Poor effort leads to another Raptors loss

Toronto Raptors' James Johnson drives to the net against the Charlotte Bobcats. (Mark O'Neill/QMI...

Toronto Raptors' James Johnson drives to the net against the Charlotte Bobcats. (Mark O'Neill/QMI Agency)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:33 PM ET

TORONTO - Andrea Bargnani summed up the afternoon in just seven words.

“It wasn’t a nice game to watch,” Bargnani said after the Raptors 95-90 loss to the Charlotte Bobcats.

No one at the game or playing it, outside of maybe the visiting Bobcats, would disagree. And there’s a chance a few of the Bobcats even found it a little difficult to take in.

This was a wasted Sunday afternoon from most accounts as about the only Raptor to actually do his thing was Reggie Evans.

Outside of his 17 rebounds, everyone else was sub-par.

DeMar DeRozan, who has been consistent of late with his jumper, hit just 4-of-13 shots. Bargnani himself only attempted 12, which is about six fewer than his season average. The Raptors just couldn’t find a hot hand.

The Bobcats, meanwhile, leaned heavily on point guard D.J. Augustin to get them just enough points to overcome an offensively challenged Raptors team and that, as they say, was that.

Augustin’s game high 23 points, 14 of them in the second half, kept the Raptors at bay all afternoon. Every time it looked like they might make a run, Augustin came up with a big shot.

Bargnani was the Raptors’ top scorer with 17 points. Only three others even made it into double digits.

“We didn’t have enough guys that played well offensively,” head coach Jay Triano said. “I think the guys that usually score for us didn’t and had off-games shooting the ball, especially from the free-throw line.”

Ah yes, the free-throw line, that stripe where players are rewarded for their aggressive play by a chance to convert unchallenged shots from 13 feet, nine inches if you measure from the stripe to the centre of the basket.

For whatever reason, this was one of the most challenging parts of the game for the Raptors.

Collectively they made good on just 20-of-31 attempts. In a game that became a five-point loss, those unconverted freebies were huge.

The .645 success rate from the line is the kind of number that, were it earlier in the season, might bend the conversation to looking up an old acquaintance like Dave Hopla, but not now. The damage has already been done.

The fact that the Bobcats were only too happy to send the Raptors to the line, hacking them every time they got within a sniff of the basket, only made the Raptors’ poor free-throw shooting that much more maddening.

Equally bad from a Raptors standpoint was a sudden neglect of the kind of ball movement that makes them successful.

Particularly in the third quarter, the Raptors got away from the extra pass, opting instead to try and do it individually.

That wound up playing right into the Bobcats’ hands.

“This is a team that plays good defence,” Triano said. “They collapse, they make you shoot jump shots and they hope you are going to miss. They keep a foot in the lane with everybody and when you keep a foot in the lane like they did, you’d better be able to make shots or swing the ball over to the second side.”

Unfortunately, the Raptors did neither. The only thing that kept the game even close was all the second possessions Evans got for them with his tireless rebounding.

Evans, though, admitted the pounding to get all those boards takes a toll.

“As the game goes on you’re getting hit harder and harder and I have to (use) so much energy from the banging and I have these big old dents in my back,” he said. “You know I love it, though. You just got to keep on banging.”

With the win, the Bobcats momentarily moved a half-game in front of Indiana which was playing in New York on Sunday night.

All the Raptors got out of such a game was motivation to work a little more on their free-throw shooting and the lesson that more ball movement is not only better for them, but a necessity if they are to compete with the likes of a Charlotte or other teams within a similar talent bracket.


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