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Raptors Slide Lets Nets Back Into Race

The Raptors slide continued in Charlotte on Martin Luther King Day for 1 win and 3 losses in a rough week while the Nets returned from London to defeat the Knicks to go 2-0 over the same period and get back into the Atlantic Division race.  Brooklyn now sits just 2.5 behind the division leading Toronto Raptors.

“Right now we have a bunch of guys that are giving in to fatigue and nicked-up,” Head Coach Dwane Casey said.  “It’s a long season, but again you tell a lot about who you are in these situations.

“Young players don’t understand how much energy it takes to play 82 games.”

A week ago Saturday, the Raptors defeated Brooklyn 96-80 to stop a Nets 5-game winning streak.  Then Toronto defeated Milwaukee 2 days later to go 2 games above .500 and take a 4.5 game lead in the division, but with 4 games in 6 days and a couple of players injured, the Raptors were about to take a tumble.  First it was a brutal display of shooting that led to a close loss in Boston.  A bounce-back win over Minnesota followed by loses to the Lakers and Bobcats on the back-to-back for a 1-3 record against 4 sub-.500 teams.

The loss to the Lakers was especially tough because the young Raptors were seduced into a D’Antoni style pickup game that gave a bad defensive team a chance to win.

Los Angeles Lakers Media Day
Raptors Get Seduced Into A D’Antoni Game

For some unknown reason, the Raptors find ways to lose in Charlotte.  This loss is hard to explain other than the Raptors – once again – lost their focus just long enough to hand another victory to the Bobcats and just like their last game against Charlotte, Monday’s game did say a lot about the Raptors.

Charlotte Bobcats Media Day
Bobcats Define Raptors in 104-102 OT Win

For the second game in row against the post-Rudy Gay era Raptors, the offensively challenged Bobcats dropped 100 points on Toronto.  At some point, those of a more superstitious nature are going to start believing in a Bobcats’ curse.

The Raptors did claw their way back from a 30-deficit to close to with 1 point and had 2 chances to tie the game at the end, but happy endings just don’t happen for Toronto in Charlotte.  This kind of finish has occurred before and far too often.

SAC_Hayes_ChuckChuck Hayes set a new season high for points and rebounds with 12 and 13 for the double-double as the Raptors bench once again was the strongest part of the rotation.  Greivis Vasquez had 15 points, 7 rebounds and 9 assists and was a +23.  The bench contributed 44 points against Charlotte.

The Nets buried the Knicks 103-80 on Monday to create some space in the Atlantic Division.  New York, Boston and Philadelphia are all now at least 5.5 games back of Toronto.  This has become a 2-horse race, a race that may be decided by a January 27th game in Brooklyn that will break the season series tie between these 2 teams.

The Raptors young players have a game every other day to the end of the month.  Coach Casey is going to get a good look at just how much energy they have.

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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