Heading into Wednesday’s contest against the New Orleans Pelicans, the Toronto Raptors were in desperate need of a victory in order to end their two-game slide and continue to hold off the surging Brooklyn Nets and relentless Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference.
But even though the Raptors received a complete team effort and managed to get back on track, the Bulls, Nets and New York Knicks all equalled Toronto’s efforts on Wednesday night and continued to apply some unfamiliar pressure on the Atlantic Division leaders.
After head coach Dwane Casey again called on his team to improve upon their fundamentals earlier in the week, the Raptors dug deep and fought back to earn the rewarding win over the Pelicans, and can now add one more hard-earned victory to their growing resume. Now 38-29, it’s games such as this that Toronto is expected to win as a division leader, and the experienced gained could prove extremely valuable down the stretch, especially for the younger players.
Unfortunately, as necessary as the victory was for Toronto in terms of defending its current position in both the conference and the division, the fact of the matter is that it came against a sub-.5oo squad that was without its best player in Anthony Davis. While the Raptors were also thin up front without the services of Jonas Valanciunas and Patrick Patterson, who both missed Wednesday’s outing due to injuries, neither forward plays a role comparable to that of Davis for the Pelicans.
Considering that the Raptors entered Wednesday ranked 17th in team rebounding yet dominated the offensive glass late against the Pelicans, the absence of Davis was obviously a deciding factor, and one worth remembering when Casey’s crew is only weeks away from the harsh realities of the NBA playoffs.
With just 16 games remaining, the Raptors will have to play every night with the same level of intensity that will be needed in the postseason or risk losing valuable ground to the Bulls, Nets, or Knicks.
Ty is a writer for Rantsports.com. Follow him on Twitter @abovethefoldty