You've got to hand it to the Raptors. When the team decides to disabuse you of a notion, they do so with real gusto. After back-to-back wins in Dallas and Oklahoma City, the Raptors looked, while not perfect, certainly very potent. There was something in the crunch time combination of Jonas Valanciunas, DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, DeMarre Carroll and Cory Joseph that felt oh so right. And, combined with the contributions of Patrick Patterson, Bismack Biyombo, Luis Scola and an (awake) Terry Ross, the Raptors looked set to perhaps exceed some expectations. (Yes, I realize I just named all nine key rotation members, but that's just how I feel, OK.)
A digression: You know how sometimes you have weekend plans and you get very excited about them? You count down the days until the end of the week--hey TGIF, right guys?--and dive into the weekend like a refreshing pool on a summer day. But then, somehow, things go wrong. It rains, people cancel, the event sucks, the movie is sold out, shit happens.
That was the Raptors trip through Florida, into Orlando and Miami, and their first losses of the season. We can get excited, but sometimes, yeah, it just stinks.
In that spirit, let's check in with the very optimistic Marc Stein of ESPN:
Last Week: 8
|Didn't take long for Toronto to make us nervous about our selection of Boston as a surprise preseason choice to win the Atlantic. The Raps' fourth-quarter play at both ends had been more dominant than anyone's through five games -- including Golden State's -- until the weekend trip to Florida dragged 'em back to Earth.|
This is a man who understands the tenets of a long season and the ups and downs of weekends. You've got to, got to, play the long game. I'm not saying I wouldn't want to hang with Steiny Mo, but I'm not not saying it.
Meanwhile, over at SI.com, Jeremy Woo slid the Raptors down into the 9-spot (behind Miami; oh it burns):
9) TORONTO RAPTORS
LAST WEEK: 9
RECORD: 5-2 (2-2)
After winning five games in style, the Raptors hit their first snag of the season, falling to both Florida teams to end a four-game road trip. Though DeMarre Carroll is battling foot problems, he should be afforded some rest, as their four opponents this week have won a combined four games—and three of those wins belong to the Knicks.
Not much new to report here--the SI ranking was at nine last week as well. But I'll say this for our man Woo, he's already subtly looking ahead to games against the Knicks, Sixers and reeling win-less Pelicans. No bad weekend mojo is going to keep him down--this man is ready to party.
Now we check in with the concerned dad of the bunch, John Schuhmann of NBA.com. He keeps things in perspective. Peep this:
8) Toronto (5-2)
Last week: 8
Pace: 99.1 (20) OffRtg: 99.2 (16) DefRtg: 96.7 (9) NetRtg: +2.6 (13)
The Raptors got a signature win in Oklahoma City on Wednesday and are still undefeated outside of Florida. Dwane Casey wanted more ball movement and better defense this season, and he's gotten both, for the most part. But DeMarre Carroll is banged up and the Raps came up empty from 3-point range (8-for-42) in weekend losses to the Magic and Heat. They've hit five or fewer threes in four straight games.
First, Schuhmann gets cute about all of the Raptors losses coming in one state. He acknowledges the good (for the most part), the bad (Carroll needs to get back), and the ugly (the 3-point shooting drought). But glance at that ninth-best defensive rating and you know what, things don't feel too bad. Sure, the weekend was a bust, but it happens sometimes. Thanks, dad.
Now, let's go to the--
8) Toronto Raptors - Last Week: 6
I was totally bought-in on the Raptors, especially after their win over Oklahoma City last week. I had them No. 4 going into the weekend. But no, nothing can ever be easy with the North, so instead they went out and face-planted vs. the Magic and then were throttled by Miami. DeMarre Carroll being out didn't help, but it was a warning that this Raptors team still gets caught running out with their heads missing defensively at times.
A wild Matt Moore appears! He uses cutting (but insightful) analysis! It's super effective!
OK, now let's go to the poll.