The NBA is a league of sporadic effort.
We all know this, teams try harder at home, when they are playing a marquee team, when they are ESPN or TNT, on the first half of a back to back, and forget about getting a good shooting performance for an afternoon game.
The Toronto Raptors are Exhibit A of the “Sporadic Effort Trap”
The Raptors as we all know, have been a major disappointment so far, yes they are extremely shorthanded are missing Reggie Evans, I know Calderon and Bayless are banged up. BUT 13-32 in a weak Eastern Conference is far from what anyone expected at the start of the season.
It is not that the Raptors are losing games, it is that they are losing WINNABLE games, if you look at their results you will see:
- Seven losses by Five points or less
- Twelve losses to sub .500 teams
- Four wins over playoff teams
Factoring in the fact that some of those close games may have been against sub .500 teams and you have Nine wins bringing the Raptors record to 22-23, putting them in seventh place with a three game lead.
Even if the Raptors just finished six of those winnable matchups they would be right in the playoff hunt.
So what does this mean for the rest of the season? Well the Raptors have Twenty-Two games left against Sub .500 opponents and are 6.5 games out of the East’s eighth playoff spot. If the Raptors win eighteen of those plus four upsets they will be at 35 wins to close out the season.
The magic number to make the playoffs right now probably is between Thirty-Three and Thirty-Seven wins, which at the Raptors current pace offers bleak hope, but if the Raptors do start digging down and giving their full effort in the winnable games and finish out games they are in, this season may end on a positive note.
I remember the 2002 Raptors who bounced back from losing Vince Carter, a much more serious loss than what the Raptors are experiencing now, and clawed their way back into the playoffs in the final stretch with defense, hustle and heart. If the Raptors want to show that they have hope for the future and grow as a team they need to channel that will and effort that the 2002 squad showed in that memorable run.
And it starts tonight in Philadelphia.