Had the Raptors won some of the other close games they’ve been in this season, it would be a lot easier to look at the positives from taking the Spurs to the wire. Instead, they sit at 3-11, and so there can be no so such thing as a moral victory.
Here are some thoughts on the game:
- Andrea Bargnani went 2-of-19 from the floor today, including 0-of-7 from three-point range and 0-of-1 from the free throw line. To make it as frustrating as possible, a significant portion of the shots he missed were embarrassingly wide open looks in the fourth quarter and overtime that each could have made the difference in the outcome of this game. I get that missing shots isn’t exactly an “effort” thing, but that’s an irrelevant point when you’re supposed to be the offensive leader of a team. If Andrea could have hit the goddamn broad side of a barn today, the Raptors upset the Spurs. It’s as simple as that.
- The other whipping boys for fans in this game will surely be Jose Calderon and Dwane Casey. Calderon did his best to make Bargnani feel better by shooting 3-of-14 himself while providing his usual pylon-like defence, and on too many occasions, passed up what should have been a layup to move the ball out of the paint to a teammate. There are plenty of times when penetrating and then kicking out is the right decision, but there are also times when if you have the opportunity for a layup, you take the easy two points. Considering Calderon’s experience and age, it’s infuriating that he still doesn’t always understand this.
- Even more infuriating was coach Casey’s insistence on letting Calderon inbound the ball at crucial points down the stretch. It was obvious that Jose was having problems trying to get the ball in the first time they used him on the inbounds. By the second and third time, the Raptors were just asking to get called for a five second violation, at least when Calderon wasn’t simply inbounding the ball to the Spurs. And by the time we got to what felt like the 100th out of a timeout play that started with a Calderon inbound, the team finally did get burned by the five second rule.
There were a few of Casey’s decisions in regards to his lineups and rotations that frustrated me early this season, but letting Calderon continue to inbounds the ball when everyone noticed on the first occasion they tried it that it was a risky proposition is probably the most frustrated I’ve been with Dwane so far this season.
- Speaking of a frustrating coaching/lineup decision, Ed Davis was probably the Raptors’ best player today, racking up 15 points and 14 rebounds in just 22 minutes of action, and yet he didn’t so much as touch the floor after being substituted by Bargnani of all people with 4:34 to go in the fourth quarter. Believe me, I understand that the Raptors needed some offence and also understand that having Bargs in the game could stretch the floor in a way having Davis and Valanciunas in at the same time ever could, but at some point, with Andrea chucking up brick after brick and Davis enjoying one of the most impressive performances of his career, how do you not even try going back to Ed?
Without Davis’ effort off of the bench, this game has no chance of even being close down the stretch of the fourth quarter, let alone going to double-overtime. He was that big.
- Outside of Davis, the two other bright spots for the Raptors were Jonas Valanciunas and DeMar DeRozan. Valanciunas went toe-to-toe with Tim Duncan and more than held his own, posting a career high 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting to go along with seven rebounds, three blocks and three assists in 39 minutes. Jonas had a big block on Duncan in overtime and even hit a couple of clutch shots and free throws when the Raptors needed him to in overtime.
As for DeRozan, he was a force all over the court. He finished with 29 points, seven rebounds and three steals, and though he didn’t shoot the ball well, he continued to attack the basket late in the game and put forth a commendable effort on the defensive end and on the boards. Whether it was poking a ball loose and then diving to retrieve it on defence, or driving to the basket and then following up his own miss to send the game to double-overtime, I don’t have much to complain about with DeRozan.
- With regard to DeMar’s game-tying rebound and bucket in the final second of the first overtime period, it looked like he should have been rewarded with free throws after his initial miss, but seeing him just outfight everybody for the ball after that, tie the game, then roar with excitement/anger while “We’re Not Gonna Take It” started blaring in the arena was pretty cool, and almost felt like the Basketball Gods were trying to tell us something. Unfortunately, with guys like Bargnani and Calderon still around, the truth is that young players like DeRozan and Valanciunas will unfortunately continue to “take it,” and take it on the chin at that.
- Kyle Lowry didn’t have a great shooting night, made a few more poor decisions in terms of when to shoot late in a close ball game and was clearly outplayed by Tony Parker, but then you see him busting his ass on virtually every single possession on defence and fighting for rebounds with seven-footers and it’s hard to hate on the guy’s game. Without a doubt, Lowry has to improve his decision making, but if some other players on this team had the fight and internal desire that Kyle has, this would be a pretty damn good team on willpower alone.
- Speaking of desire, I know I questioned coach Casey’s decisions earlier in this blog post, and I stand by those questions, but his desire on the sidelines always gets me fired up. In case you were wondering why he always sounds hoarse and coughs a lot in post-game media scrums, there was a defensive possession in the fourth quarter where I could hear him barking out instructions and encouraging his men…and I sit in the fifth row of the upper bowl. The guy wants it so bad, and while his decisions surely factor in to today’s loss, I still feel for the guy with this 3-11 record hanging over him.
- As mentioned in my Game Thread, the Spurs became my Western Conference favourite once the Thunder traded James Harden, and from what I’ve seen this season (other than their two losses to the Clippers), I’m feeling good about that prediction. I gave Duncan a lot of the love in that thread, and he obviously deserves it, but I still feel that Tony Parker doesn’t get the respect he deserves. Sure, there are plenty of people who see him as the future Hall of Famer he is, but there are also still plenty of NBA fans that don’t mention his name when the conversation about who the best point guard alive is right now. Chris Paul is that guy, and there are a lot of phenomenal young point men in the Association in today’s game, but there aren’t many guys in the world I’d rather entrust with the ball than TP, and if you ask me, he’s been playing at a near MVP level for the last couple of years.
- The Raptors have now lost four straight games, but what makes the losing streak so tough to swallow is that they’ve been outscored by just 15 points combined over those four games and have legitimately been on the precipice of victory in each contest. I don’t know if I’ll ever again see a team get off to such a horrid start record-wise while being so competitive overall. That’s not me making excuses, it’s just me trying to explain the most gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, frustrating way to start 3-11 you could have ever imagined.
Raptors Player of the Game: Ed Davis – 15 Pts, 7/11 FG, 1/2 FT, 14 Reb in 21:39 (DeRozan and Valanciunas may have finished with better numbers, but Davis didn’t get nearly as much time on the floor, and as mentioned, was the reason the Raptors were in this game)
Spurs Player of the Game: Tony Parker – 32 Pts, 14/27 FG, 1/4 3PT, 3/4 FT, 6 Reb, 5 Ast, 1 Stl, 4 TO in 46:03
Up next is a back-to-back in Houston and Memphis, a quick return home for what I hope is a winnable game against the Suns, followed by a five-game road trip out West. I’m trying to stay positive, and I really do see how absurd it seems to declare a season over after 14 games, but again, I just don’t see how the Raptors come out of this stretch in mid-December with a manageable record.
Drew, Oliver and I will get together to cry about it all for another episode of RaptorBlog Radio tomorrow, so stay tuned for that on Monday.