Has this been a weird week for the Raptors or what? The team is down two starters, its bench has vacillated wildly in its effectiveness, and yet they just ripped off a 4-0 week. Sure, three of those games came against sub-500 teams, and two of those games came against the very worst teams in the entire league. But still, four wins in a row!
This week's ranking summary indicates an up-tick in general Raptors positivity. I mean, you maybe can't see it, but the Raptor is actually wearing rollerblades in that picture up there. Let's keep it rolling, guys.
First up, an update! Marc Stein of ESPN is here now:
5. Toronto Raptors (16-9)
Last Week: 8
Perhaps we were too hard on the Raps in this space last week. They've certainly responded well to the heartbreak of failing to inflict the first loss in Golden State's historic start when presented with a second golden opportunity to do so, winning all four games since against foes mighty (Spurs) and meek (Sixers and Lakers).
Gotta love with Steiny Mo feels bad. It's alright man, we all make mistakes.
Next up, how about Jeremy Woo of SI.com trying to get a little cute with it:
5) TORONTO RAPTORS
LAST WEEK: 8
RECORD: 16-9 (4-0)
This resumé looks strong, as the Raptors are the only team in the league to have wins over the Spurs, Cavs and Thunder (plus, nearly the Warriors twice). They've won seven of 10 playing at the league's second-slowest pace in that span, while deploying Bismack Biyombo in lieu of Jonas Valanciunas. It's hot up in the 6.
Look how he ends that blurb. It's like watching a toddler take his first steps into a cooler world. Godspeed, young one, for it is indeed hot up in the 6. (Historically speaking, I mean; the average temperatures so far in December feel higher than normal in Toronto.) I do also love that Woo mentions that the Raptors almost beat the Warriors twice. [cue high-pitched squeal]
Moving on--because John Schuhmann just told me to cool it with the squealing--here's the NBA.com analysis:
5) Toronto Raptors
Last week: 7
Pace: 96.1 (25) OffRtg: 103.9 (6) DefRtg: 99.4 (9) NetRtg: +4.5 (6)
The Raptors are without two starters, but their four-game winning streak (with a win over the Spurs) has been a result of better starts. After losing five straight first quarters, they've won four straight (by a total score of 108-84), with DeMar DeRozan (31 points on just 17 shots) and Luis Scola (24 points) giving them some early punch. DeMarre Carroll could be missed against Paul George, Nicolas Batum and Dwyane Wade this week.
Each and every week I am gob-smacked by Schuhmann's ability to just get it. As he notes, the Raptors continue to play well despite missing a couple of very important players. They've started getting better at, um, starting. And hey, DeRozan has been efficient! Let's get back to making squealing noises.
Wait wait wait, I forgot about Matt Moore of CBSsports.com:
9) Toronto Raptors
In the last two weeks they have wins over the Hawks and Spurs, and took the Warriors to the wire. They have random slip-ups to teams like Denver like most teams do, but their overall body of work is very strong. The only reason they've slid is because of jumps by the Celtics and Thunder. This is one of the East teams I feel the best about keeping up their success through the season.
I'd like to get indignant about this ranking. Truly, I would--Number 9? Number 9?? Number 9??? Toronto just went 4-0 on the week!
But you know what, Moore's keeping things reasonable here, and carefully managing expectations. There is cause for optimism (the Raps have stayed in every game save one this season) and worry (minutes load for DeRozan and Lowry, mainly). And yet, it does feel like the Raptors have a much more replicable form of success this year. I think that's the note we'll end on this week.
Now, let's go to the poll.