Where to watch: 8:30 p.m., TSN, TSN2 & TSN4
The 82-game NBA season is designed to allow title contenders to rise to their rightful place atop the standings. In the process, it filters accidental challengers out of the equation.
At the outset of the 2014-15 season, no rational NBA follower would have pegged the Toronto Raptors as being superior to the dynastic superpower that is the San Antonio Spurs. Up until a month ago though, the Raptors were successfully masquerading as exactly that.
February 8th's 87-82 win at the ACC - perhaps Toronto's best win of the season - seemed to cement the Raps' position ahead of the Spurs in the league's pecking order.
Since then though, the 82-game grind has worked it's magic.
In the four weeks following the first clash between the two squads, the Spurs and Raptors have re-aligned themselves with their pre-season expectations. San Antonio has gone 7-4, and is currently riding a 5-game winning streak in which they've outscored opponents by 17 points per game. Thanks to Tony Parker's resurgence, the champs are looking like the champs once again.
During that same time span, Toronto has come across some stiff competition and won just three times, dropping eight - and have notched just one win (against the lowly 76ers) in their last nine games. March 6th saw the Spurs surpass them in the overall league standings too.
At 38-25, with a decent chance of hitting the 50-win threshold, the Dinos are now essentially exactly where they were expected to be. Yes, the crash back to earth has been more violent than those involved with the team would have liked, but such is the nature of the NBA marathon. Teams will go through rough times; the elite teams have the ability to limit the duration of those lean stretches, and maintain their contender status.
The Raptors are not an elite team - and they never were. Although their torrid 24-7 start helped them pull off the facade of a top-flight team for a while, a tumble was always on it's way.
However, a season sweep over a truly elite team might be exactly what's needed to stop the free-fall.