Late losses providing early lessons
‘We have to go through the tough times to make us better,’ DeRozan says
LOS ANGELES— This has not been a good week for the Raptors with three losses on the trot before facing the Lakers here Friday night, each defeat accomplished because of some measure of a late-game swoon.
Players are angry, coaches are perturbed and some segments of the fan base are concerned the season is swirling around the toilet bowl with only 69 games remaining.
But in the sober light of day, with the realities taken into consideration, the longest-serving member of the team figures some pain is not necessarily a bad thing.
“It’s tough to lose now — nobody wants to lose — but we have to understand we have to go through the tough times to make us better, and we know late in the season what it takes to pull out these tight games,” DeMar DeRozan said after the team went through a morning shootaround at UCLA.
“We can look back and say we went through this early on and now we know what we’ve got to do to win.”
The growth process the Raptors have been going through in the infancy of the season is not really unexpected. However, a five-game winning streak to start the season may have hidden some flaws that have been exposed on this five-game road trip.
Each loss has been accompanied by late-game mistakes both offensively and defensively, a crippling missed assignment here, a rushed shot or senseless turnover there.
It happens — and it happens a lot to teams trying to integrate new players into a tweaked system.
“Right now, yes, we are going through a tough time, but the most important thing is sticking to what we’re doing, stick to our fundamentals on both ends of the floor,” coach Dwane Casey said. “It’s a process . . . we’re still trying to build with each other.
“Don’t try to be a hero, don’t try to do anything outside your lane. Do everything within the confines of the team. There’s always been a two- or three-minute stretch at the end of the game where we do get unravelled and those are the situations we have to minimize and cut down on.” And learn from. The Raptors know the perils of feeling like everything is going well early in a season only to see bad habits be ingrained and cost them when the season truly gets tough in March and April. It won’t take away the sting of defeats this week to Sacramento, Golden State and Utah but it could prove beneficial later on.
DeRozan is driven this season by memories of the team’s epic fold against Washington in the playoffs last year, and he does not want to relive the horror.
“We understand it’s going to be a process — a whole new team, new defence — and we’re still trying to gel together offensively and get things together,” he said. “With all that, we’re going out there and playing extremely hard and you can’t discredit that.
“Once we get everything on the same page, that’s when the wins are going to start coming in. We’re only 12 games in, and I’d rather go through this now than later on, like we did last year.”