toronto raptors

Things might get worse before they get better for struggling Raptors

Toronto Raptors forward Scottie Barnes put it pretty simply last night: they probably shouldn’t have lost that one. Or maybe the one before that. Or maybe the one before that.

“I feel like it was a very winnable game,” Barnes said after Toronto’s 124-123 home loss to the Sacramento Kings. “I feel like we should have won this one tonight,”

Per ESPN’s Win Probability meter, Toronto held as high as a 91% probability of winning last night’s game while holding a 16-point lead in the second quarter.

But the Kings clawed their way back, and Toronto was walked off the floor once again without many answers for their defeat.

With the loss, Toronto suffered its first three-game losing skid of the season, compounded with dropping both games on a two-game road trip in Orlando.

Toronto now sits 10th in the Eastern Conference with a 13-15 record. Trade rumours around the team are swirling, and it’s not hard to find people looking for the team to either tank the season or fire the coaching staff… or both.

But a little over a week before the league’s brief holiday break, they’re just 3.5 games out of fourth place in the conference.

With just two wins in their last eight games, the Raptors are in need of answers to fix their compounding list of issues, mostly highlighted by poor shooting and defensive breakdowns.

“We’re just trying to stay positive, get back at it tomorrow,” Barnes added. “We’ve got to see what we can do to fix things and just get better every single day.”

“Staying positive” and “getting back at it” is the right thing to say, there are no questions about that. But it’s a lot easier said than done.

Tomorrow kicks off a tough stretch for the Raptors over the holiday season, where they’ll be facing many of the NBA’s top franchises.

Nine of Toronto’s next 10 opponents have a winning record, with many occupying the top two or three spots in their respective conferences. The only team that is currently below .500 that Toronto will play between now and January 4? The defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors, who currently sit at 14-15.

Over the next three weeks, the Raptors could face off against Giannis Antetokounmpo, Joel Embiid, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant, Ja Morant, Kawhi Leonard, Donovan Mitchell, Kyrie Irving, and Devin Booker, amongst other stars.

And for Toronto to stand a chance, their consistency level will need to take another step up.

“I feel like we play a good two to three quarters of good basketball and then we just let up in one of the quarters,” Barnes admitted. “I feel like we just got to stay together throughout the process. It really just starts on defence and get those things right on the defensive end, take out those mistakes on the key possessions. I feel like we will be better.”

Barnes himself put up 27 points, while Fred VanVleet put up 39. But for the veteran point guard, it’s secondary to the wins and losses at this point.

“Individual performances don’t really matter when you don’t get the win,” VanVleet said. “There are some positives, obviously, but it doesn’t really matter if we don’t get the win.”

VanVleet emphasized film study as figuring out the Raptors’ issues, as well as everyone on the roster remaining locked in for whatever role they’ll be needed on the team’s upcoming stretch.

“You never know where you’re gonna go in,” he added. “And you got to stay warm, you got to stay ready and you know, hopefully, your first shot goes in and the rest will kind of open up for you.”

For Toronto, they can only focus on getting that first win in over a week before the next ones start coming. Tipoff is set for 7:30 pm ET tomorrow against the Brooklyn Nets.

Lead photo by

Sacramento Kings

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