Forgive the sense of deja vu here, but the Raptors just had a week they’d rather forgot. In Week 13 of this summary, the Raptors had just got 1-3, with largely inexplicable losses. Now here we sit a week after that, the Raptors have just got 1-3 again, with, you guessed it, more inexplicable losses. It’s concerning.
As you can imagine, the Power Rankings Industrial complex is ready to drop the Raptors right the hell down the list. After being in the top five for most of the season, Toronto is suddenly being second-guessed as a contender. And while we know they were never really that close to tackling the back-to-back challenge of the Cavaliers and Warriors, they were in the mix. Now though, it is getting easier and easier to see them lose in the opening round of the playoffs. Not saying it will happen that way, but I’m nervous.
I’d insist that we can look to the Rankings for some comfort this week, but guys: it’s bad news all around. Let’s just get this over with.
First up, the undertaker Marc Stein of ESPN is here with a few parting words:
10. Toronto Raptors
2016-17 record: 29-19
If it has been a woeful 2017 for LeBron James and his Cavs, how would you describe what's going on with the team folks are counting on to give Cleveland its stiffest challenge in the East? The Raptors have lost six of their past seven outings -- the last three of those defeats coming by a combined five points to San Antonio, Memphis and Orlando -- to clinch their first losing month since March 2015. The only hints of consolation: Kyle Lowry is up to six 30-point games for the season after just eight last season ... and DeMar DeRozan (ankle) is back from a three-game injury absence.
It’s a sad thing when you realize the “hint of consolation” is also a hint that Lowry may get burned out (again) by the end of the season. The sense of deja vu grows stronger.
But the young worry not of the past, they look only to the future. What say you Jeremy Woo of SI?
9. Toronto Raptors (29–19)
Last Week: 8
Net Rating: +6.0
Despite the Raptors’ midseason blues, Kyle Lowry seeing himself on the Jumbotron was my favorite weird moment of the week:
Kyle Lowry saw himself on the jumbotron and acted like a little kid pic.twitter.com/xwYk6bsZy1— The Crossover (@TheCrossover) January 30, 2017
See? He’s having a great time.
As always, we need to bring things back to earth here with some sober analysis from our leading minds. To wit: Dr. John Schuhmann of NBA dot com, what’s the diagnosis?
9. Toronto Raptors (Last Week: 6)
Pace: 98.0 (20) OffRtg: 111.9 (2) DefRtg: 105.8 (17) NetRtg: +6.0 (3)
The Raptors have lost six of their last seven games, but went down to the wire without DeMar DeRozan against two good Western Conference teams - San Antonio and Memphis - last week and broke out of their offensive slump with DeRozan's return in Sunday's loss to Orlando. They have lost their last five games that were within five points in the last five minutes, going for two when they needed three in the final seconds against the Spurs on Tuesday and missing three threes for the lead in the final minute in Memphis on Wednesday (when maybe they should have gone for two).
This one... it stings. Not to go all Hubie Brown on you here, but we know the Raptors are who they are at this point. We know they’re going to fight to the end. We know that Kyle Lowry is gonna work hard. But these close losses are killing me.
10. Raptors (Last Week: 6)
I thought the Raptors had stabilized. Their defense had crawled back into the middle of the pack and they were coming off two tough but pretty good losses to San Antonio and Memphis. Then they turned around and lose to Orlando at home. So much for that idea. They face the Celtics this week in a game that could put them 1.5 games back of the 2-seed they held for months before Sunday's loss to the Magic.
Let this be a lesson to you: Don’t ever take anything for granted, like, say, for example, a lead early in the second quarter of a game against the Orlando Magic.
I need to lie down.