The winter's just starting to arrive outside my window, but it's already feeling like Groundhog Day for the Toronto Raptors. This five-game road trip, which began with two losses to the Kings and Warriors, has been repetitive -- complete with storylines that may be exposing the long-term ceiling of this team.
So, what's been repeating? Well, the losses for one; tonight it was 93-89 to the Utah Jazz. Second, and more troublesome, are the issues behind the losses.
As he did the previous two games, Kyle Lowry kept the team afloat tonight with a solid third quarter. Once again, though, clock mismanagement and bad decisions returned in the fourth as DeMar DeRozan isolated the hell out of the ball down the stretch. After two points on 1-of-5 shooting in the first three quarters, he was 5-of-10 in the fourth. It wasn't bad, but it stagnated everyone else, leaving the team in a position not unlike those Los Angeles Lakers teams of the mid-aughts -- four players leeching off Kobe Bryant, standing around and hoping for the occasional pass.
Of course, unlike the '06 Lakers, the Raptors aren't stuck with Smush Parker at point guard. Kyle Lowry may have had a poor shooting night, but looked the most awake of everyone as he put up 20 points, six assists and three rebounds. Cory Joseph, who has also sliced and created effectively on this trip, only had five shots on the night. Luis Scola wasn't creating, but he was scoring, netting a season-high 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting, including a pair of threes.
The team's deference to DeRozan late in games is becoming more prominent, and it continues to fly opposite to the ball-moving team the coaching staff has preached. To put it simply: this is a frustrating team to watch, especially as the clock dwindles down.
There was some good from the Raptors' wing on Wednesday however, as DeRozan did his best to win our hearts with this thorough oh-my-god-I've-lost-my-mind posterization of Rudy Gobert.
Save this one breakdown, Utah's defense was solid when it needed to be. Their length was impactful inside, as Jonas Valanciunas spent a lot of time looking out of sorts. Gordon Hayward also threw aside a slow start to finish with 17, including two massive three-pointers late. Derrick Favors had a double-double on 7-for-9 shooting, with 18 points and 11 rebounds.
The 7-6 Raptors will continue their five-game road trip against the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday.
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