If the Toronto Raptors were looking to avoid the dreaded late-season complacency that can often turn playoff dreams into nightmares, then Dwane Casey‘s crew got all they could handle Tuesday night when the Atlanta Hawks dealt them their fifth overtime loss of the season.
For the first time since early February when the Raptors dropped consecutive road games to the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Clippers, Toronto has now lost each of it’s last two games and is feeling the pressure in both the Atlantic Division as well as the Eastern Conference.
At the end of Tuesday’s action, the Raptors held a slim, 2.5 game lead on the second-place Brooklyn Nets, who have continued to inch closer to Toronto during their recent run of success and have won eight of their past 10 outings.
In the conference’s playoff picture, the third-place Raptors are now only a ½ game ahead of the Chicago Bulls and 2.5 games up on the Nets who overtook the fifth spot in the East after the Washington Wizards lost Tuesday night in Sacramento. With only 16 games remaining in the regular season and the playoffs fast approaching, every time that the Raptors step onto the floor is a valuable opportunity to gain experience and learn from their mistakes, especially if the opponent also happens to be headed for the postseason.
Most concerning, Tuesday night’s loss again highlighted Toronto’s more obvious weaknesses which for once didn’t involve rebounding, but instead included turnovers and the team’s inability to contain a high-scoring point guard such as Jeff Teague, who had his way with the Raptors’ defense.
Despite ranking fifth in the league with 97.5 PPG allowed this season, Toronto’s 118-113 overtime-loss to the Hawks was also the second straight game in which the Raptors have permitted the opposition to surpass the century mark. On top of that, while Toronto has been able to dodge the injury bug for most of the season, Tuesday’s defeat may have also cost the Raptors Jonas Valanciunas, who ”hyperextended” his back in the third quarter and was unable to return.
Armed with a depleted frontcourt, Toronto will need to quickly regain its footing before the Nets get any closer to overtaking them, a task that won’t be easy against Anthony Davis and the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday night.
Ty is a writer for Rantsports.com. Follow him on Twitter @abovethefoldty