TORONTO â€” Standing in the aftermath of his team’s latest disappointing loss, Dwane Casey went to a word that he hasn’t often used.
“Atrocious,” the Toronto Raptors head coach said on Sunday night, after his Raptors dropped a 114-113 decision to the visiting Orlando Magic.
The Raptors have lost six of their last seven games and now sit at 29-19. The Magic went into Sunday’s game with the third-worst record in the NBA’s Eastern Conference and improved to 19-30.
“Put me and the whole group in the room, we’re all responsible for this atrociousâ€¦” Casey said, then took his train of thought in another direction.
“I’m not disrespecting Orlando but most of it is doing your job on every possession.”
The loss overshadowed the Raptors having their entire 15-man roster available to them for the first time this season. All-star-bound shooting guard DeMar DeRozan returned from an ankle injury that cost him three games but he couldn’t find the efficiency that he normally shoots with. He was 6-18 from the field and scored 22 points. His backcourt partner and fellow all-star Kyle Lowry led the team with 33 points and eight assists. He gave the Raptors the slimmest of chances late, cutting what was a 15-point fourth-quarter deficit down to a single point.
D.J. Augustin had 21 points off the bench for Orlando, while centre Nikola Vucevic poured in 25. The duo pulled the rug out from under the Raptors, erasing what looked like a comfortable 10-point second-quarter lead with a 19-0 run to close out the first half. Orlando was pushed late, but never surrendered the lead.
The second-quarter collapse and the lack of defensive commitment was all that Casey wanted to talk about.
“We have to find five men that are going to go out there and defend. You can go right down the roster and everybody had a defensive mistake,” Casey said.
“It’s accountability. We’re bringing guys in off the bench and they’re making mistakes. It’s everybody and that’s what I told the team, everybody is involved.”
Enduring their toughest stretch in two seasons, DeRozan admitted that this felt like a low point for the team.
“Yeah, it is. It’s all about how we bounce back and how we get out of it,” he said. “We have a lot more basketball to play. We haven’t made it to the (all-star) break yet. We’ve got (nine) games to figure it out and get it going.”
Casey made his message clear to his players. He wants to hear them communicating on defence. Their most vocal defender on the team a year ago, Bismack Biyombo, had four points and five rebounds for the Magic on Sunday, making his first return to the Air Canada Centre since departing as a free agent. Before the game, he said that he thought the Raptors’ defensive issues could be tied to a lack of communication.
“We need to talk more out there, myself included,” said Raptors forward Patrick Patterson, who had 10 rebounds in the loss.
“We can help the young guys out there a lot more and we can do a lot more than we have been doing. We just have to have guys step up and fill that void and guys who did talk last year talk even more this year.”
“Just talk. Talk and be loud. It doesn’t matter if you’re not saying anything, but be loud,” Lowry said. (We have to) try toâ€¦help each other, direct each other.”
Casey isn’t looking for his team to travel back 20 years, where games stayed in the 80 or 90-point range.
“I don’t know if we’re ever going to be a defensive juggernaut but we’ve got to get some solid stops and be fundamental, sound defensively,” he said.
“Find five guys that are going to do that. Until we do that, it’s going to be up and down. We’re going to win some games, our offence is going to click and we’re going to get some stops but to be a consistent winner, we’ve got to commit to the defensive end and do our job.”
Chris O’Leary , The Canadian Press