Before this season started, it was widely assumed that offense would not be a concern for the Toronto Raptors.
But something has happened recently. In three of the past seven games, the Raptors have failed to break the century mark. And in two of the last three, they only managed 91 and 96 points in loses to Utah and Orlando, respectively.
In the preseason, Jay Triano virtually boasted that the team had spent almost no time on offense as this wasn’t going to be an issue. And to start the season it looked like he was 100 percent correct.
The Toronto Raptors started out of the gate scoring easily and often. The Raptors averaged 109.4 points per game over the first seven games of the season, winning three and losing four.
Bosh and Bargnani returned as the Killer Bs of last season, regularly racking up a combined 50 points and 20 boards per game to start. Bosh averaged 29 points per game and Bargnani averaged just over 20.
In those first seven games:
Hedo Turkoglu averaged 15 points;
Calderon had a slightly disappointing 11.6 points;
Marco Belinelli and Jarrett Jack each averaged just over seven points; and,
DeMar DeRozan averaged a modest 4.7 points.
Obviously some of their opponents enjoyed similar success against the Raptors. A 111.4 points per game surrendered ensured the Raptors didn’t win more than they lost.
And the defensively challenged Raptors let opponents shoot almost 48 percent against them.
Something changed in game eight of the season. The Raptors won a game without scoring over 100 points as they held the offensively challenged Chicago Bulls to just 89 points on the night.
The next game in LA against the Clippers saw a repeat defensive performance. The Clippers were held to 89 points as well in another Raptors victory.
Over these last seven games, the Raptors have held their opponents to an average of 104.3 points per game. A very nice 7.1 points per game improvement over the first seven games. But the Raptors were still letting teams shoot at about 47 percent over this period.
Unfortunately, the Raptors own “inevitable” ability to score had subsided as they only managed to score 103.1 points per game over this period. A substantial 6.3 point per game dip from their hot start.
Eliminate the 120 the Raptors dropped on the Heat, and the Raptors are just scoring a pedestrian 100 points per game over the past seven game stretch!
So the Raptors record over these seven games was the same as the first seven. The Raptors won three and lost four again.
The Killer Bs had become less dangerous, averaging just 40 points per game between them. Turkoglu missed a game and had a slight dip in his points production. But offsetting some of the damage was Marco Belinelli putting in an extra three points per game.
Over the last seven games:
Bosh has averaged 24 points, down 5;
Bargnani 15.6 points; down 4.5;
Calderon found his stroke and averaged 13.4 points;
Belinelli averaged 10.1 points;
Jack stayed at about 7 points; and
DeMar DeRozan improved to 6.2 points.
The Raptors scoring is disappearing at a just slightly slower rate than their opponents.
The Raptors evidence of defense was mirrored by a decline in their own production resulting in no real change in outcome.
And the minuscule decline in opponents shooting percentage still does not get them to the Raptors' stated team goal of an opponents field goal percentage of 45.
But the trend is encouraging. Over those last seven games, at least two of the loses were winnable by the Raptors. Only a small change in fortunes could take the Raptors from a just under .500 team to substantially over .500.
Continued improvement on defense and the re-discovery of their disappearing scoring is all that stands in the way of a huge run by the Toronto Raptors.