The Raptors’ search for consistency continues as Monday’s disappointing 117-101 blowout loss to the Orlando Magic comes hot on the heels of two of their finest consecutive efforts of the season.
Injuries? To be sure. But the absences of DeMar DeRozan and Jerryd Bayless weren’t an excuse Saturday when the Raptors pushed the league-leading Bulls to the limit in an overtime road loss. The Raptors even had Bayless back briefly for this one, with the guard putting up six points and four assists in a hurry before a flare up of his left hip pointer forced him out of the game after just under 12 minutes of first-half play.
Quality opponent? Unquestionably. But the Raptors had played the Magic fairly close on two other occasions this season. Not to mention the fact that the Knicks weren’t exactly struggling when they hit ACC last Friday.
Monday’s loss was largely due to an overall lack of focus, which hasn’t plagued the Raptors in too many games since the start of February, but has cropped up in some similar blowout losses over that stretch (the Celtics and Pistons come immediately to mind) .
Head coach Dwane Casey cited his team’s need to maintain its recent physicality and an ability to limit the Magic from long range as major keys after the morning shootaround on Monday and from the get-go, they struggled on both fronts. Dwight Howard was a terror inside early on on his way to 23 points and 10 rebounds in 36 minutes of work, while Ryan Anderson simply made the Raptors pay for time and space behind the arc and finished with a career-high eight triples.
A Raptors counter-punch late in the first quarter notwithstanding, Orlando was never truly challenged and had the Raptors comfortably in their rear view by halftime.
“You can’t come out and turn-it-on and turn-it-off,” said Casey post-game. “You have to have the same focus and effort, then you let the chips fall where they may, but you don’t know if you don’t bring the same focus as you had and try and rest on your laurels, just because you played a good game against Chicago and New York.”
It’s back to work for the Raptors at practice on Tuesday, as they prepare for the Denver Nuggets, who have won 14 of the last 15 meetings between the two clubs, including a 96-81 loss at Pepsi Center in late-January.
Until then, here’s the best of what you had to say about Monday’s defeat.