On Thursday night the Raptors took on the OKC Thunder in front of their home crowd. The team had fresh legs and high spirits as they were coming off a two-day break after their comfortable 100-78 win over The Dallas Mavericks. But the rest and the confidence didn’t last long as they completely fell apart, losing 102-123 against the Thunder.
Through the first half, the Raptors appeared to be hanging on and the “W” was still within reach. But come the 5:50 mark of the second quarter, Raptors lost steam and the Thunder started to pull away. After 24 minutes, OKC held the Raptors to just 48 points and were going into the second half with a 10 point lead. In addition, Russell Westbrook was only 3 rebounds away from yet another triple-double.
By the end of the game Raptors shot 45.7% from the field, 5/20 from beyond the arc and gifted the “Brodie” with his 34th triple-double of the season. Westbrook had 16 assists on his own, which was one more than the entire Raptors squad. Watching the potential MVP recipient orchestrate his team was a sight to see and the Raptors could not seem to figure him out. To add insult to injury, OKC shot 56% from the three-point line and out rebounded the Raptors 57-39.
So what was it about this game that has so many people concerned? Why did this game expose the need for a players-only meeting and an apology from the coach?
With one month until playoffs, this is not the time to lose momentum. The “defense first” attitude that Coach Casey preaches continues to be a lost concept for the players. Watching the game from a fan’s perspective, the team lacked heart and purpose; their will to win was absent from the beginning.
With Kyle Lowry out indefinitely, losing is to be expected but not to this extent. During the post-game interview, Coach Casey apologized for the way the boys played, calling the game an “exhibition” due to the lack of effort. As for the players, we can only assume what was said behind closed doors, but will it be enough? An argument can be made as to where the blame lies – is it the players? The coaching staff? Or are the injuries just too much for the team to handle?
One thing we can all agree on is that something is not right. With the regular season slowly winding down, the team needs to learn how to look past reasons why they should be losing. Instead they need to make the necessary adjustments in preparation for what’s to come in April.
Sources: ESPN, The Score