After rattling off four convincing wins in a row sans-Kyle Lowry, it would appear as though the Raptors’ hot streak has fizzled out. Since then, the team has dropped a pair of games against two Eastern Conference rivals: the Philadelphia 76ers and Miami Heat. Granted, the Raptors have played three games in the last four nights, so fatigue may have played a considerable factor in the team’s recent skid.
Nick Nurse’s rotations as of late have also been puzzling. Far too often, we’ll see a lineup with multiple players who can’t shoot, and it halts any offensive flow the team had gathered up to that point. Last game against the Heat, for example, Nurse inserted both Stanley Johnson and Patrick McCaw on the floor at the same time, and it wasn’t pretty — immediately, the Raptors gave up the lead and momentum, ending up with a ten-point deficit at the half. It’s not that McCaw has made any outrageously, explicitly poor decisions; rather, it just feels like his sheer presence on the court instills confidence in the opposition.
Meanwhile, Pascal Siakam played 42 minutes against the Philadelphia 76ers on Tuesday night, and it seemed to have a detrimental impact on his performance last game. Pascal appeared frustrated from the jump, getting caught up in foul trouble early on and never finding his rhythm — hopefully we’re in for a different outcome tonight, after a day of much needed rest.
The Houston Rockets are reeling. John Wall, Victor Oladipo and company have lost nine of their last ten games, and the team currently sits at 14th in the Western Conference. Not so coincidentally, these losses have heavily coincided with the injury of their surprise star, Christian Wood, after putting together a considerable win streak prior to his ankle sprain. Here’s to hoping the Raptors can take advantage of a crumbling Houston squad and get back on track.
Tonight’s game details:
Where to Watch:
TSN, 7:30 PM EST
Toronto – Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam
Houston – John Wall, Victor Oladipo, Danuel House Jr., Jae’Sean Tate, P.J. Tucker
Toronto – N/A
Houston – Dante Exum (Out – Calf), Christian Wood (Out – Ankle)
Lowry’s Back… For Now
Thankfully, it looks like Kyle’s thumb injury (and accompanying brace) isn’t bothering him too much. He was incredibly efficient from the field in his return against Miami, and he remains the most vital member of the team. Yes, the Raptors rattled off a series of impressive wins without Lowry, though I posit the rest of the team simply took it upon themselves to step up their effort in the wake of Kyle’s absence.
On another note, there have been rumours flying around the Twittersphere regarding Lowry’s desire to part ways with the Raptors and join his hometown Philadelphia 76ers prior to the March 25th trade deadline. While these rumours have yet to be substantiated by any reliable sources, it would not surprise me if the Raptors decide to do right by Kyle and let him compete for another championship this year.
I feel like I’ve said this on numerous occasions (as we all should), but I urge you to please appreciate Kyle Lowry while he’s still a Raptor. The day where that statement no longer holds true is quickly approaching, and by then it’ll be too late. Every charge, every pull-up three in transition, every intelligent pass… soak it all in. Soon, Fred VanVleet will take on the role of running the offense full-time, and as good a player as he is, nobody leads this team quite like Kyle.
Matty Ice Cold
What’s going on with Matt Thomas? He should be shooting the ball every opportunity he gets, yet he often pump-fakes instead, squandering the few opportunities that present themselves. As of late, when he does indeed take threes, he’s been missing them — badly. Over his last ten outings, Thomas has hit just 1-of-12 three-point attempts, a far cry from his 47.5 percent from three last year.
However, I can’t place the blame solely on Thomas’ shoulders. His minutes vary wildly from night to night, and if you remember Jonas Valanciunas’ tenure with the Raptors, you’ll know that inconsistent minutes can lead to inconsistent play. If Matt’s leash were a tad longer, I would expect to see an uptick in confidence; however, he’ll need to show something — anything — to earn those minutes.
That said, if Matt’s teammates can’t find him for open looks, he shouldn’t be playing. The only reason he should ever be on the floor is to take (and, hopefully, hit) threes. Why even have him out there if Nurse isn’t going to adjust the game plan to get the ball to Thomas on the perimeter?
Take Care of Business
The Raptors have had some inexcusable losses this year. Poor showings against bad teams like the Sacramento Kings, Atlanta Hawks and Minnesota Timberwolves have become somewhat of the norm this season; that trend cannot continue if the Raptors want to earn a top seed and prove that they’re a force to be reckoned with by the end of this shortened season.
I’d like to be clear: the Houston Rockets are not good — at all. In fact, according to their record, they’re one of the bottom four teams in the league. Of course, this will likely change with the return of the blossoming Christian Wood, but he’s out tonight. With the Raptors hovering around .500 in an Eastern Conference where only one game separates the fourth and eighth seeds, this team needs every win it can get.
Tonight, a prime opportunity to get ahead of the pack presents itself. Hopefully Kyle’s return, coupled with a day of rest, can lead to a refreshed, hungry Raptors team.