And we’re back with a short MC after a long layoff…I missed you guys!
Tim and Sid debate if this current Raptors squad has any chance of seriously contending considering the team’s defensive liabilities.
You are the Toronto Raptors. You have been on a serious grind for weeks now. Taking the court to play the Houston Rockets Sunday night, conditions are far less than ideal for your success. This run of play has to catch up to you at some point.
And yet, there the Raptors were, up by four and shooting 58 per cent going into the fourth quarter. Perhaps it was a bit much to ask for 12 more minutes of energetic, active basketball against one of the quickest-moving teams in the league. Perhaps a burnout was inevitable, especially considering four Toronto starters played 40-plus minutes the night prior. Perhaps it was incredibly unlikely the Rockets—who have sunk more threes than any other team in the NBA—would continue to miss nearly every single three-pointer they attempted. But as they sat on the bench during that break prior to the fourth, the Raptors were undoubtedly in a position to win the basketball game.
Ultimately, they did not. They succumbed, 129-122, after a fourth quarter spent chasing the Rockets around the floor as the visitors pressed down on the accelerator and pulled away from an opponent that had little else to give.
Jan. 10th vs. Celtics
This game is now for 2nd in the East and the Raps will look to protect home court and take a commanding 2-0 lead in the season series between these two clubs. They also need to keep the try-hards in their place for Will Lou to remain the King of Celtics slander on twitter. With the way they’ve been playing, the Raps could certainly use a boost up front….
RAPTORS VS. CELTICS: Only one game separates them in the battle for the second playoff seed so needless to say with the Raps hitting a rough patch and Boston hitting its stride this game has significant implications for both sides. I know it’s not even the 40-game mark for both squads and they will both say it’s just another game but that’s nonsense. It could come down to a head-to-head tiebreaker in April so it’s huge. Remember last season: The Raptors got to the East Finals as the 2-seed by benefit of having home court and more importantly hosting critical Games 5 and 7 in both Rounds 1 and 2 at home. By the way, they went 4-0 in those all-important games. Getting the second seed is important. The Raptors at 24-13 are two games ahead of last year’s 56-win squad which was 22-15 at this stage so no need for panic. I do think the Celtics are an improved team over a year ago and this might be a drawn out/ultra competitive race between the two teams. Should be lots of fun. Big one in Toronto on Tuesday.
While divisions don’t matter all that much anymore, some pride remains involved and banners do go up to commemorate the achievement of finishing first. After Toronto won the Atlantic for the first time in 2006-07, Boston ruled for five straight seasons (winning a title and losing another in heartbreaking fashion in that span) before the Knicks surprisingly reigned in 2012-13. Since then, Toronto has won three straight division crowns and is actually 41-12 (.774) against the rest of the division (including 9-4 against Boston) over the past four seasons.
The Raptors pulled out a tough 101-94 battle at TD Garden a month ago.
“At the end of the day people struggle with them because they are really good,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters on Monday about why his team hasn’t found much success against the Raptors.
“(Kyle) Lowry and (DeMar) DeRozan are outstanding players.”
It bears mentioning, though, that Celtics scoring and assist leader Isaiah Thomas had to miss the first meeting of this season due to injury and that the meetings between the two rivals are usually tight affairs.
This time around, Boston will have the red-hot Thomas in the lineup, but fellow backcourt starter Avery Bradley, an excellent two-way player, has been ruled out due to an Achilles injury.
One thing the Raptors didn’t do at all well the entire game was deal with the traps the Rockets threw at them, specifically DeRozan and Lowry, who were aggressively double-teamed constantly.
There had to be half a dozen times that I remember when they were forced to throw bad crosscourt passes just to get out of corner double-teams and at least two of them resulted in bad turnovers and what Casey refers to as “jail breaks” for easy layups.
Those are the kind of live-ball turnovers that can be crippling in shifting momentum in games or keeping runs going and there were far too many among the 19 turnovers the Raptors had last night.
While all of these factors can make sense of why the Raptors are struggling of late, the team isn’t particularly special in that regard—fatigue and injuries are a reality every team in the NBA must deal with.
The fact of the matter is, as has been the case all season, the Raptors’ defence simply hasn’t been good enough. Exhaustion and the injury to Patterson have slowed down the Raptors’ offence a little bit and that’s been the primary reason why they’ve been losing more consistently.
Toronto still relies far too much on its offence, and this seven-game span has once again exposed the concerning reality that if they are unable to continue posting NBA-leading offensive efficiency numbers on a night-to-night basis, then they’re going to lose.
The past 12 games have featured some high quality wins over very solid teams like the Memphis Grizzlies (twice) and Utah Jazz. On the other hand, Boston fell to the defending champion Cavaliers (that still sounds weird). In fact, this season they have yet to win a game against the six teams that are currently ahead of them in the standings.
They can change that on Tuesday when they fly north of the border to play the Raptors. If they win that game they’ll be tied with Toronto for second place in the East.
When the season kicked off, many had the Celtics ahead of the Raptors in their season projections (though admittedly, most had them roughly on the same tier). After a slow start it appears that the Celtics are who we thought they were, just in a different way than we thought they would (using offense instead of defense). We’ll see how they fare against the Raptors and how the rest of the season plays out.