So the Raptors give up another win that they more or less, had in the bag. I’m just so full of mixed emotions because the first half was just about as well as the Raptors can hope to play the Mavs. But then again, we’ve seen this story before.
There’s really only one thought that comes to mind with the Raptors getting 31 pts in the first quarter. That thought? “Wooooooo!” Bargnani made his shots and got his touches, while Jamario Moon provided athleticism and a defensive presence. Chris went to the rack a couple times making some old-fashioned three point plays, and made probably his most aggressive play of the year. Catching the ball out on the three point line, Chris managed to wrestle control of a sloppy entry pass, split a double team before going up strong to the rack. However, the untold story of the first half was the rebounding. The numbers won’t show you all of it, but the Raptors managed to crash the offensive glass effective while grab defensive rebounds, and shoot over 50% for the half. It all came down to hustle, and every single Raptor that hit the floor had energy in spades.
Of course, against Dallas, a lead is never safe. Toronto had a great lead the last time these two teams met in Toronto and it seemed as though Toronto would win easily. In Toronto, the Raptors built a lot of momentum, and was totally in rhythm before Dallas began to wake up in the late 2nd quarter. Unfortunately, Dallas came back to beat Toronto on the very last play. As if reading my mind, Dallas begun closing the gap at the end of the 2nd quarter. A 24 point lead quickly evaporated into a 14 point lead and you could feel the collective gasp of the Raptors’ nation. Fortunately, Sam made some substitutions to insure that the Raptors would keep a double digit lead going into the 2nd half.
I’m a great believer in history. We study it to make sure that we can learn something so that we don’t make the same mistakes again. However, the Raptors let their foot off the gas pedal and begun to repeat the same mistakes as the previous year. In the 2nd half, Dirk Nowitzki took over as the Raptors stopped being aggressive on the inside and forgot to rebound. It may just be me, but watching Bargnani on the floor, it looks as though his conditioning isn’t quite there. He was often seen jogging back rather than sprinting to make a play on defense. In the 2nd half, the Raptors tried to collapse on their players consistently, which in turn gave Dallas a lot of open looks. In fact, it was a copy of the Golden State game in many ways as the Raptors attempted to stop penetration and screen and rolls, but instead ended up leaving open shooters. On Dallas, this is particularly deadly as they have some of the best shooters in the league. All the Raptors actually had to do was lay off their man and let them try and shoot contested shots. In fact, this strategy worked for most of the first half of the game.
So what gives? It’s the second time in the last couple of games where the Raptors have been abused on the inside, only to be taken out on the outside after they start collapsing. A lot of this has to do with the lack of trust. When a player blows by their defender, and everyone notices it, they begin to cheat off their man, which in turn, leaves their man wide open. Combine this with a sub-20 point quarter, and you have a recipe for disaster. So how do you fix this kind of problem? Sam’s going to say it means more personal responsibility, but that’s only part of it. If the Raptors put Moon and Delfino on the floor, they have the defensive stopping power, but the offense suffers as neither are that good at shooting the ball and at times, refuse to make hard cuts to the basket. If you put Kapono and Parker in, there are some problems with the defensive assignments at times, while the offense is slightly increased. However, in the end, it’s gotta come down to the players themselves. There can’t be lapses for an entire quarter. Sure, a team goes through droughts, but this is the 2nd game in a row where the Raptors failed to score more than 20 points in a quarter. For a team such as the Raptors, this is a major problem since they rely heavily on their offense. At some point, it’s gotta come down to the Raptors doing what they do best, rather than trying to put square pegs into round holes. At least for half a game, they played Raptors ball. It’s just a matter of putting together an entire game of it consistently.
Next Game: Toronto @ Memphis