7 issues to look at for on Raptors’ make-or-break 7-game street journey

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The Toronto Raptors start a seven-game, 11-day Western Convention street journey in Sacramento on Wednesday.

Contemplating the Raptors are eleventh within the Japanese Convention and are six video games beneath .500, this may very well be a make-or-break sort of journey for the crew, notably as a result of by the point it returns dwelling, the NBA commerce deadline shall be solely 4 days away.

Right here’s a have a look at seven issues to look at for because the Raptors embark on their longest street journey of the season.

The Raptors are about to start an important seven-game street journey that might outline their season. (Photograph by Mark Blinch/Getty Photos)

Fast have a look at the Raptors’ schedule

Earlier than diving into the rest, right here’s a fast rundown of what’s in retailer:

  • Jan. 25 – Sacramento Kings

  • Jan. 27 – Golden State Warriors

  • Jan. 28 – Portland Path Blazers

  • Jan. 30 – Phoenix Suns

  • Feb. 1 – Utah Jazz

  • Feb. 3 – Houston Rockets

  • Feb. 5 – Memphis Grizzlies

Regardless of the size of the journey, the Raptors ought to be moderately rested with just one back-to-back to cope with.

Sadly, by way of crew high quality, this isn’t precisely the best journey. Every crew except for the tank-leading Rockets sports activities a document higher than Toronto’s and all however Houston at the moment have successful data at dwelling — one thing that might show problematic given the Raptors’ poor 6-15 street document this season.

For those who’re hoping to see the Raptors flip this season round then you ought to be banking on them beating the Rockets and going at the very least 2-2 in what appear to be 50-50 video games towards the Warriors, Blazers, Suns and Jazz. Victories towards the Kings and Grizzlies don’t look too possible contemplating the standard of basketball each of these golf equipment are enjoying, but when the Raptors can pull them off they might be huge wins.

Optimism Toronto can flip issues round

Although it’s not all that stunning, the Raptors are coming into this journey with a substantial amount of optimism.

“I feel we’re making progress,” Pascal Siakam stated Tuesday after apply earlier than the crew departed for the west coast. “It’s like we’re making progress however we’re not the place we’re purported to be and I feel that everyone knows that. I like that we need to proceed to work and if you have a look at a variety of the video games that we misplaced we’re proper there and we’re not even enjoying at our greatest.”

Siakam believes getting away on this lengthy journey will do the crew good and assist it come collectively.

“It’s an excellent alternative to go on the market and play some good video games on the street, get our confidence again, get some good wins and simply play,” Siakam stated. “Play basketball, play higher and luxuriate in every others’ firm.”

This can be a sentiment that was echoed by Siakam’s veteran teammate, Thaddeus Younger.

“This can be a nice time to go on a visit,” Younger stated. “It’s an excellent a part of the season and it’s one thing the place I feel we undoubtedly want a variety of time collectively so we will determine issues out collectively as a crew, as a household the place we’re spending a variety of time collectively the place we’re not simply watching basketball video games however we’re gonna be watching the soccer sport collectively, too. We’re gonna be doing issues collectively like crew dinners and stuff like that.

“So, that totally different surroundings and totally different really feel all the time brings guys nearer collectively as a result of we be taught so much about one another.”

Whether or not this results in optimistic outcomes or not remains to be anyone’s guess however at the very least on the floor the Raptors are nonetheless saying the suitable issues in preparation of attempting to rack up some wins throughout an prolonged time away from dwelling.

The ever-encroaching NBA commerce deadline

In fact, whereas the Raptors could also be excited to get out on the street, the looming spectre that’s the Feb. 9 NBA commerce deadline nonetheless hangs within the backdrop of this complete seven-game swing.

The Raptors comprehend it and shall be doing their greatest to attempt to block out the chatter that may absolutely proceed to leak in with so many gamers on the crew the subject of trade rumours.

“Nicely, I feel that we actually can’t fear in regards to the noise or the stress,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse stated. “I imply, we’ve received to actually dial in on simply enjoying a little bit bit higher. That’s it. It’s virtually sort of such as you go right into a playoff run and also you shut out all the things and simply actually dial in on the sport plan and your crew and all that sort of stuff. That offers us the perfect likelihood, I feel.”

Focusing solely on what the crew can management is all Nurse, his teaching workers and the gamers can do but when the Raptors get out to one thing like an 0-3 or 1-3 begin to this journey, then that may solely up the amount on the commerce buzz.

As a lot as they won’t admit it, all of the gossip across the Raptors is finally going to catch as much as them – except they start successful once more.

Raptors shall be all enterprise this journey

In an effort to fight the inevitable commerce hypothesis that may swirl across the crew – and to attempt to win some video games besides – the Raptors say they’ll be approaching this street journey like that of a enterprise journey.

“We’re gonna make this factor fairly business-like, skilled, leaning in the direction of a variety of work, a variety of conferences, a variety of practices,” Nurse stated. “That is going to be a reasonably targeted and work-themed journey.”

If what’s been plaguing the Raptors has really simply been a matter of effort, then working that a lot more durable may very well be the repair the crew’s been in want of. Nevertheless, discovering extra methods to get that further bit of labor in on the street will definitely show harder than it does at dwelling. And seeing because the Raptors have performed eight of their final 11 video games at dwelling and solely sport a 5-6 document throughout that span, there’s some proof that means working more durable in apply doesn’t essentially equate to raised outcomes throughout video games.

Defence shall be a key focus

As a part of this workman-like angle the Raptors shall be hoping to deliver to this journey, it appears like defence shall be a degree of emphasis over the subsequent few video games.

Revealing particulars of a crew assembly he wasn’t precisely purported to, Younger stated the Raptors sat and watched clips of how they performed defence final season and the way they may be capable to replicate that once more.

“We simply watched a movie session of mainly how properly we have been enjoying defensively final 12 months and a number of the effort performs and stuff like that,” Younger stated. “If we deliver that very same depth that we had in that tape to every sport, we put ourselves in place to win this complete journey.”

Toronto boasted the ninth-ranked defence within the league final season however is hovering across the backside third in 2022-23. Getting again to that outdated mindset is a vital think about presumably turning their season round, Younger believes.

“That id was when groups walked into Scotiabank Area or when groups got here to play us, even at their arenas, they’re like, ‘Man, [expletive]. That is gonna be a tough crew to play towards. That is gonna be a troublesome night time.’ Opposing groups, I feel they fearful about us a little bit bit. Now, I feel they’re getting away from worrying about us a little bit bit and simply sort of saying, ‘Hey, for those who do that, this and this we’ll be nice.’

“We need to put that worry again in peoples’ hearts. That’s the most important factor. After they step into the gymnasium with us we would like them to fret about each single factor that we’re going to do on the defensive aspect of the basketball.”

Monitoring VanVleet’s well being

Excellent news for the Raptors on the harm entrance is that O.G. Anunoby, who was listed as “questionable” for Wednesday’s sport ought to be good to go.

In response to Nurse, Anunoby was cleared and totally went by apply Tuesday and even joked together with his coach that he was feeling “94 %.”

The standing of Anunoby’s ankle shall be value monitoring all by the journey however one other doable harm to regulate is the situation of Fred VanVleet.

Although not on the harm report, VanVleet has handled decrease again and, extra not too long ago, rib soreness that’s pressured him out of the lineup.

He’s a gamer and can play by ache however taking into account what number of minutes he’s performed over the past three seasons it wouldn’t be stunning to see him go down with one other nagging harm throughout this journey, particularly if he’s pressured to log so much flooring time once more in tight video games.

Achiuwa returning to type

Valuable Achiuwa made his return from an ankle ligament tear on Jan. 2 and has since been working his manner again to type.

He was shaky throughout his first 4 video games again however has proven promising indicators over his final eight, averaging 12 factors and 6.1 rebounds per sport whereas capturing 50 % from the sphere and 44.4 % from 3-point vary.

These numbers are in step with the sort of manufacturing that was seen from Achiuwa over his final 24 video games final season when it appeared the Raptors had discovered a key piece of their future from the Kyle Lowry sign-and-trade.

This can be a optimistic improvement for Toronto, notably as a result of Achiuwa primarily comes off the bench and performs alongside secondary and tertiary models, giving the membership a much-needed increase.

“He’s actually completed an excellent job, I feel, offering rebounding, defence and spirit,” Nurse stated of Achiuwa. “I feel he’s performed robust, I feel he’s received up and down the ground, he’s been energetic, he’s been sturdy. These are issues which have been all types of complementary traits that we want.”

On this journey, search for Achiuwa to maintain up his regular play and perhaps even escape offensively one or two video games as that appears to be the way in which he’s trending once more.

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