These are not the best of times for Toronto, but their commitment in trying to get better cannot be questioned.
They’re just not enough at this point to beat any team, except perhaps a team such as Cleveland.
Sixers head coach Doug Collins proved quite prophetic.
During his pre-game availability with the media, the one-time TV analyst predicted gloom for his visiting 76ers if they were unable to defend screen and roll sequences.
True to Collins’ words, the Raptors were able to exploit a Philly defence by executing to near perfection their screen and roll, jumping out to a lead that swelled to as many as nine points.
During that first-quarter stretch, the Raptors were playing at a high level, their offence being initiated by Jose Calderon, who was back in the lineup after being felled by the flu on Monday. The Raptors made stops and had a general intensity level that belied their current plight.
Their game plan, at least when they had possession of the ball, was run the high screen and roll and to feature DeMar DeRozan on post-ups.
With a shorter Jodie Meeks matched up against DeRozan, the Raptors went to their second-year shooting guard who delivered on Toronto’s first possession.
DeRozan then began to extend his offence, showcasing his mid-range game and his renewed confidence in his perimeter shot.
As well as DeRozan scored, the kid still has to become more a rebounding presence, which easily applies to Andrea Bargnani.
Too bad Bargnani doesn’t attack the basket like DeRozan, who was more than willing to take his man off the dribble when Philly dared DeRozan to put the ball on the floor.
With so many moving pieces with these depleted Raptors, all kinds of unusual units were being featured.
At one point, Trey Johnson, who was signed to a 10-day deal prior to tipoff, saw action in the backcourt, recording the Raptors’ first three-pointer, which is kind of poetic given his first name.
And then came the debut of Alexis Ajinca, who is as long as any player in the history of the Raptors.
The seven-foot Frenchman also showed an explosiveness in recording an offensive rebound and elevating quickly for a dunk, his first in a Toronto uniform.
Quick would also describe Julian Wright’s shot selection.
There’s a reason why teams play off this small forward, but it took Wright some ugly misses and some ill-advised heaves for the point to finally hit home.
It’s not a good sign when Wright attempts more shots from the field, which is precisely what he did in the opening half.
To his credit, Wright passed up an open look from beyond the arc, made a couple of dribbles before he swung the ball.
Nice stretches of play, good execution, solid work ethic, you just knew it all had to come to an end for the Raptors, who simply don’t have enough quality bodies to sustain any kind of high performance.
Nowhere is the team’s thin roster more pronounced that on the bench.
Sonny Weems tried to inject some life, but he doesn’t have his legs underneath him, which is understandable given his protracted absence with a wonky back.
After one steal, Weems had an uncontested path to the basket from about midcourt.
If completely healthy, the moment called for a dunk, but instead Weems simply converted the play with a conventional lay up.
And then you look down Philly’s bench and guys such as Marreese Speights and Lou Williams emerge, each capable of scoring in bunches.
When the Raptors yielded open looks or got caught in transition, both Speights and Williams began to light it up.