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Numbers Game: It’s Been a Rough Stretch for Toronto

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To say the least.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Chicago Bulls David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

The past few games for the Raptors have been... unkind. Over the past seven games, the Raptors have garnered only two wins (against the Jazz and Lakers), but the issues go far deeper than that.

Over the past seven games, the Raptors rank:

14th in Offensive Rating (ORTG - points scored per 100 possessions)
28th in Defensive Rating (DRTG - points allowed per 100 possessions)
23rd in Net Rating (RTG - point differential per 100 possessions)
30th in Assist Rate (AST Ratio - assists per 100 possessions)
30th in Defensive Rebound Rate (DREB% - percent of available defensive rebounds collected)
29th in Effective Field Goal Percentage (eFG% - FG% adjusted for value of three pointers)
18th in True Shooting Percentage (like eFG%, but also adjusted for value of free throws)

The Raptors have been a low assist team all year, and a poor defensive rebounding team all year. So those bottom of the league rankings are not concerning in and of themselves. But here is a comparison of the above statistics, comparing the first 30 games with the past seven.

Statistic | First 30 | Past 7

ORTG | 114.3 | 108.0
DRTG | 104.1 | 112.8
RTG | +10.1 | -4.8
AST Ratio | 15.6 | 12.8
DREB% | 73.8 | 72.4
eFG% | 53.2 | 48.9
TS% | 57.7 | 54.9

Down across the board, including being significantly worse in the two weakest areas for the team on the year, passing and rebounding on the defensive end.

But Why?

Assuming the team isn’t simply much worse than it previously was, there’s got to be some reason for the struggles. There are two obvious candidates.

First, Patrick Patterson missed four of those seven games, played only eight minutes before getting injured in a 5th, and played only 22 minutes in the most recent one coming back from injury (in other words, really only played in the first game, against Golden State). Patterson has been a key cog in the most effective lineups the team has rolled out, from the always good Lowry plus bench unit (+24 net rating in 148 minutes) to the should-be-starting unit with Patterson in Siakam’s place (though mercifully we’ve seen others in his place at least — the unit with Patterson has a net rating of +28 in 124 minutes). Losing a guy like that will always hurt.

Second, this has been a pretty brutal schedule of late. Of those 7 games, 5 have been on the road, mostly as part of a tough West Coast trip. There have been two sets of back to backs, both with travel between games, one of which ended with one of the two home games the Raptors were lucky enough to have in this stretch. Finally, the competition has been pretty solid. Golden State, San Antonio, Utah and Houston are 1st, 2nd, 7th and 4th best teams by net rating in the league. Overall the 7 recent opponents average out to a +3.3 net rating, which would rank 8th in the league (essentially playing a team midway between the Celtics and Jazz every night, on the road and with back to backs).

Silver Lining

There is indeed one. Two actually! Those two issues above? They are going away fast.

Patrick Patterson returned from injury last game, and although the team lost and still didn’t look great with him out there, his return should help the team field lineups that it is more familiar with and which have had success.

And the schedule gets really easy from here on out. The Raptors’ schedule ranks 6th most difficult in the league so far this season (per basketball-reference.com), and really starts to look soft for the foreseeable future. Eight of the next 12 are at home, seven of the 12 are against below .500 teams, with another two coming against teams at or barely above .500 (only the Celtics, Spurs and Grizzlies pose a real threat in the upcoming weeks). For the rest of the season, the Raptors’ opponents have an average ORTG of 103.9 and an average DRTG of 105.4 (a point differential that projects to less than 37 wins).

Based on those two simple things, there’s no reason for fans to panic about the recent poor play — yes, they’ve played poorly, but the deck has very much been stacked against them in more ways than one, so they’ve looked worse than they really are. Let’s hope the team can re-focus and get back to the success they built earlier in the year, including the top offence in basketball through the first 30 games and the 4th best defence in December after a rough start on that end.

Stats per NBA.com unless noted otherwise.