Who are the real Toronto Raptors? Are they the they the team that started the season 22-6? Are they the team that got beaten by an Andrea Bargnani led New York Knicks? Are they the team that manhandled the far and away best team in the east the Atlanta Hawks? The team that grinded out a full strength San Antonio Spurs team? Or are they the team we’ve seen this past week. A team completely and utterly decimated two games in a row in-front of a fiercely loyal and raucous crowd.
Perhaps it has to do with the change in mindset. Much of the team last season was a group thrown together as stop-gaps in preparation for a long rebuild. Together they found a perfect blend of chemistry and rallied around an underdog mentality. This was represented in their first round playoff series in 2014 against the Brooklyn Nets. The Raptors, relative playoff virgins, were squaring off with aNets team with eons of playoff and big game experience. With that hunter’s mentality the Raptors fought tooth and nail straight to the bitter last seconds.
This team however is expected to be here. Perhaps this led to an heir of complacency. The Raptors aren’t playing an extremely experienced team save for Paul Pierce. The Washington Wizards on the surface seemed like a decent matchup for the Raptors with a subpar offence and bench. This hasn’t been the case. In game one, the Wizards made the Raptors look like the 2012 Charlotte Bobcats. In game 2 the Raptors made the Wizards look like the Showtime Lakers.
The two straight losses aren’t even the whole story. If the games had both been close heartbreakers, we could afford some forgiveness for the team. However the team was completely and utterly outclassed in a vast majority of both contests and wilted in the face of any adversity they faced. When the Raptors forced overtime in game one, their offence flatlined in the extra period practically handing the game to the team from the DMV. In the second quarter of game two, when the Wiz made their inevitable run, the Raptors pretty much gift-wrapped the rest. Simply put – getting destroyed on your homecourt is embarrassing, and it has made the Raptors the laughing stock of the league. And the Raps don’t seem the care.
Another troubling sign was the Raptors basically letting the Wizards disrespect them with little to no consequence. Case in point the antics of the ultra-salty sharpshooter Bradley Beal. In game one after getting Lowry to bite on his 6th and final foul, Bradley Beal gave him a sarcastic send-off.
And in game 2 after hitting a shot on the Raptors comatose defence, Beal had some choice words for Lowry.
There was no response to any of these incidents by Lowry or the team. Now no one is saying that the team should have started a northern version of the “Malice at the Palace”, but the fact that these incidents didn’t serve to light a fire under anyone is very indicative of the team’s current state. No heart, no fire, no passion. And then there was this:
Paul Pierce shouting on the way to the locker room after #wizards Game 2 win: "I don't want to go through customs no more."
— Michael Lee (@MrMichaelLee) April 22, 2015
After complete and utter humiliation on their home court we should expect a total change in mindset. The return of the fearless team we saw later last season and early this season. The team no one could ever count out on either end of the floor. A team that in both victory and defeat left everything on the floor, fueled by the ultra-competitive Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.
Maybe we won’t. Maybe the Raptors we’ve seen in the first two games are the real team exposed. Maybe the Raptors really do lack ‘it’.The point is, the real Toronto Raptors are an enigma. An enigma that will soon be revealed Friday night in a do-or-die game in hostile territory.