Goran Dragic probably summed up Game 1 for the Toronto Raptors the best: "We couldn’t play worse, so it’s only going to get better."
Wednesday night's 98-83 loss to the Washington Wizards was a nightmarish game for the Raptors. All the fears Toronto had coming into the season about lack of offensive firepower, lack of size, lack of experience, you name it, whatever concerns there were about this Raptors team were on full display in the opener. Their 77 points per 100 possessions Offensive Rating was the worst single-game offensive performance in six years.
What went wrong?
“Everything. Everything,” Fred VanVleet said after the game. “I mean, listen, there’s going to be some of these, right? It is what it is. Nothing we can do about it.”
A day later, the loss is still weighing on a lot of the younger players, Dragic said. But Toronto is trying to regroup after Game 1 of 82. Thursday’s practice was fairly film heavy, Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. While there were some positives to take from the game, there were far more “teaching moments,” as Nurse put it. That’s certainly going to happen this year with such a young and new team.
“There was some probably several misreads of stuff that was open that we need to make sure we clean up, which we tried to do today,” Nurse said. “Things that we were doing that you're showing them on the film saying, geez, look at how open that was. Instead of stopping, I mean, that like is right there.”
Even with those mistakes, Toronto actually got a lot of the shots Nurse is looking for from the offense. The Raptors took 39 shots within five feet of the basket, another 34 behind from three-point range, and even attempted 16 more shots than the Wizards, which is usually a recipe for success. The problem was their inability to convert those opportunities. They shot a pitiful 48.7% near the rim and 20.6% behind the arc. Moreover, they scored just 18 fast break points on 21 turnovers and averaged 0.80 points on their 30 transition possessions. Those numbers are a far cry from the 1.3 or 1.4 points per turnover that Nurse had dreamt about in the preseason.
“I thought we didn't finish very well. I thought even some of the paint shots that were, I wouldn't call them great shots, but they were pretty darn good from six, eight feet, one on one, maybe we’ve gotta get through some physicality there a little bit more,” Nurse said. “We’ve just got to make them. When you drive in to 12 feet and a defender goes flying by and you're standing there wide open, you're gonna have to probably make those.”
Things, however, should get better. They have to, right?
When the preseason started, Nurse said he was going to take it slow with the offense. He wanted to focus on defense early before mixing in some offensive schemes a little later. It made sense considering how important the defense is to everything Toronto wants to do this season, especially in transition. But now the offense has a lot of catching up to do.
“We've barely put in,” Nurse said of his offensive gameplan. “If you're going to look at the full menu there's not much on it right now. But we've got to get those first things down first before we can progress.”
It’s going to take time for this group to gel and when it does come together, if it does, things might look very different. Nurse is already looking at tweaking the rotation a little bit, presumably swapping Dragic and Gary Trent Jr. and Precious Achiuwa and Khem Birch. Ultimately, though, Game 1 was just the first step in what's certainly going to be a very long developmental journey this year.