Toronto Raptors limping into the playoffs

Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas of the Toronto Raptors guard Pau Gasol of the Chicago Bulls late in the game on March 25, 2015.
David Cooper/Toronto Star via Getty Images

By Erik Stewart

The second half of the season has been nothing short of a disaster for the Toronto Raptors. Their star point guard, Kyle Lowry, has been battling injury after injury, and is currently out again, this time with back spasms. They’re losing games to lesser opponents. They’ve gone from a title contender to Shaqtin’ a Fool champions.

The Toronto Raptors have clinched a playoff spot, but it’s not the way that they wanted to. After losses by the Celtics and Hornets, the Raptors were able to back their way into the playoffs, but with the way that the team has been playing, it’s tough to get excited about a postseason birth.

They’ve gone 6-13 since the All-Star break, with embarrassing losses to the Knicks and Pistons. They failed to beat the Bulls in four tries this season, which is certainly not a good sign when it comes to playoff time.

It’s not just the losses that are concerning, but it’s the way that the Raptors are losing. Dwane Casey is known as a defensive coach, but the Raptors defense has been their biggest problem. The Raptors rank 23rd in opponents points per game, behind teams such as the Knicks and 76ers.

The amount of silly mistakes are making the losses even harder to swallow. Who can forget DeMar DeRozan missing a breakaway 360-dunk against the Knicks? Or his most recent pass to Joakim Noah, who he mistook as a teammate, as he stood on the Bulls bench? Then there was Lou Williams hoisting an incredibly long three pointer with a chance to tie against the Pistons, a shot that was so far back that his heels were touching the Pistons mid-court logo. Oh, and that was done despite the Raptors still having a timeout at their disposal.

Luckily for the Raptors, their final ten games are very favorable. They’ll play just one team with a winning record (Houston) to close the season, so they’ll have every chance to get back on track. Also, if the playoff seeding remains the same, the Raptors would finish fourth in the Eastern Conference. That would set them up with a first round matchup against Washington, a team the Raptors went 3-0 against this season.

In order for the Raptors to have a chance at a deep playoff run, they need to take advantage of this very manageable schedule that they close the season with. They need Kyle Lowry to return fully healthy. But most of all, they need to start playing smart. No more blooper reel plays, no more lackluster defensive efforts. It’s said that coming into the playoffs hot is one of the biggest factors regarding postseason play, and the Raptors have the perfect opportunity to turn on the heat.

 

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