Toronto Raptors’ late game struggles keeping them from being contenders

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 19: DeMar DeRozan /

The Toronto Raptors have their eyes set on first place in the Eastern Conference but recent performances have been holding them back.

It is tough to be critical of the Toronto Raptors season so far, given how they have shown improvement after a disappointing end to last season. However, their most recent loss to the Utah Jazz shows that they are still teasing with the potential to be even better than they are now.

DeMar DeRozan has taken his game to another level and the young bench gives them a different element that other teams struggle to match. The issue which became apparent against the Jazz was that even games within reach get away from the Raptors.

This was brought up by Blake Murphy in The Athletic where he looked at the team’s struggles to score when the game is on the line late in the fourth quarter.

Dwayne Casey continually puts his trust in DeRozan and Kyle Lowry and for good reason. They are the duo that drives this team but on night’s where they are off their game, the Raptors’ chances to win are not great.

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Murphy writes how the Raptors are 12-11 in games where there is a clutch scenario involved where DeRozan gets used 44.5 per cent of the time. Opposing teams know who the Raptors are handing the ball to when the game is on the line and that simply goes away from their new philosophy on offence which is supposed to encourage ball sharing.

It is tough to expect the Raptors to continue to be successful in those close games if they are not willing to stick to what has made their offence better. The part is trying to get the stops on defence too in those moments.

Even in a game where he scored a season-high 28 points, Jonas Valanciunas still did not get opportunities in those crucial moments.

It was Ricky Rubio who got the Jazz the victory, while the Raptors went with DeRozan to win the game even though he was struggling to get shots to drop.

That’s what the Raptors hope they were getting when they brought in C.J. Miles for his shooting from beyond the arc. Maybe as the trade deadline gets closer they consider looking for an upgrade that could help with perimeter defending especially late in games or provide them another credible three-point shooter.

It tough to pinpoint who that player is because the Raptors would be flirting with the luxury tax and the team does not have a first round to trade away. So if the team were to make a move they will have to be creative.

This is certainly the year for the Raptors to make noise in the playoffs given how things have gone for the Cleveland Cavaliers and only the Boston Celtics stand between them and first place.

It will be up to the Casey and the players to finally overcome their struggle to close out close games because it could be the difference between them moving on the finals or another disappointing finish.

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What should the Toronto Raptors trade deadline approach be and do they have a shot at going far in the playoffs? Let us know in the comments below.