Title: Raptors continue to progress defensively without Lowry in statement win over Heat
Date: March 23, 2017
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I wrote about the Raptors’ recent defensive uptick sustaining itself even in the absence of Serge Ibaka against the Heat.
To be a fly on the wall of the Toronto Raptors locker room a week ago.
What, exactly, P.J. Tucker and others said when the team held a players-only meeting following a terrible loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder will be pondered for some time if this keeps up. Because whatever it was, it seems to have fundamentally shifted the constitution of this Raptors team.
To be clear, the Raptors were playing fairly well even considering the Thunder debacle, at least with the caveat that they were without Kyle Lowry, an all-star and among the 10 or 15 most important players to their team’s performance in the NBA. Their record was fine, they had played opponents essentially to a draw in terms of total points, and there were a few marquee victories on their post-break resume. But the losses they had incurred were brutal, and the Thunder game stood largely as a tipping point because it came on the heels of an ugly loss in Miami.
That Toronto got a rematch with the Heat in South Beach so quickly allowed for a quick contrast between the fortitude of the pre- and post-meeting Raptors. Because the Raptors once again came out flat. But where they wilted less than two weeks ago, they turned things around in an emphatic manner on Thursday, flipping a 15-point deficit in the second quarter into a 101-84 victory and one of their most impressive victories of the season.