The Raptors have added a third division winner banner to their sparse collection and that should be celebrated, even if the division is the worst in the NBA by far. The problem is this second-half free-fall has made it tough to throw a party about the accomplishment. The Raptors did that to themselves by playing so poorly after the best start in team history.
After the Raptors beat a bad Lakers squad on Friday, head coach Dwane Casey tried to provide some perspective:
“We’ve dug ourselves a hole, (actually), I wouldn’t say we’ve dug a hole – we’ve qualified for the playoffs, which was one of our goals at the beginning of the season. We have an opportunity to win our division (this was before the game) … It’s not all gloom and doom, other than the way we’ve done it. We’ve done it more with offence than we’ve done with defence, which wouldn’t be my preference, but we kind of got it done,” Casey said.
“We’ve faltered here of late but not totally gloom and doom … not all is dead and sad and gloom and doom in Mudville.” Doom and gloom was a theme for Casey, he repeated the phrase often.
- I’ve honed in on the troubling trend the past two months or so of players like DeMar DeRozan, Greivis Vasquez and Lou Williams insisting that everything would come together for the club and all of the bad play and losing would be forgotten if they only played up to their potential one time. Casey has always insisted that no such magic wand exists, that you can’t snap your fingers and get the ship righted automatically. It just won’t happen and the coach said he things we might have gotten what the players were trying to say slightly twisted.
“One game will help. A few games will help even more, but you just can’t flip a switch in this league and go from a bad defensive team to a great one,” Casey said. “We’ll get better. I think the playoffs, will hopefully, with the preparation, get us more in tune with what we’re doing. You’re not going to go from flipping a switch, if that’s what we’re thinking. I think they mean it to just get some confidence. I don’t think they’re saying we’re going to go from where we are to great defensive team. I think it’s going to help our mojo to get this gloom and doom (off) us.”
- Casey also talked about the team’s near NBA-worst defence: “It’s a lot of things, I’m not going to get into details, we’re not playing good defence, there’s a lot of culprits. It’s not from a lack of effort. Guys are trying, they’re working at it, more mental probably than it is physical. It’s some physical, but they’re trying.” He also said the defence wasn’t as bad as it looked late against Chicago, adding that the Bulls made some incredibly difficult shots.”
- As for the game, the Raptors did enough to get it done and said afterward that they should enjoy the accomplishment of winning the division and should dwell on something positive for once. No disagreement, they just have to remember there is plenty of work – and improvements to be made – still to be done. Even though the Lakers are bad, winning without Kyle Lowry and with DeMar DeRozan going 1-for-10 from the field (he actually played a strong game, aside from the shooting) this was a good victory and a very needed one.
- The team played James Johnson and good things happened. Johnson made a big impact and was named player of the game with 17 points and a team-best +11 mark.
“James has been great, going from playing a lot to not playing at all, to come back when we need him, he’s a great pro,” said Lou Williams afterward.
- Casey said Lowry is still not ready to go. The team is going to be more cautious with him down the stretch than it was the past two weeks, to make sure he is as close to 100% as possible for the playoffs.