The Toronto Raptors look like a team that’s thrown in the towel.
With last night’s loss to the Detroit Pistons — the second-worst team in the league, who by the way have swept the Raptors 3-0 this season — the Raptors have now lost 14 of their last 16 games, and they look lost, frustrated, and tired.
On the one hand, I don’t blame them; this is a ridiculous and pointless season, as we’ve discussed many times. On the other, the lack of effort, especially on the defensive end, is pretty glaring. One only need to look as far as the other side of the court last night, to see a bad Pistons team of young, mismatched parts — but that’s playing hard, playing physical, moving the ball and playing together.
The Raptors don’t have that anymore.
1. No, Seriously… these guys!?
No disrespect to Dwane Casey’s squad, who, as I said, play hard. But how is it the Raptors can transform this otherwise mediocre Pistons team into world-beaters?
This terrible team shot 7-for-11 from downtown in the first quarter and never let up. Inexplicably, the Raptors immediately tried to go zone in the second quarter, which never a good way to slow down a hot three-point shooting team — and naturally the Pistons hit a three on their first possession of the frame. Oh, and then Rodney Hood fouled Hamidou Diallo on a three-point shot on the next possession.
That all came as part of a 25-6 Pistons run. 25-6! Against the Pistons! The Pistons hit 100 points with 10 minutes to go!! Argh.
I get it, every bad team has their night. The Raptors just had one against the Denver Nuggets.
How is it that the Pistons have theirs every time they play the Raptors?
2. Is This How it Ends?
The Raptors’ body language was especially bad last night. Sure, they were on the second night of a back-to-back, are still missing two players and every game is a road game. But the amount of barking at each other that we saw last might was a new high.
A lot of visible frustration for the Raptors right now. Back to the joylessness of a few weeks back.— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) March 30, 2021
I get it, especially for guys like Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet, who have high standards and expect their teammates to play up to them. But it still sucks to see. It’s an indicator to me that the Raptors are about ready to give up. That’s usually how it happens: you play hard, but the results aren’t there; you start bitching at each other because the results aren’t there; the bitching doesn’t change the results; and then you stop playing hard.
The Night Fans Started Rooting For The Raptors To Lose.— (((Eric Koreen))) (@ekoreen) March 30, 2021
3. Rough Night for Pascal
I’m not gonna go too hard at Pascal Siakam for last night’s game, an objectively bad performance in which he scored only 14 points on 14 shots and fouled out in only 28 minutes. But it was the second night of a back-to-back, and as Leo Rautins said on the broadcast, Siakam apparently lost 10-15 pounds when he was out due to the health and safety protocols; it’s gonna take time to to get back into shape. We also don’t know if Siakam tested positive for COVID-19 or had symptoms, but if he did, we’ve heard enough stories by now of how long it takes some individuals to get their wind back.
All of which makes me wonder if it might have been better to give Siakam the night off? Neither he nor Fred VanVleet have missed a game since coming back from the protocols, and while I appreciate that effort as a fan, I also have to believe they’re not fully in game shape. And it doesn’t really make sense to risk their long-time health at this point.
4. This was Fun!
Hey look, it’s Gary Trent Jr. with a sweet dish!
That's sick, @gtrentjr pic.twitter.com/dMt8InOK7C— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) March 30, 2021
There wasn’t much to cheer for last night, so we’ll take it, right? Trent had his best scoring game yet as a Raptor, finishing with 15 points (including three three-pointers) and tallying five assists. I do think that, with time, he’ll be a great fit alongside OG Anunoby, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet. He’s got good defensive chops and working with the Raptors coaching staff, he should be able to expand his offensive game.
Hopefully the next two months won’t completely turn him off of wanting to stay with the Raptors!
5. I Can’t Believe We’re Subjecting Kyle to This
Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled, personally, that the Raptors didn’t trade Kyle Lowry last week, and I still believe that if a good deal wasn’t there that it was the right (non-) move.
But man, do I feel bad for Kyle, that he has to go through this. He deserves so much better than this. And I do wonder if management’s “let’s wait for the offers to come in at 3:00 p.m.” approach was misguided.
After all, if you’re going to keep Lowry, doesn’t it also follow that you should put the best possible team around him? But by waiting until the end of deadline day, the Raptors didn’t do that… in fact, they didn’t do anything except get worse (by trading Norman Powell for Trent, who at this point in his career, is an inferior version of Norman Powell).
Yes, doing right by Kyle was important. But there should have been a way to do right by Kyle and improve the team. Because it isn’t really fair to Kyle to keep him and make him play for a crappy team.
The other day I said management’s inability to improve the centre spot was a rare black mark against Masai Ujiri, but now I think this a second one. Kyle Lowry deserves better.
If the Raptors somehow manage to win Wednesday against the Oklahoma City Thunder, they improve their record this month to… 2-12. On the one hand, it could be worse:
Some historically bad Raptors month...— Blake Murphy (@BlakeMurphyODC) March 30, 2021
2-15 in Jan 2011
2-11 in Feb 2002
1-14 in Nov 1997
1-15 in Nov 2005
March 2021: 1-12 with 1 more to go Wed. https://t.co/LBD6d9oUTm
On the other, there are still two months to go.