Perhaps the most dreaded moniker that can be hung on a team is “soft” and that’s a term that has been flung at the Toronto Raptors more than once over the years and again this season.
But these Raptors have shown an inherent toughness at times by beating some of the league’s best teams in games they had no business winning.
The more recent term being bandied about is “fragile” and that unfortunately has accurately described this current version of the Raptors on more than one occasion this season.
The team is especially fragile on the road where even a little adversity seems to be enough for the Raptors to cave and let games slip away to teams they should be able to handle.
But the Raptors have been a tough-out most nights at home and their ability to come back from modest deficits against good teams is all that has kept the Raptors in the playoff picture.
Recently against the Thunder, the Raptors faced adversity from an opponent they had little control over. From the start of the game, the Raptors found themselves being called for fouls that seemed to be ignored at the other end of the floor.
It wasn’t that the Raptors were not committing fouls, they were. And they were fouling far too often. But Raptors' players making similar plays on the offensive end of the floor were not getting the same benefits from the officials, and as the game progressed, the fragile nature of this Raptors team became apparent.
In the first quarter, the Thunder were 12-13 from the free throw line and the Raptors were 4-4. In the second quarter, the Thunder were 11-13 from the line while the Raptors were again 4-4.
Jay Triano’s frustration with the officiating led to a technical. And there was nothing wrong with that. But the players' frustration with the officiating led to a rapid decline in effort and what could only be described as resignation before the end of the half.
Maybe the home crowd shouldn’t have booed their team. It would have undoubtedly been more effective to be loudly booing the officials. But when one watches their team give up in the face of adversity, the boos were understandable.
And no Raptors player seemed immune to the effects. All were equally “fragile” on this night.
Andrea Bargnani, who had a great start to the game with 13 points in the opening quarter, couldn’t get anything going again after sitting for the first six and a half minutes of the second quarter. Then Jay quite rightly pulled all his starters early in the second half. (Raptors were playing again the next night.)
Chris Bosh ended up with 22 and 10 but was never really a factor after taking his scheduled break in the first quarter despite his scoring in the second. Bosh was blocked twice and turned the ball over four times.
Amir Johnson ended up with some decent numbers during garbage time but was completely ineffective during the first half.
Turkoglu and Calderon were in foul trouble. Their issues with the officials taking them out of their games.
The Raptors rookie deserves a pass for the bad influence of his teammates.
But no Raptors player stepped up their play in the face of adversity on this night. This was a collective failure.
There is no question that the disparity in foul shots was a major component of the Thunder’s 27 point half-time lead. But the Raptors' inability to play through the adversity faced in the first half helped make that lead bigger than it needed to be and took away the Raptors' opportunity to show their fans the toughness demonstrated only two nights before in the win against Atlanta.
In the second half, the foul calls did slowly begin to even out. It didn’t matter however, because the game was out of hand. The evening-out of foul calls over the course of a game is common practice in the NBA and the Raptors' players should have expected this.
But the Raptors were fragile and it showed, and the fans at the ACC did not appreciate it.