Game No. 32: Bobcats 98, Raptors 91

I wrote earlier on Friday about how even Tank Nation subscribers wouldn’t be able to take anything out of a loss to arguably the worst team in NBA history. Hours later, it’s officially a reality, as the Bobcats snapped a 16-game losing streak with a win in Toronto, “improving” to 4-26 after 30 games and 2-16 on the road.

This has to be rock bottom, right?

Now here are some thoughts on the game:

1- My first thought is this, that the Raptors, as poor a team as they are, even without Andrea Bargnani and Linas Kleiza, are still a better team than the Bobcats. But they’re not better by enough of a margin to be able to coast by the Bobcats, or anyone else in the NBA for that matter. The incredibly frustrating thing about this loss is that the three or four times the Raptors decided to play hard in this game, they actually went on mini runs and started to build a lead. Then they would simply stop playing, almost as if they thought a six point lead against Charlotte would be enough. This team has to realize that as nice as solid efforts against teams like the Celtics, Lakers and Spurs are, those efforts will never excuse absolute duds like this. The Raptors we saw on this night deserved to be booed off of the floor.

2- One bit of good news for the Raptors is that they got one of their walking wounded back in the lineup in Jerryd Bayless. Bayless attacked the basket in his short stay on the floor and generally looked like his fearless self, but the bad news is that he played just five minutes in his return. I’m hoping this was just a precautionary decision by Dwane Casey, and not a sign that this injury is going to nag Bayless in one way or another all season. The guy was playing so well before he went down again, it would be a shame if he can’t get back to 100 per cent any time soon.

3- Another positive in this game for the Raptors was the crowd. Considering some of the larger crowds Toronto has had this season, 15,575 might not sound great, but if you ask me, getting over 15,000 people to spend their Friday night watching two teams with combined records of 12-48 is actually a minor accomplishment. Maybe “Naughty By Nature” or the “Fan Night” deals on merchandise brought the crowd in, but they actually sounded into the ball game, despite the “performance,” or lack there of, from the home team.

4- I’ve mentioned before that even when DeMar DeRozan has good games this season, there is always something that seems to hold him back from having a great game. Tonight was no different. DeRozan finished with a very efficient 24 points on just 15 field goal attempts and got to the line 12 times. Those are impressive numbers for the 22-year-old. But it leaves us with more to be desired when you consider that DeMar had 13 points after the first quarter on five-of-six shooting and 18 points at the half on six-of-seven shooting. Unfortunately, foul trouble slowed down DeRozan’s big night in the second half. He’s been pretty good over the last couple of weeks, and I suppose we can take solace in the fact that his January slump is officially over, but I can’t help thinking about the “what could have been” in a lot of these performances.

5- Yes, I realize that they just beat the team that I root for, but I remain confident in saying that the Bobcats have the worst NBA roster I’ve seen in my lifetime. It’s a joke to look at. I often find myself wondering how Bobcats fans, if they exist, make it through their days or make it through this season. As bad as things are here in Toronto, I still believe the Raptors have a couple of good pieces for the future already in place, a few additional assets that are at least somewhat attractive on the market and a solid coach in place. I look at the Bobcats, and I see a sad sack collection of “talent” with no hope in the near future. Drafting Anthony Davis would obviously change things, but right now, even exciting young players like Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo don’t do it for me.

6- You know what’s getting really frustrating? Watching Leandro Barbosa make really bad decisions with the ball in his hands. On the surface, you see a 16-point performance in 24 minutes off of the bench and think Barbosa performed well, but if you watched the ending of this game, I’m sure you share my frustration. The Raptors had cut the lead to two, got a stop and were running out on a fast break, with the ball in Leandro’s hands. Everyone in the building thought Barbosa should move the ball except Barbosa himself, and the play resulted in a turnover. Just minutes later, Barbosa committed another foolish turnover at a critical moment. I accepted that this season would be full of ups and downs (mostly downs) and full of frustrating moments a long time ago, but I assumed a lot of that frustration would come at the hands of our younger players, not the seasoned vets who were supposed to be supplying the leadership on this team.

Even a boost in the Tank Nation standings isn’t enough to satisfy me with a loss to the Bobcats, but if you can find comfort in it right now, a Pistons win on Friday leaves the Raptors with the fifth worst record in the NBA. Not to mention, a Hornets upset at MSG has Toronto just 1.5 games ahead of the second-worst record. Fun times, indeed.

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To finish, I’m going to suggest that you listen to the return of RaptorBlog Radio, which features an interview with fan-favourite and “Ultimate Raptor,” Alvin Williams. I promise you it will go down easier than anything related to this embarrassment of a game.

Raptors Player of the Game: Jose Calderon – 42 Min, 14 Pts, 5-12 FG, 2-5 3PT, 2-2 FT, 3 Reb, 8 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 TO (Amir Johnson’s season-high 15 rebounds and another balanced game from James Johnson have them in the conversation too)

Bobcats Player of the Game: Kemba Walker – 30 Min, 14 Pts, 5-15 FG, 1-4 3PT, 3-3 FT, 3 Reb, 8 Ast, 2 Stl, 1 TO (You can take your pick between Walker and Biyombo, who came up with 13 rebounds and a career-high seven blocks)