Ed Davis (left) and Jonas Valanciunas (right) are big pieces of the Raptors future. (Getty Images)It was one of those games that you might have been able to tolerate earlier in the season, one of those losses that would have been easier to take if the Toronto Raptors were in the playoff mix in the Eastern Conference standings. But being that Wednesday night's 94-88 loss to the Brooklyn Nets was the Raptors sixth in a row, 12th in their last 13, and pushed them further toward the basement in the standings, the latest defeat was yet another tough pill to swallow.
The Raptors went into Wednesday night without Andrea Bargnani, Kyle Lowry and Amir Johnson. Bargnani and Lowry both suffered injuries in the team's loss to Portland on Monday and Johnson was suspended for throwing his mouth guard at a referee in the same game. All three play major roles in the lineup and having all of them out for Wednesday's game left the Raptors with a depleted roster and forced other players into larger roles.
If there was one positive that came out of the Raptors 19th loss of the season it was that for the most part, those who were left to pick up the pieces did an impressive job. Ed Davis played close to 45 minutes and racked up 24 points — which tied his career high — and 12 rebounds as he continues to be one of the best stories to come out of the organization this season. The 23-year-old has never really been known as an overly offensive player, but so far this season, when given the opportunity, Davis has proved he can contribute on the offensive end. He's making quite the case for himself to be a starter in the Raptors lineup and knowing what we do now about Bargnani — he's out indefinitely with a torn ligament in his right elbow and a strained right wrist — fans can expect to see a whole lot more from Davis.
"Ed was big-time. Didn't shy away from the contact. That's a big step in his growth process," head coach Dwane Casey told reporters after the game. "He's a young kid making big strides and I'm really proud of how he played.
"I'm really happy for Ed, a bright spot. We're all looking at woe as me, the negatives, there are bright spots with our players."
The Washington, D.C. native wasn't the only one in the Raptors frontcourt who took their game to another level. Rookie Jonas Valanciunas had one of the best games of his young career pouring in 15 points and adding four rebounds. The seven-foot Lithuanian has struggled at times early on this season but showed tremendous confidence in the paint Wednesday. While the consistency in his play isn't there yet, Valanciunas has shown at various points that's he's capable of logging big minutes while producing offensively and he's clearly going to be one of the franchise's key pieces going forward.
Jose Calderon also had an impressive showing Wednesday. With Lowry out the veteran point guard was able to log starting minutes and dropped 15 assists and added 10 points in the loss.
The Raptors season clearly hasn't gone according to plan as this was a team that many felt was going to compete for a playoff spot at the beginning of the year. But what appears to be clear after 23 games is that Toronto needs to continue developing talent within the organization — players like Davis, Valanciunas, Lowry and DeMar DeRozan — and fill holes in their lineup via trade and free agency. It's going to take longer than what was originally expected, but like it or not, right now this team clearly needs time to mold into a winner.