Saturday night was fun wasn't it? After a back and forth game through three quarters, the Raps caught fire in the fourth and laid a beat down on the Bucks thanks to a team wide shooting exhibition of 65% that led to a 35-11 scoring edge.
The Raps now sit at 19-12, holding the second most wins in the conference but sit in the fourth spot due to Miami having one less loss at this point in the season. The Raps need to keep their foot on the gas pedal and pile up as many wins as possible as 11 of the 15 teams in the east have a legit shot at challenging for a playoff spot.
This week will be a much tougher challenge as the week is bookended with two games against the Bulls, and home dates against the Wizards and the Hornets in between. While these are all potential playoff teams, the Raps are getting back to full strength as DeMarre Carroll returned over the weekend and Jonas Valanciunas will return from his extended absence in Chicago tonight.
If JV slots back into the lineup and looks like himself, and Bismack Biyombo can continue his excellent play off the bench providing the team with much needed depth the Raps could be looking at a 2-2 or even 3-1 week if they don't drop a disappointing game at home to Charlotte as they have done the past few seasons.
December 28th @ Bulls - Lowry vs. D Rose
The Bulls continued their run as the weirdest team in the NBA this season, dropping a game in Dallas after a very well played Christmas win over the Thunder in OKC. For the Raps to pull out the win on the road, they will need to exploit the matchups in the two spots they can clearly hold the advantage in. If DeMarre Carroll is back starting he should be able to take advantage of a matchup against McDermott or Mirotic if Hoiberg chooses to start either of them at the small forward spot. Although Kyle Lowry will need to win his matchup against Derrick Rose for the Raps to control the game. While the physical attributes are still there for Rose, his shooting has struggled with the vision issue, and if Lowry is able to knock down a majority of his threes it could be the boost the Raps need.
December 30th vs. Wizards - Cast another spell
Cory Joseph pulled a little magic out of his hat last time the two teams met, as he hit a buzzer beating three from the corner to steal a win in DC. The Raptors played an absolutely awful game of basketball that night, but the Wizards didn't fare much better and Cory Jo made them pay. As has been the storyline the past two seasons these teams have played each other, it will be a battle of the backcourts, both of which claim they are the best in the east. If DeMar DeRozan continues his superb play, and is able to stifle Bradley Beal with his improved ball control, he could be in for a 30 point night in leading the Raps to a win.
January 1st vs. Hornets - Don't get stung
109-99 was the score in the Raps loss in Charlotte on December 17th, but it was never that close. A furious fourth quarter comeback forced overtime but the team was completely outmatched and beaten in the extra period by a little bit of Linsanity as Jeremy Lin dropped 35 off the bench. The past few seasons the Hornets have handed the Raps some cruel losses at home like the time Killa Kemba ripped our hearts out:
Hopefully a Bismack Biyombo revenge game is in store this time around, and he pulls down 30 boards and blocks at least 10 shots in a Raps win...
January 3rd vs. Bulls: An afternoon bullfight
I'm assuming how this game plays out will depend a lot on tonight's game in Chi-town so all there is to say is that with a few games under his belt, Jonas Valanciunas will be able to work his game in the low post effectively without Joakim Noah to guard him. If DeMarre Carroll is also able to lock down Jimmy Butler it would also go a long way towards the Raps success. Here's a great read on bullfighting to get you excited by Brin-Jonathan Butler.