Last time we checked in on the Raptors, they sat at 33-17 and 3rd in the East on the heels of a two-game losing skid, and were facing a stretch of tough games to head into the All-Star break. The Clippers, Spurs, and Wizards seemed to be catching the Raptors at the right time, after Toronto had been beaten by Brooklyn and Milwaukee comfortably.
So what's happened since? More of the roller coaster we've grown accustomed to. The Raptors impressively beat all 3 of LAC, SAS and WAS before they got a week off. After coming back from the All Star festivities, the tough stretch continued with a matchup against the first place Atlanta Hawks. The Raptors put the beatdown on ATL on the road, eventually winning by 25 points.
However, the three games after that have left a bitter taste in our mouths. Losing to New Orleans (without Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday) by squandering an 18 point lead is inexcusable. Getting crushed by Houston and Dallas on back to back nights less so, but still disappointing considering the way the Raptors had been playing in a very difficult stretch. So with all that noise, here's how the Raps stack up in the East:
|3||Cleveland||36||22||.621||9 ½||21-9||15-13||6-4||23-11||102.6||98.7||+3.8||Won 3||8-2|
|4||Chicago||36||22||.621||9 ½||17-12||19-10||6-4||21-13||101.6||98.7||+2.9||Lost 1||6-4|
|5||Washington||33||25||.569||12 ½||20-10||13-15||6-6||22-15||99.0||98.3||+0.8||Lost 5||2-8|
|7||Miami||25||31||.446||19 ½||10-16||15-15||4-7||18-16||93.5||96.7||-3.1||Won 2||5-5|
Here's what's going on with some other Eastern Conference teams that could affect the standings:
Atlanta: The Hawks are 1-3 against the Raptors, and 44-9 against everyone else. Figure that one out.
Cleveland: The Cavs have been on an absolute tear since LeBron returned from his injury break. They've chopped off another game and a half on the Raptors in the seven games since our last watch. Right now, they're the favourite to land the 2-seed.
Chicago: Everyone's heard the Derrick Rose news by now. It's rough down in the Windy City, as they don't have a D.J. Augustin to rely on in the stretch run this year. While their big rotation will win them their fair share of games, the Bulls are likely locked in on the 4-seed at the moment. Unless...
Washington: The Wizards are going the other way, after playing the role of very-friendly-guest during Kevin Garnett's homecoming in Minneapolis. They got blown out by 20, after blowing a double digit lead of their own. To the Timberwolves. Right now, there's a very real chance that Milwaukee catches them for the 5-seed
Milwaukee: UNLESS THE BUCKS GO UP TO #4. The loss of Brandon Knight will hurt them, but if Michael Carter-Williams and Tyler Ennis can hold the fort, the Bucks conceivably could rise up a spot or two.
Miami: The Heat were the scariest potential first-round matchup for the Raptors for a couple of hours, after their trade with Phoenix. The Chris Bosh news is unfortunate, but Goran Dragic and Dwyane Wade alone still scare me.
The Raptors aren't good enough to choose their opponents, but let me put it this way: if the Raptors dropped to third and Washington dropped to sixth, I won't complain.