Regardless of how much a team has become accustomed to winning, there are certain games during the course of the NBA‘s regular season that identify weaknesses sometimes forgotten when things are going well, and Sunday’s loss to the Phoenix Suns was definitely one of those games for the Toronto Raptors.
At the beginning of the week, head coach Dwane Casey told the media that rebounding was the team’s ”bugaboo”, and that it needed to be the Raptors’ priority down the stretch if the franchise was going to secure it’s second Atlantic Division title. But against the playoff-bound Suns, fundamentals such as boxing out and crashing the boards were nowhere to be found, and the visitors took advantage on their way to ending Toronto’s four-game winning streak at home.
During the week ahead, the Raptors will need to focus on improving in both team rebounding and defense, but should also be taking a long look at the lack of offensive production from their bench on Sunday in the absence of Patrick Patterson.
For the fifth straight game, Toronto found itself without the services of the versatile power forward, who’s currently nursing a sore right elbow, an injury that Patterson is scheduled to have re-evaluated on Monday.
In the meantime, bruiser Tyler Hansbrough, veteran Chuck Hayes and even Steve Novak have seen sporadic increases in their floor-time, but replacing Patterson’s unique skill-set with just one player isn’t a luxury that the Raptors currently enjoy.
Coupled with the often inconsistent play of center Jonas Valanciunas, the injury to Patterson has magnified Toronto’s ineffective rebounding, and the Suns’ 45-26 domination of the Raptors on the glass Sunday afternoon only made things worse.
Defensively, Toronto ranks a very solid fourth in points allowed with 96.8 per game, but the Raptors haven’t been able to stop five of their last eight opponents from surpassing that average. They’ll need to do that in the games in the upcoming week to get back on track.
Ty is a writer for Rantsports.com. Follow him on Twitter @abovethefoldty