6 takeaways from the Raptors’ mediocre 6-game homestand

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The Toronto Raptors capped off a season-high six-game homestand, going a mediocre 3-3 after a poor performance Saturday against the Atlanta Hawks.

The homestand was initially seen by many as a pivotal point in the Raptors’ season, but in the end it didn’t really do much to improve or diminish the team’s fortunes. Toronto is now 11th in the Eastern Conference with a record five games under .500, but still with a promise of even better.

A familiar script for a Raptors side that seemingly spent all season looking for some semblance of positive consistency.

Here are a few takeaways that stood out during Toronto’s latest stretch of mediocrity.

No hints are given about the trade TBEN strategy

For many, February 9 looks set to be the most important date of this Raptors season.

Unlike in past seasons, the trade TBEN passing this round could turn out to be really important for the future of the franchise and so understanding what direction the club could take as the TBEN approaches is a much-debated topic.

This six-game homestand was supposed to drop some hints as to what the Raptors could do by the TBEN with potentially valuable assets like Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Fred VanVleet, and Gary Trent Jr. all of which swirl around the rumor mill, but going 3-3 doesn’t really say much.

The three wins at the time came against a slumping Portland Trail Blazers team and against a Charlotte Hornets team (twice) trying to tank. Meanwhile, losses were against the Milwaukee Bucks, a solid New York Knicks squad, and then against the Hawks at the end of the homestand.

Things didn’t improve much for the struggling Raptors during their recent six-game homestand. (Photo via USA TODAY Sports)

The outcomes that have unfolded over these past six matches have played out in an expected manner. And even if Atlanta’s loss looked bad, getting the win back against the Blazers was a strong result, not to mention playing the Milwaukee Bucks tight and forcing them into overtime despite trailing by a whopping 21 points with less than four minutes to play. regulation.

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There was good and bad to take out of what the Raptors have been up to over the past six games and, frustratingly, that still leaves plenty of room for interpretation as to what they should be doing by the TBEN.

If you’re in camp they should be sellers, and seeing them underperform against Atlanta and run out of steam against the Knicks makes that argument believable since those are teams that if the Raptors were really contenders , should be able to lever.

However, if you want to see Toronto as buyers, the competitiveness with which it played the Bucks and the win against Portland – with Damian Lillard – are also pretty good evidence for that side of the coin.

Like their season as a whole, this homestand made it almost impossible to read who the Raptors really are.

According to Nurse, the losses were due to a lack of energy, but not exertion

If Raptors coach Nick Nurse is to be believed, the struggles the Raptors have been through are due to a lack of energy, but certainly not effort.

“Come on man. No more effort questions,” Nurse told a reporter on Sunday before abruptly leaving his availability.

Despite the bad optics of that exchange, it’s reasonable for Nurse to believe his team is making an effort.

“[Our environment] is still very hardworking and professional and focused and all that stuff,” Nurse said. “From my point of view, they keep coming here, they work very hard both individually and as a team.”

However, where he sees the Raptors falter is their energy level.

“We have a long way to go with consistency,” Nurse said after the Atlanta game when asked what he has learned about his team from their last six games. “I would have liked to say we are making some progress just being ready to go energy and connectivity wise and all that stuff, and then tonight it didn’t look like we had a lot of energy going into the game. ”

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As for Nurse, the Raptors opened Saturday’s game 20-3 before finally picking up again midway through the first quarter. And even against Milwaukee, while that comeback was a sight to behold, the fact that they put themselves in first place was due to a mostly lackluster third quarter.

Now, whether this is due to a lack of energy or a lack of effort feels semantic. It may be true that the Raptors work hard in practice and in their free time and it may also be true that during the games that effort wasn’t always visible – even if you want to call it energy or something else.

Labor crime

A very noticeable trend in their past six games has been that when Toronto scores the basketball, it’s probably going to win.

In their three wins, the Raptors put up 117, 132 and 124 points, respectively, as they combined to shoot down 42 three-pointers in those games. In the losses, they only hit 26 triples and scored no more than 108 points.

Defensively, the Raptors played well enough in those losses to win, but simply didn’t score enough to get the job done.

Overall, this is indicative of a problem that has plagued the team all season. The Raptors aren’t a great shooting team and don’t have enough of them to really survive in the modern NBA.

This, of course, leads back to the debate about what to do within the TBEN. They could try adding shooting to try and strengthen this gap in their roster or just sell their stars and try to rebuild, with shooting being a core tenet of the team.

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Fred VanVleet is still confused

In what has been a rough season for Fred VanVleet, he trailed again in Toronto’s last six games, culminating in a terrible three-point, 1-for-9 on Saturday.

As it turns out, VanVleet is still battling a nagging back injury that we can all expect at this point to last all season unless shut down.

Back problems don’t just go away overnight and given the heavy workload VanVleet has to take on as the team’s main ball handler and one of the defensive leaders, it’s fair to assume he’ll be out for the rest of the campaign hurt will play.

This is bad news for the Raptors, especially if they want to try and jump up the standings.

A plus of the homestand was Scottie Barnes’ play.

Over the six games, Barnes averaged 17.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and five assists – demonstrating the kind of aggression that won him rookie of the year last season.

Barnes’ sophomore season was a bit of a disappointment, as his desire to play point guard and act as a playmaker this season seemed to strip him of some of that aggressiveness that made him so successful before.

In the last two games in particular, some of that killer instinct trying to get in and use his strength and athleticism to score has returned, and it should help not just him, but the Raptors in general.

Looking forward

The Raptors are in New York to open the Knicks Monday, a stretch in which they will play 10 of their next 12 games on the road.

As a team with only a 5-13 road record this could very well help determine the path they ultimately take at the TBEN.

Much of the same was said about this recent homestand, though, and they still seem stuck in neutral.

In the interest of all involved, one would hope that the Raptors will make a decision about their future soon.

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