Cause-effect conundrum

MIKE GANTER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:09 AM ET

BOSTON -- The fact the Charlotte Bobcats warranted not just one, but two, of ESPN Sportscentre's plays of the day yesterday in their dismantling of the Raptors sums up just how bad a night it was for Toronto's basketball team on Wednesday.

The Bobcats normally get only marginally more of ESPN's attention than do the Raptors, which is to say about none.

But there was Gerald Henderson running and then soaring baseline for an uncontested thunderous jam at No. 8 among the night's best highlights. And the top highlight went to Gerald Wallace floating through the paint as he threw down a monstrous jam of his own. Amir Johnson got the business from the ESPN talking heads as Wallace's victim on that one, but at least he was there to provide some resistance.

UNCONTESTED

For much of the night, it was all uncontested layups and dunks for Charlotte.

Much of the post-game talk centred around the lack of energy the Raptors now have brought to the table in the second game of three back-to-backs this season.

It's a worrisome trend, but the kind of thing that should be fixable. As head coach Jay Triano correctly pointed out, 41 of the Bobcats' 116 points came in transition, with the vast majority of those coming when one or more Raptors failed to get back. That's just making the effort to get back.

But what is concerning is another trend. It's the one that sees the Raptors, when they struggle on offence, let that affect their defensive effort.

It's no secret this team is not built to be a top-flight defensive group. Looking back on that first team meeting Triano called during the pre-season in Ottawa, when he stressed the importance of becoming a top-six defensive team, is almost laughable now. Top 20 right now would be a huge improvement over where they are, not to mention a much more realistic goal given the makeup of this team.

But the letdown defensively when the Raptors aren't connecting at the other end of the floor only exacerbates their defensive shortcomings. When they are clicking offensively, they do tend to be much more active defensively.

Defence and effort go hand in hand and, without the latter, the former suffers.

Chris Bosh was asked about it following Sunday's home loss to Orlando and was shaking his head before the question was even finished.

"That should never happen," said Bosh definitively of a poor shooting game morphing into an equally poor defensive effort. "That should never happen," he repeated before admitting it has with this group already this season.

"I think we get down and it's something we have to get out of," Bosh said. "Quite honestly, I think we let our offence affect our defence and that can't happen. No matter how bad your offence is, if they don't score and we don't score, the game is tied. That's the kind of mentality you have to take.

"Sometimes your shot isn't going to go in every game, but you can't control that. You can control how hard you run back. You can control putting a body on your guy. You can control going to get the ball and beating your guy to the ball."

Bosh doesn't consider fatigue or a lack of energy because of back-to-back games an excuse for the effort he saw Wednesday night.

"They outworked us in every aspect of the game," he said.

Bosh wasn't alone in his epiphany. The entire shell-shocked locker room seemed fully aware of their shortcomings in Wednesday's game.

Tonight's game against the Celtics, who have slipped somewhat of late in their own defensive intensity but remain a top-five team, should bring an indication of whether the Raptors learned anything from Wednesday's embarrassment.

MIKE.GANTER@SUNMEDIA.CA


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