Forget a Statement, How About Some Answers
When the Toronto Raptors pulled off a 106-105 home win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Sunday, one thing kept circulating the airwaves; statement.
Now don’t get your shirt in a knot, this was a big step for a team that has not been able to close out games, especially against a top tier team. However, was it a statement win? No.
A statement would have been if the Raptors won by more than one point showing that it might not have just been a squeaked out win. If they had held the Lakers to under 100 points and showed the league that they can defend a good team. How about if, in the previous games, they had been able dominated a non-playoff team in the Milwaukee Bucks like they should be capable of?
The Raptors were coming off another loss to the Boston Celtics followed by two lackluster games against a Bucks club that is on a list with other non-playoff teams like Indiana, Philadelphia and Washington who constantly give the Raptors team trouble. This was a good solid win but no statement, not after those games. This team still has to answer some questions before worrying about making statements to the league.
Why is Toronto unable to win road games? Wins have been hard to come by for the Raptors this season when they head south of the border. They are currently 8-16 on the road including losses to the Bucks, Pacers and Timberwolves. Granted they have played a lot of tough Western Conference teams away from Air Canada Centre but those are the games that need to be won to make any noise in the league.
Why are the Raptors 2-8 in back-to-back games? This is unacceptable, especially considering the manner in which Toronto was defeated. The losses include games against the Pacers, twice to the Bucks and blowouts of 19, 28, 31 and 35 points to Orlando, Dallas, Atlanta and Charlotte respectively. The constant inability to at least compete in games when the team is tired shows one of three things; lack of discipline, lack of leadership or poor coaching. So which one is it?
The Boston problem: The Celtics for the past couple years have been Toronto’s Achilles heel. Since the 06/07 season, the Raptors are 2-9 against Boston and in early January could not even beat a Celtic team that was without Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo and Paul Pierce. It is getting to the point where it is beyond just a skill or match-up problem. They need a sports psychologist to work some magic on the Raptors players because they have a complex about that team.
Why is Chris Bosh not taking the big shot? Why is it that the ball always goes to Hedo Turkoglu when a big shot to win the game is needed? Last game against the Lakers, the big Turk got the ball, dribbled aimlessly, awkwardly drove and got bailed out by a foul call. Yes he came out as the hero, but why did he have the ball in the first place? At that point in the game he was one of six for a grand total of six points. Of the players on the floor Bosh had 18 points, Andrea Bargnani had 22, Jarrett Jack had 18, heck, even Marco Belinelli was four of five from the floor with 15 points. Why was it Turkoglu and not Bosh?
If you want Bosh to be the marquee player, to lead the team and be the star that he is, you need to trust his ability to win the game. With over 10 seconds left on the clock the Raptors had the time to spread the floor and get him the ball in isolation. This is something they have refused to do all season and needs to change.
Now there are some that would say if $10 million is being spent on a clutch player, you give him the ball. That would be true if the player was not in the worst shooting season of his past six years and if he was the perennial All Star and face of the franchise. That is not the case. Give Bosh a shot to be the hero, he has earned it.
These are just few of the questions that need to be answered before the Raptors make statements to the rest of the league. A big step towards answering them would be a win in New York on Thursday in the second game of a back-to-back, on the road, that kicks off a nine game stretch against non-playoff teams.