PHILADELPHIA — Another night, another game, another occasion when the Raptors were undermanned and yet again overmatched.
And so the beat goes on, a team beaten down by injuries, their plight so brutal that posting any kind of win is pure fantasy.
It’s as if the Raptors are playing with four players on the court and one reserve who legitimately deserves to be at the NBA level.
Imagine a football team, whether it’s three downs or four downs, lining up with no quarterback and two offensive linemen and trying to move the chains against a full complement of defenders.
You’ll then begin to understand precisely how difficult Friday night’s task became against a Sixers team eyeing the sixth playoff seed in the East.
If the pigskin comparison wasn’t sufficient, imagine having to run an offensive set with Julian Wright at the point position.
In transition, Wright, even a James Johnson, can handle the ball and push it.
Given the right set of circumstances, both can have an offence run through their hands in a half-court set.
But under no circumstance, can either read and react when teams come with traps, when one has to make a play by penetrating the lane.
With no Jose Calderon, the only qualified point guard was Jerryd Bayless, normally an attack-first player who couldn’t afford to be as aggressive.
With no shooters to help spread the floor, teams pack the paint because there’s no need to extend a defence in the absence of a perimeter presence.
And when you’re forced to start Reggie Evans and Ed Davis, neither known for knocking down shots, defenders can play off their man and provide help defence.
With Calderon, Andrea Bargnani, Leandro Barbosa and Amir Johnson not available because of various ailments, the only way for the Raptors to be competitive was play virtually error-free basketball, a virtual impossibility given the many limitations.
But Toronto showed resiliency and an edge, the emotions boiling over with 5:34 left in the game when Jay Triano got tossed after a non-call to Evans, whose driving layup was rejected by Andre Iguodala, a sequence that earned Evans a technical.
With so much adversity thrown their way, no one could accuse the Raptors of not trying or caring.
In the final 7:12 of the opening quarter, the Raptors could not produce a single basket from the field, missed shots, contested or uncontested piling up almost as quickly as the turnovers or the points produced by the Sixers.
Six turnovers would be recorded in the opening 12 minutes, five makes on 20 shots and a double-digit deficit, a lead that would swell to as much as 15 in the opening half.
At the break, the Sixers led 54-42.
There was a point when the Raptors missed 14 straight field goal attempts.
One glance at Philly’s bench and the name Thaddeus Young immediately sticks out.
By comparison, Toronto’s reserves were Sonny Weems, Alexis Ajinca, Joey Dorsey, Solomon Alabi and Wright.
Young, whose length and athleticism always pose matchup problems against the Raptors, single-handedly outscored Toronto’s bench in the first half and for the entire evening.
Just after intermission, it was learned that Weems would not return because of soreness in his right knee, Toronto’s depleted bench getting thinner and even less imposing.
The only reason for the score not getting completely out of hand was Philly’s lack of urgency.
Doug Collins, who deserves consideration for coach of the year, spoke earlier in the day about taking care of business as the Sixers close out the season with home tips.
A meeting with Boston or Miami awaits Philly when the opening round of the playoffs begin next weekend, but the lack of a killer instinct against Toronto does not bode well.
The Raptors led 72-70 late in the third quarter following a Bayless jumper.
DeRozan began to find his stroke, making four of six shots to score 10 points in the quarter, a stretch that saw Toronto play its best in outscoring the Sixers 30-19.
With Bayless leading a more aggressive Raptors team and the Sixers inexplicably turning passive, the game at least became bearable to watch.
Triano’s outburst inspired the Raptors, who buckled down on each possession, fuelled offfensively by the Bayless/DeRozan backcourt, which combined for 51 points.
In the end, the Raptors would fall, 98-93, the countdown to the end of the season now at three games.