Around that same time, the Raptors hit a dead spot in their otherwise excellent season. They can still easily end up in the Eastern Conference’s number 2 spot behind Cleveland and find themselves playing in the ECF for a second straight year, but since January 18, their struggles deserve mention.
Losers of six of their last seven, Toronto has fallen to lesser teams in blowouts and close games, including last night’s 114-113 loss at home to the Orlando Magic. This just adds to the frustration and confusion of the team’s terrific fanbase after losses to Philadelphia and Phoenix. But again, these losses to the three teams listed above were by a combined total of five points!
Specifically, the Toronto offense has fallen from its unsustainably-high peak: at one point, the Raps had the highest offensive rating in the entire NBA, which is astounding considering the work being done by the Warriors and Rockets. The last seven games, however, Toronto has the lowest field goal % in the league, the second-worst 3FG%, third-worst offensive rating, worst eFG%, second-worst true shooting%... you get the idea.
All-Star starting guard DeMar DeRozan missed three games with an ankle injury, but he returned against Orlando and is expected to play against the Pelicans. While he was out, Kyle Lowry picked up the slack with some big scoring nights over the last four games with 30, 29, 32 and 33; he’s had many big fourth-quarters this year, too, ranking third in the league in 4th-quarter scoring. Really, Lowry i the guy who makes them go despite the All-Star starter nod for DeRozan.
As an Illinois basketball aficionado, I can relate this directly to the famous Dee Brown, Deron Williams and Luther Head 2004-05 team that lost two games, including the National Championship game to UNC. Brown was Sporting News national player of the year, Big Ten player of the year and defensive player of the year and is generally recognized as the most famous athlete in Illinois history, post-Dick Butkus. But Williams was the guy who made them go - there was a reason he went third overall in the 2005 NBA draft.
I’ll do anything to drop this little guy in anywhere I can:
[Wipes reminiscent tears away]
The point here is Lowry makes this team go.
Others and avis
DeMarre Carroll has been relegated to more and more time outside the 3-point line, shooting 57 percent of his shots from behind the line, way up from past years. When he shot 39.5 and 39 percent in the past seasons, this would have been fine, but his percentage is down slightly and he’s had some bad games recently. Between him and Solomon Hill, there’ll be quite a bit of standing around from the small forwards.
I like Terrence Ross off the bench; he’s my instagram avi, in fact! He’s a willing shooter from all over the floor and is a surprising shooter from mid-range. E’Twuan Moore will probably spend time chasing him around screens, but this guy is generally a 6th Man of the Year candidate thanks to his scoring ability. Ross went off for 51 like forever ago... okay, 3 seasons ago... and you never know if he’ll do it again.
If Anthony Davis and gang can pull this one off, that would give the team yet another win against a top-tier opponent. So, which Pelicans team will show up? Will the Raptors get back on track? Find out Tuesday: the game will be on Fox Sports New Orleans and 99.5 FM radio kicking off at 6 p.m. local time.