Young-gun Raps need to get a little longer in the tooth

Young-gun Raps need to get a little longer in the tooth

Last night’s tilt with the San Antonio Spurs showcased a glaring deficiency in the Toronto Raptors make up: the team simply isn’t old enough. The Raptors dropped a 111-100 decision not only because the Spurs are far and away a better side, but also because the Raps don’t have those wily veterans that can close out a game when it counts. The Spurs have the likes of Tim Duncan and Manu Ginóbili—both grizzled vets with the confidence and the experience to step up and shut their opponents down. Toronto’s top players are relative babes who haven’t played the number or types of games that breed the kind of pedigree the polished Spurs have in spades.

The Raptors hung with their older, wiser opponents through three quarters, but in the fourth and final frame it was all San Antonio. The visitors outscored their hosts 30-16 over the last 12 minutes and hit 14 of 22 shots while holding Toronto to an ugly 7 of 21. Jose Calderon, a near geezer on the Raps (he’s 29), summed it up after the game. From the Star:

That’s what good teams do. They are veterans, it looks like you are with them but at the end of the day, it’s like they turn it on or something. It happened [Tuesday] night against Detroit, too. They were fighting the same thing and at the end of the day, in the fourth quarter they just go out there [and make plays].

It’s a tough pill for the Raptors, because even when their best players turn in the performances they need to for a shot at victory—Andrea Bargnani had 29 points, DeMar DeRozan had 25 and Leandro Barbosa even added 20—they don’t have the second-gear that separates the winners from the losers. In a lot of ways, the nucleus of young talent just hasn’t had the time to develop that higher level (with the exception of Barbosa, who played in many big games during his stint with the Phoenix Suns). Calderon steps up at times, but he doesn’t have the scoring ability to do it night in and night out. Reggie Evans, the team’s oldest player, simply isn’t an offensive weapon and he’s currently sitting on the bench with a bum right foot.

The good news: the Raptors fell back into the fourth-worst spot in standings. The race to the bottom continues.

• Raptors no match for Spurs’ veteran poise in 111-100 loss [Toronto Star]
• Raptors come up short against Spurs [Globe and Mail]
• Blair scores 28 as Spurs beat Raptors 111-100 [National Post]
• Raps hang in there, but can’t beat Spurs [Toronto Sun]