Continuity was a word that was thrown around quite a lot this past offseason. The Toronto Raptors were supposed to be better. Dwane Casey was supposed to improve. The team was supposed to be able to fight through adversity and be ready for the playoffs. And yet, one year later, it all looks the same. The Raptors trail 1-0 to the Washington Wizards after a pitiful game 1 effort. Eerily similar to last season’s game 1 vs the Brooklyn Nets, Paul Pierce provided the punch as he continues to dominate Toronto. And once again, the Raptors have their backs against the wall, and come into a must-win game 2.
After seeing last game, it really is hard for me to continue to believe in this team. The issue was not the cold shooting, or the rebounding. It was the effort. In the fourth quarter, the Raptors absolutely destroyed the Washington Wizards when they needed to. Yet, because of cold shooting from their 3 top scorers, they couldn’t get it done earlier and it was too little, too late. This has been the story for much of the season.
For Dwane Casey, this game could be a turning point in his career. To be quite frank, if the Raptors can’t get out of the first round, there is absolutely no excuse for keeping him around. Masai Ujiri understands that, and we will have to hope that Casey’s adjustments are far better than they were in game 1. More Jonas Valanciunas, some James Johnson, and better match-up management is going to be much needed.
Kyle Lowry is another Raptor that has significant stakes in this one. People, myself included, are starting to question whether he can truly lead this team. I have backed the guy for the longest time, and even called him an MVP candidate earlier in the season. But the bottom line is that a leader doesn’t have games like that in the playoffs. He finds a way to get it done, regardless of whether his shot is falling or not. If Lowry can’t get it done, it will start to become clear that he isn’t the guy that can lead this team on a consistent basis. The bottom line is that if the Raptors lose this series, there will be significant changes this offseason.
To set the record straight, obviously I hope I’m dead wrong. I hope this team comes out firing and wins 4 straight games. Let’s see what happens tonight. But before that…let’s get to the Cage’s Keys to the Game
This is where the main issue stemmed. The rebounding was a result of the Raptors inability to contain the guards including John Wall and Bradley Beal. These guys carved up the defense, and forced the Raptors bigs out of position. As a result, they weren’t able to be in the position to grab the rebounds needed.
Can Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, and Terrence Ross do a better job this game?
I am not advocating a faster or slower tempo. What needs to happen is a tempo that will force the Wizards to adjust their gameplan. If they go small, slow it down and feed the inside. They go big, don’t give them a chance to set up their offense. More often than not last game, the Raptors played a pace that favored the Wizards.
Lowry, DeRozan, and Lou Williams account for over 50% of the Raptors offense. The Raptors’ fundamental problem is that they live and die by these guys. However, it’s too late to change that. So, all we can do is hope that they figure it out this game. And if they don’t, start moving it inside to the more stable offensive players, such as JV, Amir Johnson, and James Johnson.
X-Factor: Kyle Lowry
The Raptors need a better Lowry on both ends of the court. We have rarely seen the Kyle Lowry that the Raptors need post-all star break. Now would be the time to turn it around.