All good things must come to an end, and thus did the Toronto Raptors undefeated start to the season. But in a humbling defeat to the Detroit Pistons, the Toronto squad can now move forward, looking to make the necessary improvements to challenge the perennial contenders in the Eastern Conference.
Last night the Raptors lost their first game of the season to a patchwork, balanced Detroit team (as Allen Iverson was still left awaiting clearance to play). The fast break out to start the season was great to see but it did have to come to an end, and against a tough, talented team like Detroit, it doesn't seem quite as bad. It's a loss, which is never good, but considering it was a hard fought loss, it's also a lot easier to absorb.
Good - Chris Bosh (26 pts, 13 reb) and Jose Calderon (24 pts, 8 ast) played VERY well once again, truly establishing themselves as legitimate stars in the Association (NOT just stars on this team). And once again Andrea Bargnani (12 pts, 4 reb) continued his "home sweet home" theme of the season by playing a well rounded game, posting double digit scoring and continuing to show he has improved his game over the offseason.
Not So Good - the Pistons even admitted to using their time tested formula of allowing the stars (Bosh, Calderon) to score while focusing on shutting down the rest of the Toronto team. This exposed the lack of depth the Raptors have at the moment, but I consider this a wash as that's already a known issue (nothing groundbreaking there). Maybe a bigger problem is that Jermaine O'Neal (8 pts, 3 reb) was once again completely absent on offence - his presence is there on defence, but hopefully the offence rounds out soon enough because.
There's not that much new learned from last nights game though really in the end, except maybe that Detroit has a strong future with the contributions from the youth off their bench. With regards to Toronto's bench, well from time to time it's going to happen this season that they get exploited. For the most part as long as the starters can put in strong efforts Toronto does have the talent to pull through and win those games more often than not.
The Raps should look at tonight and try to ensure players like Anthony Parker, Jason Kapono, Bargnani and O'Neal can still get opportunities even in the face of strong defensive pressure. Andrea fought thru the best he could and had a decent outing, but the rest of the team seemed to have more troubles and struggled. This was a good test against a solid team and Toronto kept fighting right to the end, bringing a 16 point third quarter deficit down to a 1 point a few times in the fourth quarter - there's a lot of heart and drive on this team and that alone will bring positive results.
It's still early, just as it's too early to plan the parade route it's too early to freak out and question everybody on every aspect of the game. While a loss there is a silver lining, it's good that a game like this happened this early to allow the team to make the necessary adjustments. The basketball season is a long journey and the Toronto Raptors are still in a very comfortable position along that trial.