How can the Raptors look so energetic and focussed in a win over an NBA-elite team like Cleveland, then look so lethargic and slow against the comparatively star-starved Memphis Grizzlies?
The easy answer is that they underestimated, overlooked and disrespected -- pick your favourite verb -- the Grizzlies in a 115-107 loss on Friday.
From head coach Jay Triano to Chris Bosh, to Jarrett Jack, the consensus was that, for whatever reason, the Raps didn't bring the intensity necessary to beat any NBA team.
"Obviously when you play against guys the calibre of a LeBron and a Shaq, your focus might be a little more intense than say against a team like Memphis that does not have the same type of names that a Cleveland does," Jack said. "But there are a number of talented guys and teams in this league. They might not be Boston or Cleveland or the Lakers but they are still teams that are capable of winning. You have to respect everyone and the ultimate disrespect is to respect everybody the same if you catch my drift. You have to guard -- and this is not to knock anyone else -- but you have to guard Raja Bell like you're guarding Kobe and that's the ultimate disrespect."
In short, that was the lesson learned in that forgetful exhibition of basketball the Raptors put forth in the home of everything Elvis.
Triano was particularly disturbed by the lack of defensive focus. The Grizzlies, not known as an elite shooting team, shot 52% from the field.
Even more, Triano was bothered by the easy time the Grizzlies big men -- Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol -- had getting the ball to the hoop.
If the Raptors are to make a game of it this afternoon when Dwight Howard and the Orlando Magic come calling, improvement in that area is crucial.
"We have to be a little more cognizant of disrupting his flow to the basket and we didn't do a very good job of that Friday," Triano said.
Not that he'll be guarding him by himself, but Bosh knows much of that -- disrupting Howard -- is going to fall to him. And if Bosh has learned anything about his good friend, it is that the sooner you get on Howard and the further away you are from the basket when you do, the better your chances are of keeping him from going off.
"You have to make that extra effort and meet him a little bit early," Bosh said. "Be strong with him and smart at the same time. Don't try to out-wrestle him, he's probably going to win that battle."
And as much as you plan to stop Howard, game- planning for the Magic these days also must involve Vince Carter.
Carter was limping slightly when he entered the Air Canada Centre practice gym yesterday. He sustained a slightly sprained ankle when he came down on former teammate Devin Harris' foot Friday night.
The danger is not paying the proper attention to Carter, should he actually play.
"A lot of times when we were playing him before, he would be the focus of our defence," Triano said. "It's kind of hard to make him the focus now (with Howard) and when you don't do that, that's when he will score on you."
In any event, anything close to a repeat of the defensive display Friday in Memphis is going to make for a long afternoon today against the Magic.