ROLLIN’ WITH THE RAPTORS – MARCH 4
By Leo HAGGERTY

TORONTO BAY

Senior Writer Rob Kriete and myself were afforded the opportunity as well as the privilege of covering the Raptors for the first time “up close and personal” at Amalie Arena.  I want to thank Jennifer Quinn of the Toronto Communications staff for assisting us in this endeavor.

OK, let’s get the particulars out of the way.  The Pistons were victorious over the home standing Raptors to the tune of 129-105.  Wayne Ellington led Detroit with 25 points and Toronto Bay (that’s how I’ll refer to the team) was paced by Norman Powell who posted a game high 36 tallies.  The Motor City Guys improved to 10-25 while the We Are North Bunch dropped to 17-18.

Now, let’s get to the factors that led to the defeat.  The Raptors, due to Covid protocols, were forced to play without five players as well as their head coach.  Starters Fred VanVlett and Pascal Siakam along with OG Anunoby were sidelined.  Also, key reserves Malachi Flynn and Patrick McCaw were not able to participate along with Head Coach Nick Nurse.  For the second game, Assistant Coach Sergio Scariolo ran the club.

Finally, before I get to the questions I asked of Coach Sergio, a few comments on the atmosphere.  I’ll give the Raptors credit in that they did everything, from an artificial standpoint, to make it seem like a normal NBA tilt but it was far from it.

First, let’s deal with the attendance.  I would guess that there was no more than 300 people total in Amalie Arena due to Covid protocols and that number may be on the high side.

Honestly, this was a first for me.  I have NEVER been in an arena of any magnitude when an athletic event was taking place and had almost no one in attendance.  You could, literally, hear the ball bounce when a player was shooting a free throw.  It was like playing in a morgue so kudos to all the players and coaches as well as the officials for playing under those adverse conditions.

Another point I want to stress is that the NBA game has evolved, whether we like it or not, into a “three point shooting” contest.  The Pistons took 41 of their 91 shots from behind the arc and the Raptors put up 36 of their 77 attempts from three point territory.  That’s just under 46% of all shots taken and both teams passed up numerous open two point shot attempts to work for the three ball.

Here are the questions I asked Coach Scariolo.  His answers are truly interesting.

LH : I know you would not use this as an excuse but with all the players that were unable to play tonight, were you even able to have any practices between your last game and tonight’s contest?

SS : We had a practice yesterday.  We had a team practice yesterday.  We tried to regroup a little bit.  Actually, it was not a bad practice at all.  As you said, no excuses.  We had, for sure, enough players and coaches to have played a better game than this one.

LH : Was this just a bad shooting night and is that something that can change quickly for the next game?

SS : Yes, shooting is a big factor, of course now days in basketball.  Sometimes, it’s not always the case.  It up to how you play defense.  How you can contend with misses.  Taking better shots so the percentages go up.  It helps if you play defense better and you rebound better.  That’s allows you to get out and run more.  Then, we have to get better at creating easier shots.  We took a few too many shots off the bounce.  We were a little to anxious of trying to get back in the game.  We took a low percentage shot rather than get the ball into the paint so we could kick the ball out and create more catch and shoot open shots,

Hopefully, we will be able to return for another Raptors game.  If we’re really lucky, we’ll be able to get one of our outstanding photo journalists to come along because, as you all know, a picture is worth a thousand words.