Back from my Olympics sabbatical where last week I seemed to be operating on very little sleep. Raptors still have Kyle Lowry and for the most part have been winning. They made a small move at the deadline of little significance. In fact surprise, surprise as I often tell you the deadline was underwhelming in general as it often is.
The temptation is too happy with the Raptors after all they are winning and have played some decent basketball since the All-Star Break. Still their starts to games have to be a source of concern. They have been slow out of the gate consistently. This might be able to be overcome in the regular season against teams of similar talent or less talent but will not fly in the playoffs.
This is really how we need to start evaluating this team to some extent. It would take an epic disaster at this point for the Raptors to not be in the post season. Where they fit in that playoff puzzle is still very much up for debate. They do look like the class of their Division though at this stage despite the Nets trying to make some improvements at the deadline. Point being you need to start looking at the things the Raptors are doing and ask yourself how that would translate to the playoffs.
Perhaps a little review on what playoff basketball is like is in order here. After all it has been awhile for all of us right? Playoff basketball is much more defensive in nature that is something I think almost everyone can agree on. The reason for this is you play the same team every night until someone has 4 wins and it is over. That leads to another important thing that needs to happen is adjustments from game to game and even quarter to quarter. In this sense while the Raptors play in the first half of games has been poor they have made solid adjustments and played much better basketball in the second half when games are won and lost.
In addition the playoffs are a grind almost every possession. The concern here for the Raptors is there shot selection as relates to the three point shot. They need to understand when to be taking them and the situational impact of when they are taking them. As an example in one of the recent game Raptors were up 11 and it was mid-way through the fourth quarter. They decide to take a three with time left on the shot clock. First you need to use as much time as possible to protect your lead. Second when up double digits likely makes more sense to go inside and look for a higher percentage two than chucking up a three. They also need to understand when it is not your night shooting the three or when things have cooled off when it is. Think of it like going to a casino in which the odds are designed for you to lose. The three point shot is the same thing it is not designed for you to make more than you miss. So you need to understand that and realize the mentality of just keep shooting goes against logic. The smart player knows when to take the risk that is a three point shot and get the most out of it.
The greatest concern might be the play of the Raptors big men which has been fairly inconsistent and you see the toll of an NBA season taking hold on guys in a significant way. It has been pretty clear the type of team that causes the Raptors the most trouble. It is a team that has size and is physical especially on the glass. The Raptors lone loss came to a team fitting that description to the letter in the Chicago Bulls. They are perhaps the worst match-up for Toronto in the first round despite the two teams splitting the season series. A team that makes the best match-up is a team like Washington that is built in a very similar way to the Raptors but is a match-up that the Raptors have more overall talent to match-up.
In the end it is hard to fault Toronto for having a season in which they already have more wins than some would have thought they would have for the entire season. The Raptors have won 5 of their last 6 basketball games and while there has been some serious things lacking they still are getting the most important thing done by getting the result of wins. No one remembers how you do it but there is some signs on how you could fair in the playoffs on the next level .Those signs at the moment do not look as positive for the Raptors.
In past playoff series of recent memory against the Nets and Magic a lot of people saw the Raptors as the favourites in them. They would ultimately get exposed in both series and lose them in 6 and 5 games. This team the Raptors have could fall to the same type of fate if they get satisfied with just winning as crazy as that may sound. There is still a lot of room for improvement and the Raptors need to be aware and accepting of that fact.