The five-game losing streak won’t change their approach to the deadline, one way or the other. If team president Masai Ujiri and general manager Bobby Webster believed in this group three weeks ago – when they clawed back to .500 with impressive wins over Milwaukee and Philadelphia – they probably still do now. If they didn’t then, they don’t now. And, more likely, if they felt that they were a big man and maybe another depth piece away from really being able to compete in the East, then watching these past few games should have reinforced it.
After a pair of hard-fought losses to Boston and Atlanta – with the all-star break sandwiched in between – this weekend’s back-to-back in Charlotte and Chicago showed how shaky their depth is once you look past their top-six guys.
With the three regular rotation players out of the lineup, the two remaining starters – and – have had to carry a tremendous workload, and outside of sixth-man , nobody has stepped up to take advantage of this opportunity.
“It’s a little frustrating tonight,” Nick Nurse said after the loss to Chicago, a game in which Powell, Lowry and Boucher combined to score 69 of Toronto’s 95 points. “I mean you’re giving a lot of guys shots and [they] miss a few and you try somebody else and they get the same looks and they don’t do any better. So it was a tough night for us on that front, and it’s too bad.”
Over the past five games, Powell, Lowry and Boucher were responsible for 62 per cent of the team’s total offence. Nine other players saw the court in those contests but none of them averaged double figures in scoring or shot better than 42 per cent from the field.
Nurse often challenges his younger players to string together productive performances. That doesn’t necessarily mean scoring a bunch of points every night, it could just be a matter of playing hard in their respective roles or finding a way to make a positive impact on the game. He’ll break the schedule down into five-game increments and say, if a player is performing well in one or two games out of five, how can they increase that to three or four out of five?
Looking at these last five games, with each player filling an expanded role, sophomore Terence Davis had one really good one (a 22-point outing against Boston before the break), played well in a couple (the Boston and Atlanta contests), and DeAndre’ Bembry was also solid in two (Atlanta and Charlotte). Veteran centre was good in three of them (Detroit, Boston, Charlotte) – a marked improvement in an otherwise disappointing first season with the Raptors.
On one hand, it can’t be easy. Those guys have all seen their roles fluctuate throughout the campaign and are currently being asked to do more than they’re used to, and perhaps qualified for. However, this is the opportunity most of them have been clamouring for, a chance to prove themselves and show they deserve more minutes. That they haven’t taken advantage of it is cause for some concern.
If this summer is the farewell, I will lament Lowry spending his final season in a Raptor uniform in Tampa, without his signature starting intro routine and the Lowry chants raining down at Scotiabank Arena. Of course, that is just the selfish sports fan talking in the middle of a pandemic.
I’ll also be happy for Lowry because it will mean he’s happy, not because he’s moving on but because it’s the next part of his journey in an already incredible career. Eras end, and people come and go, in sports and in life. When I try to think of Lowry’s career with the Raptors in one word, I keep coming back to this: complete.
Vince Carter left a huge what-if on the franchise, the potential of so much more unfulfilled. Tracy McGrady and Chris Bosh started their careers here and cemented them somewhere else. DeRozan shaped this franchise and brought the entire city together, but he didn’t get to choose his ending here. Leonard lifted the team to a championship level and didn’t even give the fanbase a summer to contemplate a dynasty. Lowry’s tenure in Toronto is different from all of them. It is complete.
The bags might be packed again this summer, and Lowry might head out the door this time.
We’re all just lucky it didn’t happen eight years ago.
This Week: 20
Last Week: 16
2020-21 record: 17-22
Previous ranking: 16
The Raptors have now lost five in a row without 60% of their starting lineup after Sunday’s blowout loss to the Bulls. The good news is that Toronto is set to get Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby back this week. The bad news is that the Raptors now find themselves sitting outside of even the play-in games in the Eastern Conference after an ugly two weeks. — Bontemps
This Week: 21
Last Week: 15
17-22, +0.5 net rating
Weekly slate: Loss to Hawks, Loss at Hornets, Loss at Bulls
What’s the realistic goal? Avoid the play-in tournament.
With all of the ups and downs for the Toronto Raptors this season, being able to climb up the standings to sixth or better, avoiding the play-in tournament, would be massive. They just continue to struggle to find their good stretch of basketball, and it might be due to the idea that the roster isn’t good enough. I think it is good enough. It would help if Aron Baynes could rekindle some of that play we saw from him the last couple of years. It would help if Pascal Siakam would give them consistent leadership as the top guy in the offense. It would help if just everything was a little better. But they can absolutely get back on track and grab No. 6 or higher.
Do they need an acquisition to accomplish that? They don’t need someone, but it couldn’t hurt. I’d love to see the Raptors just remain healthy for the rest of the season and see what the continuity could breed. As long as they don’t send Kyle Lowry to a contender before the deadline, they should be good enough to climb the rankings.
This Week: 23
Last Week: 18
Pace: 100.1 (15) OffRtg: 112.4 (14) DefRtg: 111.9 (20) NetRtg: +0.5 (12)
The Play-In Tournament offers salvation for a team that’s been hurt by COVID-related absences as much as the Raptors have. And the Heat have just shown us how quickly a team can climb from where Toronto is right now (11th place) into the top five in the East. But in regard to climbing the standings, the Raptors just lost three of their most important games in the second half schedule, blowing a seven point lead with less than a minute to go against Atlanta, and then shooting 38% against in Charlotte and Chicago. They should get some bodies back this week, but there’s no getting those games back, and the Raptors have just five remaining against the five teams between them and sixth place in the East.
The Raps have thrown a lot of stuff at the wall over the five games in which they’ve been without Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam; Henry Ellenson returned to the NBA after a 14-month absence over the weekend. But if the Raps aren’t winning Kyle Lowry’s minutes then they’re probably not winning. And over the five games, they’ve been outscored by 16.6 points per 100 possessions in Lowry’s 181 minutes on the floor. Amazingly, at five games below .500, they still have a positive point differential (they’ve outscored their opponents by 17 points) for the season.
This Week: 23
Last Week: 16
Tony Snell’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer broke the Raptors’ hearts in their first game back from the break, with Toronto still missing several key players due to health and safety protocols. It turns out it really could have used that win, as the depleted roster simply ran out of gas in losses to the Hornets and Bulls to close out the week. That’s now five losses in a row for Toronto, but Nick Nurse said he expects at least some of the sidelined players to be back for Wednesday’s game against Detroit … so at least that’s something.