The Raptors followed up their infuriating loss in Philadelphia on Tuesday with a tough one-point loss in Charlotte on Wednesday, dropping to 3-9 on the season and severely damaging the hope of eventual playoff contention many fans had for this team. And no, it’s not too early to say that.

Now here are some thoughts on the game…

Bobcats 98, Raptors 97

- The Raptors had their opportunities in this game and they shot themselves in the foot plenty of times, so I’m not going to say that they deserved the victory if not for the refs, but having said that, they certainly deserved some free throws and a chance to take the lead in the final seconds of the game if not for some deplorable officiating. In a frantic final half-minute that saw the Raptors get four or five chances to take the lead after offensive rebounds and deflections, Kyle Lowry and Andrea Bargnani were clearly fouled two or three times without a call. No non-call was as atrocious as the final one though, when Bargnani’s hand was hit on his release just a few feet away from the ref. Oh, and just to make it worse, it was rookie Jeff Taylor who got the benefit of the no-call on the play in question.

- It’s hard to be positive after a ninth loss in 12 games, especially when a handful of those games have been decided in the final few minutes, but it’s also hard to be anything but positive about the future of Jonas Valanciunas. The 20-year-old rookie recorded his second double-double in as many nights (and third on the young season) and was finally rewarded with fourth quarter minutes, until he fouled out, a night after we all pleaded for Dwane Casey to throw him in in crunch time. I know it usually doesn’t mean anything, but in this case, I feel like Valanciunas’ team-leading plus/minus of +8 in this game does means something.

- Valanciunas wasn’t the only Raptors rookie to impress in this ball game, as Terrence Ross finished with 11 points on 5-of-9 shooting in just 15 minutes of action, which also included some fourth quarter time. If Ross can put together a string of performances like this, it will be hard for Casey to keep him on the bench with Landry Fields and Alan Anderson out. Although, I’ve said that before and Terrence still isn’t getting the time.

- Most of us have taken issue with some of Casey’s late game lineup decisions, but I was fine with him using the unit of Lowry, Calderon, DeRozan, Bargnani and Valanciunas for the majority of the fourth quarter.

- Bargnani put together what was by far his best game of the season, scoring 25 points on 9-of-17 shooting, which included him hitting a couple of big shots down the stretch. As mentioned, his failed attempt at a game-winner in the final seconds saw him take contact to his shooting hand without getting the call, so I’m not going to knock the guy for missing his shot. Furthermore, while the rest of the team continued to struggle from the free throw line (combining for 9/15), Andrea was a perfect 5-for-5, so you know he likely would have made at least one of his freebies had he been adequately rewarded by the incompetent stiff disguised as an official.

And yes, I’m aware that Bargnani grabbed an embarrassing two rebounds in 33 minutes, but his offensive game was pretty much where it needed to be and he was actually active on defence, so I’m not going to pretend like Bargnani’s lack of rebounding is what lost the Raptors this game.

- Kyle Lowry was solid for the Raptors again, filling the stat-sheet with 21 points, eight assists, three rebounds, two steals and three blocks in nearly 36 minutes in his return to the starting lineup. Lowry missed a couple of free throws again and took a very bad three-point attempt at a crucial point of the fourth quarter with the Raptors up three, but just like last night in Philly, he was also one of the only reasons the Raps were even in the game.

- DeMar DeRozan was disappointing for the majority of the game, committing five turnovers as he was frustrated by the defence of Jeff Taylor, but he came alive late in the game when the Raptors needed him to and made the right decision to continue to attack the basket despite not getting many calls.

- When Scott and I were doing our player preview posts during the pre-season, a lot of fans seemed to take issue with how critical we were of Linas Kleiza, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why. In case you still haven’t put it together, Kleiza is pretty much a waste of space on this Raptors team, as he really doesn’t do anything well enough to warrant consistent playing time. Sure, he has the odd standout offensive performance off of the bench, but for the most part, you’re looking at a guy who thinks he’s a shooter yet can’t shoot, doesn’t defend all that well, doesn’t stand out from a rebounding perspective and sure as hell doesn’t move the ball consistently enough.

Other than jacking up a lot of long two-point attempts (I’ve coined the nickname “Long-two Linas”), the most frustrating part of Kleiza’s game is that he and a bunch of other people think he’s some sort of three-point threat when he has rarely displayed that talent. With his 0-for-3 shooting performance from deep tonight, Linas is now 5-of-21 (23.8%) from downtown on the season, which shouldn’t surprise anyone who can make a basic observation. For the record, Kleiza is a career 33 per cent three-point shooter and has only converted 32 per cent of his attempts as a Raptor. In addition, only once in his six previous seasons in the NBA has he shot better than 35 per cent from behind the arc, and that was six years ago.

So maybe stop calling Linas Kleiza a shooter, okay? “Chucker” is the more appropriate term for his type.

- I won’t take anything away from the Bobcats, who at 6-4, are one win away from their entire 66-game total from last season’s historically pitiful display. They deserve to be where they are right now and I believe in players like Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but that doesn’t mean I believe this team can or will keep it up. As I mentioned in the game thread, I think they’ll end up like the 2010-11 Cavs, who started that season 4-3, were 5-5 after 10 games and 7-9 after 16 games, but finished 19-63.

- As for the Raptors, there’s no denying it. Right now, the freaking Bobcats are a better basketball team, and Toronto’s 3-9 record might not be explainable by a tough schedule anymore if they’re going to lose games against teams like Charlotte. I know it sounds crazy just 12 games into the season, but I really have almost conceded any hope of this team competing for a playoff spot already. They’re 3-9, still have a tough stretch of games to play until the middle of December, and are a worse team than the Bobcats. Can YOU see a team like that competing for a playoff spot?

Exactly.

Raptors Player of the Game: Kyle Lowry – 21 Pts, 6/15 FG, 4/7 3PT, 5/7 FT, 3 Reb, 8 Ast, 2 Stl, 3 Blk, 3 TO in 35:47

Bobcats Player of the Game: Kemba Walker – 19 Pts, 8/16 FG, 1/4 3PT, 2/3 FT, 3 Reb, 7 Ast, 1 Stl, 3 Blk 4 TO

Comments (35)

  1. with only three teams in the league with fewer wins, can we start thinking about threatening to retain our top-3 protected pick?

    • This gotta be some kind of record for brutal, heart breaking, collapsing, frustrating, loses ever strung together this early in a season in any sport.

  2. Congrats Andrea, it took you 12 games to do the only thing this team counts on you to do.

  3. Is Wiggins available in this years draft, or next?

    • That Wiggins/Parker draft is 2014 but no point worrying about it, Raptors aren’t bad enough to land either guy.

      • I thought I read something about Wiggins moving up a year. I thought it was to 13, but perhaps it was to ’14?

        • Wiggins was supposed to stay in high school for one more year, but because of his age and the fact he’s got enough credits, he was able to reclassify to graduate this year, which means he will be able to come out for the draft in 2014.

  4. “…severely damaging the hope of eventual playoff contention many fans had for this team. And no, it’s not too early to say that.” Uh, yes it is. Not to say they will make it, but if you go back to the season they made the playoffs under Sam, they started out horribly and it wasn’t until an amazing run in February where they shot up the standings and made the playoffs.

    • It was actually more like December when the 2006-07 team started to make it’s run, but I agree that this team has started very similar to the way that season’s team did.

      It’s not over yet, but with the 3-9 record, the nature of the losses, a loss against the Bobcats now on the books and a tough upcoming schedule for the next few weeks still, it may very well be over by mid-December if this team continues to play this way. So I’m not saying they CAN’T compete for a playoff spot, but given everything we’ve seen so far and what’s likely to come in the next few weeks, I’m no longer confident that they will be in the hunt.

      • They probably won’t make the playoffs, but for you to end your blog saying that is pretty weak in my opinion.

    • That was in a pre-Celtics big three/pre-Prokhorov/pre-Knicks turnaround Atlantic division where everyone was tanking or just plain bad. The circumstances surrounding this team and that team are quite different.

      However, I agree a with the gist of what you’re saying, it’s hard to see this team continuing to come up short at the end of games. You would think their bad luck at the end of games would balance out a bit, they’re obviously better than a 3-9 team.

  5. Try not to forget we said November would be the toughest stretch of the season for this team, schedule wise.

  6. hum… they’ll have to go 38-32 the rest of the way to be at .500.
    Sorry but I don’t see it happening.

  7. First of all, big fan of your blog.
    Love reading your reasoned criticism (not hot-headed) and analysis about basketball. As well, as other people comments.
    I’m (obviously) Lithuanian, so sorry for my English.

    Following Raptors since 10-11 season, since Kleiza moved here. After yesterday’s game really wanted to write a comment about him.
    I don’t know how many games or highlight you saw when Kleiza was playing in Denver, in Europe and Lithuanian national team before injury, but I did seen most of the games.
    For example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HvjJaFk9zHg (of course he was younger back then, and every player cares less about dunking after few years)
    I do know, that dunks doesn’t mean that much, but where his aggressiveness now?
    We saw nice dunk against Philly, but who was that corner-sitting player yesterday…
    I guess, after that major injury, when he missed almost 1 year, changed his mentality of playing basketball. Now (as you mentioned) he thinks he’s a shooter. And he is a good shooter, has good range. But not a sniper player as he plays now. No Kyle Korver (after last night game winner, first .400+ 3pt shooter i think of). I really wish him to stop sitting in the corner and start doing what he was doing best. Cutting, posting up, shoot open 3′s, but God-forbid I don’t want to see those step back 3′s anymore (unless it’s last second of a quarter).
    Please let me disagree that he’s out of any potential of giving boost to this Raptor team. I still think he can. Look at his statistics – he played seven games – 4 games when played more than 20min scored 20, 10,10 and 12 points. Other 3 games – 5 points, in 1-7 shooting. Sounds like Bargnani’s third quarter stats. If he doesn’t make one of his first 2-3 shots – he’s on the bench. Simple. All in all, he just need to start playing more aggressive.

    And one thing that I loved about JV game last night – his long rage shots.
    I saw Valanciunas playing since he was 16-17, and if you didn’t knew, he can really shoot free-throw line, elbow and corner jump shots. I think we’ll see more of that in the future. Especially next year, when he’ll be more experienced and will have ball more often. Because now Demar hate too give ball to him. Looks like he would get blocked better then an assist to young fella. I won’t start with Bargnani.
    Good to have Lowry back!

    Maybe Coach sees him as a 3 pt shooter and tells him to do that…

    • Kleiza simply isn’t as quick or athletic as he used to be, and he was never all that quick or athletic to begin with. He’s older, heavier and his knees simply aren’t what they used to be.

      I think Kleiza can play better than he has been (as we saw against Utah), but his problem is that he’s too slow right now to play much SF and too short to play a lot of minutes at PF.

      • I agree with you. You know, just a fan hoping one of his favorite players could play like he was playing in 09-10 Euroleague.
        Happy JV is doing great though!

  8. Prediction; Raps start winning all these close games and finish this 2012 just a game or 2 under .500!

  9. “The Raptors followed up their infuriating loss in Philadelphia on Tuesday with a tough one-point loss in Charlotte on Wednesday, dropping to 3-9 on the season and severely damaging the hope of eventual playoff contention many fans had for this team.”

    Whoever had those expectations were highly delusional. the Toronto Raptors are in no way shape or form a playoff contender by ANY stretch of the imagination. They play in the hardest division as well as play team whom are FAR better than they are.

  10. Hey Joseph, I like how you totally ripped Kleiza apart in your blog once again, like he is even remotely part of the reason why this team is losing. This team has no identity, structure or regular rotation, yet you continue to take out your frustration on Kleiza, a guy who rarely plays. Why aren’t you talking bad about coach Casey? He needs to be held accountable because he looks like a lost puppy right now, and nothing like a competent nba bench boss.

    • Kleiza plays enough (21 min/game so far this season) to contribute to the losses with his general awful play, minutes that would be better served I think by playing DeMar and Ross at the wing spots together more. However, you’re 100% right that its Casey who puts him in there and makes baffling line-up decisions.

      Casey’s rotations need to be reined in but hpoefully having played JV and Ross in the fourth is a sign of things to come.

  11. i think it’s cute that anyone at all thought this team was ‘playoff calibre’.

    shows how little these fans know.

  12. I’m with you Joseph. Kleiza is infuriating. I hate that he’s on my home team.

    Total scrub. I think if he recognized his weaknesses, he’d be less frustrating to watch (though still wouldn’t want him on my team). But this guy thinks he can handle the ball and shoot. Doesn’t he watch tape?

    • I really don’t think that Kleiza is team problem now. We don’t need to look far to see some major problems in the roster. Look at it. There’s a need for trade. I really hope something would happen. Even if they’ll ship out Kleiza. Raptors need one more really good player instead of 3 or 4 average players.

      • This is true. This team has some young nice pieces, but the overall talent level is not that high and there certainly is not a franchise player on the roster (at this point). Heck, there isn’t even an all-star on the roster at this point. You’d be having some damn good team chemistry if you ever made the playoffs without an all-star….

        Championship-calibre teams have multiple all-stars and at least one MVP-level player. The Raptors are a loooooooong way from that kind of talent. It’s not so much one player’s fault as it is the fact that the team as a whole is just not that good, and fans are hoping for too much from guys who are too limited.

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