Raptors lose 13th straight

Following a 100-87 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the Toronto Raptors have extended their losing streak to 13 games. With a record of 13-37, the Raptors appear to be stuck at the bottom of the Eastern Conference for the foreseeable future with only the the Cleveland Cavaliers, the team with the NBA’s worst record, below them.  Expectations were low for the Raptors this season, but certainly not this low. This calls for an explanation of why the Raptors’ performance is so dismal this season.

Without Bosh, the team already synonymous with poor rebounding and defence was sure to lose out in those areas. Unfortunately, the Raptors’ struggles have been far more complicated than simply one missing big man.

The Raptors’ defensive woes are not restricted to any area of the court; they’ve been unable to defend against all types of scorers. This is shown in the opponent’s field goal percentage, where the Raptors rank last in the NBA at 48.4%, after ranking 19th last season with opponents shooting 46.8%.  This decline is visible on the court, as the Raptors are clearly lacking effort on defence.

A lack of effort is precisely what gets coaches fired, however, so head coach Jay Triano has been singing a different tune. Triano has aggressively defended his players and has blamed himself for overworking them due to injuries to key players.

But one has to wonder if the injury excuse that has been used is truly legitimate. None of the Raptors’ most talented players—Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson, DeMar DeRozan, or Jose Calderon—has missed extensive time due to injury. In fact, of those four, only Bargnani and Calderon have missed any games due to injury, and with just 13 games missed for the two of them combined it seems clear that the best players have for the most part stayed on the court for the Raptors.  Injuries to important role players like Linas Kleiza, Reggie Evans, and Leandro Barbosa aren’t insignificant but they certainly shouldn’t have been devastating.

The Raptors have faced some injuries, but not enough to give them a pass for their pathetic performance this season. The team looks lethargic on defence and has shown an uncanny ability to blow leads late in games and completely give up after a poor start. These are symptoms of bad coaching, and as a result Triano is certainly in the hot seat.

However, the Raptors were finally able to snap their disastrous streak against the lowly Timberwolves this past Friday. It took Andrea Bargnani’s 30-point performance to power the Raps over the Timberwolves. Following the game, DeRozan said, “It feels great—I’m glad we got the monkey off our backs.” There will probably be a few more losing streaks this season, so DeRozan should enjoy the win while he can.

Although there may not be a consensus on the cause of this mess, one thing is abundantly clear: the end to this dreadful season can’t come soon enough.

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