Weekly Rap Up; Early Season Hurdles Raptors Will Need to Overcome
After two warm-up games to start the season against lowly competition, the Toronto Raptors endured a war against the San Antonio Spurs and the Golden State Warriors, before taking on the young upstart Los Angeles Lakers.
When the dust settled, the Raptors came away with three victories in their first five games.
Judging purely based on the teams they took on, one would expect the Raptors to be in this exact situation five games into the season, but that is not to say they did not have the opportunity to beat the Warriors and Spurs. With the potential of opening their season with statement victories, the Toronto Raptors were presented with the chance to close out the defending champions and the Western powerhouse Spurs and failed in both scenarios, before delivering the final blow to the Lakers on Friday night.
“That’s what we do,” Kyle Lowry said after Friday night’s win. “People say ‘iso this, iso that’ but that’s what we do, we’re closers. The shots we missed against Golden State we made tonight.”
After taking a six-point lead against the Kawhi Leonard-less Spurs early in the fourth quarter, their inability to get on the defensive glass and make the compulsory shots allowed their undermanned opponents to claw back and deliver the the Raptors their first loss of the season. In game four of the season, the Raptors could not overcome a largely sloppy Warriors team.
“We played great defense, but we’ve got to realize with that don’t let it go to waste by giving up offensive rebounds to the team,” DeRozan said after the Raptors loss to the Spurs. “That’s something we definitely can teak from [this game].”
Fact is, despite giving up a million points to the Warriors, at the end of the day, they are an offensive juggernaut and to beat them, teams will simply need to outshoot them in an all out scoring contest. For the most part, the Raptors have played exceptional defense. Even in the absence of their starting centre, Jonas Valanciunas, they were able to hang around two of the best teams in the league.
But at this point in time, that is not the goal, isn’t it?
The Raptors aren’t at that stage where they would like to beat the mediocre teams and simply hang in their with the game’s best. I believe we all understand that the Raptors themselves feel that they are among the game’s elite and that means they must be able to take down teams of the calibre of the Spurs, the Warriors, the Cavs, the Rockets.
There are still a lot of things the Raptors have to clean up early on into the season. The Raptors starting backcourt hasn’t been playing up to par consistently just yet. Norman Powell has been a hit or miss, and new acquisition C.J. Miles has had a tough time hitting his outside shots since the second game of the season. All in all, the Raptors have been taking a lot of three pointers and missing a lot of three pointers. In today’s NBA, that is a recipe for disaster.
While of course, this is a different team, and they will definitely need more time to mesh, but the fact remains the Raptors do not have many consistent outside shooters. They will still rely heavily on isolation offence. They are still not getting enough floor spacing and off-ball movement, and lastly, their guard-heavy style of offence will inhibit the likes of Serge Ibaka and Valanciunas from making the most out of their minutes.
Now, this is not all on Head Coach Dwane Casey as based on the personnel he was provided with, there will be things he will not be able to change, but as the Raptors continue their season, they understand that a playoff spot is more or less a lock. The goal over the next 77-games will be to remain healthy and to become the best team they possibly can be by figuring out their issues.
And on that corny note, it’s off to Portland next!