After complete dud in Orlando, Toronto Raptors can only go up against surging Pacers — we hope

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The knee-jerk reaction after a performance like Tuesday’s by the Raptors is to just assume this is how it’s always going to be.

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That, of course, is not remotely close to the reality.

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As bad as they were on Tuesday night in a 126-107 loss to Orlando, they looked almost equally as good on Sunday — the difference being Sunday’s performance came against a Detroit Pistons team that was missing three key players.

But his isn’t about the Raptors’ performance on Sunday.

This is about that almost-complete capitulation on Tuesday night in Orlando. Whatever fight the Raptors brought to Orlando got left in the locker room based on that performance.

We certainly didn’t see any pushback on the court.

When Jalen Suggs looks like he can single-handedly take on your whole roster — and this is not a knock on Suggs, who has already proven himself as an elite college player — something is amiss.

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Maybe it’s the arena. The beginning of the end for the Raptors last year started on a bad loss in New Orleans at the end of November, but was solidified by back-to-back losses in Orlando a couple of weeks later.

Those two games were, like Tuesday’s loss, hard to watch.

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In all three, the Raptors looked slow and uninterested while the Magic was energized and jacked up.

This isn’t the first time this season this Raptors team has come out this way, but it did feel like the first time a team owned them for all four quarters.

Watching Suggs and his histrionics every time he made a play or even touched the ball, you could see this particular game meant far more to him than it did anyone else. His teammates picked up on that and joined the fight.

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The Raptors’ lack of push-back was embarrassing.

The bottom line, though, is every team in the NBA has nights like this.

Maybe it was a bad flight down to Orlando with tons of delays. Maybe no one got any sleep. Maybe tensions were high within the locker room before the game over something that had nothing to do with the game itself.

They weren’t making those excuses and we’re not making them for them. That’s just the reality of the NBA season. But for whatever reason, the Raptors did not bring the energy or the effort necessary to match what Orlando had.

When games like these happen, the immediate reaction within the room is usually some semblance of ‘flush this one, send it away and don’t let it linger.’

On that front, the schedule maker has done the Raptors both a favour and a bit of a disservice.

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The favour is they are right back at it Wednesday night in Indianapolis with no time to dwell on that abomination in Orlando.

The team was packed and on a bus and headed back to the team charter within two hours of that loss in Orlando. They would land in Indianapolis at some time around 2:30 a.m. and head straight to their rooms, not to be seen again until a late-morning film study.

The disservice is they go right from a team playing well to a team playing stellar basketball, though at only one end of the court.

The Indiana Pacers have been an offensive marvel this year. Like the Raptors, they will be playing their second game in consecutive nights, having outlasted the Hawks on Tuesday night in Atlanta in a scoring derby.

The Pacers got by the Hawks 157-152 in a game where offence prevailed and defence was a very distant rumour.

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As good as Indiana is at putting the ball in the hoop, they might be equally as bad at preventing it.

Tyrese Haliburton, an early favourite in the league for Most Improved Player, put up 37 points and 16 assists in 39 minutes to get the Pacers over the finish line.

He’ll obviously be a focus for the Raptors and, with any luck, won’t have quite the jump he did in Atlanta after a long night.

The Raptors starters, on the other hand, are relatively fresh with no one having played more than 30 minutes and none of them honestly capable of saying they expended everything they had in Tuesday’s game.

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It’s not necessarily a favourable matchup for the Raptors, but maybe a timely one given the need for a defensive comeback after the lack of anything in that regard on Tuesday.

In a post-game interviews, Dennis Schroder openly acknowledged they would give up 140 to Indy if the energy level didn’t ramp up. What happens if the Raptors come with the same attitude toward defence on Wednesday that they took to Orlando is that easily predictable.

And if they put a handful of those effort-lacking, defence-ignoring games together, they will be right back to that unwatchable team they became a year ago.

We don’t see that happening.

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