They win against Golden State but they lose against Brooklyn.
They win against Memphis, but they lose against Phoenix.
They are the 4th overall team in the league on points allowed, but during the last stretch of games, they are allowing 100+ points.
They win quite easily against Indiana, but they struggle winning Milwaukee.
They win against Houston but they struggle winning Boston or they lose against Cleveland.
They are currently 3rd in the Eastern Conference, but they lost all of the last games against Chicago (4th), Washington (5th) and Brooklyn (6th).
So, what should we expect from this Toronto Raptors team, especially during playoffs?
One is for sure; this team will be a part of the 2014 playoffs table, not the draft lottery one. But, do they have the ability and talent to compete? Should we expect glory nights or late minute dramas? The answer is difficult, especially now, with 18 more games to play till the regular season ends. There are some facts though, that we can rely on:
1. Youth and inexperience: This is a young but playoff inexperienced team. It seems like a dangerous combination. Two of the starters, Terrence Ross and Jonas Valanciunas, are in their sophomore season. From the rest of the starters, only Kyle Lowry has playoff experience. He played 13 games with the Houston Rockets, being utilized mostly as the backup PG who was giving some rest to the starting Aaron Brooks.
The bench consists of players with some playoff experience, with the most interesting being John Salmons, who in 2009 the Bulls (played 7 games averaging 18.1 points per 44,7 minutes). The rest of the bench group, Fields, Hansbrough, Vasquez, Hayes (the most experienced during his tenure at Houston from 2007-2009), Novak and De Colo had limited impact on their teams during that period.
2. Fatigue: This team has a rotation of mostly 9 players; Lowry, DeRozan, Ross, Amir, JV, Vasquez, Patterson, Hansbrough and Salmons are the most utilized players, with few of them, Lowry and DeRozan playing almost 40 minutes per game. Thanks god, this team didn’t suffer any serious injuries, and a big part of its success is because of that. But the continuous play of the starters, without having a huge depth on the bench, could create another hidden problem; the fatigue . We’ve witnessed this danger many times during the last stretch of games. This inconsistency of the quarters is a reason of the fatigue of the players, combined with the inexperience of the 2 young starters. One of fatigue’s results is also player injuries. And lately, this team suffered a lot from it. Amir Johnson, Kyle Lowry, Patrick Patterson, DeMar DeRozan are the players suffered injuries during the last stretch of games.
3. Thirst for success: This team has players who strive for success. They dream of playoff games. One of them is DeRozan. He feels he has to be part of this “elite” of successful and playoff-experienced players. He feels that he’s the leader and he has the “obligation” to succeed. Another player is Lowry, for a different reason. He wants to prove everybody, including himself, that he’s an all-star caliber player who deserves an all-star contract. He is maybe playing for such one also, cause he’s becoming a free agent this summer.
Taking into consideration these facts, we, the fans who waited for so long, must:
1. Be grateful that after so many years, this bunch of guys are taking our beloved team to the next level
2. Be down to earth and not expect miracles. Our main target has to be the competiveness in each and every playoff game and our secret dream the qualification to the next round.
3. Enjoy this period, with our team a part of it, and be optimistic. The best is yet to come.