I didn’t get a chance to post a “Thoughts On the Game” entry last night, but with this team seemingly finding newer and more painful ways to lose close games every other night, I thought maybe I’d just take some time this morning to look back at what exactly went wrong on Friday in Detroit.
So here goes…
- No productivity from the two and three spots
DeMar DeRozan, especially, was a no-show for this ball game except for a couple of possessions in the fourth quarter. DeRozan’s had a solid start to the season overall, but with this being his fourth year and that unavoidable lucrative contract extension now hanging over his head, he can’t expect to have games like this dismissed as simple struggles of a young player anymore. He doesn’t have to be perfect, but he has to be a hell of a lot better than he was on Friday.
As a whole at shooting guard and small forward on Friday, DeRozan, Dominic McGuire, Terrence Ross and Linas Kleiza combined for nine points on 4-of-24 shooting. Oh yeah, that’ll win you some ball games.
- Third quarter lapse
The stretch that stands out to me was the start of the third quarter, where the Pistons put together a quick 11-2 run within the first three minutes, and outscored Toronto 18-9 in the first five minutes. Teams are going to go on runs at various points in basketball games, and the Raptors went on a big run of their own to quickly erase the deficit and eventually take a five-point lead, but with the way Detroit had been playing, there was really no excuse for digging a 13-point hole at any stage of the game.
- Valanciunas getting kicked in the leg
The minor setback actually put Valanciunas’ toughness and perseverance on display, as we watched the rookie set a hard screen, force a Pistons turnover and then dish out an assist while limping around on one leg for about a minute. JV left the game for a bit and it was obvious he wasn’t at 100 per cent when he returned. As Dwane Casey alluded to in his post-game comments, Valanciunas being at less than full strength gave Andre Drummond and other Pistons bigs opportunities for game changing offensive rebounds in the fourth quarter. Amir Johnson eventually replaced Jonas once it became evident he wasn’t right.
- Another pathetically missed call
Andre Drummond scored on what looked like an incredibly obvious offensive basket interference (I’ve seen much more debatable instances called in the past) with no call on the play. Given that the missed call by the officials didn’t occur on the last play of the game as it did on Wednesday against the Bobcats, it won’t seem as important, but it surely is. On Wednesday, Bargnani should have had the chance to go to the line for the potential game-tying and game-winning free throws, but while we assume he would have hit at least one of them, we technically can’t be certain. Whereas in this instance, there’s nothing that would have been left to chance. It’s cut and dry – the Pistons were awarded two points that anyone watching could clearly see shouldn’t have counted.
- More missed free throws
As I’ve been harping on a lot recently, the Raptors entered last Saturday’s game in Boston as one of the NBA’s top free throw shooting teams but have gone cold from the line since, and it’s cost them. Against the Pistons, it wasn’t that the Raptors missed a lot of free throws like they did against the Celtics, Magic, 76ers and Bobcats. It’s when they missed them that hurt.
Kyle Lowry missed two of three after drawing a three-point shooting foul at the 7:52 mark of the fourth quarter, and the Raptors increased their lead from one to two instead of from one to four. Up to that point, Lowry had been 4-of-4 from the line. Later, Andrea Bargnani, who put on a masterful offensive performance on the night, missed one of two free throws with just 2:06 remaining that was the difference between the Raps going up one instead of two.
As you may recall, DeRozan missed one of two free throws in the final minute against the Bobcats on Wednesday. If DeMar and Andrea (and Kyle earlier in the fourth quarters) take care of business at the line, then both games at least go to overtime, even with the botched calls.
- Lowry hurting his ankle
While it doesn’t sound like anything serious or anything that should keep him out of action, Lowry hurting his ankle on his successful drive to the basket with 44 seconds remaining proved costly for the Raptors. With Lowry on the bench, Dwane Casey elected to go with the more defensive-minded Dominic McGuire for the defensive possession that came with the Raptors up 90-87 instead of replacing the temporarily hurt Lowry with fellow point guard Jose Calderon. Obviously, this seems to come down to the fact that Casey can’t trust Calderon in times of defensive need, and I don’t blame him, as a lot of wide open threes the Raptors give up come after a defender helps on Calderon’s unguarded man.
Unfortunately, the Raptors might have just been better served rolling the dice with Calderon on defence, as what happened next was that Casey had to burn his final timeout to get a point guard (Lowry) back in the game for the following offensive possession.
- The last play
Casey mentioned after the game that the Raptors had drawn up a play for the end of game scenario during the Pistons’ final timeout, and also mentioned that he thinks Lowry would make a different decision if he could see it again, but going back and looking at the play again, there’s not much movement from anybody other than Lowry, and the only fault I can find with Kyle is that he decided on a long step-back two instead of trying for a higher percentage shot.
But for those saying Lowry should have passed to the hot hand of Bargnani, go look at the play again, where you’ll see Tayshaun Prince guarding Andrea pretty tight. The only Raptor really open was DeRozan, and he was out of the play around the three-point line.
- By the way, I like the fact that Casey subtly called out McGuire and Johnson for their failure to stop Tayshaun Prince in the final minutes, and loved what he had to say about Bargnani’s performance when talking about the fact that the Pistons grabbed too many offensive rebounds: “I’d give back two or three of his buckets to get some defensive rebounds.”
Oh, he went there.
Sticking with Casey for a moment, I am nowhere near ready to hop on the “Fire Dwane” bandwagon that seems to be gaining steam on twitter.
If you always hated the hire, hated the job he did last season and are now saying enough is enough, then fine, you’re entitled to your opinion.
But if, like me, you think Casey did a hell of a job last season despite the record, and if you had faith in him just a few weeks ago, then don’t you think 13 games is pretty quick to suddenly change your tune? I won’t deny the fact that Dwane has made a few puzzling decisions with respect to his rotations in a couple of games, but for the most part, I don’t see coaching as the problem right now.
To me, “fire the coach” signs are when a team simply refuses to play defence, when players seem to start tuning out the coach, and most obvious of all, when it seems players just stop showing up and working for their coach, which is usually evidenced by a series of blowouts and laughable losses.
While the defence has obviously taken a disappointing step back so far this season, I wouldn’t say it’s at a “fire the coach” level, and while the way the Raptors have been losing games is heartbreaking, I don’t think anyone who’s watched the first 13 games of the season can say that the team hasn’t shown up for Casey, as the reason we’re so frustrated is largely due to how close the losses have been.
The team needs to get better and needs to start getting some breaks, Casey needs to be better himself and should by no means be immune if he proves incapable in the long run, but discussion about firing the guy just 13 games in to his second season here is ridiculous.