blowing a 25-point lead to the Raptors in Detroit. All of those are viable excuses in a close game, or in a game that just gets away from an inexperienced team late.

But this was a blowout by halftime, in the team’s last game before a five-day break between games. They should have come out and played with an intensity that some call “balls to the wall.”

I’ve been watching the NBA, and sports in general, long enough to know that sometimes blowouts happen, and there is no explanation for it. But at least look disgusted, show some passion, get ejected. Do something to show the paying fans that you give a bleep. On Wednesday night, while being dismantled by the lowly Pistons, from the coaching staff to the last guy on the bench, the Raptors looked as fired up and angry as a group of nuns in a convent.

As bad as the Pistons are, you would have to deduce that the Raptors are significantly worse right now. In two meetings over a span of 12 days, the Pistons have absolutely dominated Toronto for about five quarters, with the Raptors using one incredible 15-minute run to split the two games.

I never saw this Raptors team as a playoff team, but did see them competing for a playoff spot into the final weeks of the season. That’s still possible, given the futility of the bottom half of the Eastern Conference. But a 22-point home loss to the woeful Pistons may be the wake-up call for some of us. At 10-19, with a tough stretch of the schedule ahead, December 22 may be looked back on as the night fans started thinking “draft.”

I am aware that it’s not all gloom and doom in Raptorland. This is still a very inexperienced team with some nice young building blocks. Embarrassing losses like this don’t change that fact.

But being young and inexperienced is never an excuse for not showing up.

And fans, while optimistic about the future, should still be disgusted with what transpired at the ACC on Wednesday night.

Raptors Player of the Game: Linas Kleiza – 38 Min, 19 Pts, 7-11 FG, 1-3 3Pt, 4-4 FT, 5 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl

Pistons Player of the Game: Richard Hamilton – 28 Min, 35 Pts, 13-20 FG, 6-10 3Pt, 3-5 FT, 1 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Stl

Goat of the Game: Jose Calderon – 37 Min, 5 Pts, 1-6 FG, 1-4 3Pt, 2-2 FT, 4 Reb, 13 Ast, 8 TO