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The Toronto Raptors Are in the Danger Zone

The Raptors are down 0–2 to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Is it time to blow it up in the North? Or does this core have ‘More Life?’

By Charles ManiegoPublished 7 years ago 3 min read
Getty Images//NBA.com

The Toronto Raptors have their back against the wall (not John Wall). They fell to a 0–2 series deficit against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday night. It was the second straight game in which the Raptors went down big, with the Cavaliers leading by as many as 25 points in Game 1. In Toronto’s Game 2 loss, they saw a deficit as big as 30 points — so yeah, Toronto has trouble keeping up.

In Game 2, Toronto had trouble getting any sort of offense going outside of their point guards. Demar DeRozan was held to 5 points on 2-11 shooting. Role players P.J. Tucker, DeMarre Carroll, Patrick Patterson and Norman Powell combined for 11 points on a depressing 4-18 shooting. Toronto’s offense came mostly from the trio of a hobbled Kyle Lowry (20 points), Jonas Valanciunas (23 points) and Cory Joseph (22 points). Cleveland isn’t exactly known for its defense — they ranked bottom 10 in defensive rating in the regular season — but they neutered most of Toronto’s offensive attack.

The Raptors have simply looked out matched.

The Raptors have consistently been one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference. With a core of DeRozan-Lowry-Valanciunas, Toronto has been a perennial Eastern Conference LeBron sacrifice team. But therein lies the problem. It’s a LeBron-led conference. Soon, it could be an Isaiah Thomas-Markelle Fultz-Jaylen Brown led conference (an audible groan could be heard from me).

With Cleveland in control the attention now shifts to Toronto, with Games 3 and 4 played in front of the raucous Toronto crowd. Sources at The Unbalanced have not confirmed if Drake will be at the games. Toronto will try to avoid the sweep in the next two games. The losses have made the Raptors humble after defeating the Go-Go-Gadget arm Milwaukee Bucks.

Judging from Games 1 and 2, Toronto might not have a chance.

The Raptors tried to gain a competitive advantage by acquiring Serge Ibaka prior to the trade deadline. Still, the addition of the former All-Defensive player has not been able to swing things for the Raptors. Toronto still plays in a mid-range shot heavy system, often with plays revolving around Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozan taking turns in attacking the defense. It has been effective at times, but defenses have succeeded in containing the two-headed attack in Raptors losses.

Looking to the offseason and aftermath of the playoffs, Toronto has some big decisions to make. They’re almost similar to the Los Angeles Clippers — as both are at a crossroads. They’re good teams, but either injuries or LeBron have deterred their chance for ascension. Serge Ibaka will be a free agent this offseason. So will Kyle Lowry. Role players P.J. Tucker and Patrick Patterson will also test the market. Re-signing Lowry and Ibaka could put Toronto over the dreaded luxury tax limit. Jonas Valanciunas has also been part of Raptors-fan trade rumors as well — with the addition of Ibaka, the Raptors could commit to going small in the future.

Will Masai Ujiri commit that much money to a team that isn’t a true contender?

And of course, there’s Dwane Casey. Ever since joining the Raptors as head coach in 2011, he has been on the hot seat seemingly every season. Casey has fought through adversity, but an uninspiring playoff series loss could change his fortune.

Much like Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, the Toronto Raptors could be at a crossroads. Currently, they’re in Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone. After two big losses in Cleveland, Toronto will try to shift momentum their way. If they look good — this core may live to see another day. But if they fail to compete, there could be several Raptors leaving “The North.” While the series outcome may be inevitable, some Raptors’ players (and their coach) could be fighting for their future.


About the Creator

Charles Maniego

Basketball, Society, Science & Medicine. Unbalanced.🍦🔬🏀🤼 ✈🤷🤙🏽


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