The Toronto Raptors looked good for most of the first quarter, and for about four minutes of the fourth quarter, but they were pretty much terrible in every other minute last night. The result? A disheartening loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Raptors’ eighth loss in a row, one that leaves them out of even play-in position now in the standings, with a schedule that is about to get much, much tougher.
It’s getting really, really difficult to have much hope for this season.
Guess we may as well start there.
1. Is This it? I Think This is It
I suppose I’m not fully ready to just give up — I don’t think I’ll ever fully give up on the Raptors as long as Kyle Lowry is around. (And no, I don’t think they’ll trade him this week.) But I don’t think the Raptors are going to make a move up the standings now; I think this is just who they are, and although a play-in game is still a possibility, that’s about as much as we can hope for. And even if they were to get past the play-in, they’ll be easy first-round fodder; the Raptors’ halfcourt offense is too ineffective to compete in the postseason.
It’s tough to watch. We’ve had seven years of winning! We were spoiled. We’re not used to this.
But also, as we’ve said many times, this is a fake season with the Raptors playing on a fake home court and none of it matters. I can’t really muster up the energy to give a damn, not until the team is back in Toronto.
I know I’m driving the “meme-as-subhead” thing into the ground, but since this entire season is a joke, why not keep going for it? Because this keeps happening, and it just makes me want to do this over and over.
The “this” here is every team, including and especially the poor-shooting teams, catching fire against the Raps. The Cavaliers were the 29th-ranked team in three-point shooting accuracy coming into last night’s game, and the 30th-ranked team in three-point makes per game. They were literally the only team in the league making fewer than 10 threes per game.
Naturally they shot 17-for-33 last night.
This is the same thing that happened against Detroit last week, and against so many other teams lately; the Raptors just aren’t good enough defensively anymore to play this pack-the-paint, scramble-and-recover defense.
I don’t know what the solution is, but what they’re doing now just isn’t working.
3. Inside Job
I know Jarrett Allen is an intimidating presence on the inside, but he alone does not account for the Raptors’ inability to get anything going inside last night. The Raptors were 21-for-43 in the paint, and shot almost as many three pointers (46) as two-pointers last night (49).
This is the Cavaliers. They have the 23rd-ranked defense in the league and the worst net rating in the league. But the Raptors simply could not generate anything going to the basket, and the offense overall is stagnant. The Raps ended up with just 19 assists on 37 made field goals; the ball just isn’t moving enough. Which is a huge problem, especially when you start three point guards!
I don’t have the solution is here either. The Raptors can’t generate quality offense, can’t get rebounds, and can’t guard the three-point line. Something’s got to give!
How did the Raptors come out of halftime so flat? There were some shenanigans between Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell and Colin Sexton at the end of the first half, the sort of thing that should have woken the team up and galvanized them to put these junior Cavaliers away.
Instead it was Sexton who got fired up, leading the Cavs on a 14-2 run to open the second half. The Raptors, meanwhile, just looked… listless. The five starters were excellent as a group on Friday, and they started out well enough in the first quarter last night, but somehow fell asleep at halftime.
Only the insertion of Patrick McCaw and Stanley Johnson into the rotation seemed to help. But let me tell you this…
5. Johnson-McCaw is Not The Solution
Remember Nick Nurse saying he was going to find a rotation and stick with it for a few games to see what his players could do in consistent minutes? Malachi Flynn and Paul Watson seemed to be the players that were going to have those consistent roles, a rotation that lasted all of… 1.5 games.
Last night in the third, Stanley Johnson replaced Watson in the rotation. And then Patrick McCaw came in for Norman Powell. Those two stayed on the court into the fourth, along with Aron Baynes and Malachi Flynn; you’ll be shocked to hear that the Cavs went on a 11-2 run during that stretch before OG Anunoby and Fred VanVleet came back.
I get that Nick was searching. But abandoning the idea of a consistent rotation that quickly? And this is nothing against Johnson and McCaw, per se, who actually played pretty well, but playing Baynes, Flynn, Johnson and McCaw together in a game when the offense couldn’t get anything going? That’s an oddball move for sure.
I’m tired, folks. Tired of watching this dumb season, and tired of trying to figure this team out. Tired of trying to ignore the “trade everyone” talk, and the “Siakam sucks” talk, and the chatter about the refs. It all sucks! And there’s still nearly two full months to go! There’s plenty of time for this to get even worse.
Obviously, I hope the team can turn it around. And yes — there are still nearly two full months to do it! But at some point, like the man said, “you are what your record says you are.” And the Raptors are eight games under .500.