Archive for the ‘Jay Triano’ Category

Among NBA coaches outside Toronto, the word is out on how soft the Raptors’ defence is. Admittedly, you don’t need to be Gregg Popovich to figure out that the Raptors’ defensive deficiencies are easy to exploit — they can’t defend the pick-and-roll, they don’t box out consistently, they’re soft, they’re not particularly athletic, certain key players “tune out” for extended periods on the defensive end… I could go on, but you get the point. Here’s Philadelphia 76ers coach Doug Collins on the Raptors’ defence:

“I was watching the Spurs-Toronto game and one of the sets (San Antonio) runs, we run and Toronto was struggling stopping it when they played zone. We ran that play almost the entire second quarter. (Maurice Speights) rolled to the basket and Jrue (Holiday) did a nice job finding him for those little pocket passes and scores.”

The second quarter of last night’s game might have been the most embarrassing defensive display I’ve seen the Raptors put up all season, and that’s really saying something. It wasn’t just that the Sixers scored 30 points in the quarter, it was how they scored them. They repeatedly scored off the same pick-and-roll play and off of several uncontested offensive rebounds.

In particular, backup big man Marreese Speights looked like an unstoppable force of nature as he scored 17 points on 7-for-8 shooting and grabbed five offensive rebounds in his nine-minute stint. Unsurprisingly, Andrea Bargnani was the main Raptor to look bad on a lot of these points, but Jose Calderon, Ed Davis, Amir Johnson and new Raptor Alexis Ajinca all had moments where they were culpable — as you can see in this painful-to-watch compilation of Speights’ second-quarter offensive rampage.

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While the doom and gloom of an extended losing streak looms over Toronto, it is important to remember that the ACC faithful (a measly 14 127) were actually treated to another great basketball game on Monday night.

The Raptors, who played only eight players due to an assortment of injuries, made it clear early on that they were not the same team that was drilled by a combined 57 points over the weekend, but rather the scrappy young team we came to know over the first month or so of the season.

Led by DeMar DeRozan, Jerryd Bayless and Andrea Bargnani, the Raptors got off to a fast start, and led by as many as nine in the opening quarter. Predictably, the Grizzlies made a run to close out the first to take a one-point lead into the second quarter. The Raptors continued their hard-working first half, but still trailed by two at the break.

Toronto had actually played tough defence in the first half, but saw that D slip in the third quarter and beginning of the fourth, as the Grizzlies opened up a 12-point advantage with about eight minutes to play.

The Raptors responded with a spirited effort to close out the ball game, going on a 11-0 run over the next three-and-a-half minutes and even taking the lead in the last three minutes of the game.

With the teams exchanging buckets and stops down the stretch, the Grizzlies found themselves with the last possession of the ball game, tied at 98. Rudy Gay then proved his worth by nailing a 15-foot, contested jumper from the right corner with just 0.8 seconds left.

A last-ditch effort to get a shot off failed for the Raptors, who saw their losing streak hit eight games; their longest such streak in five years.

If there is one thing the Raptors have become known for, (besides horrible defence, losing star players and European teams) it is likely losing heart-breakers at home. Seriously, someone should research this stat, because I’d be willing to bet that in the last five years or so, few teams have lost more games within three points on their home floor than the Raptors have.

Two moments in the final couple of minutes stuck out to me. First, with Ed Davis playing great defence on Zach Randolph down the stretch and getting his hands on loose balls, you would think that a defensive substitution to get Amir Johnson into the game would pull Bargnani out, not Davis. But Jay Triano replaced Davis with Amir, who had five fouls, and on the next play, the Grizzlies got an offensive rebound that looked to be tapped by Randolph. Memphis ended up with two points out of the extra possession, and on the next defensive possession, it was Bargnani who came out of the game.

After that play, the Raptors had a chance to tie, but ended up with another broken play out of a late timeout. It’s a shame we have to keep harping on this, but it truly is getting ridiculous that an NBA team can’t seem to run a competent play with the game on the line. As I’ve said before, either Triano can’t draw up a play under pressure, or his players aren’t listening to what he wants done. Either way, that’s an issue with coaching if you ask me.

Though they may be hard to acknowledge in another loss, there were plenty of positives for the Raptors on Monday night. Bargnani seemed to find his touch around the basket again, and started knocking down his jumpers early, to finish with 29 points. DeMar DeRozan continued his improvement with a 25-point, nine rebound, two block performance. Jerryd Bayless came within two rebounds of a triple-double, and registered career highs with 11 assists and eight rebounds in his start in place of the injured Jose Calderon. Ed Davis was solid defensively and finished with five blocks, including a couple of monster denials of Randolph.

And what more can you say about Julian Wright? He was efficient in the few shots he did take, led the charge defensively, rebounded the ball well and even threw in a couple of blocks (the Raptors actually had 11 blocks overall). Most of all, Wright continued to earn the fans’ respect with what are termed “hustle-plays,” which included him ripping the ball out of Grizzlies’ hands on multiple occasions. If this guy hasn’t earned a starting spot on this team, then this coaching staff is either blind, or has serious issues.

On a negative note, Sundiata Gaines was not good at all in relief of Bayless, and looked for his own shot too often. He also chucked two airball threes. Sonny Weems returned from his 17-game absence in ugly fashion. Weems missed the only two shots he took (both jumpers), turned the ball over once and finished minus-10…in just eight minutes played. I understand he was likely trying to play through rust, but let’s not pretend like he was playing well before injury. He had already done enough to play his way out of the rotation.

Two more things before I go. As you’ve probably heard by now, the Raptors’ (meaningless) NBA record 986-game three-point streak came to an end on Monday night. I’ll put this the nicest way I can: there are plenty of smart basketball fans in Toronto and in Canada, and then there are the type that care about things like that streak.

Lastly, after all that, I think it’s safe to say that in the grand scheme of things, that game went to perfection for the Raptors. The young guys were forced to play heavy minutes due to injuries, the team put in a commendable effort and provided quality entertainment for the fans, and yet the resulting loss should help draft positioning. As of right now, the Raptors would likely land the fifth pick.

Raptors Player of the Game: Julian Wright – 41 Min, 11 Pts, 5-7 FG, 1-4 FT, 9 Reb, 1 Ast, 2 Blk (Bayless, Bargs and DeRozan had flashier numbers, but Wright was the engine that drove the team tonight)

Grizzlies Player of the Game: Rudy Gay – 39 Min, 21 Pts, 8-20 FG, 2-4 3Pt, 3-4 FT, 7 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

Goat of the Game: Sundiata Gaines – 17 Min, 6 Pts, 3-10 FG, 0-4 3Pt, 3 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 TO

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Dwight Howard and the Magic go whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted

The Raptors made a couple of changes to the starting lineup for tonight’s game. Linas Kleiza, returning from injury, replaced Julian Wright in a move that makes you wonder if the coaching staff prefers chuckers over a guy who plays the game the right way. Joey Dorsey replaced Amir Johnson in the starting five, in a move I actually understood. Dorsey is a better candidate to bang in the paint with Dwight Howard than Amir is, and Amir would likely find himself in foul trouble.

Now let’s get to the actual game.

The Raptors came out flat against a pretty good Magic team, and probably would have been run out of the gym if it wasn’t for Orlando’s poor shooting, which by the way, had nothing to do with Toronto’s defence.

DeMar DeRozan provided the only spark for the Raptors early on, as he attacked the basket and piled up 10 first quarter points. DeMar forced some tough shots, and took seven shots overall in the first, but his four trips to the line in that quarter alleviated some of that inefficient offence.

That the Raptors were only down by eight after getting out-rebounded 20-8 and shooting just 28.6 per cent in the first quarter was a minor miracle.

The Raps were even more outclassed in the second quarter, as the Magic got to the basket with ease when they attacked, and were given open jumpers when they wanted them. Orlando quickly opened up a 13-point lead, only to have that margin shrink to six by the break. Again, the Raptors found themselves in a very fortunate situation. They were in a two-possession game at the half, with a vastly superior team that was clearly out-playing them. It should have been a wake-up call. Instead, it was apparently an excuse to crap the bed in the second half, because things were about to get ugly.

After putting together a bit of a run out of the half, and cutting the deficit to two early in the third quarter, the Raptors seemed to hit a brick wall, as the Magic unleashed a fury on their hapless opponents.

Slowly but surely, Orlando’s lead grew in the third, and they enjoyed a comfortable 16-point lead going into the fourth quarter. I expected at least one run from the Raptors in the fourth, to make it semi-interesting for a few minutes. It never came.

The reality is that most of the men in black had quit at that point. Don’t be fooled when Triano and some players try to put an ignorant spin on it. They quit, and that’s the story.

A 16-0 Magic run early in the fourth made the score laughable at 91-59, and the scary thing is that the worst was yet to come. With most of the Raptors strolling up and down the floor without a care in the world, the Magic refused to let up, eventually making it a 40-point game.

DeRozan, Johnson, Dorsey (who left early with a knee problem), Ed Davis, Jerryd Bayless and Julian Wright were the six players that seemed to be legitimately embarrassed by what was going on, and attempted to do something about it. The rest of the team may as well have not showed up at all.

On one positive note, Julian Wright proved his worth, yet again. He at least put an effort in on the defensive end, rebounded the ball and showed more of that promising passing ability. Linas Kleiza went 1-of-6 from the field, but if you know anything about Triano and these Raptors, chances are Kleiza still starts Saturday in Miami.

If you really want to know how bad this game was from a Toronto perspective, look no further than Jose Calderon. The usually sweet shooting point-guard was 0-for-6 in 28 minutes. Ouch.

Speaking of poor shooting, how about the funk Andrea Bargnani is in? A 3-of-14 night in Orlando means he is now 13-of-51 over the last three games. If Bargnani was putting even an ounce of effort into another aspect of his game, maybe the team could live with this. But since he’s not, his lazy behind should be stapled to the bench when the ball gets tipped in Miami on Saturday.

To be honest, through two and a half quarters, I saw this game as a prime example of an elite team, or close to it, doing what they were supposed to do to a young, inexperienced, injury-riddled, lousy team. So I didn’t plan on ripping the Raptors too hard. But the display they put on in the second half had nothing to do with youth, experience or injuries. It had to do with heart.

And a team should always be lambasted when that is missing, no matter what their situation is.

Raptors Player of the Game: Julian Wright – 27 Min, 6 Pts, 3-7 FG, 10 Reb, 2 Ast, 2 Stl

Magic Player of the Game: Dwight Howard – 30 Min, 31 Pts, 12-21 FG, 7-13 FT, 19 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Blk

Goat of the Game: Linas Kleiza – 23 Min, 4 Pts, 1-6 FG, 1-2 3Pt, 1-2 FT, 2 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 TO (You could go with Kleiza, Bargnani or Calderon here)

For Toronto sports fans who may have tuned into the Raptors game seeking an escape after watching the Leafs get dismantled, your misery only grew in the first three minutes of this ball game. The Spurs, who have the league’s best record and have won 15 straight at home, ran out to a 10-0 lead against the seemingly over-matched Raptors.

Any basketball fan should know a 10-0 run to open a game is not what it seems, but any modern day NBA fan or Raptors fan also knew the possibility for this game to get U-G-L-Y, in a hurry, was there.

So imagine the surprise then, when after a quick timeout by Jay Triano, the Raptors responded with a 17-7 run over the next six minutes, and a 23-12 run overall to end the first quarter up by one.

Even the eternal pessimist would have to credit the young Raptors for keeping it close after their start against the superior Spurs. But even the eternal Raptors optimist would have to admit they didn’t anticipate the warm and fuzzy feelings to last.

Toronto put together one of their best quarters of the season in the second frame, outscoring San Antonio 30-20 to take a 53-42 lead into the half. What was especially surprising, and encouraging to see for Raptors fans, was that the Raps were holding the Spurs to just 35 per cent shooting in that first half. They were not stubbornly and foolishly trying to outscore the Spurs, but rather they were beating a better team, on the road, by playing basketball the right way.

All this made for an interesting second half, which most would agree, on its own, was already a shock.

You knew though, that at some point in the second half, the Spurs would make their move. It wasn’t a matter of if, but when. Over the course of the third quarter, the suddenly sloppy Raptors saw their lead slowly dwindle, but managed to keep some distance between them and the Spurs…for eight minutes, that is.

Suddenly, the Spurs ended the quarter on a 16-4 run, and within a matter of minutes, the Raptors had gone from up six to down six.

The fourth quarter was even worse, as the mighty Spurs simply imposed their will, and the young Raptors were happy to lie down and let it happen until they began to fight back again in the final minutes.

A recurring theme in the last two losses for the Raptors has been the disappearance of Andrea Bargnani’s shot. Bargs has gone a combined 10-of-37 over the last two games in New Orleans and San Antonio, and one would have to infer that if Andrea had even come close to showing up, the Raps might have two stunning upsets in their pocket.

A more troubling stat is Andrea’s minutes played over those two games. Despite shooting 4-of-17 on Monday, he was rewarded with 42 minutes. Tonight, Andrea’s porous defence and 6-of-20 shooting earned him 36 minutes. Triano was visibly frustrated with Bargnani early in the third quarter, but decided to bench him for a grand total of just four minutes. Now that’s how you send a message.

There is no question that these two games were defensive battles, for the most part. And so a big like Joey Dorsey may have had an impact down the stretch. Unless Joey Dorsey has suffered an unreported injury, then it boggles my mind to see him get just nine minutes, combined, over the last two games, while Andrea shot his team’s chances away.

What was that quote from Jay about making everyone earn their minutes this season, no matter who it was? I hope you didn’t fall for that one, Raptors fans.

DeMar DeRozan was a bit disappointing in the second half for the Raptors, as he followed up a 20-point first half with an eight point, 2-of-8 second half. Though it also must be said that DeRozan stayed aggressive, and obviously had a solid game overall.

Ed Davis was impressive, yet again, as he played within his boundaries, finishing with 11 rebounds and a couple of assists, while only attempting two shots. For the record, he made both of them.

Another positive for the Raptors continues to be Julian Wright. Wright was 1-of-4 from the field in San Antonio, but continued to play defence, rebound and like Davis, know his limits. Most of all, Wright showed his unexpected passing ability with a couple of mesmerizing dimes.

Lastly, I wanted to mention Sundiata Gaines. This was easily his worst game (though he’s only played three) as a Raptor. His stat-line will show you that he made four of six shots, but it won’t tell you that he wasn’t decisive enough, made some poor decisions with the ball in general and forced his own shot too often. It was the total opposite of what we had seen from him in his fist two games.

So the Raptors fall to 13-29, losers of five straight, with stops in Orlando and Miami looming. Can you hear “Tank Nation” rejoicing?

Raptors Player of the Game: DeMar DeRozan – 41 Min, 28 Pts, 10-19 FG, 8-9 FT, 3 Reb, 1 Ast, 4 Stl, 5 TO

Spurs Player of the Game: DeJuan Blair – 35 Min, 22 Pts, 11-16 FG, 11 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk, 3 TO

Goat of the Game: Andrea Bargnani – 36 Min, 14 Pts, 6-20 FG, 1-5 3Pt, 1-1 FT, 7 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 Blk

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No amount of black jerseys could contain Nick Young on this night

You knew coming into this one that if the Raptors were going to get one game on their grueling five-game road trip, it would likely be the opener in Washington.

Unfortunately for the Raptors, just like Friday night, their compete level and passion were nowhere near high enough to beat an NBA team. Yes, even if that team is the Wizards or Pistons.

The Raps came out with good jump in the first quarter. The effort was there on both ends of the floor and they seemed to be playing with a much-needed sense of urgency. Fueled by the aggressive play of Jose Calderon, Toronto held a 25-19 advantage over Washington after one.

Then came the second quarter, and the beginning of the end for the Raptors.

Their offence became increasingly stagnant as the quarter wore on, and by the end of the half, the Raptors were settling for long jump-shots with plenty of time remaining on the shot-clock. That inefficient offence, coupled with the Wizards shooting 13-of-25 in the second quarter, had the Raps down five at the break.

The third quarter was the Nick Young show, as the youngster scored 18 of his game-high 29 points in the third frame. Driving layups, off-balance jumpers, long threes; they were all falling for Young, and the Raptors simply had no answer.

Toronto was almost able to carry some heavy momentum into the fourth quarter, as newly signed Sundiata Gaines stole the ball and appeared to beat the third quarter buzzer with a three-pointer. However, it was later determined that Gaines did not release the ball in time, and the Raptors found themselves down eight instead of five.

Andrea Bargnani, who struggled to 3-of-13 shooting early on, seemed poised to take over the ball game in the fourth. Bargnani had lifted the Raptors back into a tie game midway through the fourth, having scored 10 points in the quarter. Then, for reasons we will never understand, it took four possessions for the Raps to go back to Il Mago. In fact, after Bargnani’s fourth quarter hot streak, he got the ball just once in the next five possessions, despite noticeably calling for it on every play.

With Andrea taken out of the equation by his own team, the Wizards began to pull away again, and the Raptors never fully recovered.

It wasn’t just a failure to get Bargnani the ball that doomed the Raptors in the fourth, though. They continued their pattern of poor play-calling out of late timeouts and also continued their recent trend of poor rebounding. For a team that had been vastly improved on the glass this year, the Raptors have reverted back to their old ways over the last few games. More than just being out-muscled for rebounds, it’s Toronto’s inability to hold onto the ball after a rebound that sticks out.

I lost count of how many times over the last few games that a Raptors player has come down with a rebound, only to fumble or bobble the ball into a turnover.

From an individual standpoint, there were some bright spots for the men in black. Jose Calderon enjoyed what may have been a career game, missing a triple-double by one rebound. As mentioned above, Bargnani recovered from a slow start to finish with 25 points. What I liked about Andrea tonight was that when his shot failed him in the first half, he still continued to rebound and defend. Though I guess when rebounding and playing defence becomes impressive from a seven-footer, therein lies the problem.

Ed Davis showed more promise in Saturday’s loss. The 21-year-old big man had a career high 15 points (on 7-of-11 shooting) to go along with eight boards and a block. Davis was pretty good against the Pistons on Friday night as well, so it doesn’t seem like back-to-backs are troubling the youngster right now.

Sundiata Gaines was pretty much as advertised. He kept things under control when on the floor and played within himself. It must be tempting for guys playing for a job to try to take over and go off, but Gaines showed why he is considered a pass-first, team-first point guard.

On a negative note, DeMar DeRozan had his worst game, by far, in over a month. He struggled to get anything going offensively, and wasn’t much better on the defensive end.

Now I know not a lot was expected of this young, inexperienced roster, and I am well aware that they were playing on the back end of a back-to-back and are struggling through a rash of injuries. But I still believe that the Raptors played below their potential on Saturday night, and played down to their opponents for the second night in a row. So it was quite surprising, and troubling, to hear Jay Triano say “I don’t know if I can ask for much more from our guys” in his post-game scrum.

It’s not like the Raps played way over their heads and lost a tough game. They failed to show up for a large portion of the game, and that’s the reason they are now a season-high 14 games under .500. Personally, I’d like Triano to be a little more demanding of his young players. Realistically, you can always ask for more as a coach, except in very rare circumstances.

The Raptors now limp into what is probably their toughest week of the season, so be prepared. This team is likely in the midst of a seven-game losing streak, barring a minor miracle.

Raptors Player of the Game: Jose Calderon – 38 Min, 21 Pts, 10-16 FG, 1-2 3Pt, 9 Reb, 15 Ast, 1 Stl, 1 Blk

Wizards Player of the Game: Nick Young – 41 Min, 29 Pts, 10-19 FG, 2-7 3Pt, 7-8 FT, 6 Reb, 4 Ast, 1 Stl

Goat of the Game: DeMar DeRozan – 34 Min, 7 Pts, 3-11 FG, 1-2 FT, 2 Ast, 1 Blk, 2 TO