By Frank McLean
If you told the Toronto Raptors at the start of their just completed first extended road trip of the season that they would go 2-2 and be 5-2 overall to start the season they would have signed up for that no problem. 5-2 is not a bad record especially when scoring points has been a bit of a struggle to start the season. 2-2, that’s just some road trip reality.
During the preseason coach Dwane Casey put the emphasis back on defense first. That was the Raptors way two seasons ago but they went away from that last season. After a fast start and the long injury absence of DeMar DeRozen the team got away from their defense first mantra and that was the main reason they were swept 4-straight by the Washington Wizards in the playoffs.
However, this road trip was a bit of a head scratcher.
The Raptors win the first 2-games in Dallas and Oklahoma City and as a result they go 5-0 to start the season for the first time in the 21-years they have been in the NBA. They started slow scoring points in the first half of both those games, but they had big third quarters and stole wins in 2-of the toughest places to win in the NBA.
Then they go to Orlando and Miami and lose their first 2-games of the year. Sunday night in a 96-76 loss in Miami they actually were able to score in the first half and had a 47-44 lead after 24-minutes, but Miami outscored the Raptors 30-16 in the third quarter and put the game away right there.
After Sunday’s game Dwane Casey had this to say about the game and how the season has started.
“We have to execute offensively,” Casey said. “We have established ourselves defensively, but they made some tough three’s. (Hassan) Whiteside had a big game with 20 points, which is out of the norm for him. But we will bounce back. We’re going to go back home and we will get back to work and bounce out of this.
“I didn’t get too excited when we were 5-0 and I’m not getting down now after a few stinkers, we are somewhere in the middle.”
The whole team right now is in a slump offensively. When your first unit is struggling you turn to your second unit to help you out and as of right now they can only relay on Cory Joseph. During the road trip Terrence Ross and Patrick Patterson went a combined 7-for-40 from the field and just scored a grand total of 16-points between them.
The Raptors offense is in a slump, but they have only played 7-games and they are 5-2. They are like a baseball team that isn’t getting hits from their number 2-thru-6 hitters in their batting order and baseball teams don’t usually win when the meat of the order can’t get on base.
And again the Raptors are 5-2.
This team has been built for playoff success, so it will be a work in progress all season. What you want is this team to start peaking around March and ready to carry that momentum right into the playoffs in April.
The Raptors are in their 21st season and their goal is to win a playoff round and that’s what this team is built to do.
Veteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.