Nurse said the team had a longer than normal post-game chat in the room, mostly about executing the game plan. "They're obviously not happy. It doesn't really matter. What matters is how you respond to it when the ball goes up next, and we're gonna have to wait and see on that."— Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) February 27, 2022
As with all young teams, consistent play is, well, inconsistent. The Raptors have now dropped four of their last five games, with three of those losses by an average of 29.7 points. When one of the core five is missing, the Raptors are an average team, hovering just under the .500 mark.
It’s important to remember that growth is not linear, and if a team is to reach its full potential, navigating and bouncing back from tough results like the last 2 is a necessary lesson to learn.
The Nets, who themselves recently snapped a double digit losing streak, are slowly making their way back into form. Kyrie Irving, who will not see the floor against Toronto this season, had 38 points in an impressive road win against Milwaukee on Saturday night. Seth Curry has scored 20 points or more in three of five games since joining. The Nets are undermanned, but playing with resilience and effort, something the Raptors have been missing since returning from the All-Star break. It should be another difficult game for Toronto. Here are the details for tonight’s contest.
Where to Watch:
TSN, 7:30PM EST
Toronto – Fred VanVleet, Gary Trent Jr., Scottie Barnes, Pascal Siakam, Precious Achiuwa
Brooklyn – Patty Mills, Seth Curry, Bruce Brown Jr., James Johnson, Andre Drummond
Toronto — OG Anunoby (hand – out), Fred VanVleet (knee – questionable)
Brooklyn – Kevin Durant (knee – out), Kyrie Irving (ineligible – out), Ben Simmons (conditioning – out), Joe Harris (ankle – out)
James Harden’s tenure in Brooklyn was a short one. The “Big Three” Nets played just 365 total minutes over 16 games thanks in large part in games missed through injury and vaccination status. The experiment in Brooklyn was spectacular when they played, but more often than not, they didn't.
With disgruntled former All-Star Ben Simmons, and a couple of great pieces in Seth Curry and Andre Drummond bolstering the depth of the team, the Nets (when healthy and available that is) have added some much-needed shooting and defense. Kevin Durant is days away from returning (may even return on the second game of this back-to-back) and If things work out for Irving, watch out.
Two steps forward, one step back
After a great run before the All-Star break in which the Raptors won nine of 11, they have followed it with two straight losses and in both games, were down by 30+. A combination of opponents playing with more hunger and better effort and Toronto simultaneously feeling fatigued and rusty. On Saturday night, Trae Young routinely, and with ease, beat players off the dribble to wreck havoc on his way to 41 point outing.
OG Anunoby is sidelined with a right finger injury. Fred VanVleet is questionable to play and is dealing with knee soreness. Pascal Siakam has been dealing with flu like symptoms. The Raptors are in the midst of a six-games-in-eight-days stretch, with three sets of back-to-backs, in which they face the 8th, 9th, and 10th seeds fighting for play-in position. Raptors are a strong team, but this is a this is a tough task for any franchise. And with just a quarter of the season to play, every game matters a bit more.
A bright spot
The last two games were not great team performances but there’s always a bright spot. Against Charlotte, Scottie Barnes put his stamp on the game on his way to a career high 28 points. On Saturday night, Precious Achiuwa showed some flashes of the player he could be. He shot an efficient 8-12, went 2-3 from beyond the arc, 3-3 from the charity stripe, and most impressively, was quick and decisive with his play.
In a game where Toronto lost by 27, Precious Achiuwa, alongside Malachi Flynn, were the only players with a positive plus/minus. Khem Birch, who played just 12 minutes, went scoreless and was non-existent in the outing, looking completely out of rhythm since returning from injury. Achiuwa has outplayed Birch in the last two, games and was a positive on the floor on both occasions. Let’s see if Achiuwa gets rewarded with a starting position in tonight’s contest.