The narrative for this Raptors season, 29 games in, is a story of total confusion. On one night the Raps are world beaters, on another they stoop to the level of their competition. Sometimes their bench players look competent, at other times, a disaster. We point to Kyle Lowry as the team's motivating force, but lately it's been DeMar DeRozan as the efficient engine. This and more was on display in this afternoon's game against the Kings. Most of the 104-94 loss just didn't make sense.
For even Raptors standards, the team got off to an atrocious start against the Kings--multiple turnovers, forced shots, a scoreboard that went up to 17-2 at one point, and a final tally of 37-18. The Raptors managed to shoot 33 percent in the first quarter, while the Kings, with a balanced offensive attack (in fact, noted Raptor killer DeMarcus Cousins only had three points), shot 65 percent. It was ugly, and sadly, familiar.
Fortunately for the Raptors, the Kings narrative also remains on brand. They're a semi-dysfunctional team, one with a lot of talent, but also a lot of ego clashes and hot heads. Case in point, after picking up his third foul, Cousins drew a technical (his coach, George Karl, grabbed one shortly afterwards). The offense that flowed so easily in the first, began to slow down, allowing the Raptors to creep back into the game. At the half, with Lowry sufficiently perked up, the Raptors were down only seven. DeRozan already had 18 points on 50 percent shooting. More importantly, the lead (which was up in the 20 point range for most of the half) did not feel insurmountable.
Ah, but not so fast. With the game just about to shift into "up for grabs" territory, Lowry instead got into an imbroglio with a referee, picked up two technicals and was ejected. For a team that was already playing thin, that was already thirsty for support from somewhere, anywhere, in the second half, the ejection of even subpar Lowry was a blow. Still, the Raptors finished the third quarter down eight then started the fourth quarter with a Cory Joseph, Terrence Ross, James Johnson, Luis Scola and Patrick Patterson lineup and managed to cut the lead to four. Weird again, right?
Unfortunately, the Kings still have DeMarcus Cousins, whose quiet foul-filled first half was a mere prelude to a noisy second half that saw him finish the game with 15 points, nine rebounds, five assists, two steals and a dunk that could charitably be called "soul eviscerating."
It was the kind of dunk that leaves you at a loss for words. Fortunately, Raptors coach Dwane Casey found some afterwards: "Well it's terrible, it's totally unacceptable the way we performed tonight." It was clear Casey is still trying to figure this team out just as much as we are, his frustration just on the tip of his tongue. "Again, this is a tough league and if we don't accept that then it's on us. Shame on us. The way you come into the game with that disposition of 'OK, we're at home, we're OK,' it's not OK. How many times do we have to do that before it smacks us upside the head and wakes us up?"
How many times, indeed. Without Lowry, and a quieter second half from DeRozan (10 points scored vs. 18 in the first 24 minutes), the Raptors did get big contributions from Patterson (18 points, 8 rebounds, 50 percent shooting) and everyone's favourite new starter James Johnson (14 points on 7-for-11 shooting, 6 rebounds, 2 steals) and even some pep from Terrence Ross (13 points, but, uh, 3-of-10 from 3). But the Kings stay the Kings, and there was just no way the Raptors could overcome the massive hole they'd dug for themselves in that first quarter. The game got emphatically pushed back out of "up for grabs" range and that was that--an inexplicable 17-12 Raptors squad heads on to the next one.
What did you guys think of the game?