The Toronto Raptors picked up a victory over a short-handed New Orleans Pelicans team that was even more depleted than normal. Not only were the without Jrue Holiday and Ryan Anderson, as they have been for quite a while, but Anthony Davis was also not in action as he was dealing with some sort of illness that kept him out.
As they try to hold on to their positioning in the Eastern Conference heading into the 2014 NBA Playoffs, the Raptors were able to pull off the victory against New Orleans by a score of 107-100. Arguably the most impressive part of the victory was the Raptors’ ability to survive with Kyle Lowry having an off-night with 6-18 shooting from the floor.
However, the Raptors can’t leave this game without a bit of concern. Sure, they got a victory late in the season, but they did so in unimpressive fashion over a non-playoff team that essentially trotted out a group of reserves as their starting five. That coupled with Lowry finally succumbing to human standards of play is enough of a reason to worry.
There’s more for Raptors fans to start their nail-biting over as they head into the postseason, though. Jonas Valanciunas is currently out with a back sprain, causing him to miss Wednesday’s game as well. Valanciunas hasn’t been great this season, but he’s been a guy who can clog the lane for this team defensively and occasionally provide offense.
It’s that defense that the young center contributes to that is the real concern. The Raptors’ offense has remained solid as of late, but their defense has been surrendering 105 points per 100 possessions in the month of March, 3.4 points worse than their mark for the season. That’s an issue and one that showed as they struggled to put away a Pelicans team without arguably their three best players.
There’s no denying that this season has been inspiring and impressive from the Raptors, this could be a team destined for a first-round exit in the postseason. Not only could they catch a hot team like the Brooklyn Nets, but they also fit the mold of a team that will come into the postseason playing poor defense and relying heavily on offense to win games. We’ve learned that’s a recipe for teams to get upset.
Things can still turn around for Toronto and Valanciunas is, in fact, expected to be back and healthy soon. However, there are warning signs that are glaring right now. Before you go “betting the farm” or whatever on this team in the playoffs or even the first round, be sure to exercise some caution.