Raptors not keeping up on defensive end

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:01 PM ET

TORONTO - The Raptors desperately want to find a way to stop opponents from getting to the rim against them.

The Charlotte Bobcats, the team’s opponent on Wednesday night won’t give them any breaks in that regard.

Led by the slashing duo of Gerald Wallace and Stephen Jackson and the uber-athletic Tyrus Thomas, the Bobcats are a team that can put all kinds of pressure on an opponent through their mix of relentlessness and determination to attack the basket.

While not the sole cause of Toronto’s six-game losing streak, not keeping speedy, aggressive opponents in check has certainly played a major role.

From Tyreke Evans in Sacramento, to Deron Williams, Kobe Bryant, Brandon Roy and finally Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis on Monday, opponents have taken advantage of porous play by Toronto’s guards and the lack of an intimidating shot blocker as the last line of defence.

Andrea Bargnani, the best shot blocker on the team was a non-factor against Golden State with zero blocks and a solitary rebound.

After practice on Monday, Bargnani said he had “a terrible game” and picked up “stupid fouls” which kept his minutes down to a season-low 20.

While the guards must do a far better job of stopping penetration, Bargnani knows he isn’t doing his part in terms of help defence and admitted “I have to rotate better.”

Raptors head coach Jay Triano said the team has to make do with what it has and compensate for what it doesn’t by taking more charges.

“It’s tough when there’s nobody back there to protect the goal ... we know we don’t have the shot blockers so you have to get a body in there (and get to spots first in order to take charges),” Triano said.

Though most good defensive teams have an imposing big man or two protecting the paint, Bargnani’s teammates surprisingly downplayed their importance.

“Really, you don’t need a shot blocker if you have guards that can guard and that’s one thing we need to focus on,” Sonny Weems said.

“Even though we don’t have shot blockers down there, guards still have to keep guys in front of them.”

Raptors forward Linas Kleiza played on some Denver teams that were quite solid defensively and even though they had human erasers like Marcus Camby, Chris Andersen and Kenyon Martin, Kleiza said it was positioning, not jumping ability and timing that made them good.

“We just have to figure it out, it took us a while (in Denver),” Kleiza said.

“We’re missing a lot of our rotations. We talked about what we were going to do before the game but we didn’t do (it) and it kind of hurt us. When we get beat middle, it’s hard. When (teams) go middle, they have a lot of options.”

Triano would love to see his squad play hard for all 48 minutes. The Raptors outplayed Golden State in the second half of Monday’s loss, but have made a habit of getting down early.

“If we would have played with the intensity we had in the second half, if we play a full game like that, we wouldn’t have been in the hole we were,” Triano said.”

“Our margin for error is not very good, so we have to make sure we get off to a good start.”

Charlotte, like Toronto, is 1-6, but the Raptors aren’t looking past their slumping opponent.

“They’re hungry, struggling just like us,” Triano said.

“Tough team, tough game. You know what? There’s no easy ones on the schedule for us.”

ryan.wolstat@sunmedia.ca


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