Oh but we're just five days from the official beginning of spring and you can feel it in the air. For those Raptors fans who live in Toronto or around the GTA, you understand what this means. We've survived another winter, another abject period of dark skies, crushing precipitation and pain-in-the-ass temperatures.
Spring is to be our reward.
Likewise, the coming playoffs in spring were to be the Raptors' reward. But now, having watched the team stumble, and stumble again, and then fall down a flight of stairs (and stumble), it does not feel this way.
Now, forgive me, these upcoming playoffs feel akin to some sort of psychic punishment. A city braces for a first round series steeped in metaphorical importance despite being, let's face it, completely meaningless. The Raptors can't win the title with this unfinished team, but they can't lose in the first round either lest our spring time happiness be crushed.
And so we march into spring to brace ourselves for the end.
Ahem, let's just get to the rankings.
Marc Stein, lead us off, you magnificent son of a gun:
As with last week's praise, DeRozan's numbers are worth noting once again. He has come all the way back from the groin injury that sat him for 21 games. The question is: how much farther does he take the Raptors?
Not to stray to far from thoughts on individual players, SI's Matt Dollinger goes straight for it:
16 - TORONTO RAPTORS
LAST WEEK: 14
RECORD: 39-27 (1-2)
Toronto held Miami to just 92 points after allowing opponents to top 100 points in its previous eight games. It probably isn't a great sign that the Raptors' best defensive effort in weeks came with Jonas Valanciunas in street clothes and Tyler Hansbrough starting at center.
Is it JV's fault that he's bigger than Hansbrough and nowhere near as quick? I feel like this shot, while apt, comes at a bad time. Jonas just welcomed his new son, Jonas Jr. into the world. (Because of course Jonas would name his kid Jonas.) Let him enjoy it for one day, Dollinger!
Finally, the death knell from NBA.com's John Schuhmann:
17 - Toronto Raptors
Last week: 14
Pace: 96.0 (16) OffRtg: 107.6 (5) DefRtg: 104.6 (24) NetRtg: +3.0 (10)
The Raptors haven't beat a team with a winning record since they knocked off the Hawks in their first game after the All-Star break. But they could not beat a team with a winning record for the rest of the season and still finish with 50 wins, because they play only three games against winning teams the rest of the way. No other team plays fewer than five.
So, the Raptors will probably do well to finish the season because they aren't playing many teams worth a damn. We've clearly hit our ceiling here.
Can next season start tomorrow?
Let's just shuffle off to the poll.