The Toronto Raptors suffered another loss at home, this one coming against the Houston Rockets 119-109. This loss marks the first time Toronto has suffered consecutive losses this season. The Raptors have struggled with a 3/9 record against teams with positive win records this season. They find themselves sliding to third in the Eastern Conference, tied with the Miami Heat at 15 wins and 6 losses.

Raptors’ Shooting Slump

Toronto’s shooting struggles continue as they once again failed to find success from beyond the arc. Their 31% 3 point shooting percentage against Houston is extremely unlike the 39% they’ve showcased this season. Their poor shooting from long range over the last two games have them as the second best team from three point range. Of their 82 attempted three point attempts over the last two games, 73 have been open. The Raptors have only made 30% of those shots (22/73). Before the last two games Toronto shot 41% (13.2/32.5 per game) on such shots.

Pascal Siakam’s Timidness

Pascal Siakam, despite pouring in a team high 24 points in the contest, was an ineffective contributor. His lack of aggressiveness did not help the Raptors’ efforts. Siakam shot an inefficient 41% (9/22) from the field while shooting 25% (2/8) from three. The main problem came when he was in post position. The Rockets are a middling defensive team with few players being able to stop “Spicy P” in the post. Siakam needs to take advantage of any mismatches he finds himself in. Abusing these will cause defenders to double him and leave other Raptors open but that will not be the case if he is not willing to establish that he is a consistent threat in the paint.

Raptors' Nick Nurse
Raptors’ coach Nick Nurse (left) and Rockets’ coach Mike D’Antoni

Dismantled Defensively

The Raptors did a fine job of taking James Harden out of the equation during Thursday’s contest. Usually an offensive force on his own, Harden posted only 23 points in the contest and tied his season low in assists with 3. This was due to the Nick Nurse and the Raptors defensive system. A plethora of traps, double teams, and the box-and-one defence that has become Toronto’s staple were utilized. These schemes forced “The Beard” to play off the ball and dared the Rockets’ role players to beat them. It just so happened that Houston answered the challenge.

Ben McLemore produced a game and season-high 28 points with 8 threes in the contest due to the open looks by the Raptors allowed. PJ Tucker shot 50% from three and various other Houston Rockets players lit up Scotiabank Arena. This game showcased the main problem with the more intricate defences that the Raptors utilize. When a team is made in such a way where the floor is full of shooters, double teaming an offensive threat, in this case James Harden, only gives open opportunities for those shooters to thrive. 84% (46/55) of the Rockets’ threes were open looks which is inexcusable by the Raptors.  20 of the 22 made threes from Houston came off of assists, a far cry from the narrative that Houston only succeeds off of Harden’s isolation plays.

The Raptors travel to Philadelphia in an effort to get back in the win column against the 76ers. Joel Embiid will look to get his revenge after his embarrassing 0 point performance from earlier this season. Tune in on Sunday at 6:00 PM/EST for what is sure to be a thrilling grudge match.