Though it may have felt like it was going to last forever, as the old adage goes, all good things must come to an end.
This was Toronto’s final game before the all-star break, and while entering the mid-season respite riding a 16-game streak would’ve been really nice, the loss shouldn’t diminish the accomplishment of putting together the longest-ever winning streak by a major Canadian professional sports team.
With that said, the performance the Raptors put up Wednesday night, while scrappy, was rather uninspired, to say the least.
Here are a couple takeaways from Toronto’s streak-ending loss in Brooklyn.
Could’ve used more scarves
Hey Raptors, what about scarves?
Or mittens? Or a space heater by the bench? Or just about anything to help warm this team up, because the Raptors’ shooting Wednesday evening was, to put it nicely, frigid.
The Raptors shot an abysmal 37.8 per cent from the field and 30.2 per cent from three-point range. When compared to the 50.4 per cent from the floor and 40.6 per cent from deep the team was shooting during the 15-game streak, it really puts into perspective why the Raptors finally lost.
Over the course of Toronto’s previous 15 games, it was customary that when one or two guys had an off night, others would seamlessly step up and fill the void. That didn’t happen Wednesday, as Pascal Siakam (6-for-17 from the field), Kyle Lowry (4-for-13), Terence Davis (0-for-6) and Patrick McCaw (1-for-6) were all dreadful shooting the ball.
Specifically, the two Raptors who will be playing in the big game this Sunday, Siakam and Lowry, were quite bad. Siakam left a number of shots short and went 1-for-6 from deep. Lowry, who did impact the game in other ways by dropping a game-high 12 assists and collecting a team-high 11 rebounds, got himself into foul trouble and seemingly tried to goad and irk the officials – who had established a whistle that wasn’t apparently favourable to him – every trip down the floor, like that was going to help matters more.
But as poorly as the Raptors shot the ball, and as tilted as the officials’ calls against the team may have seemed to Lowry, the Raptors were always in the game Wednesday, just barely knocking on the door before Brooklyn would then pull away and create temporary separation.
This was because if there’s one thing that’s defined the Raptors this season – streak or no streak – it’s been their commitment to the defensive end of the floor.
The Nets only shot 40.9 per cent from the field and 25.7 per cent from outside themselves, and that’s a credit to the Raptors’ defence.
Additionally, the Raptors had a guy with a hot hand in Serge Ibaka, who finished with 28 points on 10-for-17 shooting, including five three-pointers made. This was arguably Ibaka’s best offensive performance of the season, and while defensively the team was there, the rest of the squad just couldn’t provide enough support with their own shot-making to help with some of the load Ibaka was carrying.
And this is why, even with all the goodwill built up with the winning streak, this loss does leave a bit of a sour taste in the mouth. Parts of the Raptors’ winning formula was there, they just didn’t hit enough shots to get to that usual win condition.
A needed break
As mentioned before, this game was the final one before the all-star break, and if Wednesday’s performance was any indication, the Raptors really need this time off.
With the exception of Lowry and Siakam, players now have eight solid days off before the they get back to action on Feb. 21 and begin the final stretch towards the post-season.
During Wednesday’s game, a number of Raptors were leaving shots short – Siakam most noticeably – with players committing silly turnovers either because they were a little too slow making cuts or even recognizing open guys in the corner. In other words, this was a tired-looking group that, not unlike you the day before you start your vacation, was probably more or less looking ahead to any number of plans made over the next week.
Of course, there are no excuses here and fatigue especially isn’t much of a reason to play poorly, but that does seem to have been the case Wednesday, as off-putting as it may be to hear.
But with this game behind the Raptors, the R&R that’s to come will expectantly get them back and fully healthy. It’s been stated that Marc Gasol will be back after the break and hopefully this extra time off will help accelerate Norman Powell’s return to the floor, too.
It’s not even just injured players this time off could help. Any additional rest for Lowry – even if it’s less because he’s participating in the all-star game – has to help, as the fresher he can be entering the playoffs, the better Toronto’s chances.
The vacation time could also do wonders for a young player like Davis, who is the only Raptor to get into all 54 of Toronto’s games this season. He’s already played 20 games more than what he saw during any of his four years at Ole Miss. The grind of the NBA season is among the toughest things for rookies to adjust to and it wouldn’t be surprising if Davis was feeling that now.
Like everyone else, sometimes even professional athletes need time to get away to recharge and come back to work strong.