Raps struggle with consistency

Raptors guard Sonny Weems drives to the basket against Bulls center Omer Asik in Chicago, Illinois...

Raptors guard Sonny Weems drives to the basket against Bulls center Omer Asik in Chicago, Illinois on October 12, 2010. (DRANK POLICH/Reuters)

MIKE GANTER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:49 AM ET

CHICAGO — The good news is the Raptors know what they want to do defensively.

The bad news is they’re not yet doing it with any consistency.

The Chicago Bulls scored early, often, and at times far too easily in a 109-90 win over the visiting Raptors dropping Toronto’s pre-season record to 1-2.

Obviously the win loss record is irrelevant, but any strides the Raptors aggressive, pressure defence was making in the early going sprung some huge leaks Tuesday night against the Bulls.

Derrick Rose, the Bulls point guard and one of the quicker guys in the league, had his way with the Raps in the first quarter putting up 14 points and 23 overall. But even with backup C.J. Watson running the point in the second half, the Bulls barely missed a step. When the two were on the court together for the final five minutes of the second it was more of the same.

What the Raptors want to do is be proactive on defence. It’s the exact opposite approach to last year’s “Protect the paint” approach.

As head coach Jay Triano said before the game: “Listen, we had nowhere to go. We had to change the way we played at the defensive end and we’ll find ways to score offensively.”

Jose Calderon, a guy who got called out plenty for his defensive shortcomings a year ago, says the new philosophy eliminates some of the uncertainty of a year ago.

“Last year we had different options in our defence and that confused guys,” Calderon said. “It’s not like everybody was making mistakes or always the same guy, but it would happen.”

Calderon likes the idea of getting up on the speedier point guards as opposed to waiting for them to build up a head of steam and then coming at him.

“When those guys coming at you full speed you just have to make a decision and it’s a 50% chance. Left or right. Sometimes last year if we (Jarrett Jack or Calderon) got beat one on one it was all the way to the basket. It was like there was no one there. It was tough because it looked worse than it really was.”

With less confusion and fewer options, the help defence that went missing on plays like that last year, should, by design, be there this year.

We say should because on more than a couple of occasions, particularly in the first half, it was not that way as Luol Deng or Rose got clear paths to the basket.

Bottom line the Raptors came into this game looking to improve on two specific shortcomings from their game last year. Containing speedy point guards and doing a better job on the glass.

The Raps were hammered on the glass, grabbing 22 boards, which would have been an all-time low if this was the regular season.

It’s a work in progress. The good news is it’s still early.

An odd group

The Raptors starting five last night had a backcourt of Calderon and Leandro Barbosa joining Julian Wright, Amir Johnson and David Andersen.

Initially the plan was to have Linas Kleiza start at small forward instead of Wright but the coaching staff made the precautionary decision of sitting Kleiza down. He’s dealing with a little tendonitis in his knee.

“He didn’t ask out,” head coach Jay Triano said. “He wanted to play but we wouldn’t let him.”

Triano then wisely offered a ‘No comment” when it was pointed out he had a guy last year who would ask out.

Power of the press

A couple of mentions in the local bugles was enough to get Barbosa and Sonny Weems in the proper footwear.

Barbosa ditched his Brazilian kicks from the worlds for a pair of black and white Adidas that showed up the day after the absurdity of an NBA vet playing in clashing kicks appeared in the media.

Weems also quickly received proper footwear.

After the game, Barbosa, still not 100% on board with his new shoes, sent a locker room attendant to the Bulls room to ask Rose, a friend of Barbosa’s, if he could send him over a pair of his shoes. They both wear the same size. Rose obliged but he signed them before sending them over. Apparently Rose didn’t realize Barbosa wanted to use them in a game. It was at that point that Barbosa said he would make the trek down to the Bulls locker room himself.

Barbosa finds the range

Maybe it was the new shoes, although Barbosa was quite fond on his blue and yellow sneaks, but the veteran Brazilian seemed to lock in going three-for-five from three-point range and leading the team with 20 points.

A good test

The Raps get their first back-to-back test tonight at the Air Canada Centre vs. the Philadelphia 76ers. The defensive intensity the Raptors are asking of their players makes conditioning, both physical and mental, are going to be pivotal. Back-to-backs are a good means of working on both.

Joey’s hasty exit

Joey Dorsey was as shocked as anyone when he got the heave from last night’s game with 7.4 seconds left.

Dorsey and former Celtics centre Brian Scalabrine had already mixed it up a few times and Scalabrine had elbowed him in the back of the head in the preceding series. Dorsey asked the refs to watch him as they went back up the floor. On the ejection, Dorsey said he was just trying to box out and the left arm came all the way around. “I tried to box out and I guess he moved out of the way and my arm came all the way around. But it’s not like I punched him or anything.”

Young and unaware

Growing pains with a young team like the Raptors are inevitable, but something as simple as knowing how much time is left on the shot clock should not be asking too much. Five times in the first three quarters, twice by DeMar DeRozan when he seemed unaware a shot clock even existed, the Raps turned it over on shot clock violations.


Videos

Photos