Toronto Makes A Stand On The Defensive End

You would think giving up 44 points in the fourth quarter to Dallas on Saturday and following that up by allowing Manu Ginobili to erupt for 36 points off the bench on Monday would be provide the Raptors with a hard enough punch to the gut to rouse the team from their early season slumber on the defensive end.

Guess not, as the Toronto allowed Chicago to waltz into the Air Canada Centre tonight and score 35 points in the second quarter as part of a first half which saw them score 60 points.

After the game a grumpy Jay Triano ripped into his team for what called an embarrassing effort on the defensive effort  in the first half. However, it’s what he said during the halftime that lit the necessary fuse to rally hold Chicago to 29 points the entire second half.

“We were embarrassed at halftime,” a stern Triano told the media after the game. “Chicago had 60 points. I credit our guys because they pulled together and found a way to hold them to 29 points in the second half. All I said to them was this team averages 88 and they’ve got 60 right now.”

While it was great to see Toronto deliver a message on the defensive end in the second half, the key is if the team can sustain this kind of defensive intensity each quarter and then continue to bring that same intensity into each time their opponent has possession.

Toronto’s defense has shown flashes of potential when they held Cleveland to 17 points in a quarter, New Orleans to 14 and Chicago to 11, but they’ve also had quarters where their defensive schemes disappear when Dallas erupted for 44 points or Memphis scored 39.

To prevent these defensive lapses from continuing to rear their ugly head, Toronto needs to start giving a consistent effort on the defensive end.

“It’s a mental effort,” Bosh explained to Hoops Addict after the game. “You just have to will yourself to do it. If we want to be a good defensive team than we need to put in that kind of effort every night. If we play with energy like that we’re going to be in a lot of games and we’ll win a lot of games. ”

Playing with energy and focus is part of it, but another crucial aspect is rallying together as one united front on the defensive end.

“Everybody needs to take pride in knowing it’s a team effort,” Jack explained to Hoops Addict. “It can’t just be one guy and you need to guard your man. No, that one guy is going against us so we need to take it as a team approach. We can’t assume one guy is going to stop one person. When a guy is guarding Kobe Bryant or Kevin Garnett we can’t look at them and say stop them. It’s got to be all of us. Showing that person different looks, tough angles and closing down the paint.”

With games against Baron Davis, Steve Nash, and Deron Williams during this road trip that mantra rings true as the  team can’t put Jose Calderon or Jack on an island alone to cover those point guards. They also can’t leave Antoine Wright or a banged up Hedo Turkoglu to try to cover Carmelo Anthony one-on-one.

Instead, they need to rally around the defensive schemes Triano has been trying to implement for the past two months while showing some mental toughness and grit on the defensive end.

If they resort to the lackadaisical defensive efforts which saw them get burned by Memphis, Dallas and San Antonio, then all the talk coming from the team tonight was nothing more than a bunch of hot air.

Quick Hits:

  • Before the game I had the chance to chat with Chicago Bulls rookie Taj Gibson for a couple of minutes about playing against his former college teammate DeMar DeRozan, what he’s learning from Chicago’s vets, the tough part of playing in back-to-back games and what it’s been like to battle against childhood idols Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett. Look for that interview to be up on Hoops Addict early next week.
  • Jose Calderon drove by Derrick Rose on back-to-back possessions in the first quarter for four easy points. This was a recurring theme as Toronto managed to score 50 of their points in the paint. Chicago temporarily fought back in the second quarter by scoring 20 points in the paint.
  • Second chance points killed Toronto in the first half (16 points for Chicago in the first half while Toronto had none). Another scary stat from the first half is Chicago missed 22 shots but were able to snag 8 offensive rebounds. This changed in the second half as Chicago was limited to 2 points off second chance points.
  • Joakim Noah was aggressive in the first quarter with 4 points, 2 boards and attacked Chris Bosh without fear. However, after getting 20 rebounds in his previous two games Toronto was able to hold him to 11 rebounds tonight.
  • Gibson and DeRozan played with a little extra passion tonight due to their friendship as college teammates. DeRozan had Five points in the first quarter while Gibson had 8 points and two boards. DeRozan finished with a career high in points (9) and rebounds (9). Gibson, however, blocked two of DeRozan’s shots (one was a dunk attempt) which resulted in DeRozan getting ribbed by his teammates after the game.

They Said It:

Amir Johnson talked about a change the team made on the defensive end in the second half:

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Chris Bosh talked about what it will take for the team to start giving a consistent effort on the defensive end:

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DeMar DeRozan joked with the media about his dunk tonight:

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Jarrett Jack talked about the need for the team to stay mentally tough:

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Hedo Turkoglu explained what happened to his hip in the second half and how it was feeling after some treatment:

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By The Numbers:
3 – Field goals Chicago had in the fourth quarter
4 – Consecutive wins Toronto now has over Chicago
5 – Rebounds Andrea Bargnani had in the first quarter
6 – Rebounds Joakim Noah had in the first half after snagging 14 in the first half last night against Denver
7 – Consecutive games Chris Bosh has scored 25 or more points
9 – DeMar DeRozan set a career-high in points (9) and rebounds (9)
10 – Field goals Chicago had in the second half
11 – Points Toronto was able to hold Chicago to in the fourth quarter
18 – Points Chicago was held to in the third quarter, the third lowest Toronto has held an opponent to in a quarter so far this season
41.7% – Field goal percentage Toronto held Chicago to in the first quarter.
61 – Chicago’s 61 first half points marked the seventh consecutive game where Toronto’s opponent had scored at least 51 points in the first half.

About the Author

Ryan McNeill Ryan McNeill has appeared on ESPN Radio, MTV Canada, SiriusXM, The Fan 590 and other radio programs and TV shows. He has covered the NBA with media credentials since the 2007-08 season.