The Toronto Raptors continue to be futile defensively as their losing streak continued against the New York Knicks AARON ROSE 35 MINUTES AGO
The Toronto Raptors came into the season boasting about their defensive talents. They swore they’d be a top-10 defense, an “elite” unit, as Jakob Poeltl put it. Just look at us, they said, loaded with versatile, rangy, and athletic defenders.
“I think this year (the) NBA should save themselves (the) worry and give our starters five awards for being (the) best defensive players,” Raptors coach Darko Rajaković joked in October.
And yet, almost inexplicably, the Raptors have been a bad defensive team.
A 136-130 loss to the New York Knicks on Monday night was just the latest example of how futile this team is defensively. Worst of all, it’s the starters who are the biggest issue for the Raptors who watched the final seconds tick away while New York ran up and down the court icing the game with little-to-no resistance from Toronto.
Coming into Monday night, the Raptors had a defensive rating of 116.1 over their last 10 games. For context, that would rank 24th in the NBA for the season, just ahead of the Detroit Pistons.
“You just got to play harder. Trust in our rotations,” Scottie Barnes said earlier this week. “Those are probably two main things, being able to trust in the rotations that we work on every single day and just come into the game playing hard.”
It shouldn’t be that difficult to play hard, but somehow Toronto’s starters have been unable to get stops early in games. Against New York, the Raptors gave up 22 points in the first six and a half minutes before the bench checked in. In fairness, Julius Randle was hitting some tough turnaround jumpers, but still, it the Knicks had no trouble finding a groove against Toronto.
It wasn’t until the second unit checked in that the Raptors found any sort of a rhythm. Malachi Flynn nailed a tough layup to tie the game up at 28 late in the first and looked solid helping to orchestrate the offense alongside Scottie Barnes early in the second.
The offense’s inability to make shots has only worsened Toronto’s defensive woes. Long rebounds off missed threes lead to easy transition opportunities far too often and the Raptors’ 5-for-22 three-point shooting in the first half against New York only made the situation worse.
Toronto’s defense didn’t look much better to start the third quarter until Rajaković called a quick timeout. That seemed to spark the Raptors as OG Anunoby went on a personal 7-0 to give Toronto the lead, scoring 15 of his 29 points in the third quarter thanks to three made three-pointers in the frame.
But even when Toronto was hitting shots, the defense couldn’t get stops. The Raptors shot 56% from the field and 6-for-11 from three-point range in the third but still allowed New York to rack up 32 points in the quarter. Randle just continued to dominate, tallying a game-high 33 points, seemingly unfazed by any of the coverages Toronto threw his way.
Maybe it was just a hot night for New York who connected on 17 of 29 three-pointers, but the fact that Toronto let the Knicks get comfortable early set the tone for how the rest of the night would play out. Quentin Grimes nailed five three-pointers including a huge one late in the fourth after a late shot clock kickout pass from Randle that put New York up seven and the Knicks never looked back.
Toronto’s offensive issues were to be expected this year. Nobody thought this team would be a high-powered offense and, Monday’s game aside, that’s certainly been the case. But these kinds of defensive performances have been shockingly disappointing for this group and continue to be inexcusable.
Chris Boucher Exits Injured
Chris Boucher exited in the fourth quarter with a left thigh contusion and was ruled out.