NBA seasons are long and hard, tiring and trying. Bodies get sore, minds go elsewhere, and the tugs of real life can weigh on a player. It is virtually impossible to be up for each of the 82 games.
Minimizing the lulls — getting over the inevitable humps — is what separates great teams from average ones and average ones from the dregs of the league.
“We’ve got to still enjoy the process, enjoy the fight, and just be passionate out there,” Raptors forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson said. “Having fun with our teammates, I feel like that will help us get over that hump.”
The Raptors have hit one of those stretched over the last 10 days or so, having dropped four of five games heading into Saturday’s home date with the Brooklyn Nets.
They don’t have the zip they had early in the season, shots aren’t falling and they’re a split second slow in reacting on defence. The minislide is not the end of the world just over a quarter of the way through the season, but it’s troubling nonetheless.
How quickly things can turn. They opened the month looking as good as they have in two seasons, rattling off 77 first-half points in a win over the Utah Jazz. But that efficiency and energy and effectiveness disappeared as quickly as it arrived.
It’s impossible to pinpoint one precise reason. It’s how the game goes sometimes. You can’t be perfect every night.
“We’re in a period where we’re not playing very well here for about a week,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said this week. “It’s strange because … against Utah we may have played the best half of basketball we’ve ever seen in this building. So things can change quickly and it’s a fine line between things.”
Nurse believes the Raptors have to get back to their strengths — defence, ball movement, shooting and energy.
There’s no doubt the team’s shooting woes over a five-game stretch have contributed to Toronto’s overall lack of energy. The intensity and energy on defence should still be present but human nature ties one to the other.
“I don’t know what to say to that other than try not to let that happen, but it’s hard not to let that happen,” Nurse said. “We need to make sure we execute a little better. And we’ve got to step in and make some shots. It keeps that energy flowing, which we need. And again, that’s who we are.”
The Raptors certainly have the ability to turn things around quickly, and they are somewhere between the excellence of a 15-4 start and the disappointment of a 1-4 stretch. Maybe it just takes a couple of shots going in, maybe a last-minute win will restore the energy and enthusiasm, maybe it’ll be something barely noticeable that re-energizes them.
The season is long and hard and filled with ups and downs, and it can turn one way or other in the blink of an eye.
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“I just don’t think our energy overall has been good as a team, so we’ve got to find a way,” Pascal Siakam said. “We’ve got to find a way because that’s how we play at our best, when we have energy and we’re flying around, that’s Toronto basketball.
“We’ve got to play that way.”