Are you feeling chipper, Chip? Do you have a spring in your step cuz spring has sprung? Well, come on ’round, and I’ll bring you down. I’m the man with the news you won’t like.
I’ve just looked up the Toronto Raptors’ record in overtime games over the past eleven seasons, and it’s ugly. Like 21 wins against 44 losses ugly, featuring (?) 1-9 in ’05-’06, last year’s 2-7, and 1-6 this. I’ll pile on by noting the Raps have lost eight straight in OT at the Air Canada Centre; the last win was nearly 5 years ago! I attribute the Raps’ troubles to a cocktail of 3 issues: poor tactical coaching, young players and bad luck.
The playoffs are approaching, and if the Raps are to advance, they must win close games. I plan to flesh out the differences between regular- and post-season games in our Playoff Preview; for purposes of this post, let’s take it as read that playoff games are tight, and overtime is common.
The surreal defeat suffered by the Toronto Raptors to the OKC Thunder last Friday brings the issue of OT losses into painfully sharp focus, like staring at a eclipse. The Raps had an 8-point lead with less than a minute to play in 2OT, yet lost when the Thunder hit 3 straight 3-balls while the Raps went scoreless. Poor coaching: how can you not double-team Kevin Durant? Everyone on this planet knew he was going to take the last shot. Let someone else tie the game, or beat us. Bad luck: I estimate the odds of any team making 3 consecutive 3-balls at about one in eight. Toss a garnish into the cocktail, in the form of John Salmons, a 71% free throw shooter, missing a pair, and the basketball gods are angry at the Raps about something.
Or how about losing to the Charlotte Bobcats on Dec. 18, when Kemba Walker was left completely open on an in-bounds play to splash the winning jumper? C’mon coach Casey – is it possible you didn’t talk during the preceding timeout about Walker being the most dangerous ‘Cat on the floor? Of course our team is young, so funky mistakes are to be expected. Jonas Valanciunas still has nightmares, I’m sure, about touching Greivis Vasquez’s shot as it was in the process of going in, thus nullifying a critical bucket in the triple-OT loss to the Wizards.
While there may be comfort in believing we’re due for a speedy turnaround in our overtime luck, that kind of thinking has led to personal bankruptcies in Las Vegas casinos. What’s needed is better coaching in the heat of the moment, and greater maturity from our youthful core.