June 15th, 2024

Raptors aiming to fix issues to avoid furthering losing skid: ‘These are must win’

By Abdulhamid Ibrahim, The Canadian Press on October 31, 2023.

Toronto Raptors forward Pascal Siakam (43) moves the ball up court as Portland Trail Blazers guard Scoot Henderson (00) defends during first half NBA basketball action in Toronto on Monday Oct. 30, 2023. Toronto won its season opener last Wednesday, bringing some short-lived excitement. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

TORONTO – The Toronto Raptors find themselves in what forward Pascal Siakam calls a “must-win” situation early in the NBA season.

The Raptors have dropped three straight since winning their season opener and face a tall task of winning on the road Wednesday at Milwaukee or Thursday at Philadelphia to avoid extending that skid.

“Obviously we’re 1-3, so these are must-win games for us, we’ve got to win these games,” Siakam said Tuesday. “We just got to go out there “¦ giving everything that we have to win, that should be the only real concern.

“Obviously really tough, talented teams coming up, it’s not going to be easy … so we’ve got to just go out there, stay together, work hard and the focus is just winning.”

Two of the Raptors three losses have been games they let slip away. Toronto was up 17 with 4:58 left in the fourth quarter before falling to Chicago 104-103 in overtime last Friday. On Monday night, the Raptors were on the wrong end of a late 11-4 run, losing 99-91 to previously winless Portland.

Siakam said the team needs to stick together in fixing its issues.

“I think obviously a couple of games there where I felt like we played well, we played well enough to win but we didn’t rebound well enough,” he said. “Possessions out there where we played good defence and just didn’t finish the possession and gave them second chance opportunities, sometimes even third.

“So it’s kind of tough to win that way, and then obviously we didn’t shoot the ball well from three (on Monday). In this league, if you don’t shoot well it’s going to be hard to win, and then if you don’t rebound with that it’s even harder. So I think that we’ve got to fix those things.”

Toronto’s more glaring issues have been its halfcourt offence and defensive rebounding.

Head coach Darko Rajakovic said his team needs better pace in getting plays started and in motion in the halfcourt.

The Raptors are dead last in the NBA in scoring, averaging just 99.5 points per game, the only team in the league below 101. On the other hand, Toronto is fourth in points allowed at 102.8.

“Defence been good but also like with our offensive struggles, you know, we need our defence to be even better,” Rajakovic said. “It’s early in the year, we’re watching a lot of film as well and in the practice today we worked on both offence and defence.”

The Raptors have given up 13-plus offensive rebounds in three of their four games, which is far from ideal. They gave up nine in last Saturday’s loss to Philadelphia.

“When I look at it, I see half glass full,” Rajakovic said of his team’s overall play. “I look on the positives and I look at what we can be and what we need to do and what’s in our control.

“We allowed those guys (Portland) last night to have 13 offensive rebounds and that’s a recurring problem for us, defensive rebounding. We’re really good in open court and in transition, but those are 13 wasted opportunities that we didn’t have a chance to to go and run and then score easy.”

Rajakovic pointed to why the rebounding struggles have been there, but also expects his team to turn things around and make good on correcting their mistakes.

“There were a couple of situations they were shooting from the three-point line and we had four guys turning around and looking at the rim. The only time you’re going to get a ball that way is if they make a shot.

“If they miss, you have a chance. So it’s something that we’ve got to do a better job. (The) guys spoke about it today between themselves. I see our group as a very prideful group, very resistant group and I think that they’re going to have the appropriate reaction.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 31, 2023.

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