Think of all the excruciating, gut-wrenching, frustrating, infuriating, painful losses we’ve watched in the first half of this season alone, usually involving a blown lead or two, and then believe me when I tell you that Friday’s blown lead and loss in Philadelphia was the worst one yet.
That pretty much says it all right there, but here are some thoughts on this absolute disaster of a game…
- The Raptors started the game on an 8-0 run, dominated and controlled the first half, then opened up a 19-point lead in the early stages of the third quarter. From that point on, the Raptors embarked on one of the ugliest and most frustrating 25 minutes of basketball I’ve ever been subject to. The 19-point lead was erased within nine minutes, but the Raptors then reclaimed control in the fourth quarter to open up a 10-point lead with less than five minutes remaining before that dwindled to a four-point lead with 8.8 seconds remaining, and then a two-point lead with five seconds remaining and possession of the ball. Unfortunately, for what seems like the hundredth time over the last two seasons, the Raptors couldn’t figure out how to inbound the ball in crunch time, and Jose Calderon’s pass went off of Alan Anderson and out of bounds, though replay clearly indicated that Anderson was pushed.
On the ensuing possession, Jrue Holiday tied the game on a drive to the basket for what would be the first pair of his 14 straight points for the Sixers, as Holiday scored all 12 Philly points in overtime.
- While a foul probably should have been called on the failed inbounds play (on the same day that the NBA admitted it blew an end of game call against the Raptors for the second time this season), it doesn’t change the fact that the Raptors actually seem incapable of figuring out how to inbound the ball when it matters most. Jose Calderon, especially, has had his fair share of troubles with inbounding the ball in clutch situations and is also one of the best free throw shooters on the team, so he should have been receiving the ball, not passing it. The decision to let Calderon inbound was a poor one, and that’s on Dwane Casey. The inability to execute an inbound under pressure is on Calderon. But the four other players on the court have to take a ton of blame for the debacle as well, as at some point, you just have to fight through exhaustion and your man to get open, and none of the Raptors on the court did that.
- Dwane Casey made the right call in giving Jose Calderon and Landry Fields the quick hook when the Sixers started making their run in the third quarter, and while I agreed with giving Lowry the bulk of minutes at the point, I thought there was a point in the fourth quarter where it was obvious that Kyle was gassed and Casey probably should have gone back to Calderon for even just a couple of minutes.
- There were some positives in this game. Ed Davis came within four assists of a triple-double, Terrence Ross found his shooting stroke again with four three-pointers in the first half and 18 total points on 50 per cent shooting (Ross is also starting to rebound the way he did at Washington), Quincy Acy gave the Raptors productive minutes in meaningful stages of the game, and up until the final five minutes or so, Lowry looked like a very capable true point guard, slicing through the Philly defence en route to a double-double of 11 points and 11 assists despite not firing with his usual accuracy from the field (Lowry looked out of gas down the stretch and committed some careless turnovers at crucial moments to go along with some poor shot selection).
Having said all of that, when a team blows multiple leads the way the Raptors did on Friday night and just looks so incapable of executing the most fundamental elements of a basketball game, I simply can’t bring myself to spending too many words on the positives, because the negatives far outweighed them on this night.
- By the way, with another disappearing act in this game (DeRozan hit his first three shots in the first quarter but went 1-of-7 the rest of the way and much like Wednesday night, spent more time on the perimeter than attacking the basket), DeMar DeRozan is now averaging less than 14 points on 36.4 per cent shooting over his last eight games. The Raptors are 2-6 in those eight games while DeRozan slowly reverts back to the player most of us said wasn’t worth the four-year extension. Considering how much development in his game DeMar has shown this season, I’m willing to dismiss this recent stretch as a simple slump for now, but it certainly hasn’t been encouraging with respect to said development.
- In case you weren’t already frustrated enough with the results of this game, then I have to remind you that with the loss, the Raptors lose the season series against division-rival Philadelphia 3-1. Just over a week ago, the Raptors had gotten within a half-game of Philly for ninth in the East and with a victory tonight, would have been back within a game of the Sixers while evening up the season series. Instead, the Raptors are three games back of the Sixers, and considering that a tie would go to Philly because of the head-to-head record, you can kind of think of it like 3.5 or four games back.
If you needed a harsh reminder that this team had no business being back in playoff race conversations (I was ready to jump in feet first if they could have held on against the Bucks), blown leads of 19+ points against the eighth place Bucks and ninth place Sixers within five days of each other should do it.
Oh, and the Lakers and Heat are up next…
Raptors Player Of the Game: Ed Davis – 18 Pts, 8/15 FG, 2/3 FT, 10 Reb, 6 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 Blk, 3 TO in 41:55
76ers Player Of the Game: Jrue Holiday – 33 Pts, 13/23 FG, 1/4 3PT, 6/8 FT, 5 Reb, 14 Ast, 3 Stl, 3 TO in 45:30