Fan Duel Toronto Raptors

A loss to Lowry doesn’t sting. Maybe it should.

The Raptors aren't a wasteland again. Yet.

The Toronto Raptors were a wasteland before Kyle Lowry. They had exactly one winning season since the infamous departure of Vince Carter, and that single winning year ended in a lopsided playoff loss to… Vince Carter. In the decade after Carter and before Lowry, the Raptors had the fourth-fewest wins in the league, as well as three (3) playoff wins. That’s games, not series. 

Then Lowry. The golden years, we know now. The success did not continue after him. It sputtered, had a few blips of seeming relevance, but ultimately was just a mirage. Without Lowry, the Raptors are the Raptors once again. 

One more loss doesn’t mean anything to these Raptors. Just another wound on wounds, another scar on scar tissue, nerves so burned that things like wins and losses are beyond irrelevant. Or, maybe that’s why one more loss does mean something to these Raptors. Have to be careful. Can’t get used to it. 

Humans choose points of significance almost completely at random. Consider: We count in intervals of 10 because we have 10 fingers, not because of any inherent cleanliness to the number itself. And so we consider the start, the middle, and the end of 10 to be significant — numbers that end in 0 and 5. These are the types of things that matter to teams that lose many games in a row, fans of those teams, writers about those teams. What are 10 losses really but a clean referendum on a normal number of human fingers? 

It’s 13 in a row now. They’ve passed 10, are closing in on 15. Thirteen losses, the second-longest in Toronto’s history as a franchise. It’s possible the streak will only end with the season, Cancun or Miami the bells that save the Raptors from further abuse. If that does end up being the case, Toronto would end up shattering its record for most consecutive losses in franchise history (17). Sure, the Raptors have had worse seasons. But not worse stretches. The Raptors, since the trades, and then the losses of their best four players to injury, are not an NBA-caliber team. It’s no one’s fault. It’s bad luck, and bad management, and a bunch of other issues all coalescing into virtually unwatchable basketball. 

The Raptors 905 are 13-21 in the regular season and had a worse winning percentage in the Showcase portion of the season; the Raptors currently play four 905ers rotation minutes, starting two. The talent simply isn’t there for this version of the Raptors.

Yet you would think the players that are out there would be playing hard. Defending. Cutting. Playing with pace. And in many cases, you would be wrong. Despite being a great cutter and passer in an offense that demands those skills, and being probably the best player on these Raptors, Bruce Brown still seems lost for long stretches. He has not been an impact defender despite earning a reputation there on previous teams. Jordan Nwora could be Toronto’s best offensive wing at the moment, but he might be the least impactful defender on the team. (And there’s competition there.) Jalen McDaniels seems to be playing without, shall we say, interest. Gradey Dick’s offense has improved by leaps and bounds, but his defense has slid with the team’s, and he might be one of the least physical defenders in the league. 

So there is some blame to be apportioned. It’s a fine line, recognizing that the Raptors don’t have the talent to compete, but also realizing that plenty of Raptors are not performing as they should. The optimist understands it’s a hard situation, in a season that simply no longer matters, for players who are just trying to finish their workdays. The pessimist understands a competitive environment is a transient thing, and if it disappears, woe to the team that still has to suit up and play the next day.

The Raptors aren’t a wasteland yet. I remember the bad days, the humiliations the Raptors had to endure. No, worse than humiliations, the times when the Raptors simply didn’t matter. LeBron James humiliated the Raptors, but they were at least in the playoffs, close to a championship (we know now). It was worse when Alonzo Mourning didn’t bother reporting to the team. What’s more devastating, someone hating you, or not even knowing your name? Today’s Raptors aren’t close to those days. It takes years to amass that level of futility and negative capital. Thirteen games are nothing. 

But they are statistically the worst 13 games in franchise history. The Raptors lost the last 13 games by a combined 222 points. That’s the largest negative differential in franchise history over any 13 consecutive games. Lowry brought the last, and best, version of the Raptors into this world. It’s only fitting that they died when he left. And he didn’t kill this new version, nothing so dramatic. But he just piled on to a stretch so bad … Lowry’s additions didn’t even really matter. It’s not the first time he’s beaten the Raptors since winning a championship here. What’s another weight on top of Atlas’ shoulders? 

Lowry threw a pick-and-roll lob to start the game. The Raptors wish they had someone who could do that. He hit a pull-up triple to finish it, then stole a backdoor pass to a cutting Jordan Nwora to really finish it. The Raptors wish they had… you get it. 

And so we’re left here, counting numbers towards history. 

Two stories: I watched the first half of one of Toronto’s Orlando Magic games with my toddler Elliott. It was the one that started at 6 pm, so we could watch it before his bedtime. He spent the entire time snuggled into my arms, clapping and cheering any time either team scored. Saying, “got it!”. Late in the first quarter Nwora dunked, and Elliott yelled “more dunks!” for the entire second quarter. He got it. He tried to sleep with a basketball in his crib that night and for a couple more after. 

I tried to watch the first half of Toronto’s loss to the Sixers with Elliott, as it was also a 6 pm game. He gave up after 10 minutes and started shooting on his mini hoop, then demanded I read him a book about dinosaurs. Not even Lowry could draw Elliott back in, even as I tried to explain the nuances of Lowry’s game. 

Even a toddler knew the score for the game, the Raptors, this season.