SALT LAKE CITY — It’s way too early in the process to start waving the flag or reach out for the panic button.
Life after Chris Bosh, after all, would be painful, despite what many would have you believe.
With Bosh, there was a reliable piece in a late-game situation capable of making a play, winning a game on his own or at least drawing defenders to free up others.
Bosh wasn’t always the best at passing out of double teams, but his ability to put the ball on the floor and attack or attempt a jump shot presented the best options for success.
He was an anchor, though at times he would prove to be an albatross in the way the ball would get stuck in the flow of an offence, but in a late-game moment one guy must have the ball in his hands and be asked to make a play.
Three games into the Raptors’ latest incarnation, not a single player has been able to step up when the game’s stakes have been at their highest.
There will be plenty of time to dig into the reasons why the Raptors have been unable to defend for consistent stretches against opponents featuring go-to guys, but three games into the season and the team’s inability to win a close game sticks out much like Andrea Bargnani’s two-rebound night Monday night in Toronto’s demoralizing 111-108 loss to the Sacramento Kings.
For those wanting to know why the Raptors can’t make stops, look no further to Bargnani’s weak-side defence and the team’s inability to stop quick wing players who, when they’re not getting off their own shot, are able to draw and kick to open shooters.
Bargnani, without question, is the Raptors’ most dominant offensive player, a guy who heads into Wednesday’s tip here against the Jazz off a game-high 28-point night in Sacramento.
Whether it’s execution, scheming or simply making shots when looks are open, the Raptors are going to have to find a way to win a game in a late-game sequence.
In their season opener, the Raptors overcame a double-digit deficit to the visiting New York Knicks, but couldn’t produce late.
Against New York, Jarrett Jack was at the point and he kicked it out to Leandro Barbosa on the left baseline for an attempted three-pointer that hit the side of the backboard.
In Sacramento, the Raptors coughed up a double-digit lead, but they had a chance to send the game into overtime with possession of the basketball in a one-possession game.
This time, Jose Calderon was at the point, but the end result was similar to the New York outcome.
“We didn’t get it to where we had to,” said head coach Jay Triano.
How the team begins to address this obvious area of deficiency may not define the season, but it’ll at least keep the players from completely losing their minds and patience when and if the losses begin to mount.
In the absence of Bosh and in the presence of new faces, there’s almost a reluctance to take a shot when a good look is yielded by an opponent.
Linas Kleiza needed to step up in Sacramento, but he decided to drive to the hole in a three-point game when he appeared to have a decent look from beyond the arc.
Barbosa couldn’t make any of his four shots in the fourth quarter against the Kings.
Kleiza and Barbosa simply must do more when the game is on the line, but combined they made one of eight shots in the final quarter on Monday.
It’s not his nature to be critical of his players, but Triano knows he needs someone to step up at crunch time.
“I thought we had Andre on a lift for a three and he put it on the floor. I thought Linas had a chance for a three. I thought Jose could have pulled the trigger a couple of times.
“I like those guys shooting the ball, but I would have liked them to shoot it a little bit more.”
When a team shoots 36% from the field, gets outrebounded 14-7, allows an opponent to shoot 57% and gets outscored 33-22 on the road, they don’t deserve to win.
But the Raptors had a chance.
Three games into the season and the need for one guy to produce in the clutch has become apparent.
Whomever he is, it won’t be Chris Bosh.