All this buzz and discussion about who the ideal first round opponent for the Toronto Raptors would be in the playoffs is missing the mark.
The big focus right now should be on if the Raptors can fix their issues on the defensive end.
One of the main reasons why Toronto was able to have success this season is that for the majority of the season they were able to hold opponents to just over 90 points per game.
This month Toronto has shown slippage on the defensive end while allowing opponents to score 103.4 points per game.
Toronto has held opponents to under 100 points in only two of seven games so far this month.
It’s easy to point at Amir Johnson missing games this month as the reason why the defence isn’t performing at a high level. Johnson is 12th in the NBA in Real Plus-Minus according to ESPN and he’s 16th in the NBA in Wins Against Replacement (WAR).
Despite not posting gaudy stats, it’s clear Johnson is a key cog to the Raptors.
But it’s been more than the absence of Johnson. The team isn’t closing out on shooters like they should and they haven’t been rotating on help defence like they should.
“Our guys see the standings and the records but we can’t play that way,” Dwane Casey vented to the media last week. “We’ve got to pick our defence up and not have the mental letdowns we have been having.”
Toronto’s final regular season game is tonight in New York and it’s the perfect opportunity for the team to prove they won’t have a mental letdown. They have home court in the first round locked up and the Knicks will be playing without Carmelo Anthony. However, like New York showed last night against Brooklyn, just because Anthony is out it doesn’t mean they will be walked over.
It will be interesting to see what kind of focus Toronto plays with tonight and if they are able to tighten things up on the defensive end.