Article Written by Rodrigo Albizurez (@rodzyalbizurez)
As game #29 was being played without the Raptors superstar, Kawhi Leonard, I thought to myself “How have the Raptors lost 7 games already”? This thought stuck around my head for most of the first half and I quickly pieced the answer together towards the end it. Most basketball fans and experts would blame Lowry’s scoring output during those games, or even the lack of 3 point shooting throughout the year. You wouldn’t be wrong if you mentioned those two facts, but I wouldn’t say those are the keys to our losses. In fact, it would be the Raptors’ rebounding that has hindered them during those 7 losses. If the Raptors want to the keys to drive the NBA finals bandwagon, it’s imperative that everyone on the team focuses on getting those 50/50 balls and boxes their man out.
The Raptors have had an impressive start to the season, there’s no doubt that. They have the best record in the NBA. Now, if you still have your doubts at this point in the season, then that’s perfectly normal because every loss feels like the Sunday scaries and they’ll haunt you until it’s over. Every Raptors’ win feels like a Friday night due to the fact that you feel loose and ready to put on the dancing shoes and cut a rug. For the Raptors to minimize the Sunday scaries, they’re going to have to keep their rebounding in check. The Raptors have done a decent job, at best, during their wins and have done an atrocious job during their losses. It doesn’t even come down to them being out-boarded by 15 like they did vs the Pelicans, but it comes down to the timely rebounds that hurt you the most. For example, the Raptors during those losses kept themselves in those games for the most part by playing lights out defence. But what’s the point if you’re not going to finish the possession and give the opposing another opportunity? That has to hit a nerve with the Raptors’ coaching staff because you can fight as hard as possible on the offensive end to stay in a game, but if you’re not going to hit the boards on the defensive end, you might as well pack your things and head to Mexico for an early vacation.
The Raptors have gotten away with their lack of rebounding vs .500 teams because the opposition just doesn’t have the talent to execute down the stretch. But when it comes to elite teams, the Raptors have to make a conscience effort to hit the boards with force. To be honest, the Raptors’ defence has been lights out all year during the opposing team’s first possession. But when they cannot grab the defensive board, it ended up opening up so many great looks for the opponent. If the Raptors could finish their defensive possessions, it’ll open up many more good looks for them on the offensive side of the court. They’re already one of the best transition teams in the NBA, and that’s scary considering how many defensive rebounds they leave on the table. Imagine seeing more of Pascal Siakam on the fast break, either finishing the play with a rim rocking dunk or a pass out to an open shooter like Danny “Money” Green! They did a great job as a team rebounding against the Clippers because they forced them to take tough shots like they have with every other team. By committing to finish their defensive possessions, they were able to attack the ball in the air and run the fast break. The Raptors were able to play with a lot more freedom, which translated in open 3 pointers and rim rattling dunks.
The Raptors have more than enough offensive talent on their team to take them to a certain stage of the playoffs. But if they plan on taking the Eastern Conference and dethroning the reigning NBA champions, they have to commit to the rebounds. It’s also true that they will only go as far as Kyle Lowry takes them, but he’s a Pitbull and he will do whatever it takes to put the Raptors in a possession to win, and that includes going into the trees and rebounding the rock. To dethrone someone who has dominated the NBA kingdom takes more than talent, it takes grit and nonstop effort. If the Raptors are serious about making a serious title run, you’ll see a lot more Raptor players fighting for rebounds and loose balls, because that’s what it takes to be the best. It’s the little things that define your true character and we will see what the Raptors are made of.
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