Raptors Wrap-Up: Ups and Downs

The Toronto Raptors we know and love are back. The team has reclaimed their status as an average NBA team with poor shooting and inadequate court spacing. However, this time around, it isn’t all bad. Throughout the games that make up their consistently even record, the Raptors have proven that fans still have a lot to be excited about. 

The Raptors’ longest winning streak this season is two games. Their longest losing streak? Three games. If you look at their recent games, the results are essentially a rollercoaster of win, lose, win, lose, win. So, what does this all mean? Are they playing well? Underperforming? Overperforming?

Let’s start with their game against Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving, and the Dallas Mavericks. Pascal Siakam finally broke out for the first time this season with 31 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists, leading the Raptors to an impressive victory.

But the Raptors returned to the loss column in the next game against the Boston Celtics. No Raptor played notably well in this one. Out of the Raptors’ starting five, only Jakob Poeltl shot with an accuracy above 43%, and Siakam scored the team-high with a mere 17 points.

The next game against the bottom-dwelling Washington Wizards was the most exciting Raptors game of the season. Trailing by 19 points at halftime, Pascal Siakam put the team on his back and carried them to the comeback win. He dropped 39 points with 11 rebounds and seven assists in the Raptors’ fourth-largest comeback in franchise history.

This win came without OG Anunoby, who suffered a finger laceration while doing chores. The Raptors have only ever had three wins when losing by 19 or more points at halftime in their history. One of those four victories was against the Spurs earlier this month, and the other was their recent game against the Wizards.

Of course, the Raptors stayed true to their brand of alternating between wins and losses, decisively losing their next game against the Giannis-less Milwaukee Bucks. Scottie Barnes led the team in this one with 29 points, nine rebounds, seven assists, and one steal. Barnes hasn’t let go of the throttle since the start of this season. In this four-game stretch, he averaged 18 points, nine rebounds, five assists, nearly three steals, and one block per game. His shooting efficiency has dropped off, though, as he shot a low 40.9% in those four games. 

The Raptors have a long way to go to prove to fans that they are a playoff team. Sure, they’re exciting, fun to watch, and have great players—but that isn’t showing in their results. They passed the test against the Mavericks but have yet to prove themselves against their competitors in the Eastern Conference. So far, they’re winless against the 76ers, and have lost games against the Celtics and Bucks in this four-game span. 

One reason for this is Pascal Siakam’s inconsistency thus far. He’s popped off in crucial moments this season, but he hasn’t been able to string together quality performances in back-to-back games – something the Raptors will need if they plan to go on a winning streak longer than two games. He might need more time to adjust to Darko Rajakovic’s system. Some even theorize that he doesn’t mesh well with Scottie Barnes on the court. Both hypothetical reasons can only be proved with the season’s progression.

The Raptors finally get into In-Season Tournament action in these upcoming weeks, with games against the Orlando Magic, Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls, and Boston Celtics. If the Raptors perform well enough against these teams to take first place in their tournament group, they will progress to the knockout stages. But finishing above the first-place Boston Celtics will be an extremely difficult task. 

These upcoming games will be a crucial test of how the Raptors handle the pressure of meaningful games, and if they have the tenacity to come out on top. 

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