It was another night filled with disappointment for Raptors fans who stuck it out and stayed up Wednesday hoping their hometown team would begin its turnaround in Sacramento against the lowly Kings. Instead it was another wasted comeback, another game where down the stretch the Raptors failed to be efficient on defence or create high-percentage opportunities on offence. It was yet another loss.
After the game Andrea Bargnani was once again taking the brunt of the blame. The seven-foot Italian has often been criticized by fans and the media for his inability or unwillingness to play tough on defence and on the glass, but on many occasions he's made up for his lacklustre defensive play with reliable play on offence.
Wednesday was not one of those nights. Bargnani struggled on the offensive end shooting 3-for-14 from the field and 0-for-6 from three-point range, finishing with just eight points. And his struggles from behind the three-point line came at the most crucial point of the game, with around seven minutes left and the Raptors and Kings trading leads.
Bargnani missed three-consecutive three pointers late in the fourth quarter, all on key possessions. His miss with just over three minutes left and the game tied proved to be the turning point as the Kings went back the other way, took the lead and didn't look back en route to a 107-100 victory.
Toronto Star columnist Cathal Kelly slammed Bargnani last week saying it was time for he and the Raptors to part ways.
It's not fighting that ends relationships. That happens when one partner decides it's not worth arguing any more.
We've reached that point with Andrea Bargnani. No amount of verbal lashing will move this man. He'll absorb everything this city flings his way and shrug. "Criticism has two sides," Bargnani said last year. "Most of the time it just comes here …" — pointing at one ear — " … and goes out here" — pointing at the other.
He is a stump. A talented stump, but a stump nonetheless — immovable, unchangeable.
But it wasn't just Bargnani's play on the court that had some venting on Twitter, it was the fact that Raptors head coach Dwane Casey put him back in the game mid-way through the fourth quarter in the first place. When Bargnani checked out of the game for Ed Davis in the third the Raptors were trailing by 12 and Davis then played a key role on both sides of the ball helping Toronto get back into the game in what was overall, one of his best performances of the season.
And it's not the first time Bargnani's struggles have cost the Raptors a win this season. Less than two weeks ago in a double-overtime loss to San Antonio Bargnani shot 2-for-19 from the field and missed crucial shots down the stretch.
But it wasn't all negative for the Raptors Wednesday night. As mentioned above, Ed Davis played one of the best games of his season and he's beginning to prove on a more consistent basis that when given the opportunity he can make an impact. He finished the game with a double-double — 13 points and 11 rebounds — and if Bargnani continues to struggle expect Davis to see more minutes.
Kyle Lowry also had a big performance for the Raptors. Some were concerned the franchise's new point guard might have returned too soon from an ankle injury, but he put the team on his back Wednesday scoring 34 points and adding 11 assists in the loss.
The Raptors will eventually turn things around, whether by that point they've dug themselves a hole too deep to climb out of is another question. And whether Bargnani will be apart of that turnaround remains to be seen.