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Raptors have losing record for first time in nearly seven years

Raptors guard Kyle Lowry

Dec 23, 2020; Tampa, Florida, USA; Toronto Raptors guard Kyle Lowry (7) looks on against the New Orleans Pelicans during the second half at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Roy Hibbert led the Pacers with 22 points, and Danny Granger added 13 off the bench in an 86-79 win over the Raptors on Jan. 7, 2014. The loss dropped Toronto to 16-17.

That was the last time the Raptors had a losing record.

Until now.

Toronto lost to the Pelicans 113-99 yesterday, falling to a completely foreign 0-1.

The Raptors had gone 6 years, 11 months and 16 days since their last losing record. That’s the third-longest such streak in NBA history.

The Knicks went more than seven years between losing records in the 90s. The Celtics went nearly seven years without a losing record during their late 50s/early 60s dynasty. The Lakers also went nearly seven years without a losing record in a streak that began shortly before Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant arrived in Los Angeles.

Here are the longest amounts of time between games that gave a team a losing record:

pbt raptors years since losing record

How did the Raptors do it? Four reasons stand out:

  • Quality play. Toronto won 67% of its games and made the playoffs every season during this streak. The better a team plays, the less likely it slips below .500 – even briefly. The Raptors have been consistently good.
  • Cohesion. Toronto traded Rudy Gay shortly before beginning its streak and built a strong identity. Kyle Lowry was starting point guard this entire time, and DeMar DeRozan lasted most of the run as starting shooting guard. Even as new young players worked their way up and then new veterans arrived, the Raptors’ culture prevailed. Juxtapose the Clippers’ chemistry problems with Kawhi Leonard to how Toronto made it work with the sometimes-difficult superstar. Continuity of identity made it easier for the Raptors to hit the ground running early in the season, when there’s more variability with win percentage.
  • Coronavirus. This season started late, adding a couple months to Toronto’s streak.
  • Luck. Even good teams sometimes drop their opener, two of three or even three of five to begin a season. To some degree, the Raptors just happened to go six straight years without doing that. This Toronto squad might just show how good teams can have a slow start.