Article Written by Rodrigo Albizurez (@rodzyalbizurez)
There are 8 games left in the regular season for the Toronto Raptors to figure out their true potential and to take the next step. Can they realistically take the next step and find the next gear in 8 games? This is the point where you start contemplating if they can or not and spiral into Raptor conspiracy theories on why they won’t. Raptors fans are so fragile like that but lucky for you, I’m going to keep it real like Dallas Green and play the grand optimist role. There’s enough negativity in the world, so here’s some reasons to why they will figure out.
First, the Raptors have already figured out the winning formula but implementing that formula every game is the issue. Their main problem is that the Raptors haven’t had a healthy roster all year and that’s taken a toll on their coaching staff due to the fact their rotations have been all over the place. Steddy Freddy has been out for a fair share of games all year and same with both Kyle Lowry and Kawhi Leonard. Those 3 guys are your main dudes that keep the boat afloat. Imagine losing your head chef, sous chef and your dishwasher for 2 nights of the week and expecting to keep the restaurant afloat; it’s probably not happening. Yes, I threw in the dishwasher because that role is important for the entire restaurant. Without the dishwasher, you’re eating off paper plates or napkins!
Now, for the Raptors, they have had other guys step up like the Most Improved Player front runner, Pascal Siakam and the 3-point assassin, Danny Green. These guys have been in the lineup all year long and they’re in line to get the bag in the offseason. Without these guys, the Raptors would be a 4th or 5th seed in the East right. Now that Kyle Lowry has returned to the lineup, the Raptors will be at full strength barring any unfortunate injuries in the last couple weeks of the season. With a healthy roster comes great responsibility but endless power (Spider-Man quotes rule).
But in all seriousness, the Raptors at full strength is one of the key ingredients to their winning formula because everyone brings something different to the table offensively and defensively that can only impact their chances at winning games in the playoffs. If the Raptors can stay healthy during the final 8 games of the season, they will finally be able to fully develop what every couple in their first few dates - and more importantly an NBA team - needs to compete for a championship, chemistry. Don’t get it twisted, they already have chemistry because I’ve never seen Kawhi smile so much. But with their full roster intact, they will be able to figure out the little things that will keep the drive alive during the grueling playoff season. Another great man also said, “with more chemistry, comes less turnovers.” Alright so no one said that, but I just did. With that being said, reducing turnovers is the next ingredient in the winning formula, and for this particular situation, less is better for the Raptors.
Turnovers are an awful part of the game of basketball but a great option at McDonald’s. You can never go wrong with an apple turnover with a classic black coffee, but we can all go without a careless Raptors turnover. Turnovers are apart of the game and they always will be, but the Raptors need to minimize them if they want to contend for a title. If you have been watching the Raptors play the past couple weeks, you have seen a rise in turnovers;careless ones especially. Most of them come after a great defensive possession in which they turn the opposing team over, but only to give them the ball back within 10 seconds! The Raptors could have blown the game wide open with all these opportunities, but they keep giving teams opportunities to get back into the game with all these gruesome turnovers.
During the two games against the Thunder, the Raptors turned the ball over way too many times and almost coughed up a game in OKC when they were up 19 in the 4th quarter. They lost their second matchup to OKC because of turnovers and their lack of trust in each other. The Raptors are at their best when they are swinging the ball and finding open shooters. When they have a high turnover rate, especially in the first half, the lack of trust in each other dwindles and they refer to iso ball in the 2nd half. That’s my opinion on why the Raptors are so iso heavy in the 2nd half of most games during this 2 week stretch. If they can limit the turnovers, they can continue to trust in each other that the person will find them in their ideal spot without having to force passes and commit turnovers. Like I said in the above paragraph, a lot of these turnovers have to do with team chemistry and having inconsistent lineups. Once fully healthy, we should see the Raptors at full form and committing less turnovers because players will know who they can expect on the court at all times and in certain situations.
You are still going to see some iso ball because Kawhi is pretty dominant in those situations, but you’ll continue to see him kick it out when he gets double or triple teamed. If you look at this season, the Raptors have turned the ball over at a high rate all year, but again that’s due to inconsistent lineups. Some turnovers are just dumb, but that’s just a part of the game. Mental errors are always in play, because no one is perfect. The Raptors don’t have to be perfect in regard to turnovers, but they have to be better than the opposing team.
These last 8 games are super important for the Raptors to gain the chemistry they need to take the next step. A healthy roster and less turnovers will give the Raptors the opportunity to compete for the NBA Championship. These last 8 games and the playoffs are their canvas and whether they come out with a finger or Picasso type painting is completely up to them.
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