The Toronto Raptors are going into the second half of the season seeded 11th in the Eastern Conference with a record of 17-22 on the season, 3.5 games back from the fifth-placed Boston Celtics. Wins have been hard to come by, and if the Raps were in the West, they would be far out from the playoff picture. However, the East this year appears to be the scrappier conference, where winning is a battle of every possession, and where players diving on loose balls or taking charges is as sure as a bet with Bet365. Two years after their triumph over the rampant Golden State Warriors, the Raptors look like they are slipping back into the backbenchers of the East, but do not count them out just yet.
The Raptors no longer have Kawhi Leonard, March Gasol, or Serge Ibaka, plus they’re missing Danny Green as well – all four of which were instrumental pieces during the championship run. Players aside, the team does not even play in Toronto anymore, but they still have great chemistry between the top six guys on the roster, and some championship DNA.
Kyle Lowry is still the leader of the team, and even if it feels like the Raptors are slowly heading in a different direction, Lowry can still be a very influential player in whatever heights the Raptors are aiming to reach this season. The organization seems to be ready to build around a younger core, with Pascal Siakam more or less becoming the tip of the spear. The budding forward has not shown the kind of play that made him a name to watch out for in 2019, nor the one that made him an All-Star in 2020, despite a stretch of good outings that he had during early February.
The Raptors have been in a little slump lately, and that’s understandable given their missing pieces due to COVID-19 protocols. When the team was healthy before the All-Star game and finally broke the .500 mark, they boasted one of the best records in the league dating back to after their 2-8 start.
While their poor play over this stretch of games cannot be attributed to Pascal Siakam – mainly because he’s been out of the lineup – he was expected to be the new face of the franchise, and he has been far from his best.
Another facet of the Raptors’ struggle is playing outside Canada. Not being able to play games in Canada has been a drastic lifestyle adjustments that the players, coaches, and staff have had to make on the fly, which is surely impacting their ability to focus on basketball.
The Raptors’ next game takes place on Wednesday against the Detroit Pistons, where Toronto will look to take their revenge against Dwane Casey for the defeating loss that they suffered at his hands a few weeks ago, before heading back to Tampa on Friday to face the league-best Utah Jazz.