On Wednesday night, the Toronto Raptors proved something to everyone when they beat the Atlanta Hawks: they are not simply 3rd in the East, they are the 3rd BEST TEAM in the East.
You may be asking "What's the difference?" Here it is:
Using the 2000-01/2001-02 Raptors and the 2006-07 Raptors as a bench mark, the last time the Raptors were clicking this well after 52 games (their record is 28-24, 1st Atlantic; 3rd in the East), was in 2007, where after 52 games, their record was 28-24 (29-24 going into the All Star Break). The time before that? 2002, 29-21 going into the All Star Break; 29-23 after 52 games. And before that? 2001, 26-23 going into the All Star Break; 27-25 after 52 games.
Now let't provide some context here.
In 2001, the Raptors were on the come up. They were led by Vince Carter and Antonio Davis; two All Stars. The team's final standings were:
47-35; 2nd in the Central Division (only two conferences back then, remember?) 5th in the East.
27-14 at home; 20-21 on the road.
Playoffs: Beat the Knicks in 5 games in the 1st round, Lost to the 76ers in 7 games in the 2nd round.
In 2002, the Raptors were on pace to win the Central Division title, but Vince Carter went down for the season. You know the rest: 13 game losing streak, 1-17 overall; came back to win 12 of the last 14 games to make the playoffs (12-2; including a 9 game winning streak).
42-40; 3rd in the Central Division; 7th in the East.
24-16 at home; 18-23 on the road.
Playoffs: Lost to Detroit in 5 games (last best of 5 series in the 1st round).
In 2007, the Raptors started pretty much how they did this year, but made an epic turn around to the tune of another 47 win season and their first Atlantic division title.
47-35; 1st in the Atlantic Division; 3rd in the East.
30-11 at home; 17-24 on the road.
Playoffs: Lost to NJ and employee #15, Vince Carter (that hurt) in 6 games.
This is 2014. The Raptors traded Bargnani and Rudy Gay and were suppose to be on of the bottom feeder teams of the league, joining the highly touted Tankapalooza 2014 AKA #TankNation. What has happened thus far was something totally different altogether... The Raptors started winning... And are playing top 5 defense.
Current Record: 28-24; 1st in the Atlantic Division; 3rd in the East.
14-10 at home; 14-14 on the road.
In spite of what's going on around the league (injuries and what not); the Toronto Raptors have been winning most of the games they should be winning (last night VS ATL; beat the Nets 2x) and have been winning some games that no one expects to win (swept Dallas; beat OKC IN OKC). As we all know all too well, the referees are not gonna make it easy for the Raptors (the game in Sacramento anyone?), but the Raptors are playing through it regardless. And above all else, this team doesn't lie down and take a beating. They can be down by 30 and come back and make a game of it (I really hope that tread ends).
The fact is that no one really thought that the Raptors were going to do much this year. At every turn, they have proven you wrong.
Do you believe now?