By Frank McLean
Olay, olay, olay, olay, the question Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey was asking after Sunday’s loss to the Orlando Magic was “Where did their defense go”?
The Raptors lost the game 114-113, but as the old saying goes, ‘The score was not indicative of the way the game went.’ The best way to describe the way they played defense was like a bull fighter, an olay defense.
After leading by nine points at the end of the first quarter the Raptors trailed by nine at half time after allowing the Magic to go on a 21-2 run in the final 5:45 of the half. The Magic run put the Raptors in a large hole to try and comeback from in which they ran out of time and lost by just one point.
The lack of defense was the frustrating part of this game for the Raptors who should not have lost like this to a bad Magic team.
No disrespect to the Magic who came into the game 18-30, but they did have the riot act read to them on Saturday by their coach Frank Vogel after they as he said “didn’t show up” for their game Friday night in Boston where the lost by 30.
After the game Casey was lamenting that he couldn’t find five guys who could defend and as a result had lost six of their last seven games.
The answer to the problem might be over in the Magic locker room with Bismack Biyombo. The Raptors have yet to find a consistent replacement for him and yes that is a factor to why they are struggling with their defense.
Biyombo went on with the local media Sunday on what went right for the Raptors last year.
“I don’t think we play for any other reason than to find a way to get three stops out of four possessions and I think that’s what made us to be a great defensive team last year. I understand that the whole team relied on me to guide them. (Jonas Valanciunas) is a great player and I’m sure that they’ll find a way. Lucas (Nogueira), they are all great players, I know they (took) a step back, but you can only hope before the playoffs they can find a way to catch up to that because when the playoffs start, that’s when things really matter and I can only hope for them to get better.
“They have enough to get it done”, Biyombo added. “Hopefully they get to repeat the same thing that we did last year or go further, because the fans here deserve it more than anything. They came out, they supported the team every night, they bring the great energy and you’ve got to work with them, they work with you.”
So what do the Raptors do to correct the problem?
Well with the trade deadline coming up do they make a trade or look at a solution within?
Jarred Sullinger was brought in over the offseason to fill Biyombo’s role on the roster, but he is working himself back into game shape after a foot injury in the first preseason game kept him out the first two months of the year.
Lucas Nogueira is trying to grow into the role, but he is still green and is a work in progress.
If they go the trade route where do you go?
Nikola Vucevic of the Magic could be available. He had a 25-and-10 game Sunday going three-for-four behind the three point arc. It’s believed he was put back in the starting line-up for the purpose of showcasing him.
And of course there is DeMarcus Cousins of the Sacramento Kings. He is a powder keg for sure with an explosive personality and a noted coach killer.
At the NBA D-League Showcase last week I came across my sources with the Kings organization. They said they thought Cousins could thrive with the Raptors for two reasons.
One, Dwane Casey is a respected coach that Cousins would not try to push around.
And two, he played with DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry with USA Basketball at the Olympics and he respects their leadership and their spot in the Raptors locker room.
Regardless, the defense has to be fixed or a long playoff run could be jeopardy.
Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson