One more tuneup to go before the Raptors return to the playoffs. Is the team ready? It doesn’t look like it. Not with teams – even horrible ones like Milwaukee – consistently shooting 50% from the field against Toronto. The team has slipped into a tie with Washington for 9th in defensive rating and has also fallen to ninth in opponent’s effective field goal percentage, a Dwane Casey and Masai Ujiri favourite category. This is all troubling.
- However, this has always been a team that feels it can turn it on and off. That’s a dangerous way to live, but we’ve consistently seen bad starts or quarters get erased by dynamite fourth quarters. Maybe these guys have been easing in to the post-season, just doing enough to play out the dog days of the regular season, confident that when more is required, they’ll be able to summon that extra effort. Count on the Raptors to collectively raise their games when the games get serious again. Or at least count on them to try to do that.
- On the bright side, while the defence has floundered, Toronto’s offence has been sizzling. Only five teams have a better offensive rating in March and April and Toronto’s 115.2 offensive rating in April is by far the best in the NBA. One of the main reasons the offence has been so productive stems from high assist numbers and a low turnover rate.
- Kyle Lowry and Greivis Vasquez have a lot to do with that. Lowry’s back to his All-NBA caliber form following his brief rest period. He scorched Milwaukee when the game was mildly in doubt, and appears to be able to attack the rim whenever he wants to, something he was having a bit of trouble with when the minutes piled up in late March. Before he got his break, Lowry compiled 17 assists and 17 turnovers in the four games before sitting down. In the four since, Lowry has posted 21 assists, just six turnovers and averaged 26.5 points per game.
- Vasquez might have had his best game of the year against Milwaukee and has 18 assists and just eight turnovers over his past five games. He’s shot 17-for-28 from three (61%) over that span. No. 3 point guard Nando de Colo also has helped the offence surge, posting 13 assists against just three turnovers over his past four games,
- Said it on Twitter and will repeat: No problem with raising the banner Monday night to celebrate winning the Atlantic Division. A bit of a gimmick? Meh, the great franchises don’t have to do it because they have a long history of success. The Raptors don’t, so why not celebrate this? It’s an achievement, even if it was won in a down year with Philadelphia and Boston happier to lose games than win. Plus, this group won’t be back next year, Masai Ujiri likes to make moves, some of the pieces will change, so waiting until the opener next October means a team that got here by being a true team, won’t have all of its pieces on hand to celebrate the achievement.
- Jonas Valanciunas in April: 18 points, 11.7 rebounds per game.