Where is the defence?

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 1:53 PM ET

Stuff like this just doesn't happen by accident. You have to work -- really work -- to be this bad defensively.

Nobody can pretend that the Raptors are anything but the worst defensive team in the National Basketball Association. That's a given. They went into their game against Golden State last night having allowed opponents nearly a 50% shooting average, poorest in the league.

But you didn't need to look at a stats sheet to recognize that the Raps don't have a clue. All you needed to see was where the ball ended up when Golden State had possession. More often than not, it was in the hands of a player with an uncontested three-point shot.

This is no secret, by the way. The Warriors came into the game having hoisted 181 three-point attempts in 22 games. That's more than any other team in the NBA.

Last night they outdid themselves, making 17 of 29 attempts, totally embarrassing the Raptors in the process. It matched a dubious Toronto record for three-pointers allowed in a game.

For the most part this season, coach Sam Mitchell has measured his post-game remarks about his team, mindful that he's relying on young players to do a job they are not prepared for yet. But after their loss to Chicago on Wednesday, he lit up his players -- especially rookie Charlie Villanueva -- with some scathing remarks.

Now Villanueva had a strong game last night, at least on the offensive side, but nobody else seemed to heed Mitchell's message. When it was over, Mitchell refrained, in large part from any incendiary comments, but you could tell the lack of defensive effort was chewing him up inside.

"We put the three-point percentages of every player on the board, talked about it (Thursday), talked it up again (yesterday), but ...."

It's plain the message isn't being heeded by the players. Now, whether that's because they're incapable of processing the information or whether they're just not listening to the coaching staff is unclear.

One alternative is just as unpalatable as the other. If they're unable to fathom defensive strategy, it's hard to imagine a basketball player progressing to the NBA level. Now, there are some that would say that this really isn't the NBA level but that would be unkind, now, wouldn't it?

But if these players are capable and the coaches still aren't getting their message through, then the alternative is obvious. It's never the whole team's fault, right?

Somehow, though, Mitchell's message has to start getting through. This team simply can't survive playing this kind of grisly defence.

Defence is about hard work. It's about effort. A team without superior talent can still keep itself in games if it makes a serious attempt at defending, committing itself to contesting every shot. These guys either aren't trying or they simply don't know how much try it takes in the NBA.

"We just do some things on the court that are just amazing," Mitchell said. "Sometimes it is in a good way. More often than not, it's a bad way."

Before the game, Mitchell talked rationally about how his team will have to commit itself if it wants to get better.

"The message was to remind our guys that they have to play 48 minutes," he said. "We've had a lot of games where we've won three quarters out of four, but the quarter we lost was just awful.

"Quite often it's not about talent. I stayed in the league a long time and it wasn't about talent. It was about what I knew and about heart and desire. And that can take you a long way. Now, if you've got that, and talent, then you're talking about guys who can be really good."

Maybe the Raptors, or at least some of the young players Mitchell is living and, more often, dying with, have that in them. They're certainly talented but, generally speaking, other than Chris Bosh, they haven't indicated if they have those other intangibles that will lift them above the rest.

Maybe it's too soon to tell. Problem is, for Mitchell too soon is already too late.


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