No easy fix for this broken Raptors team as misery continues

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The Raptors enter the holiday break as a broken team with so many issues to sort out that it’s almost impossible to see any tangible change resulting in some change in fortune.

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Words such as hitting rock bottom, reaching the lowest depths of despair, nadir were being tossed around in the stunning aftermath of Saturday’s spectacularly abysmal meltdown against visiting Utah when the Raptors blew a 17-point lead and allowed the Jazz to score 41 fourth-quarter points.

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In theory, when one regresses so badly there’s some sign of encouragement to emerge that points to better times.

In the case of this Raptors unit, nothing indicates anything resembling a turnaround.

To be perfectly blunt, this collection has no identity.

One has to applaud rookie head coach Darko Rajakovic for maintaining his sanity amid the misery, one has to offer a pat on the back for refusing to single out his players.

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“It is demoralizing,” said Rajakovic following Saturday’s humiliation. “It should be demoralizing because it was just (a bad) second half (when the home side was outscored 71-48).”

Leadership was always going to be an issue with this unit and Rajakovic did touch upon once the devastation of a 126-119 loss was officially in the books.

Despite his moments of high-end play, Pascal Siakam is not a leader, more suited in a secondary role where he is able to play in transition and make down-hill drives to the basket.

Despite the emergence of third-year player Scottie Barnes, he is nowhere near being the leader of a team. He was nowhere to be found in Philly Friday night and following a very explosive first quarter against the Jazz, Barnes’ presence was barely noticeable.

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There’s no legitimate point guard, an over-paid centre whom the Raptors clearly misjudged and over-valued, no consistent shooting, a bench that is flawed and a head coach who is basically learning on the job.

Last year’s edition was considered joyless, but it was not as hopeless as this year’s iteration.

Rajakovic continues to trot out the same starting five.

For the first time in the month of December, the Raptors won the opening quarter in Philly by scoring 37 points.

Toronto would score 22 points in the final quarter as the Sixers won in a cakewalk.

One night later, the Raptors won the opening 12 minutes by netting 34 points.

In the fourth quarter, the Raptors were held to 21 points in being outscored by 20.

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In two straight games, the Raptors have allowed five players to reach the 30-point mark, including three in Philly.

The Sixers’ Big 3 of Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris and Tyrese Maxie joined Dick Barnett, Hal Greer and Dolph Schayes as the only teammates to pour in 30-plus points in franchise history.

When the Barnett/Greer/Schayes trio accomplished the feat, the franchise was known as the Syracuse Nationals back in 1961.

The Raptors are not historically bad, but they remain a bad team.

A three-game road trip is on tap that begins with a stop in Washington Wednesday. The Wizards are not good, either, but when they visited Toronto the Wizards did jump out to a 20-point lead.

One of the team’s better outings arrived when Boston came to town. Granted, the Raptors would lose the game, but the outcome was always in doubt until the very end.

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Some argue the team’s most recent encouraging night came when Phoenix came to town on a night Kevin Durant returned to the Suns’ lineup after missing a few games because of injury.

As well as the Raptors did play in holding off the Suns, Phoenix was minus Bradley Beal, who is always hurt, and also lost Devin Booker during the game.

For those keeping score, the Raptors have been on the losing end 10 times in their past 13 games.

When the going gets tough in games, the Raptors shrink.

When they play well, they can’t sustain their level of play.

It’s almost as if this team is expecting some kind of shakeup, whether it involves the starting lineup or a trade, perhaps even multiple trades.

Clearly, something must give or this stretch of woeful basketball will persist.

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“Right after the game, it’s kind of hard to say anything,” noted Siakam following the loss to the Jazz, which entered the night having won three road games, including one in Detroit.

“It sucks.”

Barnes might be posting numbers, but they are being achieved in losses.

For those attempting to make the case for Barnes being named as an all-star, be advised to think again and take a close look at Toronto’s 11-18 record going into the holiday break.

The Raptors are 0-8 against divisional opponents, have not won more than two games in a row this season and do not deserve anyone appearing in the NBA’s all-star game.

Rajakovic seems to be the only one who really cares, the one who seems to be doing all he can given the cards he’s been dealt.

Even the most seasoned head coach could not turn this poorly constructed team into something relevant.

As a result, losses such as the Jazz setback occur.

Looking in the mirror, self-appraisal, soul-searching or whatever nebulous psychological jargon one cares to use, the Raptors need talent and depth to escape this morass.

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