Where to watch: 7:30 pm, TSN 1,2,4.
The Raptors are on a six-game winning streak and coming off four wins in five nights, including back-to-back wins in overtime on the road against the Nets and Wizards. After a very uneven month of play, they managed to finish January in a 9-7 record, and their recent play of late have at least calmed some of the fears about whether this team was headed into a tailspin.
Still, the schedule gets tougher after the All-Star break, so Toronto will want to take advantage of this five game home stand which starts tonight against the Milwaukee Bucks. After that, the Nets, Clippers, Spurs and Wizards will come in.
The Raptors have won both meetings against Milwaukee this season. In their first meeting on November 21st, Toronto won in a blowout 124-82, which many might remember as the night Bruno Caboclo made his debut and finished an alley-oop followed by a three to put the Raptors up 109-59 at that point.
The second meeting, just a few weeks ago in Milwaukee, was much closer. Toronto needed six players in double figures (led by Kyle Lowry's 18) to win 92-89 on the road. It was the first game of Terrence Ross's demotion to the bench. He responded that night with 16 points in 23 minutes of play. That victory started a stretch in which the Raptors have won seven of their last eight.
With winnable games against the Bucks tonight and the Nets on Wednesday, the Raptors could push this win streak to eight games. At 33-15, they've already set a record for most wins for the franchise prior to the All-Star break. A strong push here before the break with five home games would put Toronto in an excellent position to compete for the two-seed in the East (until the Atlanta Hawks lose, let's assume they'll hold onto that number one spot. Put it this way. The Raptors have gone 7-3 in their last ten and have lost three games in the standings to the Hawks, who are on a 19-game win streak and are seven games ahead of Toronto).
Unclear if everyone would agree, but for me, it's clear that the preferred path in the playoffs would be for Atlanta, Chicago and Cleveland to be in the 1, 4 and 5 position on one side of the bracket, and for the Raptors and Wizards to be on the other side. As of right now, that seems like the most realistic path for Toronto to see themselves in the Conference Finals.
We're still a long way from there, let's see what happens tonight.