Through four games, the Boston Celtics are averaging just over 117. 7 points a game.
On Monday night, they had 108 through three quarters — or almost nine more than the Raptors are averaging for a game.
Through four games, the Philadelphia 76ers are averaging just over 119.
Hell, Brooklyn only has one win in three games and they are scoring at a rate of 122 a night.
The Raptors’ other divisional opponent, the New York Knicks, are scoring just 106 points a night through three games.
Toronto, on the other hand, through four games — three of them losses — is scoring 99.5 points a games, by far the most anemic offence in the division and also the lowest-scoring team in the Association.
In short, the Raptors offence, certainly the way it has performed through four games, is not getting the job done. There’s just not enough consistent shooting to make that happen.
The good news is that because of its defence, the path to success isn’t nearly as daunting as it appears when you look at the offensive numbers in a vacuum.
Defensively, Toronto is a good, bordering on great, team through the early portion of the season.
Teams are scoring on average just under 103 points a night. In their division that is a No. 1 ranking. In the Eastern Conference it’s No. 2, trailing only Orlando, which is 2-1 through three games and have given up just 96.3 points per game.
In the West, only Denver and Phoenix have given up fewer points than Toronto.
So right away, you’re saying it’s a small sample size when it comes to these numbers. No team has played more than four games and no one has played fewer than three.
To that we say this struggle to score, particularly in its half-court offence by Toronto, is not a new revelation.
The Raptors were a better offensive team a year ago, scoring 113 a game, but that was still just 23rd in the league. And yes their half-court offence was abysmal then, too.
The realistic response to this is this is a team that is learning a new offence under a new coach and there are going to be some growing pains.
We accept that, but the eye test doesn’t just shout problems ahead, it screams it.
Where is the scoring, if there is to be improvement, going to come from?
Pascal Siakam’s numbers are down through four games as he is averaging just 16 a night compared to 24.2 he had a year ago.
But in Darko Rajakovic’s offence he’s not going to average 24.2 points in any regard. It’s based on ball movement and ball sharing and, as long as he doesn’t go rogue, there’s little chance he’s going to come close to chucking up the 18.5 attempts per game he had a year ago.
Scottie Barnes is an improved shooter over a year ago and he’s averaging 20.8 points points a night through four games. Again, in an egalitarian offence, is it even fair to expect that number will go up?
The obvious place to look for more scoring is from the new arrivals and that starts with first-round pick Gradey Dick. There’s no question Dick is making progress as his 16-point outburst against Philadelphia will attest. He’s still coming off the bench and we don’t expect that to change. His attempts are up to 7.5 per contest the past two games when he’s averaged 10 points a game.
Dick does look like a guy capable of making steady improvement, but how much he’ll swing the team scoring totals by himself is debatable, particularly in bench minutes.
The same goes for Gary Trent Jr., also coming off the bench. He’s capable of doing more than the 10.3 he’s averaging but, like Dick, he’s part of that bench that has been a mess to date.
Maybe get that rotation figured out and the Raptors will be able to rely on a bit more scoring from the reserves, but right now that feels like a long ways away.
Both Barnes and his head coach are preaching patience, which is acceptable given all the changes, but the question remains the same: Does this team actually have enough scoring to compete even when things are good?
Barnes believes they do.
“We just got to keep trusting our shot,” Barnes said after the most recent Raptors outing, a 99-91 loss to the previously winless Portland Trail Blazers.
“We feel like we can make these shots that we are taking so we are going to continue to trust our shooting,” he said. “That’s really the main thing. We went 4-for-29 (Monday night) from three. That’s a terrible shooting night for us and we feel we can just keep getting those open looks where we can make those shots. Other than that, we just have to stay on the same page with our cutting and get into our right spots and just get our offence to be able to move the ball.”
Jakob Poeltl, a man whose scoring is well down his list of roles for this team to be successful, seemed to be getting towards the same solution his head coach is pointing to when it comes to the early offensive shortcomings.
“Obviously, we didn’t shoot the ball well, so that doesn’t help,” he said looking specifically at the Monday night loss. “But even in those times when we can’t shoot the ball well, we can’t seem to find a three. We got to find a way to either get in the paint or get a different rhythm shot that gets our offence going again.”
At least introducing the ball to the paint was the starting point for Rajakovic in finding a solution to a half-court offence that seems to stall with too much regularity.
“We’re moving the ball, one thing is to move the ball around the three-point line, the other thing is to be aggressive on the catch, that you can touch the paint, so the defence is going to collapse and then move the ball to find an open man,” Rajakovic said.
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“In those situations when we actually did (touch the paint), I thought we were actually moving the ball and finding enough men. I don’t think we did enough of downhill attacks to touch the paint.”
Get the ball inside and get the defence reacting to it and you will theoretically create more open shooting opportunities, but then it comes down to making them.
Eventually someone has to put the ball in the basket and that isn’t happening nearly enough for the Raptors to be competitive.