David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Get your popcorn ready! For the first time in years, the Raptors are playing a game with serious playoff implications.
Friday November 14th, was the day everything changed. The Raptors entered a match against the Mavericks with a 4-19 record, having recently lost Lowry and Bargnani to injury, and in the midst of a 6-game skid. Firings were discussed, tanking was considered, and the overall mindset in Raptor-land was remarkably bleak.
However, on that Friday night, someone seemed to turn a switch, as the Raptors became a completely different team. Whether it was Anderson's return, Bargnani's abcense, or just a matter of time, we'll never know, but what we do know is the Raptors finally played the way fans were expecting; using tough defense and impressive ball movement to throttle the Mavericks. You know the rest from there, as the Dinos have gone 10-3 from that point, jumping from the Eastern Conference cellar, to 10th place in the East.
The most astonishing part is that these same Raptors, the team that was in such a bad place less than a month ago, can now say "Raptors" and "playoffs" in the same sentence, without being universally mocked by the fans of 29 other teams.
There are currently two teams standing in the Raptors way of a playoff run. One them is the 76ers, victim of a Raptors throttling on Wednesday, and loser of two of their last eight. The Raptors sit one game back of the 9th place 76ers, who have been struggling big-time as of late.
And the second team blocking the Raptors road to the playoffs is... you guessed it, the Bucks. Milwaukee's 18-17 record puts them in the oh-so-coveted 8th spot, a spot that the Raptors would love to sit in.
The Bucks speedy back-court combo of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, combined with the resurgence of Ersan Ilyasova, and defensive prowess of Larry Sanders make the Bucks a very tough team to play, and a difficult match-up for Toronto's squad.
The Raptors have a great opportunity to gain ground on the Bucks, as these teams meet to play the first of three regular season match ups. A Raptor win would put the squad just 3.5 games back of the Bucks, and a win... well, it would do the opposite.