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Raptors Take Advantage of Rare Three-Point Shooting Bonanza in Win over Sixers

The Toronto Raptors got the job done last night in Philly thanks to the long-ball.

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, the Toronto Raptors, with a win last night over the Philadelphia 76ers, are in first place in the Atlantic Division.

Yes, with a record of 5 wins and 7 losses.

And yes, if the playoffs started today, that would mean the Dinos would occupy the fourth seed.

It's a strange situation but here we are.  Thanks to horrific starts to the season by the New York Knicks and Brooklyn Nets, both clubs that were supposed to be top five playoff teams in the East, the Dinos find themselves in a position to potentially lock-in a playoff spot, even if they keep playing at their middling pace.  The Atlantic Division's other two clubs, the Boston Celtics and last night's opponent, Philly, aren't exactly eyeing the Eastern Conference Finals this year so in many ways, Toronto's playoff fate may rest on the play of the Knicks and Nets.

That's not to say the Raptors' don't control their own destiny to a certain degree of course.  So long as Toronto takes care of business by winning games like last night's against lesser opponents, they'll likely be in the playoff conversation all season.  As I've mentioned in previous posts, this is a club that in its present form, will likely beat opponents like the Sixers the bulk of the time due to a superior talent level, but won't be able to get many wins against quality clubs.

And even in last night's 108 to 98 win, there were some outliers that should be noted, so one can maintain a measured view of this club.  Toronto blitzed Philadelphia from beyond the arc, hitting 14 of 29 shots.  On the season the Dinos were making only half that number of 3's per game, and shooting around 33 per cent.  Philly is giving up record levels of three-point attempts to opponents currently, so if you put these two pieces together, one has to assume we won't see this type of production continue.

As well, we got the "one-every-four games" stellar display by Terrence Ross off the pine, an uber-efficient scoring game from DeMar DeRozan (who led the Raps with 33 points), and finally, a solid all-around game from Rudy Gay, who pitched in eight assists to go with his 18 points and 8 rebounds.

It was almost as if Gay had had enough of the recent media talk regarding his "non-passing ways," and looked to make a statement from the get go.  It was a joy to see, and he was one of the key reasons the Raps took the lead for good in the second quarter, and never looked back.

However late in the game you still saw flashes of the old Rudy so again, all of these bright spots have caveats unfortunately.  Rudy scored on a tough driving play with about five minutes left in the third quarter and on the ensuing Raptors possession, with 4:22 left in the game to be exact, Gay immediately came down and jacked up a three-pointer with about 20 seconds left on the clock.

Heat check.


Rudy Gay to the core.

I had noted in the gamethread lead-up that this next batch of games will likely set the bar in terms of "how low the team can go" so last night's win gives us one piece of this puzzle.  Wins over the Wizards and Nets, the team's next two opponents, likely fill in a bit more in terms of where this team likely nets out over the course of the season, again, assuming a stable roster.

It's that latter part that is really the big question mark however.

While wins over lesser clubs like the Sixers, Wizards and bizarrely, the Nets might make the club's playoff hopes a bit easier thanks to divisional alignment, it probably only serves to make Masai Ujiri's job that much harder as he continues to try and figure out which direction to take this club.