“We’ve just got to get a little more aggressive and we’ve got to get a little bit meaner.”
The Raptors are a sleeping dinosaur. Lethargically, they came to today’s game and continued their lackluster performance from the previous game. Most of the team still seems to have lost their rhythm, and while there’s concern on the defensive side, it’s once again a poor offense that has put the entire Raptors nation to sleep.
However, if you keep poking the dinosaur, it might just awaken.
At the end of the day, though, the Raptors woke up too late, with too few shots being made. We can talk all we want about what might have happened, had the Raptors shooting percentage they were supposed to, but the fact remains that they didn’t. There are now questions as the Raptors’ offense has looked adequate at times, and horrid for three games straight. It’s no longer about defense or rebounding for this team, (they’ve done an adequate job in all their games except for the Milwaukee game) but finding their strength and identity again.
I’m not saying that we need to sound the alarm bells, but this experiment might need some tinkering. It’s been about a week, and the chemistry issues that I’ve had are now beginning to rear their ugly head. Here are some ways where I think the Raptors can change things:
- Kapono should come off the bench because currently Calderon is down a consistent 3 point threat. Actually, thinking back to last year, he’s down Garbo, Bargs and Mo Pete, and all three contributed towards Calderon’s passing efforts and offensive plays. Without those threats Jose doesn’t have the room to drive to the basket and is relied on to shoot from the outside. That’s fine, because he can do it, but it takes away a weapon that he can use to destroy opponents. Shooters such as Dixon and Delfino are extremely streaky and their lack of consistency leads to wasted opportunities.
- Coming back to balancing the rotations we really should consider taking a look at just how stacked our starters are. Sure, it gives everyone options, but at the same time, it makes it hard for someone to make decisive decisions. Who does the ball go to? Who do you turn to on the bench to be that spark? Right now, every starter is trying to be “the guy” and it’s leading to a lot of stagnant sets where the ball doesn’t move quickly or crisply. Does the ball go in to Bosh or Bargs? How many times have I seen Bargnani try and establish himself in the post only to have the ball swung around to the opposite side to Bosh? There are a lot of questions when it comes to that offense, and the trust doesn’t seem to be quite there right now in the early season and balancing the lineups should fix many of these problems.
- Where’s the pick and roll? I know we saw it ad nauseum last year but it’s just disappeared. Or it hasn’t been run as effectively. Either way, there hasn’t been as much of it as I remembered, which is concerning to say the least.
- For the third time in three days I’ve thought that Garbajosa’s length and hustle would greatly aid the Raptors and yet he still got less burn than some of the others. I understand Mitchell’s reasoning somewhat. Delfino has proved himself to be a good defender who’s active and quick, Kapono and Dixon can light it up especially when the Raptors struggle to score and Kris Humphries provides a good change of pace. Even so, it feels like without Garbajosa and Nesterovic we’re going to see quite a few “inexperience” mistakes in the games ahead.
- Slow starts are inexcusable. This team still hasn’t gotten its footing yet, but there’s no excuse for being down 10 pts in the opening quarter. It just puts so much pressure on the entire team and takes the crowd out of the game that by the end of the 4th quarter, most of the guys had nothing left in the tank. It wouldn’t be so bad if I thought the team was just not able to make the shots, but I’ve seen a lot of bad shot selection in the three losses. People are taking shots off the dribble or holding the ball instead of making a quick pass that leads to another pass.
In the end, it was the Lewis and Turkolugu show. Sure, Dwight Howard became a handful as the game went on, but with three scoring options, the Magic have gone from being a one-dimensional team, into a dangerous team that can fill it up from the inside and outside. Add to the fact that more scoring options means less stress on Nelson and Arroyo and the Magic suddenly are taking fewer bad shots early in the clock. The most credit though, should go to Stan Van Gundy who has become the strategist and calming force that the Magic needed. His rotations make sense, he’s got his team making the third or fourth pass, and the team is working together to create shot opportunities for everyone.
Next Up: Toronto @ Philly