I first off apologize for not having written in the DNB for what seems like ages (10 days). I tried a couple times to write something and just never got to the finish line. How ironic is it that I find it hard to write about this team now as they are on the verge of a return to the playoffs. They just reached 40 wins for the first time since that guy left and took his talents to Miami. I see all the excitement in fans on Twitter and other forms of social media. I just am not in tune with everyone about all of this.
This team of late has played some of their most average basketball since the Gay trade that started all this turnaround. Perhaps the most note worthy piece coming back in that trade being out has been a part of that. Patrick Patterson according to the Raptors remains on schedule in his recover from his elbow injury. Whatever that means is a mystery to us as a clear timetable to a return has not been provided.
The Raptors miss Patterson but he alone can not be the cause of a fundamental breakdown in this teams rebounding. They have been pretty brutal most nights at that aspect and when you look at potential first round opponents for the Raptors that should legitimate scare you. It is a symptom of some larger issues with this team of late.
One thing that has been fairly consistent on the negative side of things with this team even when they have been winning is their lacklustre starts to games. It really has been disheartening to watch this team get off to horrible starts against teams that they are clearly better than. It makes a night that should be an easy night at the office turn into a long night at the office regardless of the outcome.
The Raptors also have fallen into the trap of playing to the level of their competition. How can a team that took OKC to overtime get completely pounded by the Cleveland Cavs? Well one of the reasons was the aforementioned lack of rebounding. However in general that was one of the Raptors worst road performances of the season. Toronto is only one of 4 teams in the East with a winning record on the road. Only Indiana, Miami and Washington join them above .500 in the East on the road.
The Nets who are in pursuit of the Raptors for the Division Title are just 14-22 on the road this season. They only have 5 of their remaining 12 games on the road though. This is in addition to only one of those being against a playoff team against Miami on April 8th. But shockingly enough the Nets have beat the Heat in all three previous match-ups. The Raptors will be seeing Miami coming up on their schedule shortly as well.
In looking at the Nets schedule it is fairly easy much like the Raptors down the stretch so the Raptors may need all of that two and half game lead they currently have in the Division. That lose to the Nets that would have secured the tiebreaker would be pretty nice to have right about now. Just 3 teams currently in the playoffs remain on the schedule for the Nets. This includes Miami as we mentioned a meeting with Houston next Tuesday and facing the Hawks two weeks from today.
Getting back to the point of the Raptors playing down to competition they better fix that issue as both they and the Nets have very easy paths to the end of the season in the last 5 games assuming this race is still alive for the Division. Toronto plays: Philadelphia, New York and Milwaukee at home and Detroit and New York on the road which that Knicks game is the final game of the season. Brooklyn meanwhile will also finish the season on the road at Cleveland and have one other road game at Orlando in the final five. Sandwiched in between those games is three game home stand against Atlanta, Orlando and New York.
The last and only time Raptors won a Division Title it didn’t help them much come the post-season as they faced the New Jersey at the time Nets and Vince Carter. In the end winning just 3 of your last 7 games and you most impressive outing was in a loss is not a good look for the Raptors regardless of who lies ahead of them in the playoffs.
It also has become painfully clear that Kyle Lowry is what wills this team to be different from past versions of the Raptors. He is, as everyone not living under a rock knows is the one guy without a contract for next season that Raptors don’t control. While all I hear is people telling me not to worry that things are different now seeing is believing to me. Even if the Raptors get Kyle Lowry’s name on a contract signed will we get this type of performance from him in the future? Raptors were convinced Jose Calderon once upon a time was worth 10 million a season and was the future for them at the point guard position. He had a spectacular run that ultimately ended with a disappointing playoff loss in 5 games to Orlando Magic. This Raptors team could be on a similar path to that one in terms of the playoffs. They could end up getting that match-up that everyone says is the best one for them against the Wizards and find a similar fate. Kyle Lowry against John Wall will make for a very interesting match-up one that Raptors fans would give the advantage to Kyle but Wall is a former top pick for the Wizards and like the Raptors has never got to taste what the Playoffs are all about.
In the end Raptors fans have been caught up in this magical and unexpected season while I personally have looked beyond it and see ghosts of Raptors past failures staring at me in the face. Should I just be naive and ignore all the signs I am seeing that this might not be the start to some great rebuilding project for the Raptors? I sometimes feel I should as it would save me a lot of headaches but I have always done one thing for six years of doing this and that has been trying to be honest as I can about my feelings and impressions of this team. While all of this gets classed as negative by people, I point out I have been one of the few that has always been a supporter of DeMar DeRozan. While some of you who will remain quiet now wanted DeRozan traded and to build this team around Rudy Gay. Yeah that would have gone well.
I never ask you to believe me or share in my opinions. If you want to be excited about this team’s turnaround go ahead and enjoy it. All I ask is that if it doesn’t turn out as the magic carpet ride to success you remember who the person was that was telling you that long before all the other people praising this team pull a 180 degree turn and act like they were. At the end of the day I don’t want to be right it would please me just as much as anyone to see this team finally having some sustained success.