Points to ponderRaptors have to increase scoring
By BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun
The Raptors scored only 18 more points than the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday. The Raptors racked up 62 in an NBA loss to the Milwaukee Bucks. The Ravens amassed 44 in an NFL win against the Seattle Seahawks.
Had the Raptors been playing the Ravens, do you think Toronto coach Kevin O'Neill's vaunted defence could have contained Anthony Wright and Marcus Robinson during the fourth quarter?
Kidding aside, the Raptors are averaging 76.6 points per game, and there's nothing funny about that.
If this keeps up, the Raptors are on track to absolutely shatter the NBA record for lowest points-per-game average in a season since the league adopted the 24-second shot clock in 1954. That honour currently belongs to the 1999 Chicago Bulls, who averaged 81.9 points in a lockout-shortened, 50-game season. The lowest average in a full season is 84.2 by the Denver Nuggets last year.
So why can't the Raptors score?
They had essentially the same roster last season and they averaged 90.9 points. Of course, they also gave up 96.8 as opposed to 83.3 this season, so it's all relative.
"Let's look at what's really going on," Raptors guard Vince Carter said. "(O'Neill) plays to slow the game down. We're not scoring, but the other team isn't scoring 100 or 110 points, either. It's more about defence. Most importantly, it's a possession game. (O'Neill) wants a good shot every time and to limit (the opposition's) shots. That's the type of game you have to play in the playoffs, so why not get used to playing that way now?"
Well, you have to make the playoffs first.
Losing basketball is losing basketball, but it's safe to assume fans rather would see their team score 100 points than 60 points, regardless of the outcome.
Now, it's clear the Raptors couldn't continue playing the same kind of defenceless game they played last season. It's interesting to note, though, that if the Raptors had scored fewer than 70 points in four out of 13 games last season, ex-coach Lenny Wilkens would have been beaten like a pinata.
Observers are prone to give O'Neill the benefit of the doubt at this early stage, which is fair. But you have to ask yourself, what is going to change if this season is to be saved from total unwatchability?
The Raptors either have to alter their roster to better suit O'Neill's controlled, walk-it-up, halfcourt system, or O'Neill has to tweak his system to take better advantage of the players he has. Or maybe a little of both.
Watching the Raptors at the beginning of games, it's really no mystery why they don't get off to good starts.
Michael Curry, whose continued presence in the starting lineup is curious, is not an offensive threat, so the opposition barely has to guard him.
Jerome Williams is an active rebounder but he's not an offensive threat, either.
Alvin Williams is so nervous or lacking in confidence or hurt or whatever, he's passing up open shots he would have taken in previous seasons. He's the point guard, so the next thing you know, the shot clock has run down to almost nothing. And when he does shoot, he tends to miss. So that's another guy the defence doesn't have to worry about.
Antonio Davis notoriously is a slow starter early in seasons, and while he's still rebounding the ball, his shot has been flat. And truth be told, the aging Davis always has had to fight for everything he gets offensively.
That leaves Carter. He gets criticized sometimes for trying to do it all by himself, but you can understand why he gets the feeling he has no other choice.
By the time players such as Chris Bosh, Lamond Murray, Morris Peterson and Milt Palacio come in off the bench, the club already is in an offensive funk and likely behind on the scoreboard, so the fresh players press too hard, they make mistakes and miss more shots. The offensive frustration leads to defensive lapses, and it all just goes downhill.
When you break it down like that, it's easy to see why the Raptors would be interested in acquiring Jalen Rose of the the Chicago Bulls, simply because he can score. Now, whether some blockbuster based on a Davis-for-Rose scenario occurs or not, it's the contention here that the Raptors need to do something, fairly big and fairly soon. That said, no single trade is going to solve all the Raptors' problems.
They're 6-7 now, which isn't disastrous. But if this plays out as a beauty-challenged, transitional season, it had better be a means to an end, rather than a dead end.