Seven wins in their last 10 games.
Six straight home wins.
A winning record in December and January so far.
Third place in the Eastern Conference.
Etc, etc, etc.
If you watched yesterday's 112 - 106 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers however, you probably were left scratching your head regarding those previous stats. The Toronto Raptors didn't play like a team that's won the bulk of their games of late, lost a chance for their first-ever season sweep of the Lakers, and in the process, showed off a few concerns for fans going forward.
To put it simply, this should have been a Toronto win.
I won't go into all the morbid details, that was done yesterday in our Rapid Recap, but the club on multiple occasions had big leads and could not hang on to them. The defense was porous (the club was a top five team in terms of defensive efficiency going into the match), and when the D wasn't there, the O wasn't doing much to boost things up. The club settled for far too many jump shots (something a 30 to 11 three-point attempts to free throw shots stat can attest to) and compounded these issues with multiple bonehead plays down the stretch. (Fouling three-point shooters, technicals, you name it.)
In some cases you'd simply chalk this up to a bad loss and move on but from this match, and Toronto's two previous ones, I'm seeing a few disconcerting signs, ones that the Raps need to remedy if they want to grab a win this afternoon in Charlotte, on Martin Luther King Day.
1) Hi, I'm Rudy DeRozan. It was mentioned a lot during and after the game against the Lakers but DeMar DeRozan needs to be a little less "Rudy-esque," especially down the stretch of games. Last night against the Lakers he settled for far too many difficult jump shots and failed to use his abilities to attack the rim. With Rudy gone, DeRozan is one of the few members of the team who can get into the paint to open things up for his teammates and he's got to look to do a lot more of that going forward. Yesterday he seemed to get caught up in a bit of a "oh yeah Swaggy P, check THIS shot out" type game and that's not what the team needs from him.
2) Play Your Game. Another thing that's stuck out to me in the Dinos' last three games is style of play. In each match (two losses and a very close win), Toronto has come out and played to their strengths, but then quickly has allowed the opponent to dictate the style of play. Against the Celtics the game became a grind-it-out, physical affair, and versus the Lakers it was the opposite; run-and-gun till the cows come home. When the club has been successful, it hasn't dwelt at either end of that spectrum but instead, has incorporated elements of both, again, something I'm hoping to see versus Charlotte today.
3) Bench Play. Greivis Vasquez gave the Dinos some solid minutes yesterday but aside from Patrick Patterson, there hasn't been much else to write home about of late. Sure, Chuck Hayes has been solid, especially on D, but the team could use a few other options for when the starters just don't have it. It got so bad yesterday that Dwane Casey even dusted off Julyan Stone for 13 uneventful minutes. Against a Kemba Walker-less Bobcats group today, it might be time to give Landry Fields or Steve Novak some run as both may be needed as the season unfolds.
After today's match with the Bobcats, the Raptors take on the Mavericks, 76ers, Clippers and Nets.
It's not Murderer's Row so to speak, but not exactly a cakewalk either so Toronto needs to get the ship righted as soon as possible. That starts this afternoon in Charlotte where the Raps have dropped their last six games somehow.
No liveblog today due to the time of the match (2 PM start), but we'll break down and recap as usual.