They said there would be days like this.
Well, it was actually Dwane Casey that has repeatedly warned that the Toronto Raptors would have days like the one they had on Sunday.
It’s just that after such a positive start to the season, it still seemed like the Raptors had a shot to finish mid-table. It looked as though they would be able to hang around and steal a win or two.
But after another loss on Sunday in which they were run out of the gym by the Los Angeles Clippers, who were playing without all-star point guard Chris Paul, it has become apparent that we should take Casey at his word.
“If there is anybody in the room who didn’t think we were going have nights that were tough this year – I know you are all good writers and good reporters, you knew that,” Casey said to the media after Friday’s loss to the Portland Trail Blazers. “And I knew that.”
Over the course of the Raptors current eight game losing streak, they have been behind after the first quarter in every game.
“Our starts have been horrendous,” Toronto coach Dwane Casey said after the loss in Los Angeles. “We compete harder in practice than we do to start the games. That is nothing against the Clippers. They’ve got a very solid basketball team, and they are going to be in the money at the end of the day.”
With the team’s leading scorer Andrea Bargnani out of the line-up, much of the attention has been focused on DeMar DeRozan’s current slump which Casey feels is unfair.
“He’s a young kid. The expectations for DeMar were way, way too high,” Casey explained. “Yes he’s talented but I think everyone was expecting him to come in and play like an all-star and to be honest, I had high expectations but I didn’t have expectations of him playing like an all-star.
“Does he have the talent to do that? Yes. Are we going to work with him and push him? Yes.”
DeRozan started the season strong – averaging over 18 points per game while shooting over 50 percent from the floor during the team’s first six games- but he has struggled since.
Casey said teams have been adjusting their defences to account for DeRozan after his stellar finish last season and quick start to this season.
“They’re really really sagging off the four and the five. Almost like they are sending a man and a half to him.”
And that may in part explain some of his shooting issues as well.
“He is not getting as many clean looks and when he does get a clean look, that’s when the confidence factor comes in,” Casey explained.
Those struggles have been exacerbated by the absence of Bargnani who opens the floor up for the rest of the team.
“Andrea just makes it so much easier,” DeRozan said.
Things should get easier for DeRozan starting on Tuesday as Bargnani is expected to be back in the Raptors line-up when they face the Phoenix Suns in the second game of their current five-game road trip.
Bargnani has missed the team’s last six games, not coincidentally all losses, and he was back on the practice floor Saturday in Los Angeles for the first time since being hurt. On Friday, Casey believed that he would return by Monday at the latest.
Clearly he cannot return soon enough for a team that has lost eight straight games.
NOTEWORTHY: If it seems like the Raptors are playing a lot of zone defence, that is because they are.
As USA Today noted recently, the Raptors play zone defence the third most in the NBA.
The article says that the Golden State Warriors use the zone in 10.3% of their plays, followed by the Charlotte Bobcats (9.3%) and the Raptors (7.5%).