You could tell that both of these teams were coming off of the All Star break, as they were running up and down the floor on every offensive and defensive possession early on. Unfortunately, for those of use who took the time to watch this game and for the sorry people who paid money to watch it in Charlotte, that inspired play lasted for about six minutes.
The Raptors were in a tight game for most of the first quarter, but when Jerryd Bayless checked in to replace Jose Calderon late in the quarter, he spurred a Raptors turnover spree that helped the Bobcats start to pull away.
Toronto was only down six after one, but it could have been much worse, as Charlotte must have missed four or five layup or dunk opportunities in that first quarter.
The second quarter started with a bang, courtesy of this monster dunk by Ed Davis, but that was the last Raptors highlight of the first half, and one of the few high points of the night for Toronto. Charlotte outscored the Raptors, 28-17, in the second quarter, and hung 61 on the Raptors in the first half, carrying a 17-point lead into the break.
From there, the game was pretty much over. The Raptors went down by as many as 22 points in the third quarter, and never showed enough grit to get back in the game. Sure, they cut the deficit to 11 midway through the fourth quarter, but the Bobcats closed the game out on a run. And besides, if you’re idea of making a game of it is getting to within 11 points, then you’ve got problems.
You could look at the turnovers or the free throw discrepancy (Charlotte attempted 42 to Toronto’s 26) as keys to the Bobcats win tonight, but if you watched this game from start to finish, you know that the Raptors were just never really locked in after that late first quarter run from Charlotte. The Bobcats are in the thick of a tight playoff race, while the Raptors are playing for next year, and beyond that. This shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise.
It was nice to see Sonny Weems running the floor again, Andrea Bargnani grabbing rebounds and DeMar DeRozan continuing to attack the basket, despite obvious fatigue from All Star weekend. But really, no Raptor was great on this night, nor was any really bad. It was a mediocre kind of night, and it showed in the final score. I did like Jerryd Bayless’ fight in Charlotte. He started off shaky with four turnovers in the first half, and went 0-for-4 from the field. But Bayless fought through those struggles, kept attacking, and used 12 free throw attempts to finish with 11 points, 10 assists and five rebounds.
Before tonight’s ball game, the Raptors made a small but puzzling trade. They traded Miami’s first-round draft pick (which they obtained in the Chris Bosh deal) to Chicago in exchange for 2009 first-round pick, James Johnson. The 24-year-old forward hasn’t done much in limited minutes since being drafted by the Bulls, but I guess the Raptors figure he is worth a gamble on. I, on the other hand, do not think that way. I understand that Miami’s pick will likely be the 25th-30th pick in the draft, but with proper scouting, there is a better chance you can find a solid role player for the future late in the first round than there is that James Johnson will turn into that player for you.
Lastly, the Raptors are back at the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday night to take on the Bulls. In two games against the Bulls this season, the Raptors have been outscored by a combined 37 points. And go figure, Joakim Noah is set to return to the Bulls lineup on Wednesday. If this game is still a game at halftime, consider it an accomplishment.
Raptors Player of the Game: Jerryd Bayless – 21 Min, 11 Pts, 0-4 FG, 0-1 3Pt, 11-12 FT, 5 Reb, 10 Ast, 1 Stl, 4 TO (No Raptor was truly worthy of a mention tonight, but Bayless fought hard enough to go from potential goat of the game to get to this spot)
Bobcats Player of the Game: D.J. Augustin – 35 Min, 23 Pts, 8-15 FG, 2-7 3Pt, 5-5 FT, 1 Reb, 8 Ast
Goat of the Game: Leandro Barbosa – 17 Min, 4 Pts, 2-6 FG, 0-2 3Pt, 1 Reb