Despite still sitting at a reasonable 7-5, over the past five games the Toronto Raptors are 2-3. That's sub-.500 basketball and it feels bad. It just does. Toronto's two wins have come against the respective tire fires in Philadelphia (still in the process) and New Orleans (injury ravaged). The losses, meanwhile, illustrate the three most common ways for the Raptors to lose:
1) Bad Officiating
OK, so this one makes me uncomfortable. I happen to believe that NBA referees are human, and therefore it is natural for them to err. I also happen to believe that most NBA games are officiated about as evenly as possible, with good calls and bad calls going for and against whichever team you happen to be cheering for.
But still, the missed out of bounds call against Carmelo Anthony was a real bummer. If that call is made, the entire game pivots on its axis. I'm not saying the Raptors suddenly win but--actually, let's just move on before I get unduly upset.
2) Terrible Play Calling
There was a time, in the days of yore, when the Raptors could give the ball to Vince Carter late in the game and he could magically make things happen. It was 15 years ago, so you may have forgotten. But man, let me tell you, he did this a lot.
The Raptors now employ a young man named DeMar DeRozan. Perhaps you have some thoughts and feelings about this person. Against the Sacramento Kings, with a 10 point lead in the fourth quarter, and with what felt like various scoring options cooking, DeRozan opted instead to drive into a few bad situations, take a few bad shots and somehow manage to shoot the team out of the game. (Note: Kyle Lowry's 3-point heave in the final minute didn't help.) DeRozan finished with 24 points, went to the line eight times, and tried his damnedest to win.
But the Raptors did not win. (And DeRozan is emphatically not Vince Carter.)
3) Moral Victories!
Ah yes, the most familiar of losses to any Raptors fan. Raise your hand if you had any expectation of the Raps' taking it to Golden State last night? Be honest. For most of us, we've been conditioned. We've sat through entire lost eras, aimless empty seasons building toward nothing. We were not looking for wins then, we were just looking to avoid embarrassment.
This is not to say you would not have been delighted had the Raptors beat the Warriors. But, there was definitely a point in time last night, as the Raptors were duking it out with the defending champion, undefeated, Death Star Warriors, when you thought to yourself: If the Raps don't get blown out here, I'll take it as a moral victory.
And there you have it. The Raptors are 7-5, they have three more games on this road trip (against Utah tonight, then the Lakers on Friday, and finally the Clippers on Sunday), and there is a chance of more pain.