Oh, to revel in the highs and lows of basketball is a special treasure; overwhelming at times, yes, but still something to cherish. The truth is, these games all start to blend together after awhile, the meaning of one win cancelling out the effect of one loss, and vice versa. (And that's just from watching, I can't imagine the emotional malleability required to actually play.)
The Raptors had an awesome, surprising come-from-behind victory in Atlanta last week. The team was on the ropes until Kyle Lowry (playing through the flu) and Lucas Nogueira (a revelation) led Toronto all the way back. Such good feelings. But then Toronto's squad, the very next night, lost to the Nuggets after trying, and failing, to come back again. Good feelings dashed.
What you're left with, what you can actually hold on to, emotionally speaking, are events like the Warriors game on Saturday. The Raptors lost that one too, but it was close and, at times, it felt winnable. At the very least, it was competitive and a joy to take in--even if the Raptors bobbled away the ball a couple times at the end to cost themselves the actual chance of winning. You'll remember watching the outcome, even as it crushed the happiness right out of you.
If that's not something to value, I don't know what is. Now, let's get to the rankings.
The Godfather Marc Stein of ESPN was actually in Toronto this week and had this to say about the Raptors:
Woof. Now I know how Fredo felt. Still, even though this betrayal cuts deep, Stein is not wrong. The Raptors didn't have too great a week. A come from behind victory against the Hawks the lone actual bright spot. And with games against the Lakers, Sixers and Bucks coming up, the buzz kill saw is just warming up.
So what then of young Jeremy Woo at SI.com, what does he have to say? Read on:
8) TORONTO RAPTORS
LAST WEEK: 12-9 (1-2)
Kyle Lowry poured in a career-high 41 against the Warriors, and his team gets credit for pushing Golden State to the brink a second time. The Raptors have been extremely competitive through the first quarter of the season and should take advantage of juicy home tilts with the Lakers, Bucks and Sixers this week.
I read this too fast and thought Woo was saying the Raptors had been competitive in first quarters, which we know to be demonstratively untrue. After a quick rewind though, it is clear: Toronto has been competitive in the first quarter of the season, hanging in tough Eastern Conference. (Go figure, the East is tough.) And there's that cream puff schedule getting another mention.
But lest we get to high, here comes John Schuhmann from NBA.com to keep it real:
7) Toronto Raptors
Last week: 7
Pace: 96.8 (25) OffRtg: 103.6 (7) DefRtg: 100.6 (14) NetRtg: +3.0 (10)
The Raptors got a big win with a big comeback in Atlanta on Wednesday and took the Warriors down to the wire again on Saturday. But they've lost three of their last four games and have put themselves in double-digit deficits in the first half of each of their last five. For the season, they've been the league's third worst first-quarter team, getting outscored by 11.6 points per 100 possessions.
I watched Creed this past week (it's very good) and let me tell you, these are Adonis-level haymakers. I'm amazed John kept the Raptors at number seven. Also, did you notice that the team's defensive rating fell to 14th this week? Is it possible the team is missing Jonas even more than we thought?
7) Toronto Raptors
The Nuggets loss was bad, but this team is still playing well. They put up a fight vs. the Warriors which counts as a win here, and they still have a top-10 point differential per 100 possessions. The Jonas Valanciunas injury is really apparent for stretches, though.
There it is. Feel better, Jonas!
Now, to the poll.