Chris Bosh's return wasn't exactly what Raptors' fans hoped. Instead of an emotional win, the Raps dropped a 114 to 101 decision to the 76ers yesterday afternoon and as Franchise discusses, now have precious little breathing room if they want to ensure a playoff spot...
The Toronto Raptors sit at 32 and 29 on the season, good for sixth in the Eastern Conference. Unfortunately they are also only two games out of playoff contention altogether. They've still got 21 games to go, but the next four are on the road against Western Conference foes (including the Lakers and Blazers), and the following two are against the Hawks and Thunder respectively.
Hmm...should I start to be worried about my "over" bet from the start of the season?
After yesterday's loss, the team's fifth in its last six games, it's easy to be concerned. Compounded with the upcoming schedule, it might even be tempting to start reaching for the panic button. At one point Toronto looked well on its way to 45 plus wins but now? Can they hit 38?
I'm here to say all will be ok.
While yesterday's loss, which we'll address in a moment, was needless and frustrating, the team is actually right on my anticipated pace to start the season. In fact, they're still slightly ahead.
Continuing on its current pace, that is to assume that Toronto will win 11 of its final 21 games, the club will finish with 43 wins this season.
My prediction was 42, hence my over bet.
Pace does not factor in schedule of course, so let's take a look at the Raps' remaining matches. Are there 11 games fans can safely pencil in as wins?
It's the NBA, so there are no guaranteed wins of course, but I'm looking at these matches as solid options:
Throw in a couple other lesser options and anything less than a 42 win season would be a big disappointment in my books. It also might mean missing the playoffs.
Currently John Hollinger has Toronto slated for seventh in the East when all is said and done, on pace again for that magic number of 42 wins. I think it's imperative that the Raps hit that target if they want to securely grab a playoff spot, and of course, rising above that number, thus avoiding chances of a seventh place finish and match-up with Cleveland, would be great as well.
However to do this, the team needs to play a lot better than it did yesterday.
Toronto came out flat, and just never got their act together at either end of the floor. For some reason, the team kept going one-on-five offensively, something that you just can't do against a ball-hawking club like Philly, and this led to 15 turnovers and 30 points off the break for the 76ers. Philadelphia was simply too quick and athletic for Toronto on this afternoon, and out hustled the Dinos repeatedly. They won the battle of the boards, the shooting percentages, and free-throw trips and really dominated this one from start to finish.
For the 76ers, Thaddeus Young had a career-high 30 points, and others like Jrue Holiday and Lou Williams were a major pain in Toronto's side all afternoon. And from Toronto, outside Jarrett Jack who had 20 points, there simply was very little resistance.
And for all the hoopla surrounding his return, Chris Bosh was fairly invisible. Yes he looked rusty and understandably was finding his way a bit, but he also wasn't very aggressive at either end of the court. Toronto needs him in top shape for the final quarter of the season, and therefore here's hoping that his locker room visit after a strange fall in the second half, doesn't mean a new injury, or an aggravation of a previous one.
It would be great to have Hedo Turkoglu back for next game as well. Yes, you heard me right. In the past few matches, with players in and out of the line-up, it's felt a bit to me like Jay Triano's been fumbling blindly to find some rotations that work. The Weems and Johnson combo worked well on Friday, but not so much yesterday. And suddenly DeMar's minutes are down as well. With the playoffs drawing closer, establishing a set rotation and some regularity for the players becomes more and more important, and Hedo needs to be part of that, no matter what you may think of his on-court contributions.
With that regularity hopefully comes a more consistent level of energy and effort on the court, so that fans don't see repeat performances of yesterday's loss.
Yes, I still feel this team will be safely in the playoffs when all is said and done, but if efforts like yesterday's keep occuring, I may find myself quickly singing another tune...