Every scene in a fictional work must have one of the following: sex, violence, suffering, wickedness, comedy and/or novelty. Sit back and think about this for a moment. Then, recall the past week for the Toronto Raptors. They played in a mere three games - against the Cavaliers, Wizards and Suns - and yet, dramatically speaking, managed to capture all six elements.
Since violence is not a thing that normally happens in an NBA game (beyond the normal clash of bodies), we'll begin this comparison with the metaphoric violence that surely met James Johnson after he sent his #mood tweet post-Cavs win. It would take a serious tough guy to get Johnson to do something he doesn't want to do, but the Raptors' media relations people and coaching staff got him out there rectifying the situation.
Suffering? That's easy to identify. We all saw the hapless events of that Wizards/Raptors game; Toronto boxed the Wizards into shooting 33 percent from the field, yet kept Washington in the game with the aid of 22 turnovers. Ouch.
Wickedness can easily be accounted for in the Raptors' lone loss to the Suns. Toronto kept clawing their way back into that game, only to be unduly undone by a wave of three pointers and a very un-chill few plays by Phoenix. That pair of Jon Leuer dunks will haunt my dreams for weeks to come.
For comedy, a couple of things come to mind. There's the specific, in the Cavs standing amidst the Dance Pak's pre-game routine, or the general of remembering Bismack Biyombo's ongoing adventures at catching the basketball. He means so well!
Raptors novelty is easily achieved through the sight of Lucas Nogueira and his hair in the Suns game. He got six minutes in the second quarter (a.k.a. non-garbage time) and besides a dunk, did not look like he was ready to keep up.
And the sex? Cory Joseph's game winner against the Wizards, obviously.
Deep breath. Let's go to this week's rankings.
First up, the grand master of the rank, ESPN's Marc Stein provides his take:
Stein's got us covered on both suffering (a league-high 12 road games) and some novelty - The Luis Scola Three Point Experiment is no longer for the laboratory. Scola is a legit threat from deep, save for when he's getting blocked with the game on the line. Such wickedness.
We turn now to the young whipper-snapper Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated as he gives us the lowdown:
7) TORONTO RAPTORS
LAST WEEK: 9
RECORD: 11-7 (2-1)
It feels like we don't really talk about it, but Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are the East's best backcourt. It's thanks to them that Toronto hasn't missed a beat without the injured Jonas Valanciunas: see Lowry's 27 points, six assists, four steals and no turnovers in a win over Cleveland, and DeRozan's four straight 20-point games.
This is comedy. We do talk about it! We talk about it all the time! They're great! (Except when DeRozan holds the ball too much, and takes contested jumpers, then we move into dark comedy territory.)
But then, the cold mathematical mind of John Schuhmann at NBA.com states it thusly:
7) Toronto Raptors
Last week: 8
Pace: 97.0 (24) OffRtg: 103.0 (7) DefRtg: 99.5 (11) NetRtg: +3.5 (9)
Six of the Raptors' last eight games have been within five points in the last five minutes, including a pair of thrillers over the weekend. Cory Joseph hit the game-winner in Washington on Saturday, but had a couple of late turnovers against Phoenix on Sunday. Bismack Biyombo is supposed to bring defense, but the new starting lineup has allowed 112 points per 100 possessions in the four games Jonas Valanciunas has missed.
The violence of these numbers is surprising. The Raptors remain in the top ten in offensive rating, and while they've slid to 11th in defensive rating, this is a huge (huge!) improvement over last year. Even if the Biyombo stat he lists there makes no sense.
And now, finally, here's Matt Moore of CBSsports.com:
6) Toronto Raptors (Last week: 14)
Came out of the West Coast road trip strong, got a signature win over the Cavaliers, snuck out a victory against the Wizards Saturday before a back-to-back loss to the Suns Sunday. This team is a legit Eastern Contender and not enough people are talking about it. They have significantly fewer weaknesses on their roster than last year. One warning sign: their offense is held up by their free-throw rate, for the second straight year. You cannot rely on that come April.
Even with the free throw caveat at the end, there's a simple way to describe Moore's reconsidered eight-spot Raptor rise: Pure Sex.
Let's get to the - don't snicker - poll.