Raptors 09-10 Season In Review
In the end, it's all that separated the rebuilt edition of the 2009-10 Raptors from a return to the post-season. After a campaign that featured plenty of promise from a group of Young Guns and career years from Andrea Bargnani and Chris Bosh, the 82-game roller-coaster ride finally came to a disappointing full stop on the final night of the regular season as the Raptors finished 40-42 and out of the playoffs for a second straight year.
A flurry of offseason activity from Bryan Colangelo and the front office reshaped the roster, beginning in June with the acquisition of Reggie Evans and the selection of DeRozan with the ninth overall selection at the 2009 NBA Draft.
The roster flip continued into free agency with a complex four-team deal that brought Hedo Turkoglu to Toronto, along with Antoine Wright. Marco Belinelli was also a byproduct of that deal, while Johnson, Weems, Jarrett Jack and Rasho Nesterovic also came aboard over the course of the summer.
So many new faces in the fold presented head coach Jay Triano with a distinct challenge in his first full season at the helm and that, coupled with key injuries after the All-Star break resulted in up-and-down play in several distinct phases of the season.
Offence was never an issue with the Raptors, as they set franchise records in total points (8,534) and field goal percentage (.482). Their 104.1 points per game average ranked them first among all Eastern Conference clubs and fifth overall in the NBA.
The franchise's long-standing record of consecutive games with a three-pointer also remains intact at 942.
Defence, however, was another story. The Raptors never seemed to maintain any kind of sustained intensity when guarding opponents, allowing a league-worst 110.2 points per 100 possessions.
The Raptors did show flashes of solid defence that yielded positive results, as they compiled a staggering 22-2 record when holding opponents under 100 points and a 9-0 record when opponents shot less than 40 per cent from the field.
Raptors Stumble Early, Find Form By Break
Despite a sensational start to the season from a noticeably bulked up Chris Bosh, the Raptors struggled out of the gate defensively and opened with a 7-13 mark.
The low point came after a demoralizing 146-115 defeat to the Hawks in Atlanta on December 2, prompting a closed-door team meeting in Washington.
A distinctly different team emerged against the Wizards and the Raptors went 4-4 over their next eight contests, but they truly began to turn things around with a win over the Nets on December 18. By going 7-1 from that date to January 6, the Raps capped the fastest return to .500 in franchise history.
The Raptors stayed hot right up until the All-Star Weekend, going 22-10 after their brutal start to tie the franchise-high for victories before the break with 29.
A lighter schedule undoubtedly benefited the Raptors during this stretch, but it also yielded some of the most significant wins of the season with victories over the Spurs, Magic, Mavericks and Lakers. Air Canada Centre also became a hostile environment for opponents as the Raps rattled off eight straight victories from January 17-February 10.
While the team prospered, it was also a period of personal achievement for Bosh, who became the franchise scoring leader after he drilled a 16-foot jump shot at the 1:39 mark of the third quarter against the visiting San Antonio Spurs on January 3.
Bosh went on to capture Eastern Conference Player Of The Week honours from January 25-31, a feat he achieved again in late-March. During that period, Bosh also became the first Raptor to record at least 20 points and 15 rebounds in four consecutive games (Jan. 27-Feb. 2).
With the team on a high, Bosh and DeRozan traveled to Dallas to participate in All-Star Weekend festivities.
The high-flying DeRozan took centre stage on Friday night and defeated the Clipper's Eric Gordon in the inaugural 'Dunk-In' contest to advance to Saturday's Sprite Slam Dunk contest. The rookie put on an impressive display, but narrowly lost the fan vote to Nate Robinson.
The focus was then on Dallas native Bosh and the big man delivered in his fifth All-Star Game appearance with 23 points -- including the game-winning free throw -- and 10 rebounds.
Second-Half Swoon Sinks Raps
After the high of All-Star Weekend however, Bosh rolled his ankle late in the team's first game after the break -- a 109-102 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
The Raptors managed to stay afloat in the Eastern Conference without Bosh by going 3-4, but his return at home against the Sixers at ACC on March 7 simply couldn't cure the team's woes. A frustrating loss to Philadelphia triggered a five-game losing skid and defeats in nine of their next 12.
A three-game win streak appeared to put the Raptors back on track, but a disheartening 112-103 home loss to the Warriors followed before misfortune struck Bosh again on April 6 in Cleveland. An inadvertent elbow from Cavs forward Antawn Jamison caught Bosh square in the face, resulting in facial fractures that required season-ending surgery.
The loss of Bosh extended the Raptors' late-season slide to four games, but they had an opportunity to effectively clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Bulls heading into the final week of the season. Instead the Raptors were humbled at ACC 104-88 to fall a full game behind the Bulls for the eight seed and surrender control of their own playoff destiny in the process.
Toronto managed to win its final two games of the season, but it was simply too little, too late as Chicago also won out and clinched a post-season berth on the final night of regular-season action.
Despite ample positives in a post-season push that fell just short, another period of change could be in the works for the Raptors, who enter a pivotal summer with just as many question marks.
Chief among those concerns is the status of Bosh, who posted another stellar season by setting career highs in points per game (24.1) and rebounds per game (10.8), but is poised to test the waters of free agency. Johnson, who displayed flashes of impressive play at power forward, and Wright -- the team's most effective perimeter defender -- are also available on the open market.
That roster uncertainty presents a challenge for Colangelo, who enters the final year of his pact as team president and general manager.
Should those players depart, Colangelo must attempt to build on a career-year across the board from Bargnani, the developing games of Weems and DeRozan plus a strong first season in Toronto from Jarrett Jack as he tries to build a squad that will return to the playoffs.