After being all but down and out for the first three quarters, the Toronto Raptors’ bench stepped up and showed some serious heart, turning a sure blowout to the Boston Celtics into a close 117-112 affair on Friday at the Air Canada Centre.
Being down by 28 heading into the fourth, head coach Jay Triano went with a five-some consisting of Sonny Weems, Joey Dorsey, Julian Wright, Solomon Alabi, and Marcus Banks.
With the exception of Weems, every one of these players will be scrapping for playing time during the regular season and they played with a befitting desperation, clawing back to within four at one point in time.
Defensive woes continue
Despite the roaring comeback, the Raptors still allowed a Boston Celtics club that didn’t see Paul Pierce or Shaquille O’Neal play shoot a little over 50% from the field.
During the fourth quarter their defence picked up, giving up just 16 points, but the prior periods were disastrous, seeing them allow 29, 31 and 41 respectively.
Defence was a key problem for the Dinos last year, giving up 105.9 points per game, and they appeared to be making some of the same miscues that plagued them then – most notably, defending the point of attack.
Whoever the primary Boston ball-handler was, either Rajon Rondo or Nate Robinson, that player would be able to break down his man, get into the lane and collapse the Toronto defence, forcing help to come. The end result would either be an easy layup, a kick-out for an open shot on the perimeter or a dump-off to a teammate ready to slam the ball home.
Rondo and Robinson combined for 44 points and seven assists.
Maybe time to try something new?
With only three practice games left, it may not be too late for Triano to try something new schematically to get the Raptors play more formidable defence.
He has tried to make use of the team’s athleticism to press and trap, but against the kinds of point guards that are encountered on a night-to-night basis in the NBA, the strategy may be too high risk.
There were two instances in the game when Toronto attempted to trap Robinson, and both times he was able to use his speed to dribble right through.
Instead of taking such a gamble, Triano may want to attempt a zone and see what happens there. If one idea is not working, why not attempt a different one?
Which Raptors squad is the real one?
After playing and competing so well in their double overtime victory on Wednesday, Toronto looked more like the lackadaisical, disinterested team that got blown out by the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday.
Playing with almost no energy, the Raptors just didn’t seem to have their heart in it until the reserves took over.
This is a little concerning because there appears to be no consistency in regards to what team you’re going to get on any given night.
It’s common to see teams mail it in during the pre-season, but not to the extent where you are getting pounded the way the Raptors were. Consistent play needs to be found.