In the midst of a four-team war to secure the best possible opening round opponent in the upcoming playoffs and another heated race to clinch an Atlantic Division title, the Toronto Raptors couldn’t have chosen a better time to catch fire. Entering Friday’s action, they had won eight of their past 10 games.
But instead of securing home-court advantage in the first round of the postseason, winning the franchise’s second division crown, or equalling a team high with their 47th victory, the Raptors fell flat in front of the home crowd in a frustrating 108-100 loss to the New York Knicks.
Now in fourth and one game back of the Chicago Bulls for third place in the Eastern Conference , the Raptors have made significant improvements on both sides of the ball during their rise to the top of the Atlantic the past few months. But while Toronto has been ranked within the league’s top-10 in points allowed nearly all year, recent results show signs that this young squad has been bailed out by their offense far too often.
Prior to Friday’s contest at the Air Canada Center, the Raptors had allowed an average of 97.1 points per game this season, good for seventh in the NBA. As promising as that statistic may be, it’s become impossible to ignore the fact that including Friday’s loss to the Knicks, the Raptors have now allowed their opponents to score at least 100 points in three of their last five games.
While Toronto has managed to come out on top in two of those three games, allowing their opponents to surpass the century mark has been lethal to the Raptors all season, and their most recent loss to the Knicks was a prime example of what can happen when a team becomes too reliant on their collective offensive abilities.
In fact, Toronto hasn’t completed a single month of the current campaign with a record over .500 in games in which they’ve allowed 100 points or more, and on the season, the Atlantic Division leaders have gone a surprisingly dismal 10-25 when their opponent reaches triple digits.
Complacency and lack of focus on either end of the floor are one of the many common denominators for teams this time of year regardless of the situation. But in order to avoid sliding down the standings in the East and an early dismissal from the NBA playoffs, the Raptors need to put forth the same type of defensive efforts that carried them when the offense couldn’t lift a finger.