The Raptors played four games this week but I wouldn't blame you if you'd forgotten that fact. Two of the games, against the Spurs and the Clippers, can be added to the collection of awesome memories this season. And the other two, well, we'd prefer to never speak of them again. (For the record: ugly losses to the Bucks and the Nets.)
Sticking with that binary metric, there were two dominant storylines for the week. The first, of course, was the ongoing folk legend that is James Johnson. As many of you have probably noticed, Johnson did not play in the two games the Raptors lost (whether due to injury or conspiracy is up for debate, sort of). In the games the Raps won, he not only played but played extremely well (15-for-17 from the field combined, a game winning three, stellar defense). Can Johnson keep this level of play up? Will he get the start again? Questions abound.
Meanwhile, amid all the lineup questions, was our second storyline: the Raptors also trotted out the lineup many think should be their new crunch time five (or at least, their new dominant lineup). The five-some of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, James Johnson, Patrick Patterson and Jonas Valanciunas got a bit of play against San Antonio. It's now been used for a total of 11 minutes (per NBA.com). Given the sample size, the 127.0 offensive rating and 57.4 defensive rating doesn't mean that much. But it does suggest the Raps should maybe try it out a bit more. More questions abound.
Anyway, I've said enough. Let's get to the rankings. As per usual, Champ Stein leads us off:
Last Week: 7
|The Clips had won a whopping 83 games in a row in which they seized a lead of 20 or more, until the Raps turned Friday's ESPN game around as dramatically as you'll see. The Raps were a mere 9-9 since Jan. 1 until weekend W's over the Clippers and Spurs, but you tell us: Who deserves this spot more?|
Hard to believe the Raps have been 9-9 in 2015, so it's definitely nice to see, as Stein notes, the wins against the Clips and Spurs.
How about our friend Matt Dollinger at Sports Illustrated:
6 - TORONTO RAPTORS
LAST WEEK: 8
RECORD: 35-17 (2-2)
DeMar DeRozan won't be playing in the All-Star Game this year due to a prolonged injury and drop in production, but he's as vital as ever to Toronto. The Raptors are now 23-8 when DeRozan plays this season and are even better (15-3) when he hits his scoring average (18.2 ppg).
Some nice things to add about DeRozan. Definitely doesn't hurt to see him rounding into form after coming back from injury.
And finally, bring us home John Schuhmann of NBA.com:
7 - Toronto (35-17)
Pace: 95.7 (20) OffRtg: 109.0 (4) DefRtg: 104.4 (18) NetRtg: +4.6 (7)
The Raptors are your Jekyll and Hyde Team of the Week, not just because they went 2-2, beating the two best opponents. They did it by losing ugly (to Milwaukee), losing a high-scoring game (to Brooklyn), winning a high-scoring game (against the Clippers) and winning ugly (against the Spurs). That, my friends, is serious Jekyll and Hyding.
Ooo, a strong literary reference! I was working more within the constructs of mathematics, but Schuhmann gets at the utter agony and heart-exploding ecstasy of watching these Toronto Raptors. So, yeah, kudos.
Now, on to the poll!